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Big, Big, Super-Duper Book Review! Or, What’s New on My Nightstand: “Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word,” by Sarah Jane Marsh & Edwin Fotheringham; “Freya & Zoose,” by Emily Butler & Jennifer Thermes; Wee Society’s “Write On: My Story Journal” & “Yay! My Celebration Journal”; and “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak

November 11th, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(Dorothy & Alice art credit goes to… someone)

Oh, babies and big kids, get over here. Books! Some old, some new, and lots coming in for holiday reading and gift-giving.

“Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word,” by Sarah Jane Marsh, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Disney-Hyperion, 2018, ages 8 and up, $19.99). He was expected to spend his life following his family’s tradition of sewing underwear, and that alone is enough to give readers a laugh or smile. Thomas Paine, an English corset-maker’s son, had different ideas. He met Benjamin Franklin, traveled to America, and the rest is the American Revolution and U.S. history. Really cool book about Paine’s writing and its impact, and the art is fantastic.

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” Yes, yes.

He wrote essays protesting slavery, “…selling husbands away from wives, children from parents… is this doing to them as we would desire they should do to us?” which encouraged people to start abolitionists societies and end slavery.

When he was writing his pamphlet, “Common Sense,” he was warned by his peers to avoid the word “independence.”

So he used it 22 times.

Independence, independence, independence…

We need to remember Paine’s words today.

“Freya & Zoose,” by Emily Butler, illustrated by Jennifer Thermes (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019, 208 pages, ages 8-12, $16.99). Now comes this sweet novel about Freya, a rockhopper penguin, and her unlikely traveling companion, Zoose the mouse. The book is set in 1897, at the time of S.A. Andree’s Arctic Balloon Expedition. This one is fun, and the illustrations help bring the story to life.

Two new ones from Wee Society: “Write On: My Story Journal” and “Yay! My Celebration Journal” (Clarkson Potter, 2019, ages 5 and up, $14.99 apiece). I’m torn on these books. (Torn? Page? Get it?) Well, I am. Because they’re very cool, but they look too much like books, and not enough like journals, and if a journal looks too much like a book, no one wants to “dirty it up.”

Nonetheless, they are neat, with lots of places to scribble, tear, create and write. I’m a big fan of writing prompts, and the way “Write On” has approached it is with scene, character and conflict cards. For example: You’re in a hidden forest, with a talking burrito and taco, and… they couldn’t stop dancing!

So that’s pretty fun. Go all crazy, y’all.

“In the Night Kitchen,”by Maurice Sendak (Harper Collins, 1970). This one is just for me and my own big kids.

This classic is as much fun as “Where the Wild Things Are,” but doesn’t get as much airplay. It often lands on “banned books” lists because our hero, Mickey, is nudie patootie. (“Mama! Papa!”) Man, do I love this book.

He hears a “racket in the night,” has a fit, falls through the dark and floats out of his jammies, “past the moon & his mama & papa sleeping tight” and into the Night Kitchen.

Love, love, love.

Bon appetit, babies! Have a great November.

Wacky Mommy

Book Review: Books for Babies (and one for the big kids)!! Bedtime Classics: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll & Carly Gledhill and “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann & Carly Gledhill; Hello, World!: “Pets” & “Arctic Animals,” by Jill McDonald; plus “Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species,” adapted by Sabina Radeva

October 16th, 2019

This life...

(“Good morning, sunshine!” Photo by Rawley)

The fall books are arriving, and that makes life just a little sweeter, especially when the books are finally starting to reflect the actual country that we live in.

The majority of preschoolers in the United States today are non-white, aka “from a minority background.” This statistic has been accurate for several years now. (Since at least 2015, according to the people who pull the numbers together.) When the minority becomes the majority? That means, my friends, yes, America is a melting pot, which we already knew, and we love that.

Yet only 23 percent of children’s books published last year reflect this diversity.

Along comes Bedtime Classics, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” based on the Lewis Carroll story, and illustrated by the talented Carly Gledhill. Gledhill, an artist from the United Kingdom, did a lovely job with the Alice tale, and littles will be happy to meet the Cheshire Cat and the rest of Carroll’s crew in this sweet little board book.

Gledhill also illustrated a cool version (just in time for the holidays) of “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Both new releases are published by Penguin/Random House, 2019, cost $7.99 apiece, and are the first two in a new series, which will include “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Wizard of Oz” and other titles.

The Hello, World! series also has new books out. “Pets” and “Arctic Animals,” Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2019, $7.99 each, offer innovative ways to introduce the little ones to non-fiction info about animals, to identify colors and shapes, and voila! learn how to read, too.

