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

February 6th, 2018

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

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

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

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

January 11th, 2018

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

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

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

Bon appetit, babies!

– WM

Monday Book Review: “Natural Disaster,” by Ginger Zee; “Fresh Off the Boat,” edited by Larry Smith; and “Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters,” by Susanna Fogel

December 18th, 2017

Fastest book review ever:

“Natural Disaster: I Cover Them, I Am One,” by Ginger Zee. (Kingswell, 2017, 282 pages, $26.99.) Sweet, tart, sad, beautiful, funny memoir from ABC News Chief Meteorologist, one Ms. Ginger Zee.

“Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America,” edited by Larry Smith (Kingswell, 2017, $15.99). This is one from the six-word memoirs series, and I thought that would be the format throughout, but was pleased to find essays and photos included, too. Beautiful, touching book. Everyone, especially our President and his staff, needs to read it.

My favorite quote:

“But where are you really from?” Suki Kim

“Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters,” by Susanna Fogel (Henry Holt, 2017, 199 pages, $16). I picked up this book at somewhere I never shop anymore: the library. Weird, I know. Good God, it’s funny. I mean, like hilarious funny. Crying and wiping tears from my eyes and reading pages out loud to my boyfriend funny, funny-as-David-Sedaris funny. So read it, already.

And in parting, in the words of my late, great Granny: “Even Jesus had to knock a few heads together in the pool hall sometimes.”

Happy Holidays from our house to yours.

Ambrosia, My Granny’s Recipe

Slice three or four oranges into a bowl, sprinkle with shredded coconut, add some maraschino cherries. If you want to get fancy like me, add pineapple chunks, drizzle the whole thing with honey, top with whipped cream. Bon appetit, babies!

Thursday Book Review: “Mouse, Look Out!” by Judy Waite & Norma Burgin; “The Story of Ferdinand,” by Munro Leaf & Robert Lawson; “Come Away from the Water, Shirley,” by John Burningham; “Where Is Little Reynard?” by Joyce Carol Oates & Mark Graham

December 14th, 2017

Awwww, I love these titles. Oldies but goodies that keep working to the top of the heap of books, which fell off my nightstand and is now all over the floor and the coffee table.

“Mouse, Look Out!” written by Judy Waite, illustrated by Norma Burgin. She looks *just* like my LuLu, this black kitty, who is out to get the little mousie. But is someone out to get her, too? This is a strangely ominous and comforting book, all at the same time. No matter, the kids will like it, and get it. I especially love the details from “the staircase no one used,” “the bed no one slept in” and the rest. Super-pretty art, and a good story. Originally released in 1998.

“The Story of Ferdinand,” written by the inimitable Munro Leaf & illustrated by the one-and-only Robert Lawson. You cannot beat the cool, pacifist-themed story and the pen-and-ink drawings from this 1936 classic. (The film opens tomorrow, I’ve heard, but that isn’t why I’m reviewing it now. Go buy a copy of the book.)

“Come Away from the Water Shirley,” written and illustrated by John Burningham, was first released in 1977. Her parents are what used to be called “old sticks in the mud.” It’s too cold for swimming, Shirley is told. Maybe they’ll play with her later. But Shirley doesn’t let that get in the way of her imagination, and off she goes to the pirate ship to battle the bad guys.

“Where Is Little Reynard?” by Joyce Carol Oates, illustrated by Mark Graham. This is the second book from this duo, released in 2003, following their first picture book, “Come Meet Muffin!” which, hello, is a great title. Little Reynard, an orange boy kitty, is one of seven. The only one who notices him is Lily, but then the foxes arrive. Is he secretly a fox? Lovely drawings and a sweet story.

Bon appetit, babies!

Wacky Mommy

Sunday Book Review: “Cookiesaurus Rex,” by Amy Fellner Dominy, Nate Evans & AG Ford; “31 Proverbs to Light Your Path,” by Liz Curtis Higgs & “God Gave Us Family,” by Lisa Tawn Bergen & David Hohn

November 12th, 2017

Hello and happy Sunday, ya’ll.

“Cookiesaurus Rex” (Disney-Hyperion, 2017, written by Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans, illustrated by AG Ford, $16.99) Cookiesaurus Rex is one demanding little cookie. “So you should frost me FIRST.” He wants sprinkles, he wants stars… Hey, Rex, simmer down. Great illustrations, playful and bright.

