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“The World Needs More Purple Schools” and other new titles

September 29th, 2022

Bok!

“Oh what you can see from the Ester Lee!” Highway 101, Oregon Coast (vintage postcard)

Good morning, readers. It’s a beautiful, rainy fall morning in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Hope it is good where you are.

What’s up? Leave a comment if you feel like it. I like to know you’re out there.

First up for review today:

“The World Needs More Purple Schools” (part of the Purple World series) is a new title by actress/author Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2022, ages 3-7, 40 pages, $18.99). Penny Purple takes us on a wild ride through her school, where we learn about learning, how to give back to the community, and the importance of being silly. And purple.

“Zara’s Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure” hits the shelves Oct. 18, the second book in the new series written by Hena Khan, with illustrations by Wastana Haikal. (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2022, ages 7-10, 130 pages, $17.99). Zara takes off on another mission, this time to find funds to replace her stolen bike. Will sales from a Treasure Wagon bring in the much-needed money? Zara is an engaging character, and her family and friends are lively, too. Enjoy.

Witch Hazel from the Bugs Bunny cartoons was always a fave of mine. Now along comes another “Witch Hazel,” this one dreamt up by author Molly Idle (“Pearl,” “Coral,” the Tea Rex series, and “Flora and the Flamingo”). (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Little, Brown and Company; on sale: Oct. 11, 2022; ages 4-8; $18.99.) You will love the old-fashioned art and the charming family story.

Bon appetit, loves!

WM

Fall books for the kiddos

September 28th, 2022

2021

(Diamond painting by me, WM)

Yeah, I sometimes start projects and then don’t finish them. Doesn’t everyone? I like that meme that says, Yes, procrastinate! That way you have something to do tomorrow and all of this free time now.

#truth

I do like diamond painting, writing books, gardening, fixing up the house. Blogging and playing the piano, rearranging the furniture. It’s a simple life, overall, and it’s mine. I like it.

So what’s on the nightstand this week? Kids’ books about fall, leaves, pumpkins, all of it, and more books on the way. That means fun and good art. First up…

If you’re looking for a books about fall and leaves, start with these:

“Fletcher and the Falling Leaves: A Fall Book for Kids,” by Julie Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

“Leaves Falling Down: Learning About Autumn Leaves,” written by Lisa Marie Bullard, illustrated by Nadine Rita Takvorian

“Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom (DK Our World in Pictures)” (hardcover, illustrated, 2019)

“The Leaf Thief,” by Alice Hemming, illustrated by Nicola Slater

Received a lovely review copy of “If You Find a Leaf,” a new picture book by Aimee Sicuro (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). Let’s start with the cover, a little girl, with her doggy, in a boat with a big red leaf for a sail. And the flyleaves: leaves! Of course. Little leaf linden, Japanese cherry and elm, American basswood… just beautiful. The story takes us on an imaginative journey, travelled by our hero and her pup, high up in the air, sailing on the ocean and having a parade with her friends. In the back, you’ll find instructions on how best to preserve leaves. All in all, an amazing book.

Welcome, autumn. Glad to see you again.

WM

Best picture book of the year: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright”

September 21st, 2022

What are we reading this week? Let’s take a look…

One of the sweetest picture books ever created, ever, in the history of picture books, showed up in my mailbox: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright.”

This lovely meditation of a book was written by the gifted and thoughtful Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by the amazing and talented Keith Mallett.

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022, all ages, but especially ages 4-8, $18.99. Websites: Sarah L. Thomson and Keith Mallett)

A little girl and her father rake leaves, she plays with her puppy, splashes in puddles and lets her imagination run wild. The book follows their day, into the night. It’s autumn, it’s beautiful, it’s wistful and dreamy. So much is conveyed through the poetic words and gorgeous art of this sweet, peaceful, and long-overdue book. Go buy some copies.

Thank you. That’s all for today. Happy equinox and enjoy your fall.

WM

“Chupacarter” and other fall titles

September 15th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(“My Dear Deer,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row)

Fall is in the air, the heatwave we’ve been having on the West Coast/best coast is finally subsiding (I hope) and there are loads of new titles to review.

Do you know about chupacabras? (Here’s some info for you.) They’re mythical (or are they?) crazy-wild vampire creatures in Latinx mythology and you’d better watch out. We meet a friendly one in “Chupacarter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2022, middle-grade readers, 255 pages, $16.99). The book was a team effort between actor-comedian-writer George Lopez, writer Ryan Calejo, and illustrator Santy Gutierrez. Good storytelling about a lonely boy, Jorge, who is new to a small New Mexico town and contending with his abuela, who means well but is pretty fierce. The comic book-style illustrations work well with the novel.

Hello and welcome “Airi Sano: Prankmaster General — New School Skirmish,” another 5th grade and up book about a hero who is also (according to her mother) something of a juvenile delinquent. Author Zoe Tokushige has a great ear for dialogue, and the characters come right to life from the first introductions. Jennifer Naalchigar did a great job with the illustrations. The book is designed in a graphic novel, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” style, but is actually a novel with illustrations, not a graphic novel, per se. No matter, it’s a great ride and a good read. (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2022, middle-grade readers, 292 pages, $14.99.)

And last but not least, check out “Totally Random Questions” Volumes 1 & 2, by Melina Gerosa Bellows (rhcbooks.com @randomhousekids, 2022, 214 pages, $8.99 apiece). Magazine style glossy books with funny and kooky pictures, loads of facts and information presented in a kid-friendly, appealing style.