The books are fun. We have a cute little rabbit, for example, with “long, floppy ears, whiskers, and a nose they can twitch,” a prompt to practice twitching your nose like a bunny, and some fun facts. (“Rabbits eat hay, fruits, and vegetables.”) Both books have the same style, and it’s just a fun way to work on a lot of educational stuff without being bossy about it. Lol.

Now, one for the big kids. Sabina Radeva, another artist from the U.K., has adapted and illustrated Charles Darwin’s classic, “On the Origin of Species” (Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, 2019, ages 4 and up, 64 pages, $18.99 and worth every penny). This extraordinary adaptation gives us lots of science facts, distilled for the younger crowd, along with biographical information on Darwin.

“Wacky Mommy,” you might ask, “Is this really a book my niece/nephew is going to want? Shouldn’t I buy them another Captain Underpants book, instead?” Well. You should buy them Captain Underpants, because that series is great. But you should also buy this one, too. Kids dig non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and all sorts of unexpected stuff.

Happy reading! Bon appetit!

Wacky Mommy at Large

Thursday, Thursday, Picture Books! — “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” by Liz Garton, Audrey Vernick & Olivier Tallec; “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’”; and “My Tiny Pet,” by Jessie Hartland

October 3rd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“White Chickens/Black/and Red” photo by Nancy Row Rawley)

I love this picture book’s title, y’all. “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR, 2019, ages 3-7, $16.99).

This cheerful, goofy picture book takes just about five minutes to read, but you’ll probably end up need 20-25 minutes, total, because the kids will want you to read it four or five times. Five minutes is forever — or it’s not enough, depending on how a person looks at it. Visiting the puppies, bunnies and birds at the pet store? Five minutes is not enough. Just a little more sleep? Please, please more than five minutes. Waiting in line, anywhere? Five minutes takes an eternity. Clever story, sweet illustrations.

Visit the crew — Liz Garton on Twitter @LGartonScanlong, Audrey Vernick and Olivier Tallec.

I have many favorite poems, but this one is in the top five:

“so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white chickens.”

– William Carlos Williams

What is it about this poem? English majors and their professors, writers and poets, fans of chickens… we all worship it, analyze it, interpret it in different ways. It’s cool to see the poem dissected — and illustrated — in a new picture book, “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’” (Schwartz & Wade Books, by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, 2019, ages 4-8, 40 pages, $17.99).

I love when this poem is used as a writing prompt; it frees us. It is simple, beautiful, deep, and everything a poem needs to be. Williams was a family doctor in Rutherford, New Jersey. Thaddeus Marshall, a neighbor, was one of his patients. His garden, his wheelbarrow, and the sale of his vegetables inspired Williams, who wrote in his spare time. Who knew? (English majors. Their profs. Writers and poets. #bigsmile)

The illustrations and the words wrap around the poem to give us a nice biography of Mr. Williams, and a beautiful tribute to Mr. Marshall. Enjoy.

For more about the author and illustrator, check Lisa Rogers and Chuck Groenink.

Next up, one just for you, science geeks and art lovers: Jessie Hartland’s “My Tiny Pet,” (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019, ages 4-8, $17.99). They can survive radiation, the vacuum of space, or live at the bottom of the ocean. They can hibernate for centuries. Their biggest predator, though? You’ll never believe it. Snails.

What is this mysterious creature we’re talking about? Tardigrades! (Aka, “water bears.”) And now someone, believe it or not, has written and illustrated a beautiful, sweet, educational picture book about them. Hartland’s work (gouache) has been compared to Maira Kalman’s (one of the best artists, ever, in the history of the universe, people!) and yes. It does remind me of Kalman’s work.

A little girl and her family are downsizing and moving to the forest, and their pets are all rehomed. But she would really, pretty please, like one small pet? So much love for this book.

Check out more of Hartland’s work here.

Tuesday Book Review — What’s on My Nightstand: “The Penderwicks at Last,” by Jeanne Birdsall; “The Curse of the Werepenguin,” by Allan Woodrow; “The Beautiful,” by Renee Ahdieh; and “Rules for Vanishing,” by Kate Alice Marshall

October 1st, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Gleneden Beach, Oregon, USA — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Hello cats and kittens,

I have a nice little round-up for you this week.

