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Picture books, just for fun

April 27th, 2024

somebody come and play
“Somebody Come & Play” (Photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please and thank you)

I was caught up with the reviews for a second there… then found another stack. It’s a good problem to have, lol.

Hope y’all are having a great week! (All quotes/info used with permission from the authors/illustrators.)


  • “Hey Now, Little Man,” oh, hey now, new little board book by Dori Elys, with illustrations by Chris Park. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2024, ages infant and up, $7.99.) “The truth is everyone’s got a touch of unique. There’s a dozen, a hundred, a thousand ways to be.” #truth
  • “Sea of Constellations” is a new release from the “Mother of Sharks” author Melissa Cristina Marquez. This title has vivid and lovely illustrations by Rocio Arreola Mendoza. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 28, 2024; all ages; $19.99.) The light disappears — blink! — from the ocean, but Maren the whale shark has an idea. Reminiscent of Marcus Pfister’s “The Rainbow Fish,” an old favorite.
  • Oh, hullo, Bear! Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, author and illustrator, bring us another book in the series with Bear and his friends. “Bear Finds Eggs” is a sweet, happy book about community, love, eggs and babies. (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 2024, all ages, $18.99.) Other titles include: “Bear’s New Friend,” “Bear Can’t Wait,” “Bear Says Thanks” and many others.
  • “Grilled Cheese? YES, PLEASE!” from Tim Kleyn, the author/illustrator of “Set Sail for Pancakes!” OK, those are cute titles. And Kleyn includes his top secret recipe for grilled cheese, so that’s cool. You know how when it’s a stormy, stormy night, your mama might be lost at sea, and you and your gramps are home ready for her with grilled cheese sandwiches and piping hot tomato soup, but she’s just not getting home? And all these random sea-faring folks keep swinging by, so you have to feed them? Yeah. That’s the situation here. (Viking/Penguin Random House; May 7, 2024; ages 4 and up; $18.99.)

Book reviews d’jour

April 22nd, 2024

go zoom zoom

“Go zoom zoom”/photo by Rawley, use with permission only, please and thank you)

Book reviews for this week, all young adult titles, coming up…

  • “Finally Fitz,” by Marisa Kanter (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; scheduled for release April 23, 2024; ages 12 and up; 389 pages; $19.99). A young woman who is bisexual, Ava “Fitz” Fitzgerald, is on track with everything, exactly as she has planned. And then everything goes sideways.
  • “The Sherlock Society,” by James Ponti (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; scheduled for release Sept. 3, 2024; ages 8 and up; 337 pages; $18.99). Mystery set in Miami, in the tradition of Nancy Drew. Four kids plus their grandfather decide that starting a detective agency is exactly what they need.
  • “Punk Rock Karaoke,” by Bianca Xunise (Viking/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release April 23, 2024; ages middle grade and up; 248 pages; $17.99). Wow! The color and design of this new graphic novel? Pretty cool. Ariel Grace Jones and her bandmates are ready to take their garage band right into the big time. Let’s see what happens…
  • “Summer at Squee,” by Andrea Wang (Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2024, grades 5 and up, 308 pages, $18.99). Come along with our heroine, Phoenny Fang, and a cool cast of characters as they take part in SQUEE: Summertime Chinese Culture, Wellness, and Enrichment Experience. New friendships, fun, and learning and understanding the meaning of being Chinese American.
  • “The Last Comics on Earth: Too Many Villains!” (Viking/Penguin Random House; with Joshua Pruett, illustrated by Jay Cooper and Douglas Holgate, color by Joe Eichelberger; scheduled for release April 30, 2024; ages 10 and up; 253 pages; $14.99). Super fun new graphic novel, second in the series. This one is also from “The Last Kids on Earth” team.
  • “Cancelled,” by Farrah Penn (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2024, grades 9-12, 366 pages, $19.99). Brynn Whittaker, a high school senior, is proud of her matchmaking business, her grades, her life. And then an inappropriate video (that she swears is *not* of her) shows up on social media. How do you deal with the things you think you’ll never have to deal with?

I’ve started reading all of these and send them along to you, recommended. Interesting selection of books. All for now, bon appetit, babies!

Wacky Mommy, Book Reviewer to the Stars

What are you reading this week?

April 20th, 2024

autumn in Portland

(Flowers/photo by Rawley, please use by permission only)

What’s on your nightstand this week? I’m still on my M.E. Kerr spree, I love her stuff. If you’d like, leave me a note, please, in comments. Tell me what titles you’re reading this week, or lately. Peace and books and reading forever. Permission granted from authors/illustrators to discuss these fine new titles.

