Excellent Blog
2007 Inspiring Blog
Rockin' Girl Blogger

Kids’ Books for Monday: Grandmas, Marketplaces, Camping & Baking

March 27th, 2023


“Friends” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row; use with permission only, please)

Before you start reading these books with a friend, you’ll need some items and some plans: Clothes for dress-up, ingredients for baking cookies, plans for a hike or a camping trip. Ready?

“Nana the Great Goes Camping,” by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn (WaterBrook/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $12.99). The latest in the Nana the Great series. Nana swings by and takes the grandkids camping. Too much fun! And now I want to try breakfast s’mores. (Add peanut butter and bananas, Nana suggests. Protein and potassium!) Fun read, and bright, happy art.

“My Paati’s Saris,” written by Jyoti Rajan Gopal, with art by Art Twink (Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2022, all ages, $18.99). I cannot praise this exquisite book enough, the art, the story, the tight relationship and love between our hero, a young Tamil boy, and his sweet grandmother, his paati, and her acceptance and love of him. The images… peacocks strutting, lotus blooms and elephants; the intensity of the marketplace; the scents of jasmine and musky rose; the smells of turmeric, cumin and sambar cooking in the kitchen. This book is a dream. Gopal is a kinder teacher and mommy, in addition to being a writer. She grew up in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India and China. Now? She lives in Yonkers. Art Twink is a “gender-expansive Bengali-American multidisciplinary creative.” Find their art at arttwink.com

There is another active marketplace, this one in Taipei, Taiwan, in the center of “Night Market Rescue.” Charlotte Cheng wrote the story, with illustrations by Amber Ren (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, scheduled for spring 2023 release, $18.99). A little stray dog named GoGo finds the local marketplace comforting, especially after he rescues a lost girl. Will he find a home, at last? Warm, rich colors, and a nice story about reaching out to help others.

How about another dog story? Sure! I happen to have the perfect book right here… “José and El Perro” is a new chapter book by Susan Rose and Silvia López, with illustrations by Gloria Félix. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, all ages, $12.99.) José, our hero, hopes and hopes to adopt a dog, and one day, his dad says yes! Thanks, pops! And off they go to the shelter. Written in conversational Spanish and English, this book is ideal for language learners, and includes a glossary in the back. (While we’re on the subject: Could we please, pronto, make Spanish the official second language of America? ?Por favor? It’s time. Gracias.)

Speaking of comfort and love… how about some cookies? Gibson Frazier (writer) and Micah Player (artist) bring us “Stop and Smell the Cookies” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, all ages, $17.99). How should you deal with your feelings, especially when they’re big, maybe out-of-control feelings? You know the kind… your chest might feel warm and fuzzy, maybe your toes dance… or your fingers might start moving, or your hands could clench into fists? Give this book a read and find some good tips on how to cope in a variety of situations.

(Check this review for additional titles, if you like these books.)

Happy almost April, happy spring reading!


More Kids’ Books: How to Thrive

March 25th, 2023

Winter 2021-2022

“Still Snowing” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row)

That’s an old photo, but you know what? It really did snow yesterday, to kick off spring break with a flourish. Yeah global warming, hi, you’re kicking all of our behinds.

“Here: I Can Be Mindful,” by Ally Condie, with illustrations by Jaime Kim (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). I’m glad for today’s children that they’re able to learn about mindfulness, focus on breathing, meditate, do yoga. It’s part of the air we breathe now, and it’s a blessing. “Here: I Can Be Mindful” is a golden, sweet book that gives kids the tools to know when and how to inhale/exhale, ask for what they need, stay close, go far away. The pink bunny sidekick is a nice touch. It’s nice to see a book that is ethereal and grounded at the same time. The kids will be able to relate to this one, for sure.

“Even Superheroes Get Scared,” by Shelly Becker, illustrated by Eda Kaban (Union Square Kids/Sterling Publishing Co., 2022, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Superheroes! Beastie, Zing, Thrash and Laserman, at your service, along with Maqnifique, Screecher, Typhoon and Icky.

“Imagine superheroes, afraid of bugs!… Would that prevent them from chasing thugs?”

Comical rhyming book with a smart lesson, and vivid, likable characters.

“The Planet We Call Home,” written by Aimee Isaac, with pictures by Jaime Kim (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 3 and up, $18.99). More stunning work from Kim, and a friendly story by Isaac.

“This is our Earth, the planet we call home. These are the mountains stretching from Earth, the planet we call home.”