“The Penderwicks at Last,” by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling/Random House Children’s Books, 2019, 294 pages, $7.99) is the final book in this series about six adventuresome siblings. (The other five books are “The Penderwicks,” “The Penderwicks on Gardam St.,” “The Penderwicks at Point Mouette”and “The Penderwicks in Spring.” It’s an old-fashioned kind of series, in the tradition of “The Boxcar Children” and “The Moffatts.” My students, when I taught, enjoyed the Penderwicks. It has that certain something that appeals to modern readers. The Penderwicks will be missed. Follow Jeanne Birdsall on Twitter @jeannebirdsall

“The Beautiful,” by Renee Ahdieh (Putnam, 2019, young adult, 425 pages, $18.99). New Orleans + intrigue + creatures of the night. Enjoy this scary tale. Follow the author at @rahdieh

“Rules for Vanishing,” by Kate Alice Marshall @kmarshallarts (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2019, young adults, 402 pages, $18.99). Marshall’s debut book, a young adult read, was “I Am Still Alive,”. It caught readers’ attention. “Rules for Vanishing,” her latest, is being released just in time for Halloween. Sara Donoghue’s sister Becca left a year ago, in search of Lucy Gallows, and no one has seen her since. Lucy, a ghost, has her own road, her own story, and her own plan. Sara and her friends from Briar Glen need to find Becca, and this isn’t an adventure that any of them really want to go on.

But it’s Becca.

“EXHIBIT A
Text message received by all Briar Glen High School students on Monday, April 17, 2017

DO YOU KNOW WHERE LUCY WENT?

SHE WENT TO PLAY THE GAME.

YOU CAN PLAY, TOO.

FIND A PARTNER.

FIND A KEY.

FIND THE ROAD.

YOU HAVE TWO DAYS.”

OK, now my heart is racing.

It’s a gripping book, and the format is intriguing, with the story, clues and interviews interspersed with cell phone calls and texts.

And now, for something fun: “The Curse of the Werepenguin,” by Allan Woodrow, illustrated by Scott Brown (Viking, ages 4th grade and up, 334 pages, $17.99). Funny, funny boys put this book together. First page:

“Prologue: The St. Aves Zoo

Fourteen penguins glared at me with haunting yellow eyes. They seemed disturbed, disdainful, disgruntled, discombobulated, and disagreeably disquieting. They squawked — loud, roaring barks — beaks frowning.

A chill rose up my back.

I sneezed.”

OK, good. Let’s go! Great story, captivating and humorous, and the drawings are perfect.

Happy autumn, happy reading.

WM

Sunday Book Review — What’s On My Nightstand: “Tricky Twenty-Two,” by Janet Evanovich; “The Time of My Life,” by Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi; “The Room-Mating Season,” by Rona Jaffe; “Quest Study Bible/New International Version”; “Left Neglected,” by Lisa Genova; and “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,” by Anne Tyler

September 22nd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Yeah, read a book.” Photo by Nancy Ellen Row)

Here’s everything, everything, everything I’m reading at the moment. The stack is toppling over:

* This Janet Evanovich is a lot of fun, I must say. I’ve been reading the Stephanie Plum, New Jersey Bounty Hunter books for awhile now. They’re great. I’m reading the fifth one, “High Five,” and the 22nd one, “Tricky Twenty-Two” at the same time, and that is total OK in the land of Ms. Plum. Book swap! Little Free Library! Take advantage, y’all.

* I found Patrick Swayze’s autobiography, “The Time of My Life,” in the same book swap shelves where I found five or six Stephanie Plum books. People, chances like this do not come along every day. It’s not just his story, though, although it’s definitely an autobiography. This one, co-written with his wife, Lisa Niemi, is one long love letter to their marriage, and that is just what this jaded divorcee needed.

Sometimes people tough it out. He did. She did. They did. They tried and were so strong and committed, to each other, to their careers, to fighting his health issues. And to have lost him so young seems like just a really shitty trick to me, God. I’m just saying.

* Now that I’m thinking about it, I think all of these books came from the free shelves. Rona Jaffe, my goddess, my hero, my inspiration on all-things-female since I found her at age 14, snuck one by me. “The Room-Mating Season” was published in 2003, but starts out in 1963, hello, “Mad Men.” And women. I just started it, so can’t say, but I do see it got some rotten reviews on Thee Internet. I don’t care, I love Jaffe. I just re-read “The Best of Everything” awhile back, and man, that book has aged well. Just like me!

* “The Quest Study Bible/New International Version”– lost and found. Pretty, pretty good.

* “Left Neglected,” by Lisa Genova — just started this one, too. Do you think I read too much? I think I don’t read enough.

