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Friday, Friday: This Week’s Young Adult Books

September 17th, 2021

Hello, readers! Two new ones from the Wingfeather Saga:

“Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, Skreean Edition,” by Ollister B. Pembrick, translated from the original by Andrew Peterson, illustrated by O.B.P., with assistance from Aedan Peterson, “Master of Sketchery,” tra la la! (WaterBrook, 2014/2021, 122 pages, $13.99.) Cool illustrations, the text is fun, and the cover? So pretty. (Books that are precious and just feel good to read.) Nice pairing with “Wingfeather Tales: Seven Thrilling Stories from the World of Aerwiar” (Andrew Peterson, editor, WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2016/2021, 384 pages, $13.99).

Love, love, love graphic novels, and here’s a good one: “The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast,” by Chad Sell. (Random House Children’s Books, 2021, ages 9-12, 288 pages, $12.99.)

Last but not least… “Good Dog: 4 Books in 1!” (Written by Cam Higgins, illustrated by Ariel Landy; “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” “Raised in a Barn,” “Herd You Loud and Clear” and “Fireworks Night”; Little Simon/Simon & Schuster; 2021; 491 awesome, fun-filled pages.) Great title for kids who are fans of dogs and other critters, farms and fun.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Wednesday Book Review: “What Are… ?” The WhoHQ series

September 15th, 2021

drippy rose

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley; use with permission only)

The WhoHQ book series has been popular since the titles first started rolling off the presses. (WhoHQ, Who? What? Where? Your Headquarters for History; Penguin Workshop; $5.99 per title.) 

With 250 titles, and more on the way, it’s a comprehensive series, with titles about historical events from earthquakes to war, science, celebrities, historical figures… the list goes on and on with something for everyone. They’re aimed at ages 8-12, but kids who are younger and older enjoy the series, too. I can see the appeal — the covers are inviting and bright; the stories are well-written, and the books include pages and pages of photos, fact boxes, lots of art, timelines and bibliographies for readers who are looking for more.

They basically implement a variety of different techniques to help students learn. Hear, hear! We should all be so creative. Lol.

Here are four recent titles and all are great additions to the collection. If you’re looking for resources on how to use the series, a good place to start is with Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium. 

“What Are the Paralympics Games?”

“What Are the Summer Olympics?”

“Who Was Jesse Owens?”

“Who Was Kobe Bryant?”

Enjoy! Here’s to cool autumn days, warm blankets, hot soup and tea, and lots of books.

WM

Monday Book Review: Picture Books

September 6th, 2021

Team Rawley at the beach

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley; use with permission only)

Well, it’s Labor Day here in the States, and I’m enjoying my day off, but I’d still like to give you a fast book round-up. Happy reading and bon appetit!

WM

Reviewed today:

This new series by Cocomelon arrived and honestly — right when you think baby books can’t get any better, they do.

“The Wheels on the Bus” (Simon Spotlight, board book, $7.99) by May Nakamura is a cool little book (the wheels really work!) and exactly the right size for small hands. There’s a story to go with the classic song. I’m taking this one in to read and sing with my preschoolers tomorrow a.m. after we’re back from break. Look for it when it’s released Sept. 14, 2021.

Did I say “preschoolers”? Yes, yes I did. It’s fall, and I’m now director/lead teacher at a preschool. Love it. They’re funny and sweet and love to read. My heroes. Awww… 

Speaking of those little heroes… I brought in Anita Lobel’s newest title, “Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure,” and they refused to give it back. It’s a counting book and a rhyming book, and it’s funny. The mama and the papa take their 10 babies out for a walk, but the babies are more interested in making friends than sticking with their parents. Adorable, great illustrations (of course. Lobel is legendary, go read about her) and if the preschoolers won’t turn it loose, you know it’s gotta be good. (Make sure to sing “Five Little Ducks” to go along with this one.)

Oh, wait. This Cocomelon is a cartoon hit, I getcha. So if you feel like having a dance party, go check it out.

(The students were yelling something at me about blooey, blooey! And then I remembered getting a review copy of a book about Bluey, the little blue heeler. “Oh! Bluey!” “Yes, Bluey, you know him?” I’ll review it when I locate it, but here’s another link for now.)

