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Thursday Book Review: Eric Carle’s “You’re My Little Baby” and Other Assorted Titles

June 3rd, 2021

2021

(“Best Blue Heeler,” 2021 photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Kid books — new and old favorites ahead for review, get ready. There may be a holiday book included that I’m sneaking in because I overlooked it a few months ago. OK, people. If you’re not doing this already, do like my smart grandmothers — buy those birthday, holiday, wedding and baby gifts year round. (The key is to remember where you stashed them, otherwise, alas…)

So I’m not even going to feel guilty that I forgot to review “The Wheels on the Bus At Christmas” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020, illustrated by Sarah Kieley, $10.99). It’s not too early/late to buy a copy, aight?

“Let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve/ let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve/ who will we find inside?”

Sweet little kids is who! Plus reindeer, presents, singing cookies, a snowman and lots of other fun. Darling singalong with bright pops of color. The front cover opens with cut-outs of the windows on the bus… and that looks like Santa driving?

As long as we’re on the subject of winter… here’s another overlooked (whoops) book.  “Small Walt Spots Dot,” written by Elizabeth Verdick, with pictures by Marc Rosenthal, pays homage to both Mike Mulligan (Virginia Lee Burton) and our busy friend Curious George. (Did you know that Hans and Margret Rey escaped from the Nazis? They fled Paris on bicycle in 1940, reportedly carrying the manuscript for the first “Curious George.”) I am a sucker for the illustrations and children’s books of the 1930s-1950s. “Small Walt Spots Dot,” with this vintage style, does not disappoint. (Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99.)

Gus and his snowplow, Walt, hit the streets, save the snowy day, and find a lost pup along the way. (See? Rhymes rule.) Another one to tuck away for next winter. Or, you may like reading books about snow when the weather is hot and miserable, “Chicken Soup with Rice”-style.

Next up:

Like his millions of other fans, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Eric Carle. The World of Eric Carle recently published a perfect little board book, “You’re My Little Baby” (Little Simon, 2020, ages 2-4, $7.99). If you haven’t already, now is the time to start collecting Carle books for the kids in your life. Or for yourself. The art is extraordinary, and his work really is for all ages. My favorites include “Animals Animals,” “The Very Busy Spider” (of course), “‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ Said the Sloth,” and “Dragons Dragons.” You cannot go wrong with any of Carle’s books, these are just my top picks. 

“God Gave Us Prayer” is the latest release in the “God Gave Us” series by author Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrator David Hohn (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, ages 3-8, 56 pages, $14.99). The power of prayer is illustrated through pup and his parents, possum, otter, skunk and other friends, with space for little readers to reflect.

Anna Dewdny’s “Llama Llama” books have been delighting young readers for years. The newest on the shelves is “Llama Llama Meets the Babysitter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2021, by Anna Dewdny, Reed Duncan and J.T. Morrow, ages babies and up, $18.99). Llama Llama has never had a sitter before, what will this be like? Good way to prepare the young ones for meeting new caregivers. 

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Sunday Book Review: “Curls” and “Glow,” by Ruth Forman & Geneva Bowers

May 23rd, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Sunday evening kids’ book review from your friend, Wacky Mommy:

“Curls” (Little Simon, 2020, written by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers,  all ages, $8.99). What do you do when your little one, your beloved child, comes home from preschool wanting different hair and skin?

“I knew she might have to face these pressures at some point,” Ruth Forman has said, “but I didn’t realize it could happen so soon, at age 3 and 4.”

She points out that these are critical development years. They are. What other people tell us that first 10 years, especially, can impact how we look at ourselves for the next 80. What did Forman do about it? She wrote a sweet, rhyming, beautifully-illustrated board book (kudos to Geneva Bowers for the art) in response. This book is about so much more than hair, skin, babies, and little children getting pressure to be something that they’re not

Racism is alive and kicking in America and in the world. Forget that noise, we are way past due for change. This powerful little book is a start.

“shine big

hair love”

Forever. 

“Glow,” a companion book celebrating the joy and power of African-American boys, is the second release from Forman and Bowers. It, too, is an incredible little board book. 