* Anne Tyler’s “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.” I’ve been a fan of Tyler’s since I read “The Accidental Tourist” in a contemporary lit class in college. This one doesn’t disappoint. I bookmarked a bunch of pages with torn-up bits of grocery lists, but now that I’ve finished the book, and it’s captured me? I don’t feel like sharing. So there. It’s probably my favorite work of hers now.

Bon appetit, darlings.

WM

Saturday Book Review, for the kids: “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most From You,” by Monica Swanson; “The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School,” by Kristin Mahoney

September 7th, 2019

Benton Co. Fair 2019

(“Fleurs,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

You might know Monica Swanson from her blog, and her most well-known post, “What a Teenage Boy Needs Most From His Mom.” She has four boys, a happy marriage, her faith and God, she lives on Oahu and grows tropical fruit. I wanna go over to her house right now, drink smoothies and hang out.

Her new book, “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most From You” was just released. It’s great. (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2019, $15.99, 228 pages.) She takes on healthy eating, boundaries/freedoms, prayer and faith, technology and freedom and lots of other stuff. Engaging talk-talk, insight and stories.

Oh, I know Kristin Mahoney. She wrote “Annie’s Life in Lists,” the young adult novel I reviewed a while back. So here’s something new from her, that’s equally fun. “The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School,”(Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House Children’s Books, 2019, $16.99, ages 8-12, 304 pages). What are the 47 types? They include, but are not limited to, the scary teacher, the gooser, the cackling eighth-grade boys, Officer Perry, Keira, all as described by Augusta “Gus” to her little sister, Louisa, “Lou,” who is wondering about middle school.

It’s a challenge, Lou. But you can do it.

The advice is going to be helpful for anyone heading into middle school, or already there.

Have a great weekend, y’all. Talk soon.

WM

Friday Book Review — Kids’ Books: “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood,” by Marjane Satrapi; “Thurgood,” by Jonah Winter & Bryan Collier

September 6th, 2019

Silver Falls, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park, Silverton, Oregon, USA

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Of course I want to hear a story from someone who has a strong (and/or sad, intense, funny, moving) story to tell.

This is one heck of a story.

“Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon/Random House, Inc.; translation by L’Association, Paris, France; 2003; ages young adult and older) is the first in the series of four graphic novels, Satrapi’s account of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. This is an astounding work of art.

We have another outstanding story in “Thurgood,” a new biographical picture book written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Bryan Collier (Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House Children’s Books, 2019, ages 5 and up, 40 pages, $17.99). Award-winning writer Winter has written a number of titles, including a biography about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the extraordinary “Lillian’s Right to Vote.”

Collier is, simply, one of those most gifted artists of our time. He has won four Caldecott Honors, including an award for “Rosa,” a book about Mrs. Parks, and one of my favorite picture books ever, which he collaborated on with poet Nikki Giovanni.

Thurgood Marshall, American hero, Civil Rights activist, and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was born in 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, and died in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1993. What he did in the years in between is inspiring, incredible and intense. The book doesn’t pull any punches. He was the star pupil of civil rights attorney Charles Houston, who took him on a road trip to the Deep South to study white vs. black segregated schools.

“FACT: Unlike the white kids’ schools, the black kids’ schools had dirt floors and no restrooms. The students were malnourished and sad. ‘Separate but equal’? Yeah, right.”

Don’t ever think that kids can’t handle books like these, that pack so much honesty, violence, unfairness and truth between the covers. Kids are aware how unfair life can be, and they need tools to change their world for the better.

Enjoy these titles, and have a great weekend.

WM

At last… Saturday Book Reviews: What’s On My Nightstand — Janet Evanovich, Jeannette Walls, Curtis Sittenfeld and Jonathan Safran Foer

July 13th, 2019

Keep Fucking Going

Just wanted to say hey and tell you — I love summer. I’m reading all summer long, and finishing a new manuscript (memoir, first draft is done, ready to send to agents, woooooooooot!), gardening, hanging out with my kids and the pets, eating as many nectarines/peaches/plums/grapes/cherries and as much watermelon as I possibly can.

Also back to writing letters and cards to friends, and that just feels good. Cuz you gotta send a letter to get a letter.

How’s it with you? :)

* Reading through Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series, about the New Jersey bounty hunter; her best friend and assistant, Lula; her granny and family; and her sexy, problematic boyfriends, Morelli and Ranger. These books are so much fun.

* “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls, is a whole different kind of read. Gritty, poignant, funny memoir that everyone else has read but me. It’s great, but it did take awhile to hook me. Books, that’s the way it is sometimes.

