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On My Nightstand: Grown-up and Big Kid Books

July 10th, 2024

June 2024

(Photo used with permission of author)

  • “A Magic Fierce & Bright,” is a new release from Hemant Nayak, an author (and E.R. doctor! OK, cool) from my very own Pacific Northwest. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024, ages middle grade and up, 374 pages, $19.99.) Imagine you are… 500 years in the future, living in the remote jungles of South India, and looking, and not yet finding, your sister. Bam. Now imagine you’re gifted at both technology (re-starting it, cuz it’s trashed) and magic. A technomancer, they call it. I’m liking this one. Just started it, and I think you should do the same. Then leave me a note, kk?
  • There are several books, favorites that I re-read, every summer, or every few years, always during summertime. Other people must do this, too? It’s kind of funny, the associations books bring into our lives. One of these titles for me is Curtis Sittenfeld’s classic from 2008, “American Wife: A Novel.” (Random House, high school through adults, 558 pages.) This novel is about a smart, thoughtful girl, Alice Lindgren, who is expected to choose the life her parents want for her. Not surprisingly, she grows into a woman who aims to please, First Lady Alice Blackwell. (There is some speculation that Alice may be based on W’s wife, Laura.) This is a gripping, inventive read about money, class, and expectations. It’s an unusual book, one of a kind, and I find something new in it every time I read it. Highly recommend.
  • Another summer read for me, for decades now, is Stephen King’s genius, gripping, crazy-ass, most prophetic book. You may know it already, you may love it, like millions of other readers. Or it may just scare the hell out of you and yes, I’m talking about 1978’s post-apocalyptic/sci-fi/horror fest, “The Stand.” (Penguin Books, 817 pages, but I had to get the long-play extended version for my Kindle. I think that one adds several hundred or possibly more pages.) Mother Abagail, the Walking Dude gah, Nick, Larry Underwood, Frannie and Stu, all my favorites, every year. Maybe not the entire book, every reading, but yes, I love the hell out of this one. I like a lot of King’s other stuff, too, duh. I’ve written love letters to him and his amazing writer/editor wife, Tabby, from time to time. He’s a great storyteller, and that’s what I’m in it for. But this one, and “Carrie,” were my top two picks out of the gate, when I first discovered him. I mark this one: Pick of the Week. And Summer.
  • Finished Lucinda Williams’ stellar memoir, “Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You” yesterday. (Crown/New York, 2023, 260 pages, $28.99.) One of those books that you read so quickly, a page turner, right? It was. But the last few chapters? You slow down noooo I want more. And you can’t stand for it to end. That’s this book. As promised by other readers, as I knew it would be — fantastic. Just raw and gorgeous and true, like my Lu. Go read it, and listen to the songs and albums she talks about throughout. When she wrote the songs, who/what they were about, what she thinks of the work she’s shared with us over the years. I love her.
  • I’m also reading my two Book of the Month Club books. (Here’s a hell yes for a subscription. So worth it. Buy one for yourself, buy one for a friend, and thanks to my sister for the birthday gift.) The first, by Marjan Kamali, is “The Lion Women of Tehran” (Gallery Books, 2024, 327 pages, $29.99). The second is Liz Moore’s “The God of the Woods” (Riverhead Books, 2024, 478 pages, $30.00). Both excellent reads. Go read excerpts on Amazon or the library or wherever you find your excerpts.

Bon appetit! Disclaimer: All of the books reviewed today were sent to me free for review purposes. Disclaimer here. See you next time!


“The Storyteller” and other picture books for summer

June 2nd, 2024


(Pacific Ocean + Pup (fall 2016?); photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please)