Reviewing… for Mental Health Awareness Month, which (since 1949) has been observed in the United States every May:

  • Pan Cooke, @thefakepan on Instagram, is an incredible talent who just published his first book. This Irish artist and writer, who resides in Dublin, grew up with undiagnosed OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). “Puzzled” is the cool new graphic novel-memoir from Cooke about the struggles of his early years. What if you say the wrong thing? Do the wrong thing? Get in trouble? Thoughtful work, with super good art. (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, 2024, please note that this book contains content about disordered eating, ages middle grade and up, 224 pages, $13.99.)
  • “Lola and the Troll” (I reviewed this one end of January, it’s so very, very good. I love that her little dog’s name is Tank.) (Razorbill, 2024, all ages, $18.99)
  • “Pieces of a Girl” is the newest from Stephanie Kuehnert (“Ballads of Suburbia” and “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”). Memoir about jumping from Laura in “Little House in the Big Woods” to “Degrassi High” to Bikini Kill and 7 Year Bitch. Been there, chicky. Highly relatable, Interesting read. But at this point, I wish someone would write a super cheerful book with lots of shiny happy people, jokes (clean) and big smiles. Maybe some recipes and some lists re: “how to work yourself out of a funk/if you’re in a funk?” If I could use that, I’m assuming the kids could, too. Maybe I’ll write that one this summer. (PenguinTeen/Dutton Books/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages middle grade and up, 309 pages, $17.99.)
  • “Are You Mad at Me?” (I reviewed this one last September. I love my Opal.) (Rocky Pond Books, 2023, ages 5 and up, $18.99.)
  • “Monster Hands” will scare off those pesky monsters you and the kids fear (or know!) are living under the bed. Great new picture book from Karen Kane, Jonaz McMillan and Dion MBD. Be brave and learn with our young heroes (and neighbors) Milo and Mel, and discover a bit of American Sign Language along the way. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 7, 2024; all ages; $18.99.)
  • Great new picture book, “Neat Nick’s Big Mess,” about the sweetest little kid who struggles with anxiety. (Just reviewed this one the other day.) (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 7, 2024; all ages, $18.99.)
  • Author Jonathan Van Ness and illustrator Kamala Nair treat us to a wonderful new picture book with their new work, “Gorgeously Me!” (Flamingo Books/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release June 4, 2024; all ages; $19.99.) I’m a bit enamored with this bright, shiny, happy book. Be you!! Everyone else is taken. LOL.
  • “Queer and Fearless: Poems Celebrating the Lives of LGBTQ+ Heroes” is a stellar, beautiful, fun, and sweet new picture book-poetry book from author Rob Sanders and illustrator Harry Woodgate. Learn about 17 heroes from the queer community, including Pauline Park, Richard Blanco, Pete Buttigieg and others. Great book, and I’m so glad it exists, and that a new generation will learn about these inspiring folks. Nice bonus list of additional reading materials is included. (Penguin Workshop, 2024, all ages, $18.99.)

Bon appetit, babies.


Spring books, part 2…

April 14th, 2024

Mt. Hood (view from University of Portland, North Portland, Ore.)
(Mt. Hood, as seen from the University of Portland, North Portland, Oregon, USA. Photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please and thank you)

Now where were we? Ahhhhhh… spring time books! Ready for the new titles? I have a big stack of them. All info provided with permission by the authors and illustrators.

  • “Los Monstruos: Rooster and the Dancing Diablo,” a new young adult novel from author Diana Lopez (Kokila/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 7, 2024; middle grade readers; 240 pages; $18.99). This new twist on Mexican folklore is something really different and inspired. Tres Leches, Texas, is a magical, loopy place for kids (and readers) looking for adventure. This one picks up where “Los Monstruos: Felice and the Wailing Woman” left off.
  • “Tell Me About Oceans,” an awesome sweet little board book by Lisa Varchol Perron, with illustrations by Jennifer Falkner. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2024, for the babies and little kids, $8.99.) Learn all about why the waves crash, how useful seaweed is, find out facts about huge blue whales and more. Lovely art and lots of science facts.
  • “Caged,” by Hmong American writer Kao Kalia Yang, with illustrations by Hmong American artist Khou Vue (Kokila/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 28, 2024; all ages; $18.99). This one will make you cry and make your heart soar at the same time. Based on the author’s youth, a young girl born and raised in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, hoping for escape and freedom. It’s important for kids to hear these stories.
  • “Lost Stick,” written by and illustrated by Anoosha Syed (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 3-7, $18.99). Louise and Milo are playing fetch at the park, but things go sideways when Milo goes after the stick and can’t find it! Bright, cheerful art and a happy little story.
  • “Jam, Too?” is a lively new title from author JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrator Jacqueline Alcantara (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2024, all ages, $18.99). “Out on the shore/in warm brown sand/walks one lone man/with a conga in hand.”
  • “Nothing Special” was recommended to me by my friend Anne. Great suggestion. (Wayne State University Press, 2022, all ages, $18.00.) This extraordinary title from author Desiree Cooper and textile art by Bec Sloane came out in October, 2022, and is a big, big award winner (Top Ten Children’s Book of 2022, the New York Public Library; a selected title from Social Justice Books (a Teach for Change project); Winner of the 2023 Paterson Prize Books for Young People; a 2023 Summer Reading List book, selected by the Association for Library Service to Children; and a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist. Kids will learn about the Great Migration and reverse migration taken by many African American families. Words do not do this book justice — it’s perfect and something special.
  • “Neat Nick’s Big Mess,” is a colorful, messy, gorgeous new picture book, written and illustrated by Chad Otis (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release May 7, 2024; all ages, $18.99.) Our hero, Neat Nick (get it? Neatnik? Cute) likes his surroundings to be thus and so. But the new big puppy in his life has some different thoughts on housekeeping.
  • “Would You Dare Put a Diaper on a Bear?” written and illustrated by Lillias Kinsman-Chauvet (Boxer Books/Union Square Kids, 2024, ages 3-5, 32 pages, $18.99). Goofy and sweet book for the potty training crowd.

Talk soon, xo