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Thursday Afternoon Book Review

July 27th, 2023

pretty sky
(Photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please)

Today’s reviews: graphic novels for young readers.

Francine Pascal’s “Sweet Valley Twins,” an oldie but goodie series for ages 4th grade and up, is being reissued in comic book form. “Teacher’s Pet,” adapted by Nicole Andelfinger, with illustrations by Claudia Aguirre, is first on the shelf (RH Graphic/Random House Kids, 2023, 200 pages, $13.99). California sisters Jessica and Elizabeth are back, and in rare form. Who will be cast as the lead in the upcoming ballet recital? And will Jess ever get to go to the beach with her friends and just relax? The graphic novel format suits the series — the drawings are reminiscent of the Archie comics. The book includes an excerpt of the upcoming Sweet Valley release, “Choosing Sides.”

Underwater party! Here is “Shark Princess: Shark Party!” written by Nidhi Chanani, with color by Elizabeth Kramer (Viking, 2023, ages 5 and up, 79 pages, $12.99). This fun read for summer has a hardbound cover (perma-bound, as it’s known in the publishing industry — no dust jacket, and sturdy). Kitana and Mack are off on new adventures. Mack is ready for the shark party — playing games, dancing, meeting new sharks and having fun. But Kitana has other plans. So many puns, bright colors, and lots of shark info are wrapped up in this book.

“Enlightened,” written and illustrated by the gifted Sachi Ediriweera, is an outstanding new biography about Buddha. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2023, tentative release date end of September, $13.99 paperback, $22.99 hardcover.) The graphic novel, aimed at young adults (grade 7 and up), truly is a groundbreaking work. The art is done in a two-color palette, and is beautiful. The storyline (lightly fictionalized, but based on historical facts) follows the young Prince Siddhartha from the palace at Kapilavastu, in the plains of central Nepal, to his later years, when he becomes the sage who founds Buddhism. Good resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about Buddhism.

All for now!


Sunday Book Roundup: Books for Young Adult Readers

July 23rd, 2023

art, downtown Portland, Ore.

(Jamison Park, downtown Portland, Ore. Photo by Rawley; use with permission only, please)

Not writing a review today — I’d like to spend the day reading, instead. How’s that for an idea? I just received four outstanding young adult novels, and yes, I did start reading all four of them at once. I do this all the time and it’s my worst/best habit. I’ll give you the titles and a bit of info for now, in case you’d like to check them out for yourself, a kid or a friend.

Happy Sunday! Happy reading.


I received two novels that are written in free verse. I love this style and how it invites the reader in. Here is the first one:

“The Order of Things,” by Kaija Langley (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, 269 pages, $17.99). Heartbreaker of a story, with a rhythm all its own. This is the tale of April Janelle Jackson and her best friend and neighbor Zee (Zander, son of Papa Zee), April’s mom and the others in their life. Zee plays violin; April is a drummer; and this, this new school year, they’re starting at different schools. They are A-Z.

The Moment

the elevator doors open on our floor,

the blissful scent of baked

bread and cloves fills the hallway.

Mama bakes all kinds of things,

rolls and loaves, cookies and

croissants, muffins and buns,

making my mouth water each time.

I high-five Zee goodbye for now, slip

into my apartment like a whisper.”

“Aniana Del Mar Jumps In,” by Jasminne Mendez, is the second free verse book, and is great, too. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, 374 pages, $18.99.) Aniana lives with her Papi and Mami in the Dominican Republic. Thoughtful, poetic book about living with a chronic, scary disease, and fighting to not give up the things you love.

“Give Me a Sign,” by Anna Sortino (G.P. Putnam/Penguin Random House, 2023, 303 pages, $18.99). Tender, lovely book about first love at a youth summer camp and Deaf Pride. Great read for summer or any other time of the year.

“The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet,” by Jake Maia Arlow is another new book about a potentially tricky topic — Crohn’s Disease. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, 284 pages, $17.99.) The only thing worse than dealing with middle school is dealing with middle school when you have a situation you do not want to discuss.

Talk soon, everyone, hope you’re finding some good pages to read. (It’s Disability Pride month, by the way, and those last three titles are in honor of it.)


Sunday Book Review: “I Have Seven Dogs” and other new titles

July 16th, 2023

four o'clocks and sunflower/ our kitchen

(Photo credit to Rawley; use with permission only)

Good afternoon, friends. I’m trying to write a book review a day, wish me luck.

“I Have Seven Dogs” is a new, funny, furry, cute picture book from storyteller Molly Horan and artist Dana Wulfekotte. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99.) This book and its creators cannot go wrong with me, even before I open it up, because 1) Not just dogs, seven (count ’em 7) puppies and 2) They put two big collies on the front cover. My neighbor has one, and when he looks at me, he slooooooowly rotates his head like an alien, and it fractures me every time. Collies are nutty and hard-working, I love them so. I love dogs, cats, and chickens, people! Not skunks. But they’re good little diggers so that’s something, I guess. The skunks eat the bugs and grubs and all.