“I shine night too

smooth brown

glow skin”

Both of these books belong in every nursery, every classroom, every doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room. Just as a reminder of Black joy, Black children, and ethnic representation.

 

Have a lovely week, everyone. 

 

WM

Friday Book Review

April 9th, 2021

So many photos ❤️

(“My Best Chickens” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future,” by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2020, $19.99). Nice new picture book from Jeffers (“The Day the Crayons Quit,” “How to Catch a Star,” “Lost and Found”) about a father and daughter who are building, literally and figuratively, for the future. Sweet, bright art depicting tools, a house being built, whimsical items, a ship that won’t sink… It’s the best combination of fantasy and reality.

“Let’s build a tunnel to anywhere. Le’s build a road up to the moon.” 

See more from Jeffers at his website.

“Hooray for Helpers! First Responders and More Heroes in Action,” by Mike Austin (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99). Good timing for this picture book, which also includes an interview with a real firefighter, an emergency supplies checklist and instructions for making an emergency contact list. Austin is married to author-illustrator Jing Jing Tsong and they have a sweet dog named Prudence. Look for them at jingandmike.com

“Oscar’s American Dream,” written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, is a historical fiction-style picture book with an “old-timey” feel. (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99.) Soft, muted pastels are used to illustrate the fictional story of Oskar Nowicki, who “arrived at Ellis Island carrying his life in a cardboard suitcase and a skinny roll of money in his coat pocket, a loan from his mother in Poland for a down payment on his dream.” 

He switches the “k” in his name to a “c,” in an effort to fit into his new country; he opens “Oscar’s All-American Barbershop in Manhattan; and gives away free haircuts to his first twenty customers “and lemon drops to all the boys and girls.”

The book traces the storefront’s evolution over the years, from barbershop to women’s clothing store to soup kitchen during the Great Depression and so on through modern times. It’s an interesting slice of American history, and includes info on suffragettes, wartime, the Civil Rights movement, and more. I appreciate the details and warmth of the Ezra Jack Keats-style paper and paint art.  

Wittenstein’s website is onedogwoof.com; and you’ll find the Howdeshells at thebraveunion.com.

Bon appetit, babies! Have a great weekend.

WM

 

  

 

 

Sunday Book Review: “The Little Kitten,” “A Story for Small Bear,” “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” “The War with Grandpa” & “Good Morning Zoom”

October 18th, 2020

It’s nearly Halloween, y’all, and just in time, here comes “The Little Kitten,” by Nicola Killen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2020, $16.99). Little Ollie and her kitten Pumpkin find a lost kitten, and what will they do? Where will they go? Nice illustrations, with a black, orange, white and gray color scheme.

“A Story for Small Bear” is a sweet and lovey picture book, written by Alice B. McGinty (“The Sea Knows,” “The Girl Who Named Pluto,” and many others) illustrated by Richard Jones (whose other work includes “Whale in a Fishbowl”) (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). It’s hard to believe that so much love and heart can leap out of the pages like they do with this book, about mama bear trying to get her baby bear prepared for a winter rest. The story is dear, the illustrations are beautiful. Try not to get tears in your eyes. Good luck. I think the kids will adore this one for a bedtime story.

Bad timing, alas, for “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” a promotional book by Crayola, starring their colors Blue Violet, Macaroni and Cheese, Scarlet and Jungle Green. It’s a sweet little board book, but made me lonely. Back to school time only it’s not. Will be good, though, for reminding kids that they will, someday, go back to school, and this is what classrooms, buses and school days look like. (Crayola, Simon & Schuster, 2020, for the littles, $6.99.)

I love autumn, but this autumn is kinda breaking all of our hearts. We can get through it together, okay? OK.

Really fun oldie but goodie with Robert Kimmel Smith’s “The War with Grandpa” (Yearling Humor, 1984, ages 8-12, 140 pages, $6.99). Why the re-release? It’s now a moving picture, yep, starring… you know them, you love them, or you might not love them, what do I know? … Robert De Niro, Uma! Thurman, Christopher Walker, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin… sure. Sounds good already. (If you had told me that Robert “Travis Bickle” DeNiro was eventually going to end up cast as a beloved dad and grandpa, I probably would have said, “Raging Bull, seriously?” But he’s a complex man, De Niro. We know this already.)

