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Wednesday Book Review, just for the kids: “The Losers Club,” by Andrew Clements; Disney’s “Before Ever After (Tangled the Series)”

August 2nd, 2017

“The Losers Club,” by Andrew Clements (Random House, 2017, $16.99, 231 pages.) The latest by Andrew Clements is my favorite yet of all of his books. OK, I haven’t read *every single one* of his novels, but I’ve read most. He’s a gifted writer, funny and smart, and he artfully captures the pain and joy of going to school.

Everything about this book rings true: Kids thinking of themselves as losers because they’d rather read than play kickball; kids still, to this day, having the insult “bookworm” thrown at them; kids trying, and failing, and trying again to express themselves. Alec, the Bookworm, had a friend, Kent, who is now Star of Kickball and Everything Else Athletic. They like the same girl, Nina, because of course they do. Alec’s revenge? He starts the Losers Club, which is a book club, of sorts, in aftercare at his school. Because if you’re in aftercare? You have to join a “club,” and he’s not interested in chess, origami, or kickball.

Here is the dilemma: Alec doesn’t want anyone to talk about books, in book club. Or discuss books. So no, it’s not actually a book club, after all. And he’s getting grief from people about the name. Alec just wants to read without being bothered, is that too much to ask? It’s a great book, and will rival Clement’s classic, “Frindle.”

“Before Ever After, Disney Tangled Series” (Random House, $9.99, 134 pages) Let me say, first of all, that I love books with lil badass heroines, and they’re *not* looking for Prince Charming to come rescue them (while at the same time, they’re the ones doing all the work? “Rapunzel/Rapunzel/let down your hair!” etc.). But those books? (Upspeak? Princess upspeak?) Can tend to be? A little preachy?

So imagine my delight to find Disney’s Tangled series. This latest edition is sly, sassy and oh-so-funny.

“They planned to get married… eventually. But marriage, family, and ruling Corona would all come later.”

First, our heroine, Rapunzel, and her beau/rival/buddy, Eugene, are going to race their horses.

Go, go, go!

When Rapunzel is in her official capacity, she usually blows it. “Uh, perhaps you should refrain from the bear hugs, sweetheart,” her father suggests.

Fun read, and the 3rd and 4th graders are going to love it. And I bet they’re already watching the series on the Disney channel.

Bon appetit, babies.


Sunday Book Review, just for you: My man, Carl Hiassen — “Razor Girl,” “Bad Monkey,” “Skink” and all of ‘em

July 9th, 2017

“Chomp,” “Flush,” “Hoot” and “Scat” — boxed set. Yes, I said box set. Carl Hiassen, you write fantastic kids’ books, and your books for grown-ups are righteous, too. You have a rare and amazing talent, thank you for putting it to good use.

“Chomp” on audiobook? One of the best, funniest, “he got the voices ‘just right’” audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Thank you, James Van Der Beek.

“Skinny Dip” is probably my all-time favorite Hiassen book, although “Bad Monkey” is vying for top contender. “Razor Girl,” too. What do they have in common? Yancy. He’s a disgraced detective turned health inspector, looking for rats in restaurants. He’s not happy. I love the film noir feel of both books. But Joey Perrone, the heroine of “Skinny Dip” is my girl. I adore her.

Just started listening to “Skink: No Surrender” on audiobook. #happyplace #ilovesummer #readmorebooksdammit #orlistentothem

All for now, happy Sunday, happy reading,


What’s New on My Nightstand, Saturday Edition: “Delicious! A Novel,” by Ruth Reichl; “Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and A Journey Back,” by Elisha Cooper; “The Very Fluffy Kitten: Papillon Goes to the Vet,” by A.N. Kang

July 8th, 2017

“Delicious! A Novel,” by Ruth Reichl. I’m a fan of Reichl’s writing, and of her work at Gourmet magazine, so this book, to me, is like a big appetizer platter, with a yummy main course, salads and desserts following. Really fun to read fiction from this gifted non-fiction and memoir writer.

“Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and A Journey Back,” by Elisha Cooper (Anchor Books, $15.95, 146 pages). Extraordinary memoir about a young daughter, her father (an artist who makes children’s books), and their family’s struggle with childhood cancer. Beautiful, amazing, astounding, and the integrity of his writing, of who he is, as a man, husband, father — really superb. Cooper speaks his truth. This is seriously a great book and one that I will re-read. Deep and poignant, funny and sometimes harsh. *Love.*

I stuck scraps of paper throughout the book, marking all of my favorite quotes and passages, but this one… ah-ha.

“A royalty check for my book ‘Farm’ comes in the mail. It’s small, but big for me. I once heard of a writer who complained to a friend that his book had sold only two thousand copies, and the friend replied that if the two thousand people who had read the writer’s book walked through his kitchen, all of them shaking his hand, he would break down in tears at how fortunate he was to have touched so many.”

I hope that many, many people read this book and are as moved by it as I was.

“Papillon Goes to the Vet,” by A.N. Kang (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2017, $16.99, ages 3-5, 40 pages). The second in the “Papillon” series is pretty dang cute. (Goes on sale Sept. 5, 2017.) Papillon likes to have fun, and he can even float! (Who knew a cat could do this?) But when he swallows something he shouldn’t, he’s off to the vet. Beautiful illustrations that are reminiscent of Melanie Watts’ “Chester” books.

Bon appetit!


What’s on My Nightstand, Tuesday afternoon edition: “7 Ate 9: The Untold Story,” by Tara Lazar & Ross MacDonald; “Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel” & “Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey” by Chris Grabenstein & Brooke Allen

June 13th, 2017

I’ve been reading a lot, but not writing a lot, lol. All good! Hope you’re enjoying whatever you’re reading, wherever you’re reading it.



Here is this week’s round-up:

“7 Ate 9: The Untold Story” (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, $13.99). When you have a cousin named Seven, you learn pretty quickly to forget about telling the old joke, Why is six scared of seven? Cuz 7 ate 9! (Get it? Cuz? My cousin 7.) Yeah, that got old fast. Also, my auntie told me, Knock it off! when I’d call their house and ask, Seven up? Lol.

Yeah, it’s the truth. I’m easily entertained. The kids, too, will be entertained by this new children’s book. It’s a little noir-ish — Private “I” investigates when 6 rushes in, his pants scared off of him, because 7 is coming to get him. Sweet drawings, funny story, and it will engage the grown-ups and the kidlets.

“Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel” & “Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey,” by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Brooke Allen, Random House 2016 & 2017, 284 pages & 300 pages, respectively, books priced at $13.99 each). I’m liking this new series, which is aimed at young adult readers. I know the school librarians will like the hard-bound paperback format, too. P.T. (named for Barnum) Wilkie, and his better-half sidekick, Gloria Ortega, are up for any challenges that come their way. First up: try to save the family business, a beat-up beach motel and amusement park, that P.T.’s grandpa started in Florida.

Can they do it?

In the second book of the series, teen idols and a monkey (who happens to be a YouTube sensation) visit St. Pete Beach, Florida. Hijinks? I’m guessing… yes!

Grabenstein (who writes the Mr. Lemoncello and I Funny books, as well) is always fun to read. I love that his books grab (I really am the queen of bad puns today, ouch) the struggling readers, and the kids who are reading well.

All for now, ciao!

What’s New on the Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “Incantation,” by Alice Hoffman; “The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People,” by Jordan Reid & Erin Williams; “Joy in Every Moment: Mindful Exercises for Waking to the Wonders of Ordinary Life,” by Tzivia Gover

May 24th, 2017

“Incantation,” by Alice Hoffman (Egmont Press, 2006, young adult readers, 173 pages): Estrella DeMadrigal, a young woman living in a small village during the Spanish Inquisition, falls in love, learns her family’s secrets, and tells us her story. This is a gem of a book. I’ve been carrying it around in my backpack for close to a year, reading a chapter or two at a time, feeling like a thief, glimpsing into someone else’s life. Not mine.

“‘We are leaving and that’s that. Never look at other people’s bad fortune,’ my mother said. ‘If you do, it will come back to find you instead of its rightful owner.’”

And my favorite quote from the book:

“You cannot disprove the ridiculous. You cannot argue reasonably with evil.”

And now, on to something really goofy. (How’s that for shifting gears?) Only, for real, there is no way to segue into this next book, cuz it’s nutty mcbuddy. Or, “Funny as hell,” says Amy Morrison, founder of “Pregnant Chicken.”