The star of our book, lil Zoe, wants a dog, but her family doesn’t have room for one. (I’m pretty sure she’s a NYC kid. Or maybe Brooklyn?) So she finds a creative solution and awwww… The two collies from the cover appear during Zoe’s piano lesson — they like to dance to the music. Surprised? Ha. Awesome book, with a fun story and lively illustrations. And now, a brief story a la Wacky Mommy. (Did I ever tell you about the reporter I worked with who constantly mixed up words? “Ooooooh, I love little antidotes!” Heeheehaaaaa. It was cute, yet a little annoying.)


When I was a kid, my mom had this boyfriend who was nice enough, but oddly, my ma wasn’t as impressed with him as he was with himself.

I think he was a dentist. Or something. Everyone I knew worked at gas stations or the store, or built things, so I was confused by this “career choice,” as was my sister. He drove a weird car (our late father drove a ’66 Chevy Nova, fire engine red, with a red interior, and hello, a V8, because in the ’60s and ’70s they built some bitchin’ cars).

But this poor guy… weird car. Little. A strange little squished-in car. Not from a wreck, it was just… squished. Small. Like a tiny little pretend car. Sure, we were only kids, but we knew cars.

“What’s wrong with his car? Mom, it’s like a little… a little… sardine can or something!?!? It’s all squished in,” my sister and I wailed. In unison no doubt, because we backed each other up and pretty much terrorized everyone else, starting with our family and neighbors.

Mom, hissing, warning us to not insult the poor guy: “It’s a Mercedes.”

Like that made a difference. So we kept repeating, Little sardine can, little sardine can… until she gave up on us.

Look, I feel bad, telling you this story, about this poor guy and his poor little smushed car, but there’s a happy ending, I promise. Well. Not for the dentist, so much.

My mom was a young widow, beautiful, sweet and funny, with these two, I’ll just go ahead and say it, darling little well-behaved girls, so guys were always pestering her, giving her flowers and trying to steal her heart.

“If you really want to win my heart, bring me a puppy, not flowers,” she told Mercedes Guy.

Why she said this, I have no idea. We always had pets, they were always nuts, and the last thing she needed was another puppy, or kid at her house. (Our house was the neighborhood house for restless and misbehaving children and their parents, who usually showed up with a bottle of wine and in need of food. The parents brought the wine, I mean, and everyone wanted to eat.)

The Dentist/Mercedes Guy brought Mom a purebred Shetland Sheepdog. He was the best. He had papers (“Not just newspapers, either!” the grown-ups joked.) His purchase price was three times what our house payment was. Seriously. Our friends and extended family were known for our ill-behaved mutts (my dog bit the neighbor, my best friend’s dog “retrieved” eels from the river, and then swallowed a fish hook, on and on). So a fancy dog was new to us.

Being a fantastic herding dog (he would have done well in Texas, or Australia), he tried to herd the kids, the other dogs, or cats, the neighbors. I mean, he was long-suffering because we never did what he wanted.

I loved my Sheltie. They look like little collies is my point. (You knew I’d get there eventually, no?) Every time we took him for a walk, three or four little kids along the way would scream, Mommy, look, it’s a little Lassie! and yeah, that was hilarious.

Oh, dogs. I love them so, crazy or well-behaved. Oh, right. Mama kept the puppy and ditched the Dentist/Mercedes Guy. The End.

OK, what else am I reviewing this week? Cuz this post is getting too long.

“Chickadee Animal Adventures: Discover the World’s Amazing Animals,” by Stephanie Ledu, translated by Mark Stout (Owl Kids, out of print, unfortunately — I found my copy in a Little Free Library and you can find used copies online). So good, and it’s broken down into categories: In the Country, In the Ocean, in the Desert, etc. Super fun, and cool photos. If you’re lucky enough to nab a copy, the little kids will want you to look at it with them over and over. Perfecto.

Now. Last, but never ever ever least… Really psyched to read “The Bigfoot Queen,” by my BFF Jennifer Weiner. (Only in my head, right, is she my bestie. We’ve never actually met, but I’ve loved her work — artistic and political — since way back when.) This is the third (and final) middle school-level book in Weiner’s Littlest Bigfoot series. (How did I miss the others? I do not know.) It’s due to hit the shelves Oct. 24th, but since she adores me, like I said, I received an early copy.

This one can stand alone (recaps from the earlier books are included) but it’s always great to read the entire series. Have fun, bon appetit, and catch you tomorrow!