“31 Proverbs to Light Your Path” (Waterbrook, 2017, 206 pages, $14.99) This new book by Liz Curtis Higgs (“31 Verses to Write on Your Heart”) is sure to inspire and comfort many.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” — Proverbs 16:3.

“The old saying,” Higgs writes, “‘If you want to hear God laugh show Him your plans’ surely must be true, because I’ve heard His holy laughter rolling down from heaven many times in my life.” Lol. It’s true! I can relate. Higgs has a matter-of-fact, touching writing style. The layout of the book is interesting, and includes “One Minute, One Step” tips for getting back on track.

“God Gave Us Family” (Waterbook, 2017, written by Lisa Tawn Bergen, illustrated by David Hohn, ages 3-7, $10.99) Sweet little book about all the different types of families, and why they all count.

My disclaimer. (I need to update it, because I haven’t run paid ads on here in years.)

Bon appetit, babies.



Saturday Book Review — Coloring with Disney: “Don’t Color This Book! It’s Cursed! (Gravity Falls),” “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” & “The Percy Jackson Coloring Book”

November 11th, 2017

How fun is it to write a review of coloring books? And then I get to color in them? That’s right. Fun! :)

All three of these books are 2017 Disney-Hyperion releases, and pretty perfect for holiday gifts. You will need to include a set of colored pencils, crayons or markers, lol.

“Don’t Color This Book! It’s Cursed!” This Gravity Falls coloring book (written by Emmy Cicierega, illustrated by Stephanie Ramirez, $12.99) takes us on the adventures of Mabel Pines, as she seeks to free her twin, Dipper Pines, from the confines of the book. Does he want to be freed, though? Does Mabel care? “Get ready for the Mabel magic, honey butt!” Oh, my Lord. Great pages. Some of the designs are intricate, some are more simple, so this is a good one for budding and advanced artists. Perfecto. Based on the Disney channel cartoon, which is set in my home state, Oregon, U.S.A.

“Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” (subtitled “100 Images to Inspire Creativity”) is pretty cool. I’ve never understood how someone can be so macabre and so sweet at the same time, but that’s the beauty of Burton. Hello, Jack Skellington, hello, Sally, whassup? ($15.99)

The Percy Jackson coloring book, based on the Rick Riordan series (art by Keith Robinson, $15.99), includes some simple and some detailed patterns, as well. Color Hades, Ares, Apollo, New York City and all of your other favorite characters and destinations. Super cool.

And a disclaimer.

The End, and bon appetit, babies!

– wm

What’s New on My Nightstand: Friday Book Review… Disney Holiday Round-up for the kids! “Mickey’s Christmas: Storybook Treasury,” “Countdown to Christmas: A Story a Day,” “My First Christmas,” “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” & Greg Pizzoli’s “The 12 Days of Christmas”

November 10th, 2017

That’s right. Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is coming up, which means it’s almost over already, and you know what’s next… Winter holidays!!! Walks in the snow, caroling, baking sugar cookies, putting up the lights, making potato latkes, having family and friends over, watching movies, and reading, reading, reading as much as you want.

I love summer, but I really love winter.

I start receiving big boxes of holiday books to review, that is one of the reasons. #ohhappyday #holiDaze #DisneyHyperion #happyplace #I’mwatchingTheWalkingDeadwhileIwritethislol #yesIam

Maybe I should give up completely on writing real sentences and just switch to hashtags. No? Yeah, no. Writing is good. Real words count.

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

Here we go! (All titles are from Disney-Hyperion and are 2017 releases.)

“Mickey’s Christmas: Storybook Treasury” (255 pages, $30) This is a real treasure. The collection includes “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Donald Duck’s Christmas Tree,” “Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi” and “Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s Christmas Wish.” Big, full colorplate illustrations, and one that families will want to pass down to the grandkids.

“My First Christmas” (Written by Sara Miller, illustrated by Jerrod Maruyama, $8.99) This is a touch-and-feel board book, which should delight the babies. I get a kick out of seeing the looks on their faces when they start exploring textures. They’ll love the scratch-and-sniff candy canes, and the soft snow on the tree. Lady and the Tramp even make an appearance.

“Countdown to Christmas” (59 pages, $10.99) Great Christmas stories including tales from “A Bug’s Life,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Snow White” and other classics.