Kimmel is probably best known for his book “Chocolate Fever.” (“The War with Grandma” is coming out next summer.)

Last book for today… “Good Morning Zoom,” (modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”) which calls itself “a parody,” even though it’s pretty much reality, has words by Lindsay Rechler and pictures by June Park.

Two words: Too soon.

Recommended Books on Grief, Trauma, Race & Healing

September 13th, 2020

I’m back to social work, after a decade of doing library and computer lab work (which is also social work, it turns out) in the K-12 schools. I’ve been in trainings, meetings, and collecting book lists for most of the summer. Here are some picks. I’m going to list out (not review) all but the first title.

“The Big Finish,” a novel by Brooke Fossey (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2020, 326 pages, $26). Man, I love this book. First of all, I thought it was a young adult book when it arrived for review. Most of the titles I get are geared toward babies through the high school crowd. This one is a novel for the grown-ups, but I think some high schoolers would like it, too.

Duffy Sinclair and Carl Upton are best friends by happenstance — they’re well into in their 80s and both landed at the Centennial assisted living facility. It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad. They live in fear of slipping down — in their health, in their faculties, or just on the floor — and being stuck in a facility that’s not as nice. They’re worried about death, and life, when in through their window comes Josie, less than one-fourth their age. She’s possibly inebriated, she has a black eye, and she’s Carl’s granddaughter. Allegedly.

It’s a buddy story, it’s a family story, it’s about alcoholism and domestic violence and neglect, and how they impact families, individuals and all of us. It’s one of the sweetest books I’ve ever been lucky enough to read. The characters are thoroughly sketched out, the dialogue is great, and most of all, the story and the characters are believable and moving story. Highly recommended.

And now, a few titles, alphabetically by authors’ last name. I’ll keep adding to this list, it’s by no means comprehensive. Please add your suggestions in comments, if you’d like.

Alexander, Michelle, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”

Connor, Leslie, “Waiting for Normal” (young adult novel about a girl, her mother, and child neglect)

Didion, Joan, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

Giovanni, Nikki, “Collected Poetry — 1968-1998”

Goble, Jillana, “No Sugar-Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting”

Harris, Nadine Burke, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”

Maynard, Joyce, “The Best of Us,” a memoir

Oluo, Ijeoma, “So You Want to Talk About Race”

Sanchez, Sonia, “Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems”

Sapolsky, Robert M., “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

Tatum, Beverly Daniel, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race”

van der Kolk, Bessel (M.D.), “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”

Wednesday Book Review: “Pride 1 2 3,” by Michael Joosten & Wednesday Holmes

June 10th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

(Photo by moi, Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

i like book reviews. 

For the month of June, we’re celebrating so much. Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day, someday (not soon, but someday) the Covid-19 pandemic will be over… and summer’s arrival. My birthday. And last but definitely not least, Gay Pride.

“Pride 1 2 3,” written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Wednesday Holmes (Hey! Happy Wednesday, Wednesday) is a new release. (Little Simon, 2020, unpaged, ages babies and up, $7.99.) This colorful little board book takes us right back to the days of “Free to Be, You and Me,” and there is nothing wrong with that. From the bright pink bubble lettering on the title, to the signs (“Be Kind!”) to the diverse families, this is just a great book at just the right time.

Peace. I’ve said it my entire life and I’ll keep saying it, even after it finally happens. PEACE, BABIES.

 

Tuesday Book Review — prayers & meditation & finding my way: “The Little Book of Prayers,” Santa Biblia/Holy Bible, “Brave Enough,” “Prayers for Hope & Comfort,” “A Year with Rumi” & “Teaching with Fire”

June 9th, 2020

So once upon a time, America was a mess. This has been going on since Christopher Columbus showed up, so let’s start in 1492. That’s a long time, babies. Too long.