  1. “The Storyteller” is a new release from author Lindsay Bonilla, with illustrations by Noar Lee Naggan (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Random House, 2024, all ages, $18.99). Griffin’s grandmother, The Storyteller, adores him, tells him stories, feeds him fresh bread and warms his heart and soul with stories. Gorgeous fairytale of a book. I love the washed, earth tones of the art, just lovely. Good book to share with kids who are grieving or facing loss.
  2. “What Color is God’s Love?” is a sweet new picture book from author Xochitl Dixon and illustrator Darshika Varma (WaterBrook/Penguin Random House, 2024, all ages, $14.99). Colors, nature and rhymes combine to bring a celebration of God’s love and Biblical knowledge.
  3. If you’ve been wondering what America really is all about, read “America’s Dreaming,” by author Bob McKinnon and illustrator Thai My Phuong. America starts at a new school and feels alone in the crowd, until the kids share their dreams, and Mr. Downs, the teacher, shares a Welcome Wagon of books about American heroes, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Sojourner Truth; and Emma Lazarus. Bios and a to-read list are included in the back. Happy, cheerful art, dreams and courage. Just a cool book.
  4. Hello, “Little Miss Sunshine.” I hear there are 183 books in your series? Really? Cuz that’s awesome. Thanks, Roger Hargreaves, for these titles, which have always made my own kids, my students, and me smile. (Price Stern Sloan/Penguin Group; all ages; various prices.)
  5. “Barrio Rising: The Protest That Built Chicano Park,” written by Maria Dolores Àguila, with illustrations by Magdalena Mora, is a heroic, triumphant picture book about San Diego, Calif., neighbors who banded together in 1970 to build a park (instead of a police station) along the Bay. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release June 18th, 2024; all ages; $18.99.) References/photos included, and the story and art make this book my pick of the week.
  6. Last (not least): A new picture book by Rilla Alexander, “The Thingamajig” (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024, all ages, $18.99). When you misplace… something that doesn’t really have a name? Is it a thing-a-ma-jig? A habbijabbi? A duppedit? Or do you call it something else? A little elephant and parent enlist all their friends in a search for their special whozeewhatzit. Will it ever reappear? Fun, playful art and a cute story.

Disclaimer: All of the books reviewed today were sent to me free to review, except for “Little Miss Sunshine,” which I nabbed from a Little Free Library cuz I don’t have enough books, apparently. I ain’t sorry. Disclaimer here. See you next time!


“Better Must Come” and other novels for young adults

June 1st, 2024


(“Baby Me, Camping,” photo by Dad, probably, or one of my uncles (better guess); use pic with permission only)

Remember I said I had a good photo for you? There it is, from the family archives. LOL spells loll. Lucky Strikes? Don’t smoke, kids. Just don’t.

Reading this week:

  • “Better Must Come” by Jamaican/New York/Boston author Desmond Hall is my top pick of the week. I’m loving this book, a tale set in Jamaica about a girl, a boy and $500,000 dollars’ worth of tainted American money. Hall has several East Coast appearances slated; check the author’s website for info. (Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages middle grade and up, 317 pages, $19.99.)
  • “With Just One Wing,” by Brenda Woods, is a poignant, thoughtful book set in L.A. We’re introduced to adoptee Coop, his friend Zandi, and an adopted mockingbird, a rescue bird with just one wing. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2024, 156 pages, $17.99.) This is one that will get to you.
  • “Camp Prodigy,” by Caroline Palmer, is an awesome new graphic novel about two nonbinary kids, Tate and Eli, who meet at summer orchestra camp. Deals with themes of sexuality, anxiety, identity and friendship. The art in this one is really good, and the author includes some of their concept art in the back of the book. (Simon & Schuster; scheduled for release June 11, 2024; ages 8 and up; 249 pages; $22.99.)
  • Preview! Cuz it’s not scheduled for release ’til the end of July, but Christopher Lincoln’s “The Night Librarian” is also a super cool new graphic novel, so add it to your list. He’s an older author (he wrote the Billy Bones series) and this is his first graphic novel. I’m older, too, and find this fact to be incredibly cool. Why not try something new, y’all? Our heroes, twins Page and Turner, get themselves in a bit of trouble trying to figure out how much money their dad’s prized first edition book is worth. Yes, it’s a vintage copy, British, at that, of “Dracula.” The New York Public Library, shrine and beloved spot to many of us, is a character in the book.Lincoln’s books are highly recommended by moi, book reviewer to the stars. (Penguin Kids, ages 8 and up, 248 pages, $19.99.)
  • “Past Present Future” by Rachel Lynn Solomon (sequel to “Today Tonight Tomorrow”) is a perfect romantic read for summer. (Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages middle grade and up, 374 pages, $18.99.) Rowan Roth is now attending college in Boston; her beloved, Neil McNair, is in New York. Will a long-distance relationship work for them? Told in two points of view, this is a truthful, honest depiction of young people in love, and struggling.
  • Liz Kessler’s “Code Name Kingfisher” is a fantastic new historical drama (published first last year in Great Britain). We meet 13-year-old Liv, who brings us the story of her grandma’s involvement in the Dutch Resistance during World War II and a sister no one remembers. Intriguing book about a horrifying time in world history that still haunts us today. (Aladdin, 2023, ages 8 and up, 329 pages, $18.99.)
  • “Mission Manhattan: City Spies,” by James Ponti, is another fun summer read. (Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages 8-12, grades 3-7, 420 pages, $18.99.) In this fifth book in the series, a young climate activist is threatened. Our youthful crew of spies heads to Manhattan, visits the outer boroughs, and hits the New York Public Library!! but of course. Good, engaging series that the kids will enjoy.