“The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People,” by Jordan Reid & Erin Williams (Penguin Random House, 2017, $16, 172 pages). It’s very…. “Free to Be, You & Me,” this book. If “Free to Be” mated with “The Joy of Sex,” which I guess it did, in the ’70s, and that’s my generation, and here we are, not running the country, man, because some orange clown is in charge.

You wave at clowns in parades, people, you don’t vote for one and let him run the country.

Where was I going with this?

This book is hysterical and weird and I must say, you should buy it for the pregnant mommies you know or new parents and let them go nuts and have a laugh. Coloring sheets! Puzzles! Mad Libs!

“The Pinterest Nursery,” yes, which makes us realize “that we are wildly inadequate in virtually every area of our existence.”

“some divine secrets about your baby”: astrological info gone somewhat wacky. ie — “Cancers love things that are old. They also love garbage and refuse to throw away anything, including grandmothers, which is nice.”

My favorite: “Welcome to the Land of Being Amazing”

Great book. I’m not even pregnant (I thank God for that, daily) and I still enjoyed it. Mazel tov, new parents. You can do it.

“Joy in Every Moment,” by Tzivia Gover (Storey Publishing, 2015, $12.95, 219 pages): Ahhhhhh… I’ve been loving on this book for about two years now, since it came out. Daily affirmations and a lot more.

It’s divided into sections on joy — all day long, at home, at work, on the go and so on. It’s a sweet book, I’m enjoying it.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.” — Chinese Proverb

(That’s what I’m saying.)

Bon appetit, babies.


What’s on My Nightstand, Sunday Evening Edition: “Dream,” by Matthew Cordell; “Lead the Way,” written by Ace Landers, illustrated by Garrett Taylor; “Feminist Baby,” by Loryn Brantz; “Welcome: a Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals”; “Night Night, Groot,” written by Brendan Deneen, with pictures by Cale Atkinson

May 14th, 2017

“Dream,” by Matthew Cordell (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, $16.99): Cordell is an old favorite of mine (“hello! hello!”, “Special Delivery,” “Wish” and other titles.) He has a nice style. Approachable. This one, just in time for Father’s Day, is about a gorilla family, so happy to be together. “I dreamed of the many stars in your small eyes. Of the music in your voice surrounding everything, everyone, everywhere.” Beautiful story, lovely art, and a gentle touch.

“Lead the Way,” by Ace Landers, illustrated by Garrett Taylor. (Inspired by the “Cars” movies, Disney Press, 2017, $16.99): This inspirational book for the younger set is sweet. You need “somebody who reminds you that when you can’t do something right the FIRST time, KEEP PRACTICING. YOU’LL GET IT EVENTUALLY.” OK, the ALL CAPS make me wanna tear the pages out and tack them up on the wall, but THAT’S OK. We all need a little inspiration sometimes. :)

“Feminist Baby,” by Loryn Brantz (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, $12.99): Here’s a wacky little board book about an “irrepressible” feminist baby. Oh, yes she is. Don’t mess with her. She loves to dance, says no to pants, likes pink and blue, and “sometimes she’ll throw up on you!” Well, there you have it.

“Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals” (Hyperion Books for Children, 2017, $15.99): You know my (imaginary) friend Mo Willems, don’t you? Piggie and Elephant and that crowd? Here’s a title that’s a little unusual. This board book contains not one, but two mirrors, and lots of sweet and serious sentiments for the new arrivals. “You are a unique combination of Love + Time + Luck” and… “We anticipate that you will encounter both drawings of cats and actual cats during your stay. And not just cats. There are: MOUNTAINS + FRIENDS + BAGELS + INFINITE REMARKABLE THINGS.” #truth. Additionally, I love that Mo Willems’ bio on the back cover describes him as “a former baby, now a New York Times #1 best-selling author and illustrator.” Give this one for a baby present, or for any other occasion. It’s different, fun and original.

“Night Night, Groot,” written by Brendan Deneen, with pictures by Cale Atkinson (Marvel, 2017, $12.99): This is a “Guardians of the Galaxy” thing, I am told. It’s cool, even though 1) I don’t really know how “cool” is defined anymore. I’m still calling this “cool.” The art is lively, the story is good, and I think the kiddos will enjoy it.

