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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

Book reviews: “Bloom,” True History & “What Is Juneteenth?”

May 29th, 2022

December 2019 + old shots

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

It was a horrible week. I think I’ve cried more in the past few days than I’ve cried in the past few years. What good will my tears do? They won’t bring back the 19 children and 2 teachers who were slaughtered (while the police refused to go inside the school) in Uvalde, Texas.

But i had to let my tears go. I needed to wail so I did.

Assault rifles need to be banned in America. Completely, thoroughly, totally banned forever. I can vote yes on this, but I can’t make it happen. The officers who stayed outside? They’re going to have to live with that forever. How much collateral damage are we going to see? How much survivor guilt? Post-traumatic stress? Anxiety? How much depression and how many suicides will follow? I am shaking, but I will keep saying, See something/say something. Some people are homicidal/most of us aren’t. Are you that way? I’m not that way, either. Hold strong, hold your children and loved ones tightly.

Don’t give up.

These books, all new releases, give us some insight into America, its past and present. Hopefully things will get better in the future, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime. I don’t mean to be bleak, but it’s hard to be positive right now.

“Bloom,” by Ruth Forman, ilustrated by Talia Skyles

“True History: The Founders Unmasked,” by Jennifer Sabin, with introduction by Christopher Sebastian Parker

“True History: The Legacy of Jim Crow,” Clarence E. Haynes, introduction by David Ikard

“What Is Juneteenth?” by Kirsti Jewel

Picture Books for Spring 2022

May 9th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(“oh hai deer” photo by moi Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

How about some beautiful picture books on this rainy Monday evening? So many great releases this spring. Here are a few:

“Poopsie Gets Lost” (2022, Dial Books for Young Readers, $18.99). The author/illustrator of “Poopsie” (and yes I did love typing that) is one Hannah E. Harrison, who also brought us “Extraordinary Jane,” “My Friend Maggie” and several other fun titles. Poopsie is a sweet little thing who reminds me of one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters, Marie from “The Aristocats.”

She has a lovely home, and a lovely basket to sleep in. Then the narrator asks, “Tell me, Poopsie — are you a snoozy house cat or are you a daring adventurer?” and off we go. Next thing you know, Poopsie is staring down snakes, making it through a pack of crocodiles, and bopping a sleeping tiger on the nose.

This fantasy book will appeal to the kids. Bright colors, a strong heroine, and a good adventure.

I enjoyed Portland, Oregon writer Margaux Meganck’s wildly drawn, imaginatively written “People Are Wild” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022, $17.99). We know how we see animals (“LOOK AT THE BABY HOW CUTE IS THE BABY? I want to hold it, can I hold it, Mom?” etc.) but how do they see us?

“So loud. So messy. So smelly. So nosy.”

Sounds spot on to me. A fine book, I liked it, and the animal facts in the back, too. Great approach.

Edward Hemingway’s “Pigeon & Cat” (Little, Brown & Company, 2022, ages 4-8, $17.99). Poignant, well-written and beautifully illustrated book that is going to appeal to a wide audience of reader. This one, like Katherine Applegate’s “Crenshaw,” would also be a good therapy books for kids of all ages who are faced with homelessness. It’s easier, sometimes, when the protagonist is a cat, or a pigeon, and that is the charm and power of “Pigeon & Cat.”

Cat lives alone in a box, scrounging for food, trying to stay safe. One day he comes across a cool egg, and keeps it. This is how Pigeon comes into his life. When Pigeon disappears, everything in Cat’s world changes.

I never ceased to be amazed at the power of children, children’s books, and their authors, illustrators, editors and publishers. Just thought I should mention that.

When people ask me what I’ve been reading lately, well. I always am reading some grown-up books. But when I say I review titles for kids and young adults, people look a bit confused.

“Children’s books,” I tell them. “I mostly read books for kids.”

Nothing better in the world.

Bon appetit and have a lovely week, my friends.

Nancy

 

Wednesday Book Review: “How to Survive Middle School” series

May 4th, 2022

2021

(“Miaow” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Hey, hey, hey y’all. It’s almost summer, which means summer vacation and a big break for the kiddies. Or does it…? I received a stack of cool books (I think they’re cool, anyway. The kids might disagree) and thought I’d give one of the sets a shout-out.

Middle school/high school/college… all can be tough when you’re just beginning. Let’s be honest here — preschool and kindergarten can be extremely big and scary for our young friends, too. So don’t minimize it, please, just help them where and when you can.

Here’s a new series, “How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Guide” (Bright Matter Books, New York, 2022, $16.99). Well-written and researched, these resource books will give kids a boost as they’re heading into middle school. Summer, as we know, is when our students can take a big slide backward. This is even more of a risk after two years of pandemic/Covid setbacks. Pick up these titles for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. No pressure, please. Just let them know that extra help is available.  (Love the subtitle, by the way: “Beware! This Book Might Make You Smarter Than Your Parents.” It would not take much around here, people. Ha.) 

“How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Study Guide — U.S. History”  

“How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Study Guide — Math”

“How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Study Guide — Science” 

“How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Study Guide — World History” 

“How to Survive Middle School: A Do-It-Yourself Study Guide — English” 

All for now, much love,

WM

Wednesday Book Review: “Every Missing Piece” and other new favorites

April 20th, 2022

Winter 2021-2022

(“Gleneden Beach, Oregon Coast,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“i’d rather learn from one bird how to sing/than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance…”

ee cummings, from the poem “you shall above all things”

Reviewed today:

“Every Missing Piece,” the newest young adult title from author Melanie Conklin, (Little, Brown and Company, 2020, 284 pages, $7.99) just knocked me out. Fans of Lois Duncan, Jodi Picoult, and “Fault in Our Stars” author John Green will love this one. Middle-school student Maddy Gaines, is what therapists call “hyper-vigilant” — she sees trouble or possible trouble everywhere. She’s not crazy about her new stepdad, Stan, who is probably nice enough? Her mom tries to understand but isn’t quite in the know; and when she thinks that a new kid in town might be a kid who went missing from across North Carolina, where she lives… well. Maddy doesn’t really feel like telling anyone.

Because the sheriff and everyone else is starting to see her as the girl who cried wolf. Is she right? Is her best friend playing both sides? We will see…

This is just a great read, I finished it in two sittings. Looking forward to the author’s next book, “A Perfect Mistake,” which is scheduled for a July 2022 release.

Found another awesome young adult read in “A Kind of Spark,” by Elle McNicoll, an up-and-coming talented young author. (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020, 179 pages, $16.99.) Addie is a kid who is neurodivergent, and does us the kindness of explaining, in a direct and thoughtful manner, exactly what that means to her, and should mean to us.

She has a teacher who is not so thoughtful, and when they talk in class about the women tried as witches in Scotland, where she lives, she decides to honor them in her own style, keeping it local. Great, provocative book. Looking forward to reading more from this author.

“The Woman All Spies Fear: Code breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her hidden life,” by Amy Butler Greenfield, (Random House Studio, 2021, 328 pages, $18.99) is a new biography of an interesting woman who worked relentlessly during both World Wars as a code cracker. The book has been called “a real-life thriller” and that it is.

Bon appetit, babies! More spring reads on the way soon…

WM

Tuesday Book Review: What’s New, or New to You?

April 5th, 2022

Winter 2021-2022

Preview of Coming Attractions (Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Reading reading reading… here’s my current list. Thank you, St. Vinnie’s in Albany, Oregon, for the huge, inexpensively-priced collection. I picked up a few titles, received a few titles in the mail, and donated a load of books to friends, neighbors, and the Little Free Library.

Smiles, everyone, smiles!

TTFN.

WM

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