“Chasing God’s Glory,” written by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, with art by Alyssa de Asis (WaterBrook, 2023, ages 3 and up, $12.99). “Rise and shine/and give God the glory/glory/rise and shine…” Another sweet book (which begins with one of my favorite happy songs) about faith from our friends at WaterBrook publishing house. De Asis, an artist from Manila, Philippines, did a lovely job on the picture book’s sweet and inviting art.

“Who Will U Be?” with words and pictures by Jessica Hische (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 3-7, $18.99). Awwww, this one is set in my old neighborhood, Alphabet City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Introducing our new friend U, who attends Ms. Bracket’s School for Little Letters. Bright candy colors will grab the reader’s attention and U is a great narrator. The students from the school, who are actually little letters themselves, are heading out for the annual Find Yourself Field Trip. They explore the city, including Times Square and the New York Public Library, and discover loads of letters along the way. Clever, captivating way to teach children more about letters, typography and writing.

Bon appetit, and have a lovely week, everyone.


Sunday Book Review and how are you?

March 19th, 2023

Winter 2021-2022

“The Light,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Why would I be posting this photo, now that spring is almost here? Because it’s still snowing up and down the west coast, that’s why. #globalwarming and we’re all confused. It will be OK. We had sunshine and warmth the past few days, it was much needed.

I found these awesome picture books in my mailbox, wanna hear about them? They’re going to make some kids happy, they’re pretty sweet.

Presenting… “Moms Can Do It All!” and “Dads Can Do It All!” a pair of titles written by Ted Maass and illustrated by Ekaterina Trukan (Grosset & Dunlap, 2023, $8.99 apiece.) Well. OK. Sure, we can, but constantly? Because what about the times when we’re so tired we beg the babies to just watch Elmo or Spongebob on loop, while we nap next to them on the couch? What about the times when you serve mac n cheese, applesauce and toast, again and again, because it’s all they will eat?

No, we can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t hafta. We’re not superheroes, only we are? It’s confusing. Yeah, we are superheroes, it’s true. You’ll see when you grow up, kiddos. In the meantime, these cool little ’60s-style board books, with their primary colors, Fisher-Price type peeps and pets, along with the positive messages they share, will leave you feeling… happy. They’re right! We absolutely can do it all. (But you don’t have to, mommies and daddies. Just do your best. Ay-ay, captain! Elmo and his goldfish Dorothy loooooove naps!)

Here comes a new book from Mr. G (Ben Gundersheimer) and illustrator Dow Phumiruk, “We’ll Make Things Better Together” (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, out this spring, 2023, $18.99). Cheerful, playful book about all the ways communities can work together to make the world better. Only, where’s the music? Because the words sound like lyrics. Sweet illustrations, too.

“How to Get Your Octopus to School,” with words by Becky Scharnhorst and ptictures by Jaclyn Sinquett (Flamingo Books/Penguin Random House, scheduled for release spring of 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Hey, octopus! Ready for school? You’ll need school supplies, buddy. And a backpack, lunch, a new outfit… don’t be shy, you’ve got this! No need to throw ink around. Cute book that will help ease reluctant students into the classroom.

And now, my new favorite: “Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers?” Yes, please. Make it happen, please. This beautifully illustrated, lovely book, was given to us by illustrator Kristen Uroda and written by Junauda Petrus. (Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, scheduled for release April 2023, all ages, $18.99.) Petrus, a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a Coretta Scott King honoree, has done an outstanding job with this picture book, which reads like a gorgeous, lyrical poem. I’d like to live in a world run by the grandmothers. (Bonus: the playlist that is included on the flyleaf.)

All for now, talk soon!


Friday Night Book Round-up: What’s New on My Nightstand?

March 10th, 2023


“Woof!” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Hi, grownup readers and researchers, how about some book suggestions?

“Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” Sam M. Intrator & Megan Scribner, editors, with an introduction by Parker J. Palmer & Tom Vander Ark (Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, 2003, 225 pages). I have one shelf full of poetry books, daily affirmation guides, my Bibles, meditation guides, workbooks, and any other books I find useful. “Teaching with Fire” was gifted to me and the rest of the staff by my first principal, sixteen years ago, and I go back to it frequently. So technically, it’s not on my nightstand, but it’s always within reach. Highly recommend. 

