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Thursday Book Review for me and you!

August 4th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Lemonade Stand, Sissy & Me,” circa 1970, photo by Dad

When the kids “put on a show,” sometimes that means that the bossiest one drapes herself in all the tutus and beads, pushes to the front, and won’t let anyone else sing. Yes, I’m thinking of a friend from childhood. She wasn’t so fun. Other people know how to sing, too, aight? This is why “Everyone Belongs” is such a change of pace and a delight. The new children’s book, which will be released this week, was written by Heather Avis and illustrated by Sarah Mensinga (Cover design by Annalisa Sheldahl; Waterbrook, 2022, $12.99). (Check the book credits in the back for Mensinga’s illustrations for the author/illustrator bios. Two of the author’s three daughters are included.)

When sisters Macy and Tru put on a show, they find a way to include everyone, which means fun for the entire neighborhood. Sweet story, beautiful illustrations. It’s a “teaching moment” book, but it’s more than just that.

“The Katha Chest,” written by Radhiah Chowdhury and illustrated by Lavanya Naidu, is an exquisite book about beautiful, worn-out saris that are repurposed into light quilts, and the little girl, Asiya, who adores them. (Salaam Reads, 2022, for ages 4-8/or for all ages, $17.99.)

When “Nana the Great Comes to Visit,” you know it will be entertaining. (Written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn; Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2022, $12.99.) Nana rocks (even though Mom says that she’s a little naughty, “in the best sort of way,” and “That’s why God gave us grandparents.”) Is it a huge mess? Or is Nana a fort-building genius? She won’t change diapers, but she will paint your nails with 20 different bottles of polish.

Thank God for grandparents.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Monday Book Reviews: “The Little Bear” and others

July 18th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Toddler me, mama, and my bald-headed sister, family photos)

 

“The Little Bear,” by Nicola Killen (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022, $16.99). Killen is a gifted artist who studied at Cambridge School of Art. Her Little Animal Friend series has been the sweetest, including the latest title. (BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and others have taken note.) Kids will like the soothing color scheme of navy blue and muted colors, and they’ll love the little “window” cut-outs that lead to the next page. Ollie is nervous the night before school, so she gets her bear backpack ready and has one more “practice lesson” before she turns in. She hears a “twit twoooo!” and is soon enchanted by an owl.

Great adventure story, and practical, too. 

“the world’s longest licorice rope,” by Matt Meyers (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). This one hits the shelves in a week, but is available for pre-order. Ben earns and finds a bunch of nickels, and it turns out that’s the easy part. What should he spend them on? Options include, but are not limited to: locally-sourced mud pies, snow/water cones, old Santa candy and so much more. Then he finds a little girl selling, yes, “the world’s longest licorice rope,” for one mere nickel.

“‘Just how long is it?’ Ben asked.

“‘How long is the world?’ a girl said.”

Is there an adventure? Yes.

Are there lions and carrots? Yes.

Are the illustrations cool and engaging, and will the kids like the book? Yes, yes and yes.

“The Baby-Changing Station,” written by Rhett Miller, illustrated by Dan Santat (Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2022, $17.99). Glad to see another sibling rivalry book arrive. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. And this one? Is also a rhyming book. So there you go. Does James like his little brother Joe? Not so much. In his words:

“Sure would be sweet/If I had a receipt/But all I’ve got’s this little terror. 

What if I say/to the post office, ‘Hey! You delivered this package in error.'”

Dan Santat is well-known for creating “The Adventures of Beekle” and many other books. These illustrations do not disappoint. The expressions on the characters’ faces are kinda the best.

Rhett Miller, as some of you know, is the frontman for the band the Old 97’s. The story he’s concocted is one of the kookiest children’s books I’ve come across in awhile. The kids are going to be delighted, I believe.

All for now/more tomorrow/bon appetit, babies!

WM

“Spellbound!” and other new releases

July 17th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Long Hot Summer” (family photo)

Well, hey. How about some fantabulous books?

“Spellbound” (Union Square Kids, 2022, ages little kids and up, 32 pages, $17.99), written by Jess Townes, illustrated by Jennifer Harney. Let’s talk about sibling rivalry, shall we? It’s real, and it can hurt. Especially when the baby gets you, the big kid, into trouble, and there’s not a dang thing you can do about it. Or when you’re having feelings you don’t quite know what to do with.

Here’s a sweet, funny take on the subject. Willow? Willow is magical and happy until lil baby Rowan comes along. He enchants everyone he meets. Except Willow. She’s on to him. Is he a real wizard? Is Willow an actual witch? Let’s find out. The littles will like this one, and so will their parents. Cool story, and beautiful retro drawings. (Maybe introduce the book the last trimester, before the little nugget comes home to stay.)