Bon appetit! Read all summer, okay? Keep a list and leave it in comments, if you feel like it. Have some lemonade for me.



More picture books for review! Ready?

May 19th, 2024


(St. John’s Wort/Photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please)

Hello and good morning, y’all. I found some books here for review. They’re pretty good. (Smiles.)

Enjoy! And bon appetit!


  • “Look” is a shiny new picture book with words by Gabi Snyder and pictures by Samantha Cotterill (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Snyder is an Oregon girl like myself, and she, too, loves visiting Little Free Libraries and baking goodies. (I just made a chocolate cake last night that I must say is quite delicious. Pro hack: Serve with whipped cream.) Cotterill lives in upstate New York, ahhhhh, upstate New York, and also wrote and illustrated the “Little Senses” series and other titles. “Look” is done diorama style, which I adore because that can be a real inspiration for the little artists in the crowd. It’s bright, colorful, and all about colors, shapes and sizes.
  • “Gather Round” is a cool new book written and illustrated by David Covell (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 3 and up, $18.99). When I was a kid, we camped, hunted, went to the beach and mountains, and hiked pretty much constantly. I’ll show you a picture sometime. I do not remember ever not being covered in mosquito bites, tanned, and busy busy. Now I never leave home because why should I? But I do remember my Grandma saying, Smoke follows beauty! every time I’d complain that campfire smoke was in my eyes. This is a great book because you can learn how to make a campfire, hear stories, look for shapes in the flames, all the fun stuff, without getting feasted on by skeeters and getting smoke in your eyes. Win-win. There’s also a doggy, and a song to sing. Nice!
  • Author Ashley Iman and illustrator Gladys Jose have brought us a real treasure in “Ruby Rene Had So Much to Say” (Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 4 and up, $18.99). You know when you have so many thoughts, so many facts, so much info going through your head all the time that it’s hard, so hard, really tricky! to keep it all inside? That’s our friend Ruby Rene, who loves school/learning/her teacher/the other kids/books/new stuff… and finds some good ways to keep quiet when she needs to, and share when she can. Thoughtful book, and Ms. Jose’s illustrations are lively and beautiful, just like our hero. Man, do I love kids who are exuberant and enthusiastic. And teachers (like our Ms. Iman, who describes herself as a former teacher and lifelong learner.) Good job, team!
  • “I Am Extraordinary,” by basketball hero and star Stephen Curry, with sweet illustrations by Geneva Bowers, is another inspirational book about a cool little girl. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 4 and up, $19.99.) Zoe, a straight A student, loves soccer, likes challenges, and is starting at a new school. Will she make friends? Will she make the team? Should she keep her hearing aids in, or try to hide them? She has some questions, and a big brother, Aaron, who is reassuring and there for her. An empowering and thoughtful book.
  • “The Quacken,” written by Justin Colon, with illustrations by Pablo Pino, is just kinda scary? And super fun. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; scheduled for release July 16, 2024; ages 4 and up; $18.99.) You know what the Quacken devours? That’s right. Kids. Canoes. Even whales, whole. So please, Don’t Feed the Ducks, y’all. Details: Where does he lurk? The lake of Cucumonga Campground. When does he pop up? Hard to say. Could be any minute. Is Hector paying attention? No! What is the Quacken? Fearsome, ferocious and yes, frightening. This book is swell, put it on your buy list.

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


Spring Books, part 1: “The Boy Who Said Wow” and other new titles

March 21st, 2024


(Photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please)