“The Librarian Spy,” by Madeline Martin (author of “The Last Bookshop in London,” Hanover Square Press, 2022, 355 pages, $28.99). Spent some time browsing the new releases section at my local library yesterday, and came across this title. It looks fun and entertaining; starting it this weekend, along with…

Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Hotel Nantucket” (Little, Brown and Company, 2022, 368 pages, $29.00). Hilderbrand also wrote “Golden Girl” and 26, yes, twenty-six other novels.

A self-help/community read book showed up in my mailbox, “How to Human: Three Ways to Share Life Beyond What Distracts, Divides, and Disconnects Us,” by Carlos Whitaker, with a foreword by Sharon McMahon  (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2023, 206 pages, $18.00). I’ve begun this one, too, because why limit yourself to one or two books when you can read thirty? It’s a good read. Whittaker refers to himself as a “hope dealer,” which is pretty great.

“The Davenports” is a new release from Krystal Marquis (Dial Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, 379 pages, $19.99). This is a delicious, golden, romantic novel, set in 1910 Chicago, and yes, I am a sucker for books set in that era (“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “Sula,” “The Sound and the Fury,” etc.). This would be a good book club pick.

Kristen R. Lee’s “Sun Keep Rising” is a compassionate and clear-eyed novel about the joys and challenges in the life of teen mom B’onca, her sweet baby Mia, and their extended family. (Crown New York, 2023, 227 pages, $18.99.)

Joan Bauer’s “Tell Me” (Scholastic, 2014, 259 pages, $7.99) is another great young adult book. This one introduces us to Anna, who has been sent out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to stay with her grandma, Mim, while her parents figure out what they’re doing. Anna thinks she sees another young girl who could be in trouble. Instead of dismissing her doubts, she says something. The grown-ups? They actually listen. Great story about a serious situation. Bauer is a long-time favorite of mine.  Please check out “Hope Was Here” and let me know what you think.

Speaking of families… “The Wreck: A Daughter’s Memoir of Becoming a Mother,” is an intense read about a daughter from a secretive family, and how her sleuthing helps her unravel her relatives’ past. (Released scheduled for spring 2023, Viking, $27.00.)

Bon appetit, babies, and have a great weekend.


Friday Fun Day: What’s On My Nightstand

March 3rd, 2023


(Solar Eclipse, in the path of totality, 8/21/2017, photo by Nancy E. Row Rawley)

Pretty, huh? Yeah, you had to be there, I think. That was a cool day, though, Eclipse Day 2017. Some of our friends came to town and we headed to the neighborhood park with lawn chairs, blankets and all of the other neighbors. (Except B., who headed to Marys Peak because Reporting for the Newspaper.) Corvallis was in the path of totality which was amazing. OK, okay, moving on.

What’s on my nightstand? Grown-up books and books for teens. Get ready…

“Be the Difference: Serve Others and Change the World,” a monthly planner. OK, I think I mentioned this one already, but it is pretty cool. (WaterBrook/Ink & Willow, 2021, $16.99.) Not just a journal, not just a planner — you can turn it into a bullet journal, a place to set goals, a sketchbook or whatever you want. Go for it and change the world, and yourself, along the way.

“Remedies for Sorrow: An Extraordinary Child, a Secret Kept from Pregnant Women, and A Mother’s Pursuit of the Truth,” by Megan Nix (Penguin Random House/Doubleday, upcoming release 2023, $28). This is an intense read, so I’m attaching a trigger warning here. Please proceed with caution. This is a well-written, compassionate book about CMV (cytomegalovirus). Nix, who lives in both Colorado and Alaska with her family, is not just a talented writer, but a thoughtful reporter, too.

“The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents” (Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, 226 pages, $28). This one was written by Lisa Damour, Ph.D., author of “Untangled” and co-host of the “Ask Lisa” podcast. Loads of tips and thoughts on dealing with teen mental health issues, anxiety, moods and emotions. Sometimes those difficult conversations are needed.

The Young Reader’s Edition of “Mission Possible: Go Create a Life That Counts,” by athlete Tim Tebow (with A.J. Gregory) is also new on the shelves. This faith-based book is from WaterBrook/Penguin Random House. (2023, 145 pages, $18.00.)

“Carry Strong: An Empowered Approach to Navigating Pregnancy and Work,” by Stephanie Kramer, is scheduled for release this spring. (Penguin Life, 352 pages, $20.00.) Kramer did her work interviewing CEOs, working moms (all moms, may I say, are working moms), Olympic athletes and others to glean information on what to consider and what to look out for while transitioning/seguing, and adding to life with family and work.

Enjoy your spring, and here’s to reading.