Three more Cocomelons, and off I go…

“Yes, Yes, Vegetables!”

“Ready for School!”

and…

“Hello, New Friend!”

How apropos. Have an awesome week!!!

Sunday Book Review: Parenting Books

August 25th, 2021

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“When the Chickens Go Feral” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

It’s Sunday morning, and that means peace and quiet around here. At least for a minute until the gentleman farmers start zooming around on their tractors. Save it for the weekday mornings, guys. I’m zooming, too: Church. There are some adaptations we’ve made, during these pandemic times, that work pretty well, and some that don’t. For me, Zoom church works.

Especially since my church family is in Portland, Ore., and I’m not.

Monday morning now… book review time. I’ve received a few review copies recently of parenting books, and have picked up and been gifted some how-to, self-help type books. This is a good selection! Enjoy.

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron (TarcherPerigee, 245 pages). I’m looking forward to reading more of this 25th anniversary edition, which was first published in 1992. A friend sent it along and I’m so touched that she did. The author calls it a “support kit for artists” and it really is. Just a lovely book and I’m glad it’s still in print. Thank you, R, for sending it. Love you.

I’m also reading “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2015, 273 pages, $24.95). It’s awesome, this book. It’s especially needed right now, as many of us are experiencing ongoing pandemic fatigue and wondering what 2021, 2022 and the next decade will hold. We will get through it, but it’s still too intense right now. So this book helps, thanks, Ms. Gilbert.

“How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes: Science-Based Strategies for Better Parenting — From Tots to Teens,” by Melinda Wenner Moyer (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021, 340 pages, $27.) Another thank you. That’s all. Just thank you.

“License to Parent: How My Career as a Spy Helped Me Raise Resourceful, Self-Sufficient Kids,” by Christina Hillsberg, with Ryan Hillsberg. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, 2021, 275 pages, $26). These two worked for the CIA, went on to other adventures, and then wrote this parenting book. Hmm.

“Blend,” by Mashonda Tifrere, with Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz (TarcherPerigee, 2018, 244 pages, $27). My favorite of all parenting books. Read it even if you haven’t had a split in your family (and honestly, who hasn’t had to deal with some sort of separation/divorce/loss and grief in their family?). Tifrere soul-searched following her split with Beatz, and his remarriage to musician Keys. She takes on all of it: Communication, co-parenting, egos, weaknesses, strengths, the love we have for our kids, and the children in our families, healthy relationships, friendships, all of it. This is a brilliant, poignant, deep book and meant to help in the healing process. I just loved it.

“The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Our Houses Became Our Homes,” by Judith Flanders (St. Martin’s Press, 2015, 346 pages, $26.99). This one is next in the stack!

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review

August 1st, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

“Springtime in the Valley,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Here’s a photo from a few months ago. I cannot believe that it’s August 1st today, it seems so fast. But it also feels like mid-September, or even early October, in spite of the heat and the wildfires, so I remain out of sorts. The birds are plucking all of the grapes, even though they’re not quite ripened. The black raspberries are gone, the roses have bloomed and wilted, and the daylilies, too. The red plums are gone, but the purple plums, and the yellow plums, are placid and on schedule. I leave the sprinklers on for the hens, the wild birds, the deer, the new fawns and the other critters. I leave out bowls of water, and cat food for the two strays, one gray and one black.

The Delta variant has many of us worried. Covid-19 continues to kick our asses and kill us. We’re ready to stop worrying, but that’s never going to happen. Worry is the human condition. Maybe, eventually, more people will agree to be vaccinated and we can move on. Maybe. So I read, I write, I call friends and write letters and cards. I garden and take care of the kids, and my friends and family, and they, in turn, take care of me.

And I review books.

Can’t wait to share these titles with you — all picture books for the littles (and for the bigs who appreciate education, art and good stories).

“Listen,” by Gabi Snyder, illustrated  by Stephanie Graegin (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99). I highly recommend “listening” walks, they’re the best. (My kids and I often took these when they were little, and still enjoy them now.) They’re especially needed, I think, during the middle of winter, and the dog days of summer. This is a sweet picture book about a little girl who just hears NOISE in her world, until she closes her eyes and drinks in, absorbs, and feels each sound around her. 

