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Tuesday Book Review: What’s New on My Dining Room Table

January 31st, 2023


(“Hi Honey!” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“The Seasons Within Me,” by Bianca Pozzi, is a thoughtful new picture book about moods, friendship, weather and finding peace. (Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) I’m glad that we’re finally teaching kids coping strategies, encouraging them to identify their emotions, all of it. This book does a nice job of that. Pozzi is a designer and writer from Brazil; I hope we see more of her work in the future.

“How to Eat a Book,” by Mrs. and Mr. MacLeod (Union Square Kids, 2022, $17.99) introduces us to the Grunions. There is nutty, there is unique, there is kooky… and then there are the Grunions. Sheila, and her siblings, twins Gerald and Geraldine, are welcome additions to the world of children’s literature. And you know I’m crazy about drawings layered with collage and paper art. The art in this book is BIG and amazing. (Additionally: Can you really be eaten by a book? The thought hadn’t occurred to me before…)

“When I Talk to God, I Talk About You,” by Chrissy Metz & Bradley Collins, illustrated by Lisa Fields (Flamingo Books, 2023, ages 4-8, $18.99), is a new picture book about relationships with God. Rabbit, skunk, otter, fox, bear and other families illustrate love in this rhyming tale. The art is dreamy and lovely and will charm the littles. 

“Mama Shamsi at the Bazaar,” by Mojdeh Hassani & Samira Iravani, with illustrations by Maya Fidawi. Set in Tehran, this title is a welcome addition to the bookshelf. (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) A mother-daughter team wrote this exquisite, loving book about a grandmother and granddaughter. The illustrations contain so many details; they’re fun to pore over. Look for the kitty cats! And don’t overlook the note from the authors in the back of the book

Bon appetit, my friends. Happy reading!


Monday Book Review

January 30th, 2023


Asters in September (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Today’s books? Oh, I’m glad you asked!

Just in time for the holiday, coming up February 2nd… “Groundhog Gets It Wrong,” written by Jess Townes, illustrated by Nicole Miles (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2023, $18.99). There’s a lot of pressure put on groundhogs, okay? Who can predict the weather? Even the weathermen, with all their charts, maps and computers, can’t always get it right. But Groundhog, the youngest in a family of weather predictors, is sure it can’t be that tough. Can it? Amusing story and clever drawings.

You know what’s next, people. Cupid’s fave (or maybe least fave?) day of the year, St. Valentine’s Day. “The Mystery of the Love List” (Penguin Young Readers, 2022, ages 3 and up, $18.99) is the newest release from author Sarah Glenn Marsh (“Reign of the Fallen” series).

Super sweet and funny book, with lovely illustrations by Ishaa Lobo. The teacher wants the students to make up “love lists” of everything they’re fond of. Pippa wants nothing to do with this; she’d rather read. But wait… a secret admirer may work to change that. Clever book and different from the usual Valentine’s reads.

“A Bucket of Questions, almost answered by Tim Fite,” is a new title from an artist and musician who doesn’t really answer the questions posed at all. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) Hmmm. Well, try the Internet if you want some actual answers, but with adult supervision, please. (My students promise me “I’m not going down a rabbit hole!” generally right before they go down a rabbit hole and refuse to reappear.)

It’s a fun and goofy book, this one. The art is intense and interesting, but dang it I really wanted the questions answered (or somewhat answered?) in the back of the book. Because I’m practical like that. Here’s to curiosity and imagination, though, in different forms.

Bon appetit, babies!



Sunday Funday Book Reviews

January 29th, 2023


(“Baby! in the Garden,” photo by Steve Rawley)

Boy, oh boy, do I miss having a garden. The deer and chickens are fun and all, but they know how to destroy everything. Here’s the short list of stuff they leave alone: Trees (after they’re grown), ferns, rhodies, figs, azaleas, daffodils, hellebores, anything poisonous… lilies! Yeah, that’s about it.