What’s New on the Nightstand — Tuesday Book Review: “If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed”; “Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting from Paris to New York”; and “The Book of You, for My Child, with Love”

May 2nd, 2017

“If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed,” illustrated by Zachariah Ohora, written by Denise Vega, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017, $17.99, ages 3-7): “‘Time for bed!’ Who hates those words more than anything? That’s right. Your monster.” Parents know a lot about putting human kids to bed, but not monsters. Welcome to the land of nightmares and toss-the-slime-ball. The blocky, bright illustrations make this an appealing, and funny, read.

“Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting from Paris to New York,” by Florence Mars and Pauline Leveque, Clarkson Potter, 2017, $19.99): Cute, and divided into categories that include Greetings, Style & Beauty, Playtime, and Parties & Holidays. Mars had a French upbringing and is now a Brooklyn girl; Leveque, who practices a more “American style” of parenting, lives in Manhattan. Parisian-style: “Don’t eat with your hands!* You’re not a baby. *Exceptions: bread, asparagus, and artichokes.” American-style: “Go ahead and eat with your hands — whatever is easiest for you.” Beautiful line drawings, and a light sense of humor throughout.

“The Book of You, for My Child, with Love,” by Kate and David Marshall, Plume/Penguin Random House, 2017, 73 pages, $15): Darling baby book/coloring book/journal for those months before and after baby arrives. Just the right size to write and draw in, and not so precious that new parents will be intimidated by it.

What’s New on My Nightstand… Tuesday Book/Movie Review: “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes; “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness & Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero; “Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

April 11th, 2017

Chick books. More, mas, more, mas, more…

“Under the Tuscan Sun” (and the Diane Lane movie), book by Frances Mayes: Now, my girlfriends say we can’t count this one as a true “getting through divorce” book, because Mayes was technically already remarried when she ran off to Italy, got a cool new (trashed) place, complete with scorpions, etc., and started over. But I’m still counting it. It’s got that sisters are doing it for themselves vibe and all, and “i get by/with a little help/from my friends” is fine with me. In the movie, her character is single and blah-blah. Whatever. The book (and the recipes) and the movie are all good.

“Eat, Pray, Love” (and the Julia Roberts/Javier Bardem movie), book by Elizabeth Gilbert: So sexy. And all that pasta. All that meditation. All that good nooky when Javier Bardem shows up. Ahhhh… Good book, good movie, good God, can we all run off somewhere for awhile?

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed: I’m finding this little book of affirmations to be helpful.

“You Are a Badass,” by Jen Sincero: My kid gave me this book for Christmas because she loves mommy. I’m not really big on self-help books (although you’d never know it, reading this post), but this is a cool book. Helpful, not preachy; funny, but sincere.

Bon appetit, babies.



What’s New on My Nightstand — Monday Book Review: “Fall is For School,” by Robert Neubecker; “Poppy Louise is Not Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle; “When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

March 20th, 2017

“What didn’t you do to bury me / But you forgot that I was a seed.” — Dinos Christianopoulos, poet (b. 20 Mar 1931)

This one won’t be out until end of June, but I received galleys in the mail for review, woot! (I donate the galleys to teacher friends, who use the art for bulletin boards. This works out nicely.) “Fall is For School,” written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion Books; June, 2017; ages 3-5; 32 pages; $17.99). This is the sequel to Neubecker’s “Winter is for Snow.” Another one to look for: “Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing,” written by Kay Haring, and illustrated by Neubecker.

Fall is time for school, and most kids (and parents :) ) look forward to it. But what do you do, sister, when your brother hates school and says he’d rather stay home? This is a sweet “New York kids” book, with loads of color. The red-headed siblings are a likable pair — the sister, already dressed in her school clothes; the brother, refusing to change out of flip-flops and shorts. How can she coax him?

“Fall is here! Come on with me! It’s time to go to school!”

He’s having none of it. But they will meet their teachers, who will help them learn about Romans, the pyramids and… (this being New York and all)… dinosaurs! (Thank you, American Museum of Natural History.) Great book. Fun story, the art is whimsical and inviting, and will give parents and teachers a good way to segue into a discussion.

