Excellent Blog
2007 Inspiring Blog
Rockin' Girl Blogger

Wednesday Book Review: “Roar: A Dinosaur Tour,” by Michael Paul; Wee Society’s “Go! My Adventure Journal”; Life in the Country, it’s righteous

April 11th, 2018


(Star Magnolia — Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

First up…

*“Roar: A Dinosaur Tour,” by Michael Paul (Crown Books, 2018, ages 2-5, 40 pages, $16.99). Super cute (can you say that about dinosaurs?). The illustrations remind me of Ezra Jack Keats’ work, with the paper cut-outs. (I’m not sure if this one was computer-designed or not, but it’s colorful and has good movement.) Why do kids like dinosaurs so much? They’re bigger than parents, and they’re extinct. The pronunciation guide in the front is great, too.

Now, some notes about life in the country. I’ve never lived in the country before. Well, okay, I did once, but I wasn’t there for very long. The plumbing kept breaking, and no working toilets + no working shower/tub means I’m out of there, babies. But we did have a creek, and crawdads, and that was good. I have a creek here, too. It’s a come-and-go creek — it only runs part of the year.

That’s cool.

Spring day/country

(“Pluck-Pluck!” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That’s not my creek, those are my chickens. They lay red eggs and green eggs and brown eggs. They’re versatile as hell.

Spring day/country

(“Up a Crick,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That’s my creek.

Next book…

*”Let’s Go!” (Clarkson Potter, Wee Society, $14.99.) Wee Society also brought us “A Box of Awesome Things,” which was, indeed, awesome, “Me: A Compendium,” “An Incomplete Book of Awesome Things” and “Wee Alphas Postcards.” Very fun book to take along on a trip, so kids can record all kinds of stuff. Postcards and stickers included, score!

Spring day/country

(“Rose in April,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

That is one of my roses. The deer haven’t broken down the deer fence yet, so I have about half a dozen in the garden. The chickens weeded all around them and aerated the dirt, so I’m thinking we’ll all going to have a good summer, the chickens, the roses, the deer and me.

Ciao, babies.


Wednesday Book Review, with love from me to you: “Poe Won’t Go,” by Kelly DiPucchio & Zachariah Ohora; “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” by Ryan T. Higgins; “Dear Substitute,” by Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick & Chris Raschka; plus an update on your girl, Wacky Mommy

April 4th, 2018


(Photo by Nancy R.)

Hello, loveys!

I’m writing at Starbucks, sucking up their handy free wifi, because the country doesn’t have internet. Well, it will once the cable guy shows up, but who knows when that will happen. Above? Those are my chickens! Hello, ladies! I have a little flock now. They’re not too much work. They like to snuggle, WTH? I didn’t expect that. But they sometimes have ticks, mites and chicken lice and dang, the country is sure fun! One of them laid an egg without a shell, that was weird. (Yes, they’re getting their calcium, it was stress from the skunks living under their coop, I think? So we have an appointment with the pest control guy, the ladies and I. Country living, it’s where it’s at.)

Yes, I do have the theme to “Green Acres” going through my head several times a day, thanks for asking.

The neighbor girls are enthralled by the chickens, my son is great about helping clean the coop and care for them, and I have eggs to sell and give away. So… long-time readers will recall all the times I made fun of “chicken people.” hahahahahahaha, the joke is on me, babies. I (heart) chickens.

Silver linings, here and there. Steve and I got divorced, I moved to a new town, found a new job, made some new friends and caught up with old friends. My kids get some freedom and don’t have to deal with dueling parents anymore, I have a house in the country now (see: ticks, see: skunks, see: my dogs chasing deer), and I still write. And someone gave me a flock of chickens, food and a coop, and there I go. “Reboot Time,” as my late ex-husband would say. The dogs have expressed an interest in “getting to know” the chickens better. This request has been denied.

(Photo by Nancy R.)

Nice, fresh, organic eggs. Because chickens.

On to the book reviews…

* “Poe Won’t Go,” written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99). What is up with Poe? He’s sitting in the middle of the road in Prickly Valley and just. Won’t. Move.