* “American Wife,” by Curtis Sittenfeld, is just a knock-out. I nabbed it from a Little Free Library, score! I’m really liking this novel, and it’s one of those reads where I just study the scenes, the characters, and re-read sections. So good.

* “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, is one that I’ve been wanting to read for awhile. Glad a friend recommended it and put it back on my radar.

So what are you reading?

xo

WM

Thursday Book Review: Here I Am, Baby! “Baby Astronaut,” “Baby Oceanographer,” “Except When They Don’t” & “Dibs!” — all by Laura Gehl, with illustrations by Daniel Wiseman, Joshua Heinsz & Marcin Piwowarski

May 16th, 2019

March 2019

“Sky High,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

May 2019

(Photo by moi)

What’s on the menu today?

Writer Laura Gehl and illustrator Daniel Wiseman have just released a pair of board books for the littles, the first in a new series: “Baby Astronaut” and “Baby Oceanographer,” HarperFestival/HarperCollins, ages 0-4, $8.99 apiece). So cool. Baby Astronaut and her friends have their suits, their helmets, and a big sense of adventure. Off they go! Baby Oceanographer studies the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Indian, the Pacific and the Southern oceans like a geeky rockstar. Great art, lots of colorful drawings and fun stories.

“Dibs!” is the first word baby Clancy learns from his big brother, Julian. Pretty soon he’s saying “dibs!” on everything at the bakery, an entire airplane, and… the White House? But what is he going to do if aliens show up? Laura Gehl wrote the words; Marcin Piwowarski did the astounding illustrations that are almost 3D, the way they pop full-color off the page.

“Except When They Don’t,” by Laura Gehl, charmingly illustrated by Joshua Heinsz, takes a whole bunch of stereotypes about girls/boys/boys/girls and turns them upside down. Gehl is a fun writer, I’m enjoying this crop of her work.

Bon appetit, babies! Basketball game is starting…

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne & Sal Murdocca; “One-Third Nerd,” by Gennifer Choldenko & Eglantine Ceulemans; and “Dragons in a Bag,” by Zetta Elliott

March 17th, 2019

March 2019

March 2019

March 2019

(Pix by N. Row Rawley)

“Magic Tree House #37: Dragon of the Red Dawn,” by Mary Pope Osbourne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (A Stepping Stone Book/Random House, 2007, 108 pages). Ah, the genius of Mary Pope Osbourne. My kids loved this series, the fiction and non-fiction titles alike.

It must be rough, I’m thinking, having a librarian as a mommy. One minute, you have this amazing set of Magic Tree House books, the next minute, she’s given them all to one of her third-grade classes because why? Because I said so. Lol. “Because they needed them more than you two did.” (In my own defense… they really did. They only had a few of the titles, and they were tattered and worn.)

But the other day, going through boxes containing Nerf darts, random coasters for the coffee table, misplaced board games and Tonka trucks, what should I come across? My daughter’s pretty necklace, for one. And an overlooked Magic Tree House book — “Dragon of the Red Dawn.” Such a great series. If I’m ever blessed enough to have grandkids, I’m buying the whole series all over again. (I won’t give it away this time. Promise.)

Check out some of Osbourne’s other work, too — the mythology books and science titles are great.

Next up: new releases.

“One-Third Nerd,” written by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans (Random House Children’s Books, 2019, ages 8012, 211 pages, $16.99). Loved this book. “One-Third Nerd” introduces us to a cool cast of characters: Cupcake, the dog that won’t stop peeing on the carpet; a family that has recently gone through a divorce, but are dealing; a big brother, Liam, who doesn’t want any extra attention called to himself; Dakota, the middle sis, a science geek who struggles making and keeping friends; and Izzy, the little sis, who has Down Sydrome and is the huggingest kid in America.

This is an awesome chapter book. Reviewers have compared “One-Third Nerd” to Judy Blume’s books, and it is that good. The drawings by Eglantine Ceulemans remind me of Hilary Knight’s work, they’re very sweet.

“Dragons in a Bag” is the latest from author, playwright and poet Zetta Elliott. (Her books for young readers include “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun” and “Melena’s Jubilee.”) Geneva B. did the charming, detailed illustrations. This is a cool book, and a lot of fun, with some seriousness added to the mix.

Jaxon’s mom, worried that they are going to lose their apartment due to eviction, drops him at his Ma’s house. Only… she’s not really his granny, she’s kind of a witch.

Not a mean old lady — a witch. And she needs Jaxon’s help with some baby dragons.

Well-written, engaging, and go, Brooklyn!

xo and bon appetit,

your girl,

Wacky Mommy, aka Nancy

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