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Hello hello… and here’s another book reviews: Zara, plus Insects! and Animals

February 15th, 2023


(Photo of Mae-Mae by my son, Kid Rawley)

You know who loves bugs and insects? That chicken, right there. She keeps the place tidy. Also? Did you know… 

Entomology (think “ant”) is the study of bugs and insects, but etymology is the study of words? It’s good to remember that one. 

Did you know that spiders are not insects! Yes, yes I did. (Did you know that we have Black Widow Spiders in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where I live? I did not know that until we moved here but wow, I do now!)

Did you know that the fossils of the first dragonflies date back to the Carboniferous Period? That was almost 360 million years ago. Whoa.

“Amazing Insects Around the World,” from DGPH Studio, will give you all kinds of cool information about buggy bugs. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $17.99.) Stellar little encyclopedia.

Its companion book, also from DGPH Studios, “Amazing Animals Around the World” is awesome, too. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $17.99.)

Zara (from “Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun” and “Zara’s Rules for Finding Hidden Treasure”) is back, in “Zara’s Rules for Living Your Best Life.” (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, scheduled for release 4/19/2023, grades 2-5, $17.99.) This is a great series by Hena Khan (“Amina’s Voice”), with a spunky, not-too-sweet main character. In this chapter book, Zara has spring break plans — fun plans! — with her friends. But things tend to change, and now Z and her brother, also Z (Zayd) have to hang out with their grandparents. How will this go?

“I Am Temple Grandin,” by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, is from the Ordinary People Change the World Series. (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $16.99.) Great biography (in a graphic novel format for younger readers) about the scientist/animal behaviorist/neurodiversity advocate who has autism.


Sunday Book Review

February 12th, 2023


Oregon Coast (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Today I’m reviewing three awesome picture books about kids and their families:

“Ramen for Everyone,” written by Patricia Tanumihardja, with illustrations by Shiho Pate (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $18.99). This sweet picture book tells the story of Hiro and his dad, who makes the most perfect ramen, every Sunday. Nori seaweed, nitamago egg, savory broth, yummy chashu pork… and noodles. (Yes, cooking tips, a recipe, and some history on ramen are included.) Hiro is ready to tackle the recipe himself, but it’s a little trickier than he thought it would be. Luckily, his dad, mom and sister are there to help and lend some support. This lively book reads like an anime — the illustrations are fun and colorful.

“The Best Worst Day Ever,” by Mark Batterson & Summer Batterson Dailey, illustrated by Benedetta Capriotti (Multnomah/Penguin Random House, 2023, $12.99). Capriotti’s illustrations give a cartoon-style flair to this picture book about a son and his father.

You know when it’s one of those days? Your cereal is soggy, your fave shirt is in the wash, you’re still sleepy and you have to go to work? That’s Bert’s story. He’d rather run and play, but he has to head to the flower shop to work with his dad. But when the clouds roll in, and the rain starts, his dad hollers, “You can’t ruin my day, no way!” at the sky. And Bert starts to look at the world a little differently.

“Babajoon’s Treasure,” written by Farnaz Esnaashari, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Miriam loves spending part of her summer every year with her Babajoon and Mamajoon. The family, originally from Iran, lives for adventures. When Miriam spies a gold coin that is different from her Babjoon’s other coins, she becomes convinced that he’s… a pirate? Maybe the other language he speaks is pirate code? Lovely illustrations and a fun story. Nice way to learn about non-American cultural traditions.

Have a great week, everyone! Hope your adventures bring you magic and joy.


Black History Month: Thursday Book Review

February 9th, 2023

New books

“My Red, White, and Blue,” written by Alana Tyson, with illustrations by London Ladd (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). The art in this book… I don’t even know where to start. It’s gripping, beautiful, warm, inviting, solid, and standing back a little way, by itself, assessing everything. The topic, too, is serious: What about the American flag? What does it mean to you? Does it represent all of us, or just some of us? What about its history? 

A profoundly moving, important, timely book.

Ladd’s art is outstanding — he uses acrylic paint, cut paper and tissue paper, and the impact is something else. As the author says, plainly and clearly, in a note in the back, “For as long as there has been a United States of America, there has been inequality for Black people within it.” 

I ask, Isn’t it time for our country to get this one right? Isn’t that long overdue?  

New books

“Justice Rising: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Kim Holt (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and older, $18.99). Read and learn about Ella Baker, Ruby Bridges, Claudette Colvin, Dorothy Cotton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Gloria Richardson, Jo Ann Robinson, Sheyann Webb and the Freedom Marchers. Say their names.

The art is beautiful, just like these Queens, and the quotes and reference materials are useful. I am honored to be reviewing this book, and the others mentioned today. I just wanted to say that it is an honor.

New books

“What Does Being Brown Mean to You?” written and illustrated by Ron Grady (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Beautiful picture book inspired by the author’s preschool students. This is a keeper of a book and one to be passed down to the grandkids, and purchased for classrooms and libraries.

A cool new autobiography (in picture book format) by Raphael G. Warnock, “Put Your Shoes on & Get Ready!” illustrated by TeMika Grooms, is next on my list. Georgia’s first black senator has an amazing story to tell. Speak it, sir! Glad to see this splendid book arrive. In addition to serving the people of Georgia, Warnock also serves as the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta. (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $19.99.)

“Dear Yesteryear,” by Kimberly Annece Henderson (author/photographer) and Ciara LeRoy (letterer) (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Extremely cool photography book, compiled by Henderson, a historical researcher, curator and librarian based in New York City.

Henderson focuses on geneaology and Black American lineages. From her bio: “She has facilitated digital projects for the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem.” Her work is impressive, and the images she has gathered are stunning, captivating, incredible. We are blessed to have them. “To my dear yesteryears,” the book begins, “Stony the road, you’ve walked this earth and paved the way I now call home.”

“My Fade Is Fresh,” by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Kitt Thomas (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2022, ages 3 and up, $17.99). We used to joke, It’s better to look good than to feel good. But looking good and feeling good? That’s the best. The star of this picture book knows exactly how she wants her hair cut and styled, even when everyone around her is shouting out their opinions on the subject. Vibrant art and a great story.