Visit the artist online at neubecker.com.

“Poppy Louise is NOT Afraid of Anything,” by Jenna McCarthy, illustrated by Molly Idle (Random House Books for Young Readers; April, 2017; ages 3-7; $16.99) When students tell me their favorite colors (and ask me what mine are), I immediately say, purpleandgreen. Purple and green have been my favorite colors since I was a kid. Flowers, gardens, landscapes, clothes, jelly beans… Now comes “Poppy Louise,” with a purple-and-green theme, so you know it’s good.

She really, really, even though she should be, sometimes, is not scared of anything, much to the consternation of her friends and her big sister Petunia.

“How do we get up on your roof?” she asks her friend Finn.
“We don’t,” Finn tells her.

I love storytimes when the kids cut in, Ms. Nancy, that is not a good idea, is it? No, it’s not. Finn is right to work on his rocketship and leave the roof alone, lol.

“People call Poppy the brave sister and Petunia the careful sister. Petunia prefers to think of herself as wise.”

Is there anything Poppy is afraid of? Read on and we’ll find out.

Jenna McCarthy also wrote the Maggie Malone series. Molly Idle is a Caldecott Honor winner for “Flora and the Flamingo.”

“When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow (WaterBrook & Multnomah, 2017, juvenile fiction, 48 pages, $11.99) Yay, more purple and green! A little girl, searching for her place in the world, is told:

“God pictured your nose and all ten of your toes. The sound of your voice? God had it composed. The lines on your hands, your hair, every strand, God knew every detail like it was all planned.”

God is there, throughout the book. He’s a hipster, wearing a beret and a scruffy white T-shirt, Capris, white tights and red ballerina slippers. Perfecto.

Mr. Turner’s website is at MatthewPaulTurner.com; David Catrow’s is here. (He has illustrated a ton of great stuff, including the Molly Lou Melon books.)

Happy Monday, everyone, happy spring! And happy reading.



What’s New on My Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora; “I Love My Grandma,” by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd; “Goodnight, Numbers,” by Danica McKellar, illustrated by Alicia Padron

March 15th, 2017

This one isn’t coming out until June 20, but keep it in mind: “The Teacher’s Pet,” by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (Disney-Hyperion Books, ages 3-5, 40 pages, $17.99).

Mr. Stricter and his students are breeding tadpoles. Once they’re grown, they can keep just one for a classroom pet, he tells them. But… pets and classrooms have a way of getting interesting. Bruno, their pet, (“Isn’t he adorable?” Mr. Stricter asks) smashes, crashes, farts, has allergies and maybe isn’t the best classroom pet. And he doesn’t really look like a tadpole at all. What?!?

How can the students break it to Mr. Stricter?

Funny story, one that will be great for a classroom or library read-aloud, of course, but will be a good one, too, for parents and kids of all ages. (Not limited to ages 3-5.) The ’60s-style art is whimsical and pretty. An engaging picture book.

Speaking of pretty art… “I Love My Grandma,” written by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Emma Dodd (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2016, ages 3-5, 32 pages, $17.99) is another lovely picture book. It’s a rhyming book, with great, big vivid pictures in soft colors. “I go ’round to her house to play/And sometimes we just chat all day.” (Love.) A sweet tribute to the special relationship to grandmas and their grands.

Alicia Padron illustrated Danica McKellar’s latest math/picture book, “Goodnight Numbers” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017, ages 2-5, 32 pages, $16.99). (Winnie Cooper from the television show, “The Wonder Years,” yes, that’s who wrote this :) She acted, and then she went off to graduate summa cum laude in mathematics from UCLA, go, go, go, Winnie!) Absolutely charming picture book, which will comfort the littles as they unwind for the night, while teaching them basic math concepts.

The art is precious, Padron did a beautiful job. The “frames” within each page are an extra nudge with the math. (The number 7 page, for example, “Goodnight, seven days. Goodnight,whole week. Goodnight, seven teeth so clean they squeak,” for the words, but you also get a cat toy with seven baubles attached, a picture on the wall with seven strawberries, seven buttons on mother’s skirt, and so on. Clever. That kind of repetition enforces the counting, the memorization, and the comprehension of math.

All for now! Enjoy your day, wherever you are.

– WM

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