“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” (Written by Brooke Vitale, with illustrations by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay, $12.99) It’s a light-up board book, first of all. Second of all? It’s Olaf. Perfecto.

“The 12 Days of Christmas”
(Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, $16.99) Beautiful rendering of the classic Christmas song. Sweet illustrations from Pizzoli (“Templeton Gets His Wish,” “Good Night Owl”). The book has a vintage look, think 1940s-1950s, with a simple color scheme of red, green, white, black and gray. The nine ladies dancing are kittens, btw. The ten lords a-leaping? froggies. This is a charming title.

What’s New on My Nightstand: Friday Book Review — “The Perfect Score,” by Rob Buyea; “Nutcracked,” by Susan Adrian; “Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You,” by Julie Foudy; and “Bugs of Washington and Oregon,” by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon

November 3rd, 2017

Starting out with…

“The Perfect Score,” by Rob Buyea (Delacorte Press, 2017, 358 pages, $16.99) is the latest from the author of the “Mr. Terupt” series. Nothing like getting the scoop from a former teacher. Buyea taught elementary and high school, and coached, besides that. His ear for dialogue and his respect for kids shows. The students at Lake View Middle School are thrown when their expected teacher bails and they end up with an old lady, Mrs. Woods, and a hippie without shoes, Mrs. Magenta. Well. We’ll have to see how this goes…

The book is told from the perspective of five students, Randi, Natalie, Trevor, Scott and Gavin, as they navigate the waters of middle school.

In a direct, practical way, the book tackles their day-to-day dramas, but takes on serious issues, too. These include (but aren’t limited to) physical and emotional abuse by siblings and friends; the challenges of elder care; overbooked days and demanding parents. Buyea also takes on one of the biggest challenges in modern day education: the devil that is standardized testing aka CSAs (or Complex Student Abuse, as the students dub them). Mrs. Magenta is compared to “a bird with its wings clipped” when she is told to do nothing but test prep and is not allowed to teach.

I speak from experience, y’all. Excessive standardized testing hurts teachers and staff as much as it hurts students. So I appreciate that Buyea is willing to tackle the subject.

Great book, great characters, and a good book list, woven throughout. Author, author! Buyea gives shout-outs to Jerry Spinelli (“Crash”), Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (“Shiloh”), Gordon Korman (“Ungifted”), Eve Bunting (“The Memory String”) and loads of others. Nice! :)

“Nutcracked,” by Susan Adrian (Random House, New York, 2017, 233 pages, $16.99). This new release, like “The Perfect Score,” is about friendship and its complications. Unlike “The Perfect Score,” it includes a possibly-possessed nutcracker as one of the main characters. Hmmm.. very interesting. The plot is lively, the descriptions of the dance world are spot-on, and its well-written. This one is a perfect stocking stuffer for the upcoming holiday season.

“Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You,” by Julie Foudy (ESPN W, 2017, 287 pages, $17.99) is an inspirational book by the 13-year captain of the U.S. Women’s National soccer team. Her writing “team” includes Robin Roberts (from “Good Morning America”), soccer players Mia Hamm and Alex Morgan, softball star Jessica Mendoza, and others. The book includes space to write, different exercises to work through, and loads of positivity.

“Bugs of Washington and Oregon,” by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon. (Lone Pine, 2001, 160 pages, $14.95.) This is just a super-cool, well-illustrated non-fiction book that’s been sitting on my shelf for a few years now, and I thought it deserved a mention.

Bon appetit, babies!


Wednesday Book Review — What’s New on My Nightstand: “A Box of Awesome Things Matching Game” & “Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race”

October 25th, 2017

There’s something so satisfying about matching games, and this one from Wee Society is pretty cute. “A Box of Awesome Things Matching Game” is not your typical match-match card game. (Ages 3-103, $14.99.) The pairs include argyle socks, confetti, tacos and… yellow! Pluto and lava, fireflies and helicopters. Really fun. In case you’re wondering, un-awesome things such as pinkeye and cavities are not included. :)

Mr. Lemoncello is something like Willy Wonka, without the snark. He’s a good guy, filled with ideas and whimsy, and he sometimes get in over his head. And that’s what the kids are for. They ride in to the rescue and the adventures begin. “Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race” is the latest title in this series by Chris Grabenstein. (Random House, New York, 2017, 279 pages, $16.99.) The book reminds me of “The Candy Shop War,” filled with candy-colored images and lots of actions. The pictograms are a lot of fun. I think this one will be another hit with young readers.