Bon appetit, babies! Happy fall!

WM

Friday Book Review: Animal Books

August 26th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Sis, dad and me, circa 1970, Larch Mountain, Oregon)

What’s up this week, kiddos and dear readers?

Do you know what sharks and puppies have in common?

Yeah, me, neither. But I did receive review copies of two books about sharks and also two about dogs! So there’s that. LOL.

“Mako & Tiger: Two Not-So-Friendly Sharks,” written by Scott Rothman and illustrated by Mika Song (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). is about two fierce sharks who can never be friends. Mainly because they’re too much alike. Do you know that story? Yeah, me, too. When one of them is in trouble, though, will things change? Beautiful under-the-sea pictures, and fun rhymes to go with a serious theme.

“I Am the Shark ,” is a great new release from writer Joan Holub (the Goddess Girl series) and illustrator Laurie Keller (who drew one of my old faves, “The Scrambled States of America”) (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021, $17.99). The kids will learn about angel sharks, hammerheads, great white sharks, tiger sharks and others in this sweet little encyclopedia-style picture book packed with facts.

Ready for puppies? Author Danica McKellar and illustrator Josee Masse have put together a funny, sweet new picture book, “Double Puppy Trouble” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022, 40 pages, ages 4-7, $17.99). Moxie Jo is a rowdy, smart little girl who thinks she wants “more, more, more” until she gains powers to double everything in sight… including fuzzy little yellow pups. When and how will the craziness end? As always, McKellar sneaks a cool math lesson into a fun book, and Masse’s illustrations are great.

Sports star, special needs advocate and writer Tim Tebow, with A.J. Gregory and illustrator Jane Chapman, have brought families a cool new book with “Bronco & Friends: Mission Possible.” Bright, cheerful pictures and a meaningful story.

Sunday Book Review: Back to School, babies

August 21st, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Kris, Julie, me and Dan, with our awesome grandfather, Eugene. Photo by my Dad, I’m guessing.)

Hello, dears, how are you?

Summer just started, so that means one thing: It’s time for back to school, and the book reviews that go along with the school supplies. Time to take a shower, scrub off the sand and dirt, find some real shoes, and head back to the classroom. You can do it, I have faith in you.

First up, kindergarten!

In “The Queen of Kindergarten,” we meet a smart, awesome little girl named MJ, who is ready, ready, ready for school. Author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton have brought us a treat with this new title. In their companion book, “The King of Kindergarten,” we are introduced to a handsome and intelligent little boy who is royalty, and ready for school and his future. These beautiful picture books will help prepare the littles for school, reading, friends, math, recess and festivities and will be great additions for the classroom, too. (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2022, $17.99.)

“A child must learn early to believe that he is somebody worthwhile and that he can do many praiseworthy things. The child must have the love of family and the protection they give in order to LIVE and FLOURISH.” — Benjamin Mays (from intro to “The King of Kindergarten”)

“Children must have at least one person who believes in them. It could be a counselor, a teacher, a preacher, a friend. It could be you. You never know when a little love, a little support, will plant a small seed of hope.” — Marian Wright Edelman (from intro to “The Queen of Kindergarten”)

“Abdul’s Story,” written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Tiffany Rose, is a great book for students first grade and up. (Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022, ages 4-8, $17.99.) Learning about (and teaching) writing can be tough, and I’m not the best one to advise on this, because my take on it (as a lifelong writer who just does it, la la la, see how easy writing is?) is this: You just start scribbling. How is that hard?

Writing is hard for normal people, or it can be, anyway. For weirdos like me, it’s just in our blood, see? Yeah. I can’t not write, y’know? I cannot go without writing, because it’s like breathing to me. Also I’m a little hypergraphic. Obviously. And no, I do not think it’s a disorder. 

Anyway. 

Some of us are writers, some are visual artists; some are cartoonists, some are musicians. Some are gardeners, some are chefs, some are gifted at quilting… on and on and on. There is a lot of lovely art in the world, and a lot of terrifying art, that yes, still has merit. It doesn’t all need to be landscapes.

OK, sometimes landscapes can be scary as heck, too. But I digress. Again. Art is art is art, is what I’m saying. I do think it’s good to “cross-train,” as it were, but I can’t stand the shaming that goes along with teaching art and writing. (Writing is art, y’all, but don’t ask me to draw you a picture, because it will contain stick figures.)

“Abdul’s Story” is a blessing. It’s down to earth, it’s straightforward, it’s inspiring. It teaches you how to work to get there, and gives good tips on how to lighten up on yourself to make it happen. Honestly, I would use this book to teach students of any age some writing tips.  Abdul, our hero, loves to make up stories, but finds it challenging to get them down on paper. When he meets Mr. Muhammad, though, things change for the better. Writing can be anxiety-provoking, especially for young writers who are just learning how to put the words to paper. Bravo for Thompkins-Bigelow and and Rose for bringing Abdul’s story to life.

Moving right up the grades, “Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun,” by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021, ages 7-10, $17.99) is the first in a new series for readers who are just learning to read novels. Super fun (lives up to the title) book about a girl, her family, what it’s like to get to know new neighbors and how to go about setting a world record. 

Bon appetit, babies, and have a fantastic school year.

WM

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

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