“People begged. Please? And booed. Jeez! and bribed. Cheese? But Poe still wouldn’t go.”

Retro illustrations, a funny story, and who doesn’t love a stubborn elephant?

* “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates,” by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney-Hyperion, on sale June 19, 2018, ages 3-5, 48 pages, $17.99). C’mon, Penelope Rex. You can want to eat your friends up, but you can’t actually eat your friends up. Where do people come up with these cool ideas for kids’ books? Cracks me up that they put a disclaimer in the front: “You will never be eaten by a T. rex. They are extinct. I promise.” Lol.

Penelope is nervous about starting school, in spite of being reassured by her parents. In spite of her new backpack with ponies on it. In spite of her lunch of 300 tuna sandwiches (and one apple juice). Will everyone like her before she accidentally eats them up? Cool illustrations, a funny (and educational!) story, and a goldfish named Walter. Perfecto.

* “Dear Substitute,” by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Disney-Hyperion, release date June 19, 2018, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99). This book is so good that if I was rich, I’d buy a copy and give it to every substitute teacher I could find. Where’s Mrs. Giordano? Who is this Miss Pelly-like-a-pelican? Doesn’t she know that library is today? And that the classroom turtle might die if his tank doesn’t get cleaned?

Something that adults really minimize is that children worry. Oh, how they worry. Adults know this, but they assume that they know what kids are worrying about.

They don’t.

Sweet illustrations by the ever-talented Chris Raschka, great poetry by Scanlon and Vernick. Two thumbs up.

(Photo by Nancy R.)

Those are daffodils from my yard. I’ve counted half a dozen different varieties. They make me happy. The Lenox vase was a wedding gift, twenty years ago this summer, from my first grade teacher. She was there, with her daughter. Love & marriage/love & marriage. It’s true with (mostly) everything, right? Silver linings. I miss being married, but I don’t miss being lonely.

All for now.

xo and bon appetit!


PS — my disclaimer. It needs an update — I haven’t sold ads on here in years. They kept crashing shit.

Tuesday Book Review: “Groundhug Day,” by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise; “A Hippy-Hoppy Toad,” by Peggy Archer & Anne Wilsdorf; “Poppy, Buttercup, Bluebell & Dandy,” by Fiona Woodcock

March 27th, 2018

“Groundhug Day,” by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Christopher Denise, is first on my review list today. OK, “Groundhug,” get it? Super cute. This Valentine’s book is way overdue for a review. Groundhog’s friends try to fake him out — they don’t want him to disappear for six weeks after Groundhog Day and miss candy and hearts day. Spoiler alert: There’s a lot of hugging going on in this book. Sweet, funny, and darling illustrations. (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, $17.99.)

“A Hippy-Hoppy Toad,” by Peggy Archer and Anne Wilsdorf, is a good one to read to the kiddos as part of a round-up of spring books. A small toad is minding his own, trying to avoid birds, dogs, crickets and everyone else who is bothering him. Nice earth tones for the illustrations, and a good cadence to the story. (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2018, 40 pages, ages 3-7, $16.99.)

The sweet fairies in “Poppy, Buttercup, Bluebell & Dandy” (book by the charmingly-named Fiona Woodcock), want to lively things up colorfully in a world that has turned flat and gray. The author/illustrator uses blow pens, stencils and cool printing techniques for her art. She has a unique style, it’s beautiful, light, and springs off the page. (This is another good one for a spring round-up.) The story? It’s good, too. You know I love a little “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018, 32 pages, ages 3-7, $17.99.)

xo, bon appetit, and happy spring from WM

Wednesday Book Review, my friends: “drawn together,” by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat; “A Kiss Goodnight,” Disney; “This Story Is For You,” by Greg Pizzoli & “Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Deck the Malls!” by MacKenzie Cadenhead & Sean Ryan

March 21st, 2018

“drawn together,” by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat (Disney-Hyperion Books, on sale June 5th, 2018, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 3-5). I know that they have to, for sales purposes, but I wish book publishers didn’t tag everything with an “age label.” I love picture books! I always have, I always will, and also? The big kids who are struggling to read can sometimes be coaxed into it with a cool picture book. (Have I gone off on this tirade before? The “don’t pigeon-hole picture books, dang it!” tirade? Possibly.) (Idea #15: You hand a picture book to a big kid, even a grown-up who is in need, and you say, “It will give you ideas for your art.” Alternately, “It will give you ideas.” lol.)