The crow cawing. The dog yapping. The teakettle whistling. “Hello,” called across the playground. Wind. Rain.

Lovely book, and the shades of blue the illustrator used soften everything and really bring out the quietness and peace of the story. 

“Making a Baby,” written by Rachel Greener and illustrated by Clare Owen (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99). No, no, sorry, I’m too young for this one. But the kids have questions, and books can be helpful in providing answers. This one provides answers, and, um, pictures. So now I’m blushing and have to leave. Bye.

“Different: A Great Thing to Be!” written by Heather Avis, with illustrations by Sarah Mensinga (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, 40 pages, $11.99). Delightful book about a young girl with special needs, and a glimpse into her life. Written in rhymes, with bright, colorful illustrations, it’s a nice introduction about the feelings of others, their abilities and challenges, and how to reach out and make sure no one is excluded.

“Chirp! Chipmunk Sings for a Friend,” written by Jamie A. Swenson, with illustrations by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2021, ages 4-8, $17.99). 

“Chipmunk lived on a rock… Sometimes Chipmunk’s songs were happy. Sometimes her songs were bittersweet. And sometimes her songs were very sad indeed.”

Chipmunk is alone, except for her rock. This is the story of how she strikes out in the world, seeking friends. Whimsical, ethereal illustrations, and a great story.

Bon appetit, everyone.

WM

Thursday Book Review: Eric Carle’s “You’re My Little Baby” and Other Assorted Titles

June 3rd, 2021

2021

(“Best Blue Heeler,” 2021 photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Kid books — new and old favorites ahead for review, get ready. There may be a holiday book included that I’m sneaking in because I overlooked it a few months ago. OK, people. If you’re not doing this already, do like my smart grandmothers — buy those birthday, holiday, wedding and baby gifts year round. (The key is to remember where you stashed them, otherwise, alas…)

So I’m not even going to feel guilty that I forgot to review “The Wheels on the Bus At Christmas” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020, illustrated by Sarah Kieley, $10.99). It’s not too early/late to buy a copy, aight?

“Let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve/ let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve/ who will we find inside?”

Sweet little kids is who! Plus reindeer, presents, singing cookies, a snowman and lots of other fun. Darling singalong with bright pops of color. The front cover opens with cut-outs of the windows on the bus… and that looks like Santa driving?

As long as we’re on the subject of winter… here’s another overlooked (whoops) book.  “Small Walt Spots Dot,” written by Elizabeth Verdick, with pictures by Marc Rosenthal, pays homage to both Mike Mulligan (Virginia Lee Burton) and our busy friend Curious George. (Did you know that Hans and Margret Rey escaped from the Nazis? They fled Paris on bicycle in 1940, reportedly carrying the manuscript for the first “Curious George.”) I am a sucker for the illustrations and children’s books of the 1930s-1950s. “Small Walt Spots Dot,” with this vintage style, does not disappoint. (Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99.)

Gus and his snowplow, Walt, hit the streets, save the snowy day, and find a lost pup along the way. (See? Rhymes rule.) Another one to tuck away for next winter. Or, you may like reading books about snow when the weather is hot and miserable, “Chicken Soup with Rice”-style.

Next up:

Like his millions of other fans, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Eric Carle. The World of Eric Carle recently published a perfect little board book, “You’re My Little Baby” (Little Simon, 2020, ages 2-4, $7.99). If you haven’t already, now is the time to start collecting Carle books for the kids in your life. Or for yourself. The art is extraordinary, and his work really is for all ages. My favorites include “Animals Animals,” “The Very Busy Spider” (of course), “‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ Said the Sloth,” and “Dragons Dragons.” You cannot go wrong with any of Carle’s books, these are just my top picks. 

“God Gave Us Prayer” is the latest release in the “God Gave Us” series by author Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrator David Hohn (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, ages 3-8, 56 pages, $14.99). The power of prayer is illustrated through pup and his parents, possum, otter, skunk and other friends, with space for little readers to reflect.