I’m not protesting in the streets this time, but I have been lighting my candles at home, talking with family and friends, praying. Meditating. Writing. It’s been intense to see and hear about everyone making changes that people have been trying to make for centuries now. Rest in peace to everyone, all over the world, who has died in the fight, who has died, fighting for justice. Peace and love to everyone out there who is fighting.

It’s long overdue, peace and justice. It should have happened a long time ago, but if it’s finally going to happen… now? I’ll take now.

Here are the books that are getting me through, it’s the usual cast of characters:

“The Little Book of Prayers,” edited by David Schiller. I think this one is just about perfect.

Santa Biblia/Holy Bible — various authors. My kids’ dad gifted me this, many years ago. I like practicing my Spanish. :)

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

“Prayers for Hope and Comfort,” by Maggie Oman Shannon

“A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings”

“Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” edited by Sam M. Intrator & Megan Scribner

Book Reviews: “Wreck This Journal,” “In My Heart” and “Human(Kind)”

April 19th, 2020

Woof and meow 💜

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Woof and meow 💜

At home, a couple of years ago — Photo by Steve Rawley/use with permission only

Well, how about some book reviews? We can still read. Books are allowed, even in a pandemic. Even though the libraries are closing. And the bookstores. Rough times. I am not a medical expert, I’m just a worried mom. We’re okay at our house; hope you and yours are as well. Let’s all be well together, apart. I can’t do much about any of this, but I can keep posting recipes, and book reviews. It’s not much but it’s all I’ve got.

Here’s a good bread recipe that I have been baking in our breadmaker a bunch lately. Bon appetit, babies.

Yummy White Bread a la Wacky Mommy

1 1/4 cups warm (not hot) water
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, butter or shortening
1 package (2 teaspoons) dry yeast

Add to breadmaker in order given; bake on setting for 2-pound loaf, light crust. Enjoy.

And now, book reviews… what’s in the hopper?

“Wreck This Journal,” by Keri Smith (A Penguin Book, 2020, $16). This series is a lot of fun, my kids, their friends and my students have enjoyed the books over the years. This one is in color, which is cool. Pages encourage the user to “work only with colors you hate,” “drip something here” or “mix so many colors they turn to mud.” All of the prompts are pretty fun. 

The author also has a website and some inspiration exploration on Instagram.

“In My Heart,” by Mackenzie Porter, illustrated by Jenny Lovile (Little Simon, 2020, all ages, $7.99). This sweet board book was released on March 10th, just before many of us in America went into quarantine, and before the schools all closed. It’s a tender, beautifully illustrated book about a little girl who is missing her mom, who is busy at work. But she knows she will see her soon, likes that they are eating the same food, just in two different places, and they know that even “though we’re not together, we’re never truly apart, because you’re always on my mind and you’re always in my heart.”

The poignancy of that little refrain takes on a whole new meaning now, and it makes the book even more lovely than it already was.

Me, even though I’m a big girl? Missing mommy. She’s doing fine, and we’re all checking on her. We’ll get to see each other soon. Or eventually. But we will see each other, and I’m looking forward to taking her out for brunch, and having our coffee. Together.

I’m getting some guidance and support from “Human(Kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together,” by Ashlee Eiland (WaterBrook, 2020, 224 pages, $15.99). Inspirational book by the formation and preaching pastor at Mars Hills Bible Church. Each personal essay has a title and a theme (curiosity, belonging, expectation). They’re thoughtful. Words can hurt, but with books like Eiland’s? Words help.

Be safe, be well, talk soon.

Nancy  

(PS — disclaimer — my family is employed by Amazon, but we aren’t paid for my book links.)

 

Hey, hey, what’s up? New Book Review, a la Wacky Mommy: “The Bug Girl (A True Story,” by Sophia Spencer, Margaret McNamara & Kerascoet; “Hello, World!” series: “Rainforest Animals” & “Construction Site,” by Jill McDonald; “The Story Pirates Present: Quest for the Crystal Crown,” by Annabeth Bondor-Stone, Connor White & Joe Todd-Stanton

February 16th, 2020

Sky and ocean

(My Favorite Piano, photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Yay, new books, yay!