All of this leads to my first review, and this book? This book pulls away from the pack, I must say. (But the others are pretty awesome, too.) You can pre-order from whoever, or just wait until June when it’s released.

Minh Le is first-generation Vietnamese-American who also wrote “Let Me Finish!” and has written for the New York Times, the Horn Book and the Huffington Post. His bio says that he likes to spend time with his wife and sons, and his other favorite spot is “in the middle of a good book.” Awww…

“drawn together” is the (possibly? mostly?) autobiographical story of a young boy and his grandfather. It’s drawn beautifully by Dan Santat (Caldecott Award winner for “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend” — brilliant book, my students really enjoyed it), where was I going with this, y’all? Santat illustrates it in the style of a graphic novel, then morphs into explosions of color that would work well as large-scale paintings. It’s a cool surprise, like the “Horse of a Different Color” in the “Wizard of Oz.”

I’m just saying.

Next up?

“A Kiss Goodnight” is what Walt Disney called the nightly fireworks display (which was his idea) at Disneyland. Richard Sherman wrote the song, and Disney came up with a companion book, based on Walt’s hardscrabble childhood, and his journey to create Disneyland. Cool book, sweet song, and it comes with a CD. (Published by Disney, but of course, 2017, $19.99.)

“This Story Is For You,” written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is a great way of expressing to kids just how important they are to us. (Disney-Hyperion, on sale April 3rd, 2018, 48 pages, $16.99, ages 3-5 — or is it? lol.) Pizzoli’s other books include “Good Night Owl,” “Templeton Gets His Wish” and “Number One Sam.”

I completely overlooked “Marvel’s Super Hero Adventures, Deck the Malls!” over the holidays. (Marvel Kids, by MacKenzie Cadenhead and Sean Ryan, 2017, 77 pages, $4.99.) This lively early chapter book stars Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen and Venom.

Go, go, go!

Bon appetit, babies.


Book Review: One from Danica McKellar (“Ten Magic Butterflies,” illustrated by Jennifer Bricking) and two by Laura Gehl (“I Got a Chicken for My Birthday” illustrated by Sarah Horne, and “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Using the Potty,” illustrated by Joyce Wan)

February 21st, 2018

Ready, steady, go! “I Got a Chicken for My Birthday,” by Laura Gehl, with illustrations by Sarah Horne (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, 2018, ages 4-8, $17.99). Why are chicken books so funny? I have no idea, peeps. (Get it? Chicken joke.) But chicken books are funny. Ana wants to go to the amusement park for her birthday. Instead, her Abuela Lola sends her a chicken, and that chicken? Puts everyone to work. Even the hamster. Kids will love the funny, vibrant pictures and the story that keeps you guessing; the grown-ups will love the goofiness and the story.

Gehl’s other new book is another in the Peep and Egg series. “I’m Not Using the Potty” (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, 2018, ages 4-8, $17.99), illustrated by Joyce Wan, is a great one for the reluctant potty trainers. We know you’re out there. We see you doing the Potty Dance. Please stop peeing on trees and learn to use the toilet like the civilized people, would ya, now? Egg won’t use the potty, Peep keeps trying to talk them into it.

“Too slippery!” said Egg.
“I’m NOT using the potty.”

Doesn’t want to throw the toilet paper in the potty, either.

“Too tangly!” said Egg.

Sweet book, sweet story, and encouragement is always appreciated. There you go.

“Ten Magic Butterflies,” by Danica McKellar, with illustrations by Jennifer Bricking (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 2-5, 30 pages, $8.99), will help the kiddos with their math, and they won’t even notice it’s happening.

The ten flower friends are happy, but they yearn for just a little more in life.