Another sweet book with a family theme is “A Gift for Nana,” by one of my favorite author-illustrators, Lane Smith (“It’a a Book,” “It’s a Little Book,” and his titles with the irrepressible Jon Scieszka). (Random House Studio, New York, 2022, design by Molly Leach, $18.99.) Children, of course, love books where the heroes get to do things kids usually don’t — float around the ocean in a giant peach, live for awhile in a museum, do all kinds of cool magic with their friends. In “A Gift for Nana,” a little rabbit gets to travel around through the forest, across the water, and near a volcano, in search of the perfect gift for his grandmother. A crow gives him directions and off he goes on this big quest. Great story and art.

Ready for a vacation? How about a “Vampire Vacation”? (Written by Laura Lavoie, with art by Micah Player; Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York; 2022; $17.99.) Now, if you were a vampire, would you rather go back to Transylvania? Again? No. You’d rather go to the beach, swim and hang out (no pun intended) with your friends. So Fang, an enterprising young vampire, makes his case.

“Nonsense,” said Papa, “It will be fun! We’ll tour Dracula’s castle, visit the House of No Mirrors, dine at a five-star blood bank…”

But Fang has some another plan up his cape… sleeve… and he hopes it will work. Delightful art, great details, and hilarious story. Sometimes families… even vampire families… need to accommodate each other.

Bon appetit, baby vampires! Happy summer, happy reading.

WM

“Who Is Jane Goodall?” Madame Curie & Einstein, reviewed!

July 6th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Baby me, family photo)

Hello, cats and kittens… how about some kid book reviews? Let’s go!

“Who Is Jane Goodall?,” written by Roberta Edwards and illustrated by John C. O’Brien, is one from the WhoHQ Your Headquarters for History Series (which so far includes 211 titles and growing). I love my Jane Goodall, she’s the coolest, really. Go watch some of the vids on YouTube of her and her beloved chimps. The work she has done on their behalf, in the most humble, kind way possible, is astounding. Great little book with all of the background info you need on this awesome scientist.

Speaking of scientists, two other books in the series are equally awesome: “Who Was Marie Curie?” (written by Megan Stine and illustrated by Ted Hammond) and “Who Was Albert Einstein?” (written by Jess M. Brallier, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker). (All the books are a steal at $5.99 apiece.) Wouldn’t it be good if we could forget about the Kardashians, TikTok videos and eating competitions, and just read all summer? Please make this happen… Please. 

OK, loves, happy summer, happy reading, bon appetit!

WM

Book reviews: anxiety, phones & talk-talk

June 27th, 2022

You know what happens when you flip a pillow and flip your stupid phone into your face? In my case, you split your eyelid open, bleed and cry all over, and head to a stack of self-help books in order to get well soon.

Yeah, yeah.

It’s healing. Really grateful it didn’t land an inch to the right, damn. Now I flinch whenever I see my phone.

Listen, anxiety and PTSD are real, and if you didn’t suffer from it before the pandemic started, chances are you do now. We could all use some coping strategies.

First up: friends and I are reading “Unf#ck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers.” San Antonio, Texas, therapist Dr. Faith Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN, packs a lot into this short-ish book. (Lots of info about Dr. Harper online, including this interview.) Great read, and the publisher (Microscosm) is from my hometown, Portland, Ore. Whoop-whoop!

“Anything But My Phone, Mom! Raising Emotionally Resilient Daughters in the Digital Age,” by Roni Cohen-Sandler, PhD, is a new release. You know how I now feel about phones. They should be outlawed. Check this book out for less Draconian measures.

“Talk with Her: A Dad’s Essential Guide to Raising Healthy, Confident and Capable Daughters,” by Kimberly Wolf, is another new release. It’s a good how-to with talking points and frequently asked questions. Take it slow, show up and let them know you’ll be there. I’ve found that going for pedicures and manicures together helps, too. Guys? You’ll like the salons. Give it a shot.

Here’s another great title geared for coping with anxiety: “Super Powered: Transform Anxiety into Courage, Confidence and Resilience” (with a new chapter on improving mental health in an unpredictable world). Hell yes, and thank you, Renee Jain and Dr. Shefali Tsabary.

One more… Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of “Childhood Disrupted,” has written a new book, due out in September. “Girls on the Brink: Helping Our Daughters Thrive in an Era of Increased Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media.” I’ve started the advance copy I was sent. Great read.

Even though most of these titles are geared for girls, let’s not overlook the boys, who also struggle with anxiety and depression. Statistically, women appear to struggle more with depression and anxiety, while men suffer from substance abuse and antisocial behaviors, but coping is coping is coping.

Let them know they’re not alone. Have a good week, everyone.

WM

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

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