It’s a horrible time in America, due to police brutality, the triple-demic, school shootings, excessively over-priced everything, from groceries to utility bills to car parts. So I’m keeping the news turned off, remembering to vote, doing what I can, which these days feels inadequate. Have we all gone cagey? Kinda. Reach out to others, even if it’s just a card, a phone call, or an email. We need each other. Also we need to stop killing each other. I’m just feeling like being really extremely incredibly honest today.

We need to stop shooting, scaring, beating and hurting each other. Now.

I’d like to know, though, How are you doing? How are the children?

I teach, I help when and how I can, and I review books. Fun day = wishful thinking. I tried and failed to meditate this morning, i went to church. Later on I will bake some chocolate chip cookies and we’ll have something good for dinner. Please don’t give up hope and I won’t, either. Keep working, keep fighting, stay fierce.

Much love, much peace, WM

Now for the book reviews:

All of the spring releases are popping up like the little shoots in my yard. Here are a few:

“This Little Kitty,” by Karen Obuhanych (Random House Kids, 2023, $18.99). This is Obuhanych’s debut as author/illustrator, and it’s great. Fun collage art; crazy, funny cats and an engaging story.

“When PB Met J: The Best Friendship Since Sliced Bread!” written by Katelyn Aronson and illustrated by Sarah Rebar (Viking, 2023, ages 3-7, $18.99). This one is squishy and makes you feel all the feels, yeah I said it. When the foods in the refrigerator face off with the foods in the cupboard, you know it’s going to get a little feisty. Can we make friends along the way? We’ll see… The illustrations are sweet and whimsical. 

“I Am the Cat in the Hat,” based on Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” is a newly-released board book (Alastair Heim and Tom Brannon, Random House Kids, 2023, $8.99). Dr. Seuss, my old friend, has been put out to pasture. Some of his books have not aged well. So use those to teach the kids about what the bad old days were like, and move along to his titles that have aged well. I’d hate to see him disappear entirely. 

“How Many Squirrels Are in the World?” by Ben “Mister G” Gundersheimer, illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99). It’s a number book, it’s a rhyming book, it’s an adventure book. The art is sweet. Also, did you know that squirrels are only one inch long at birth?

“Just the Right Cake,” by Christina Tosi (of Milk Bar), illustrated by Emily Balsley (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, for big and little kids, $18.99). Phil’s parents split up, and nothing tastes or feels the same. Go with him on a journey to start trying different recipes, and finding new ways to experience the day. A great recipe is included in the back of the book.

Weekend Book Review & some thoughts on skipping Thanksgiving

November 12th, 2022


(“Out in the Country,” photo by moi, June 2022)

My sister and I have never been the biggest fans of Thanksgiving, because you know. Look what good guys the Pilgrims are! They had all the indigenous people over for a nice dinner and then later killed them. We were just little kids when we put two + two together and came up with, uh, two? Due to half of the equation being dead and all.

I’m sorry, you know, if your family likes to wear headbands and Pilgrim hats, but sometimes things that start out one way end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. And that, for me, is Thanksgiving weekend, which I used to enjoy. So we’ll have a long weekend, eat and be merry, and do other stuff.

Speaking of taste… she’s vegetarian, my sis, and my daughter and my kids’ dad are, too, They never really liked meat, even when they were little kids. My mom once told my sister, Yeah, I kept trying to feed you baby veal, from the little Gerber jars? You weren’t having it.

Chorus of ewwww.

And my then mother-in-law said something similar. Yeah. Thanksgiving continues to center around a big dead bird or a big dead ham. Pretty much.

As parents, do any of us have a clue? Not so much. It all makes sense later, I guess, when it’s too late. #babyveal #redundantphrase #sorryMommyIknowyoutried #love

So we decided to skip “Turkey and Carnage” this year and head straight to Christmas and New Year’s. You in? It’s starting with nonstop viewings of Hallmark Christmas movies, binging season 5 of “The Crown” on Netflix, and putting up the trees. Eating. Baking cookies. Cleaning the house. Yeah, that’s right. I wrote out some holiday cards already, too. It’s true, kids. Once you grow up, you really do get to do whatever the heck you want. So, whatever you do or don’t celebrate at your place? *Rock it.*

Here are some “thank you” books for the road, though. #gratitude #November #blessings #loveandkindness #peace

“The Thank You Book,” by Danna Smith, illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, is an awesome possum little board book for the babies and preschoolers. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2022, $7.99.) The littles will respond to the cheerful characters, rhyming text, bright colors and the sweet message. 