But sometimes we find out things were best just the way they were. The fairies are beautiful, and a little tricky. The flowers? They just want to play.

Lots of bright garden colors, purple, green, yellow and pink, brighten up the pages. And the math? Bonus.

Bon appetit, babies.

– WM

Wednesday Morning Book Review, for Big Kids: “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead” (Book Three), by Rick Riordan; “Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other’s Backs,” by Kathleen Krull and Maple Lam

February 21st, 2018

Rick Riordan, you writing machine you. His latest is called, for short, “The Ship of the Dead.” For long, it’s called “Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead, Book Three in the Series.” (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, 421 pages, $19.99.)

It’s pretty fantastic, as are all of his series. Riordan knows how to keep the readers happy. He starts with funny chapter titles, for example: “I Have a Nightmare About Toenails,” (weird, me, too!), “I Roll Play-Doh to the Death,” “Mallory Gets Nuts,” (followed, of course, by) “Mallory Also Gets Fruit,” “I Become as Poetic as… Like, a Poetic Person,” etc.

Riordan’s other series are “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” “The Demigod Files,” “Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods,” “The Kane Chronicles,” “The Heroes of Olympus,” “The Demigod Diaries,” “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” and “The Trials of Apollo.”

Next up:

“Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other’s Back.” (Crown/New York, 2018, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Maple Lam, ages 8-12, 229 pages, $17.99.) I wouldn’t limit this one to any specific age group. People often think that kids (and some adults, for that matter) don’t enjoy learning about history. They do. You just need to lively it up is all. This book does that, handily. I love it — I’ve read about half the bios already and will read the rest, too. Favorites so far: Theo and Vincent Van Gogh, art dealer and artist; Chang and Eng Bunker, the conjoined twins; Queens Elizabeth I and Mary I (Bloody Mary)… sooooo good.

Bon appetit, babies. Happy reading!

– WM

New on my Nightstand: Saturday Book Review — “David and the Lost Lamb” & “Jonah and the Whale,” by W.C. Bauers, illustrated by Marta Costa, and “When God Made Light,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

February 17th, 2018

This pair of board books, by W.C. Bauers and Marta Costa, are part of the Tiny Bible Tales series. (Grosset & Dunlap, 2018, ages 3-5, $7.99.) (Buy them for the little babies, too, though. Babies need books. Only keep an eye on them so they don’t become teething toys. This public service announcement brought to you by moi, Wacky Mommy.)

“David and the Lost Lamb” retells the story of David, his sheep, and one big, hungry lion. He also has a dog who looks like mine. Kid and dog and God to the rescue!

In “Jonah and the Whale,” Jonah gets a message from God, “Help the people to obey.” At first, he doesn’t want to listen. But then a whale comes along, and things change…

Sunny illustrations, and chipper, rhyming text will keep the kids entertained.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel, y’all, is the message of “When God Made Light,” the second collaboration between Matthew Paul Turner and David Catrow. I like their work together. Here’s Wacky Mommy’s review of their first book, “When God Made You.”) The art lifts right up off the page, gold and blue and purple and green. Two beautiful sisters, and a funny dog.

Have a great day, honeys.

xo and bon appetit!


Brand New Book Review: Because I love kid books! “The Perfect Pillow,” by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Chris Sheban; “Gregory the Terrible Eater,” by Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey; “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” & “The Little House,” written & illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton

February 7th, 2018

When my babies were little, little, yummy and little, we loved Sesame Street (Elmo!), and some crazy show on PBS about the Revolutionary War?, and Reading Rainbow.

(SHOUT-OUT! “LeVar Burton Reads” my new favorite thing…)

My daughter would yell, Mommy, quick! Get a piece of paper! And we’d write down all the titles of the books from that day’s episode. This is when libraries rock. We loved to reserve the titles, and it was the coolest thing to stop by the library for pick-up, when we got the notices that the titles were in.

Yeah, we’re geeks, shut up.

Then one day, something horrible happened. My daughter, my sweet, beautiful daughter, developed an aversion to goats. They terrified her.

“Is it their devil eyes?” I asked. “Because I get that.”