Anna Dewdny’s “Llama Llama” books have been delighting young readers for years. The newest on the shelves is “Llama Llama Meets the Babysitter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2021, by Anna Dewdny, Reed Duncan and J.T. Morrow, ages babies and up, $18.99). Llama Llama has never had a sitter before, what will this be like? Good way to prepare the young ones for meeting new caregivers. 

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Curls” and “Glow,” by Ruth Forman & Geneva Bowers

May 23rd, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Sunday evening kids’ book review from your friend, Wacky Mommy:

“Curls” (Little Simon, 2020, written by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers,  all ages, $8.99). What do you do when your little one, your beloved child, comes home from preschool wanting different hair and skin?

“I knew she might have to face these pressures at some point,” Ruth Forman has said, “but I didn’t realize it could happen so soon, at age 3 and 4.”

She points out that these are critical development years. They are. What other people tell us that first 10 years, especially, can impact how we look at ourselves for the next 80. What did Forman do about it? She wrote a sweet, rhyming, beautifully-illustrated board book (kudos to Geneva Bowers for the art) in response. This book is about so much more than hair, skin, babies, and little children getting pressure to be something that they’re not

Racism is alive and kicking in America and in the world. Forget that noise, we are way past due for change. This powerful little book is a start.

“shine big

hair love”

Forever. 

“Glow,” a companion book celebrating the joy and power of African-American boys, is the second release from Forman and Bowers. It, too, is an incredible little board book. 

“I shine night too

smooth brown

glow skin”

Both of these books belong in every nursery, every classroom, every doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Just as a reminder of Black joy, Black children, and ethnic representation.

 

Have a lovely week, everyone. 

 

WM

Friday Book Review

April 9th, 2021

So many photos ❤️

(“My Best Chickens” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future,” by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2020, $19.99). Nice new picture book from Jeffers (“The Day the Crayons Quit,” “How to Catch a Star,” “Lost and Found”) about a father and daughter who are building, literally and figuratively, for the future. Sweet, bright art depicting tools, a house being built, whimsical items, a ship that won’t sink… It’s the best combination of fantasy and reality.

“Let’s build a tunnel to anywhere. Le’s build a road up to the moon.” 

See more from Jeffers at his website.

“Hooray for Helpers! First Responders and More Heroes in Action,” by Mike Austin (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99). Good timing for this picture book, which also includes an interview with a real firefighter, an emergency supplies checklist and instructions for making an emergency contact list. Austin is married to author-illustrator Jing Jing Tsong and they have a sweet dog named Prudence. Look for them at jingandmike.com

“Oscar’s American Dream,” written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, is a historical fiction-style picture book with an “old-timey” feel. (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99.) Soft, muted pastels are used to illustrate the fictional story of Oskar Nowicki, who “arrived at Ellis Island carrying his life in a cardboard suitcase and a skinny roll of money in his coat pocket, a loan from his mother in Poland for a down payment on his dream.” 

He switches the “k” in his name to a “c,” in an effort to fit into his new country; he opens “Oscar’s All-American Barbershop in Manhattan; and gives away free haircuts to his first twenty customers “and lemon drops to all the boys and girls.”

The book traces the storefront’s evolution over the years, from barbershop to women’s clothing store to soup kitchen during the Great Depression and so on through modern times. It’s an interesting slice of American history, and includes info on suffragettes, wartime, the Civil Rights movement, and more. I appreciate the details and warmth of the Ezra Jack Keats-style paper and paint art.  

Wittenstein’s website is onedogwoof.com; and you’ll find the Howdeshells at thebraveunion.com.

Bon appetit, babies! Have a great weekend.

WM

 

  

 

 

Sunday Book Review: “The Little Kitten,” “A Story for Small Bear,” “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” “The War with Grandpa” & “Good Morning Zoom”

October 18th, 2020

It’s nearly Halloween, y’all, and just in time, here comes “The Little Kitten,” by Nicola Killen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2020, $16.99). Little Ollie and her kitten Pumpkin find a lost kitten, and what will they do? Where will they go? Nice illustrations, with a black, orange, white and gray color scheme.