Sunday Book Review, a la Wacky Mommy: “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” by Carrie Brownstein; “Snow & Rose,” by Emily Winfield Martin

October 8th, 2017

Hello, loves. How about a book review? Or two?

I wasn’t a Sleater-Kinney fan, and I’m not a Portlandia fan, I mean, at all. I’m not saying that as an insult, although it sure sounds like one, now that I’m putting it out there. I’m sorry (not sorry). Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, eh? Allegedly?

Sleater-Kinney put out some good albums, I’ve heard they were righteous live, they just weren’t my cup of tea. “Portlandia,” though, oh, Portlandia, I have my little attitude about you. The show makes me flinch.

First of all, they have a character named “Nance” who is a total dolt, and my friends tease me about her. Especially my friends from L.A. “Nancy” has turned into a joke name, it would seem. The new Ethel, as it were. Hello, Opal! Agnes, how are you? Where’s Myrtle? And so on. But mainly, Portland, to me, to a lot of us locals (I was born and raised there), Portland is like yo’ mama. You can kvetch about her all you want. (Not to her face, of course, cuz she might smack you.) But if anyone else talks shit about her? Watch. Out.

So that’s Wacky Mommy, aka Nancy, aka Nance, vs. “Portlandia.” I also hate that Portland is like, a thing now. “Dude, where’s my town?” is a frequent refrain with my friends and me. Whatever, man. I’m totally Portland, so of course Portlandia pisses me off. Shocker.

However. Brownstein doesn’t even talk about “Portlandia,” in her story until a little bit toward the end of the book. (This may be a pro or a con for you, dear reader.) Maybe that will be memoir #2 for her. I’ve always read a lot of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, even when I was a kid. They’re a good genre. (“That’s my favorite jenner!” as my old friend Milly would say.) (Yes, I had a friend named Milly, in addition to relatives named Pearline, Opal, Jewel and Eunice. What’s it to you?)

“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” (the title comes from the Sleater-Kinney song, “Modern Girl”) is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. (Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House, 2015, 244 pages, $27.95, worth it.)

I’ll put it in my top five, how about? It’s astounding, really. Brownstein’s writing is, by turns, pure, broken, yearning, harsh. Also sweet. She was brave, writing this. I appreciate that. It’s a helluva story. In fact, I’m not giving you any more details about it, because I don’t want to tell it for her, aight? Aight. OK. One quote:

“When my father came out to his mom, my grandmother said, ‘You waited for your father to die, why couldn’t you have waited for me to die?’ I knew then that I never want to contribute to the corrosiveness of wanting someone to stay hidden. Despite all my initial conflicts about trying to reconcile the father I had as a child to the one I have now, I am thankful that he is happy, that he did not waste another second. Now there is someone to know.”

Oh, that’s good.

Next book: “Snow & Rose” (Random House Children’s Books, 2017, ages 8-12, 224 pages, $17.99). Speaking of Portland, again, now comes a book written and illustrated by Portland artist/author Emily Winfield Martin. This is an elegant, well-made book. While it is aimed at the younger set, I know some grown-ups who would be terrified by it, and some youngsters who would gobble it up… and vice versa, so there you have it. I’ll re-classify it here as “all ages.” This fairy tale, based on the story of Snow White and her sister Rose Red (Brothers Grimm tale 161), is well-written, yes, and beautifully illustrated, a gripping, engaging version of the original-retold tale. But more than that, the book itself is well-made. It feels good to hold and read. One of my friends, a bookmaker and artist, who also repaired books, mentioned once that a book can be “too precious.” (ie — a journal that no one wants to write in because it’s so beautiful.) People can be intimidated by books.

It’s a fine line, so to speak. “Snow & Rose,” is just right. They are two sisters, living alone with their grieving mother in the woods. Their father has disappeared, but has he been killed? Is he lost? They have a cat named Earl Grey and a friend named Ivo. (Spoiler alert: There’s a librarian. Also goats. A huntsman, wolves, bandits and a bear.)

You’ll like this one.

The illustrations are flawless, by the way. I read it through once, just through the pictures, then re-read it, using the words and the pictures. Beautiful.

Happy Sunday, bon appetit,


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