Ditto with “Welcome to the Big Kids Club: What Every Older Sibling Needs to Know!” written by one Chelsea Clinton, with pictures by gifted illustrator Tania de Regil. (Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers, 2022, ages 4-8, $18.99.) I recently heard Clinton interviewed on “The View.” Fun to hear her talk about her two older kids’ reactions — and questions, so many questions — when they found out a new baby was on the way. The book is written in a Q&A format, which works well, and includes the most important question of all: Does my baby understand when I say “I love you”? (Yes, yes, yes and yes.)

“Giving Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday,” written by Denise Kiernan, with illustrations by Jamey Christoph, tells the story of the woman who worked to make Thanksgiving an official holiday. (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2022, $18.99.)

Imagine my happy surprise to be sent a review copy of a new picture book, written by the talented and kind Cathy Camper, one of my librarian acquaintances from Portland, Oregon! “Diez Manera de Escuchar La Nieve,” with fantastic and lively illustrations by Kenard Pak, translated by Rossy Evelin Lima, is a marvel of a book. (Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2020, $17.99.) “Ten Ways to Hear Snow” is also available in English.

Fall books for the kiddos

September 28th, 2022


(Diamond painting by me, WM)

Yeah, I sometimes start projects and then don’t finish them. Doesn’t everyone? I like that meme that says, Yes, procrastinate! That way you have something to do tomorrow and all of this free time now.


I do like diamond painting, writing books, gardening, fixing up the house. Blogging and playing the piano, rearranging the furniture. It’s a simple life, overall, and it’s mine. I like it.

So what’s on the nightstand this week? Kids’ books about fall, leaves, pumpkins, all of it, and more books on the way. That means fun and good art. First up…

If you’re looking for a books about fall and leaves, start with these:

“Fletcher and the Falling Leaves: A Fall Book for Kids,” by Julie Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

“Leaves Falling Down: Learning About Autumn Leaves,” written by Lisa Marie Bullard, illustrated by Nadine Rita Takvorian

“Trees, Leaves, Flowers and Seeds: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Plant Kingdom (DK Our World in Pictures)” (hardcover, illustrated, 2019)

“The Leaf Thief,” by Alice Hemming, illustrated by Nicola Slater

Received a lovely review copy of “If You Find a Leaf,” a new picture book by Aimee Sicuro (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). Let’s start with the cover, a little girl, with her doggy, in a boat with a big red leaf for a sail. And the flyleaves: leaves! Of course. Little leaf linden, Japanese cherry and elm, American basswood… just beautiful. The story takes us on an imaginative journey, travelled by our hero and her pup, high up in the air, sailing on the ocean and having a parade with her friends. In the back, you’ll find instructions on how best to preserve leaves. All in all, an amazing book.

Welcome, autumn. Glad to see you again.


Best picture book of the year: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright”

September 21st, 2022

What are we reading this week? Let’s take a look…

One of the sweetest picture books ever created, ever, in the history of picture books, showed up in my mailbox: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright.”

This lovely meditation of a book was written by the gifted and thoughtful Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by the amazing and talented Keith Mallett.

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022, all ages, but especially ages 4-8, $18.99. Websites: Sarah L. Thomson and Keith Mallett)

A little girl and her father rake leaves, she plays with her puppy, splashes in puddles and lets her imagination run wild. The book follows their day, into the night. It’s autumn, it’s beautiful, it’s wistful and dreamy. So much is conveyed through the poetic words and gorgeous art of this sweet, peaceful, and long-overdue book. Go buy some copies.

Thank you. That’s all for today. Happy equinox and enjoy your fall.


“Chupacarter” and other fall titles

September 15th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(“My Dear Deer,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row)

Fall is in the air, the heatwave we’ve been having on the West Coast/best coast is finally subsiding (I hope) and there are loads of new titles to review.