  • “The Boy Who Said Wow” (Written by the talented Todd Boss, with sweet art by Rashin Kheiriyeh; Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster; scheduled for April, 2024 release; $18.99) is on the top of this week’s stack of new picture books. Spring = lots of new book releases, and for this and other reasons (daffodils, cherry blossoms, fresh vegetables, more sunshine), I do love spring. No spoilers, but about this book? Mozart is magical and Ronan and his grandfather are, too.
  • We have three new board books today, here we go… Speaking of magic, la luna is the star of “When Moon Blooms,” a cool new bilingual book that draws on Indigenous wisdom from Mexico. Aida Salazar provides the story; Caribay M. Benavides provides the art, which is vibrant and colorful. This is the first read in the My Living World series. (Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2024, ages newborn-5, $8.99.)
  • “It’s Your Time to Shine,” by Dianne White, with art by Nanette Regan, is a helpful and positive guide to life’s little challenges. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages newborn-5, $8.99.)
  • Hannah Eliot (author) and Airin O’Callaghan (illustrator) have done a nice job with “The Mommies on the Bus,” a new variation on the song “The Wheels on the Bus,” of course. Whether it’s encouraging the littles to “please sit down, please sit down, please sit down,” providing snacks, or finding the right stop, mommies are there for the babies and kids. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2024, ages newborn-5, $7.99.)
  • “My Name is Long as a River,” by Suma Subramaniam, with illustrations by Tara Anand, is another gorgeous and insightful picture book about a young girl and her family, who live in South India. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House; scheduled for May, 2024 release; all ages; $19.99.) Introducing Kaveri Thanjavur Jayalakshmi Ganesan (who prefers to be called Kav), with her smart, beautiful self, and her beautiful long name. (Thirty-three letters and you’re welcome to double-check my math. Great name.) Her Paati named her for her great-great-grandmother, and the Kaveri River. That’s what they will travel across for the Pushkaram festival, a celebration that honors the river. This is such a thoughtful book, I enjoyed it and know that your family will, too. The bonus pages in the back are great, and add details about names, vocabulary, and some geography, too.

Thank you, friends, and see you next time.


“Drawing Deena,” “A Bite Above the Rest” and my M.E. Kerr

March 17th, 2024

scary kitty
(My spooky Baby; photo by Rawley/use with permission only, please)

Welcome back to the World of Books, folks, where we read and read and then read some more.

  • “Drawing Deena” is an outstanding new book from author Hena Khan (“Amina’s Voice,” “Amina’s Song”). When it comes to mental health-themed books for children, there are some great non-fiction, fiction and picture books on the shelves now. (And all I can say to this is… thank you.) Authors address anxiety, LGBTQ+ issues, PTSD, suicide and ideations, drug/alcohol issues, grief, family stuff, any and all topics you can think of. “Drawing Deena” does a great job of dealing with what worry and anxiety looks like for Deena, a Pakistani middle-school student whose family is struggling with bills and life. (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2024, grade 4 and up, 232 pages, $17.99). Great cast of supporting characters, too, including Deena’s parents, aunties, little brother and cousins. This is an extraordinary book, with believable dialogue and settings.
  • “A Bite Above the Rest” isn’t scheduled for release until August of this year, but add it to your list if you’re a fan of Halloween, books about weirdos and vampires, and off-kilter, fun reads. (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; scheduled release date Aug. 6, 2024; grades 3-7.) After losing his father, Caleb and his mom move to Samhain, Wisconsin, her hometown, for a fresh start. Awww… I like do-overs, don’t you? Only wait, yikes. The mayor of the town keeps City Hall open only from sundown to sun-up. Because he might be a vampire? And the kids dress in costume for school every day, because it’s always Halloween… OK. Slow down, folks. This doesn’t look like Hometown, U.S.A., at all. This is Virnig’s debut novel, and is a great read.
  • I happened upon “me me me me me,” M.E. Kerr’s memoir, on my bookshelf, and went on a beautiful trip down Memory Lane. No, I’m not coming back. Speaking of dealing with real kids, and real issues — M.E. Kerr introduced readers to kids of all sizes and shapes, ethnic and economic backgrounds, all of it. Kids who loved school, kids who didn’t, kids whose families were there for them, kids who were so alone. Teen sexuality, violent parents, unrequited love, no topic was off limits, and as a teen? You know I needed this and loved it. Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Norma Klein and M.E. Kerr were my A-Team.  I never knew Kerr’s back story, I just knew I loved her books. Go look her up and read about her illustrious and somewhat wild writing career. (“The Son of Someone Famous,” “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!”, and “If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever?” are my top faves, and there are so many excellent other titles under her various pen names.) She was the only queer kid she knew, and what she created from her loneliness and fierce and gorgeous nature? MARIJANE MEAKER FOREVER. Peace. (And yes, Louise Fitzhugh swiped the name/character “Harriet the Spy” from her — they were BFFs.)

All titles used by permission.

Have a superfine day, talk soon, now get out of here.


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