“No, nothing, never mind, goats are horrible, I don’t wanna talk about it,” and that was that. Years later she told me it was because of an episode of “Reading Rainbow.”

“Gregory the Terrible Eater,” it turns out, was to blame.

She’s over it now. I send her funny pictures of goats from Instagram, links to the Goat Yoga site, cartoons about goats, and it’s pretty funny. But for awhile there? Scary.

So people, as you’re navigating the treacherous waters of parenthood, remember this: You can have the best of intentions. No refined sugar, PBS only, no whole grapes because omg they might choke, and they’re still gonna get traumatized somehow. Just deal.

* “Gregory the Terrible Eater” by Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, is a freaking great book, but your child may suffer needless years of trauma, somehow, randomly, because of it.

* “The Perfect Pillow,” (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, written by Eric Pinder and illustrated by Chris Sheban, ages 3-5, 32 pages, $16.99) is one of those cool nighttime books that kids love and parents are somewhat terrified by. Brody has a stuffed dragon named Horst, a new house, and a lot on his mind. He will crawl out his window, he will sort it out. He will settle down near the edge of a pond, like Moses in the bulrushes. Beautiful story, beautifully illustrated. #love

* “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” story and pictures by Virginia Lee Burton (Dedicated “To Mike,” Houghton Mifflin Co., 1939). Have you read this book? Have you read “The Little House”? Burton is a genius, go buy her books for your kids, grandkids, the neighbor kids, some random kid you see at the store, I don’t really care. I’m not fussy. Just do it!

Here is my disclaimer, by the way. I don’t run ads on this site any more, but if I did, they wouldn’t influence what I write. I receive books (for free) to review, but no cash compensation. #doyoudoitforthemoneyhoney? No, I just like books.

Bon appetit, peace, love, and Bobby Sherman,


Tuesday Book Review — What’s New on My Nightstand: “The Science of Breakable Things,” by Tae Keller; “Sleepover Duck!” by Carin Bramsen; and Jill McDonald’s “Hello, World!” series — “Dinosaurs” & “My Body”

February 6th, 2018

Super cute new board books from Jill McDonald, from her “Hello, World!” series. “Dinosaurs” and “My Body.” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 0-3 years, $7.99 each.)

“Sleepover Duck!” needs a friend. And he found one. But who is doing all that hooting? And will they be able to get any shut-eye? A good way to talk about sleepover worries with the kiddos. (Random House Children’s Books, 2018, ages 3-7, 40 pages, $17.99.)

“The Science of Breakable Things” is for kids ages 8 and older and addresses the struggle of having a depressed parent. It’s thoughtfully handled and takes on a subject that a lot of folks shy away from. (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 8 and older, $16.99.)

Thursday Book Review, just for you: “The Pink Hat,” by Andrew Joyner; “Just a Duck?” by Carin Bramsen; “My Pillow Keeps Moving,” by Laura Gehl & Christopher Weyant

January 11th, 2018

“The Pink Hat,” by Andrew Joyner (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017, ages 4-8, 32 pages, $17.99). Presenting: Baby’s first feminist manifesto. This one is inspired by the Women’s March last year. It’s been somewhat sanitized for young readers, but that’s all right. The author included a little historical fact sheet in the back of the book. Joyner is an Australian artist and writer whose work has been published in more than 25 countries. Bright pink with black and white makes for an attractive picture book with a cool message. Reminiscent of P.D. Eastman. PS — google “pink hat” on Amazon and see all the cool kitty-cat hats that pop up.

“Just a Duck,” by Carin Bramsen (Random House, 2015, for babies! $7.99) It’s a rhyming book! This sweet little board book is a lot of fun. The vivid colors pop right off the page. A wee little duck believes… truly believes… that he is a cat. Is he?

“My Pillow Keeps Moving,” written by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Christopher Weyant (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018, ages 4-8, $17.99) This one reminds me of another P.D. Eastman classic, “A Fish Out of Water.”. Extremely hilarious story of a man and his… pillow? Footstool? Jacket? Check it out, the kids will adore it.

Bon appetit, babies!

– WM

Next Page »