* “The Bug Girl (A True Story)” (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, ages 4 and older, 44 pages, $17.99). This one was written by the “Bug Girl herself,” the cover says, Sophia Spencer, with Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet. Wow, that was a mouthful. But not a mouthful of bugs, which, as we all know, is no dang fun.

Being bullied is also no dang fun, and that’s what Sophia faced in real life, just because she loved bugs. But she got through it, with the help of her mom and some cool scientist friends. And now we can all hear her story. Sophia’s story is inspiring and beautiful. She’s a fourth grader now, and lives with her mama in Canada.

* Two new books board books have been released from the “Hello, World!” series. Both were written by Jill McDonald. “Rainforest Animals” and “Construction Site” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020, 0-3 years, $7.99 apiece). I do love this series. The candy colors are inviting and sweet, and just like “The Bug Girl,” both books are full of good words and facts.

* Book of the week: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” C.S. Lewis (Scholastic, 1950, 189 pages). I’m re-reading this with the second graders at the school where I’m working this year. Haven’t read it since I was a kid, and it’s neat to see it through their eyes. “Hey, was this a movie?” Yes, and the movie was good, but the book is even better. (Smiles.)

* “Quest for the Crystal Crown,” a new release in the Story Pirates Series, is a lot of fun. (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020, ages 8-12, 288 pages, $13.99.) My students are liking this series, too, with its “Choose Your Own Adventure” spirit.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Saturday Book Review: “Rover Throws a Party,” by Kristin L. Gray & Scott Magoon; “Rumple Buttercup,” by Matthew Gray Gubler; “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read,” by Philippa Perry; and Dubravka Kolanovic’s “Hello, Bunny” & “Love You, Baby”

December 28th, 2019

December 2019 + old shots

Sky and ocean

(Photos by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Yes, my loves. Here is another book review, this time with kids and babies in mind.

“Rover Throws a Party,”written by Kristin L. Gray, with illustrations by Scott Magoon (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers; scheduled for release March 31, 2020; ages 3-7; 40 pages; $17.99). This neat picture book is inspired by NASA’s Curiosity on Mars, and really, this is pretty cool, even for those of us who aren’t space geeks. The book will be released March 31, 2020, and is a good one to keep in mind, especially to gift a classroom teacher with.

The galleys look good — lots of reds, blues and purples. The illustrations and photos are great, and I always appreciate a good bibliography and a fact page, which this book includes. Lots of different fonts, plus science facts included with a sweet story about Rover’s one-year birthday party in space make for a fun read that will engage kids of all ages.

My apologies, because I wrote a draft review of this one ages ago, and forget to hit publish. Whoops. “Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself,” by Matthew Gray Gubler (who my big kids know from the show “Criminal Minds,” but of course) (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019, all ages, $14.99).

Rumple Buttercup kinda looks like a mess, with his five crooked teeth, three strands of hair, green skin, and left foot which is slightly bigger than his right foot. But he’s the coolest guy. I think readers will really be able to identify with our hero, and his imaginary friend Candy Corn Carl.

The format of the book is cool — novel, graphic novel and picture book all in one, with simple illustrations in green, yellow and pink, on a cream background. The story is delightful.

Next up: Philippa Perry’s parenting book, “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read” (Pamela Dorman Books Life; scheduled for release Feb. 4, 2020; 300 pages; $24). It’s getting great reviews ’round the world and all. Perry is a psychotherapist and “agony aunt” with a couple of decades’ worth of experience behind her, who lives in London.

She’s funny (she’s not kidding around, though) and I like her thinking. Give it a read.

Last but not least… board books for babies!

Two new titles in the Welcome, Baby series, from author/illustrator Dubravka Kolanovic, “Hello, Bunny” and “Love you, Baby” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2019, ages 0-3, $7.99-$9.99 apiece). Kolanovic is a fantastic painter from Zagreb, Croatia. The books are beautiful — one shaped with scalloped edges, and one shaped with hearts. Perfect for spring or any other time. Fun rhymes and sweet critters.

Kolanovic has illustrated a ton of stuff, so go look up her work.

Bon appetit, babies.

Wacky Mommy

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