“A Story for Small Bear” is a sweet and lovey picture book, written by Alice B. McGinty (“The Sea Knows,” “The Girl Who Named Pluto,” and many others) illustrated by Richard Jones (whose other work includes “Whale in a Fishbowl”) (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). It’s hard to believe that so much love and heart can leap out of the pages like they do with this book, about mama bear trying to get her baby bear prepared for a winter rest. The story is dear, the illustrations are beautiful. Try not to get tears in your eyes. Good luck. I think the kids will adore this one for a bedtime story.

Bad timing, alas, for “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” a promotional book by Crayola, starring their colors Blue Violet, Macaroni and Cheese, Scarlet and Jungle Green. It’s a sweet little board book, but made me lonely. Back to school time only it’s not. Will be good, though, for reminding kids that they will, someday, go back to school, and this is what classrooms, buses and school days look like. (Crayola, Simon & Schuster, 2020, for the littles, $6.99.)

I love autumn, but this autumn is kinda breaking all of our hearts. We can get through it together, okay? OK.

Really fun oldie but goodie with Robert Kimmel Smith’s “The War with Grandpa” (Yearling Humor, 1984, ages 8-12, 140 pages, $6.99). Why the re-release? It’s now a moving picture, yep, starring… you know them, you love them, or you might not love them, what do I know? … Robert De Niro, Uma! Thurman, Christopher Walker, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin… sure. Sounds good already. (If you had told me that Robert “Travis Bickle” DeNiro was eventually going to end up cast as a beloved dad and grandpa, I probably would have said, “Raging Bull, seriously?” But he’s a complex man, De Niro. We know this already.)

Kimmel is probably best known for his book “Chocolate Fever.” (“The War with Grandma” is coming out next summer.)

Last book for today… “Good Morning Zoom,” (modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”) which calls itself “a parody,” even though it’s pretty much reality, has words by Lindsay Rechler and pictures by June Park.

Two words: Too soon.

Recommended Books on Grief, Trauma, Race & Healing

September 13th, 2020

I’m back to social work, after a decade of doing library and computer lab work (which is also social work, it turns out) in the K-12 schools. I’ve been in trainings, meetings, and collecting book lists for most of the summer. Here are some picks. I’m going to list out (not review) all but the first title.

“The Big Finish,” a novel by Brooke Fossey (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2020, 326 pages, $26). Man, I love this book. First of all, I thought it was a young adult book when it arrived for review. Most of the titles I get are geared toward babies through the high school crowd. This one is a novel for the grown-ups, but I think some high schoolers would like it, too.

Duffy Sinclair and Carl Upton are best friends by happenstance — they’re well into in their 80s and both landed at the Centennial assisted living facility. It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad. They live in fear of slipping down — in their health, in their faculties, or just on the floor — and being stuck in a facility that’s not as nice. They’re worried about death, and life, when in through their window comes Josie, less than one-fourth their age. She’s possibly inebriated, she has a black eye, and she’s Carl’s granddaughter. Allegedly.

It’s a buddy story, it’s a family story, it’s about alcoholism and domestic violence and neglect, and how they impact families, individuals and all of us. It’s one of the sweetest books I’ve ever been lucky enough to read. The characters are thoroughly sketched out, the dialogue is great, and most of all, the story and the characters are believable and moving story. Highly recommended.

And now, a few titles, alphabetically by authors’ last name. I’ll keep adding to this list, it’s by no means comprehensive. Please add your suggestions in comments, if you’d like.

Alexander, Michelle, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”

Connor, Leslie, “Waiting for Normal” (young adult novel about a girl, her mother, and child neglect)

Didion, Joan, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

Giovanni, Nikki, “Collected Poetry — 1968-1998”

Goble, Jillana, “No Sugar-Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting”

Harris, Nadine Burke, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”

Maynard, Joyce, “The Best of Us,” a memoir

Oluo, Ijeoma, “So You Want to Talk About Race”

Sanchez, Sonia, “Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems”

Sapolsky, Robert M., “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

Tatum, Beverly Daniel, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race”

van der Kolk, Bessel (M.D.), “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”

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