Do you know about chupacabras? (Here’s some info for you.) They’re mythical (or are they?) crazy-wild vampire creatures in Latinx mythology and you’d better watch out. We meet a friendly one in “Chupacarter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2022, middle-grade readers, 255 pages, $16.99). The book was a team effort between actor-comedian-writer George Lopez, writer Ryan Calejo, and illustrator Santy Gutierrez. Good storytelling about a lonely boy, Jorge, who is new to a small New Mexico town and contending with his abuela, who means well but is pretty fierce. The comic book-style illustrations work well with the novel.

Hello and welcome “Airi Sano: Prankmaster General — New School Skirmish,” another 5th grade and up book about a hero who is also (according to her mother) something of a juvenile delinquent. Author Zoe Tokushige has a great ear for dialogue, and the characters come right to life from the first introductions. Jennifer Naalchigar did a great job with the illustrations. The book is designed in a graphic novel, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” style, but is actually a novel with illustrations, not a graphic novel, per se. No matter, it’s a great ride and a good read. (Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2022, middle-grade readers, 292 pages, $14.99.)

And last but not least, check out “Totally Random Questions” Volumes 1 & 2, by Melina Gerosa Bellows (rhcbooks.com @randomhousekids, 2022, 214 pages, $8.99 apiece). Magazine style glossy books with funny and kooky pictures, loads of facts and information presented in a kid-friendly, appealing style.

Bon appetit, babies! Happy fall!


Friday Book Review: Animal Books

August 26th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Sis, dad and me, circa 1970, Larch Mountain, Oregon)

What’s up this week, kiddos and dear readers?

Do you know what sharks and puppies have in common?

Yeah, me, neither. But I did receive review copies of two books about sharks and also two about dogs! So there’s that. LOL.

“Mako & Tiger: Two Not-So-Friendly Sharks,” written by Scott Rothman and illustrated by Mika Song (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). is about two fierce sharks who can never be friends. Mainly because they’re too much alike. Do you know that story? Yeah, me, too. When one of them is in trouble, though, will things change? Beautiful under-the-sea pictures, and fun rhymes to go with a serious theme.

“I Am the Shark ,” is a great new release from writer Joan Holub (the Goddess Girl series) and illustrator Laurie Keller (who drew one of my old faves, “The Scrambled States of America”) (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021, $17.99). The kids will learn about angel sharks, hammerheads, great white sharks, tiger sharks and others in this sweet little encyclopedia-style picture book packed with facts.

Ready for puppies? Author Danica McKellar and illustrator Josee Masse have put together a funny, sweet new picture book, “Double Puppy Trouble” (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022, 40 pages, ages 4-7, $17.99). Moxie Jo is a rowdy, smart little girl who thinks she wants “more, more, more” until she gains powers to double everything in sight… including fuzzy little yellow pups. When and how will the craziness end? As always, McKellar sneaks a cool math lesson into a fun book, and Masse’s illustrations are great.

Sports star, special needs advocate and writer Tim Tebow, with A.J. Gregory and illustrator Jane Chapman, have brought families a cool new book with “Bronco & Friends: Mission Possible.” Bright, cheerful pictures and a meaningful story.

Sunday Book Review: Back to School, babies

August 21st, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Kris, Julie, me and Dan, with our awesome grandfather, Eugene. Photo by my Dad, I’m guessing.)

Hello, dears, how are you?

Summer just started, so that means one thing: It’s time for back to school, and the book reviews that go along with the school supplies. Time to take a shower, scrub off the sand and dirt, find some real shoes, and head back to the classroom. You can do it, I have faith in you.

First up, kindergarten!

In “The Queen of Kindergarten,” we meet a smart, awesome little girl named MJ, who is ready, ready, ready for school. Author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton have brought us a treat with this new title. In their companion book, “The King of Kindergarten,” we are introduced to a handsome and intelligent little boy who is royalty, and ready for school and his future. These beautiful picture books will help prepare the littles for school, reading, friends, math, recess and festivities and will be great additions for the classroom, too. (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2022, $17.99.)

“A child must learn early to believe that he is somebody worthwhile and that he can do many praiseworthy things. The child must have the love of family and the protection they give in order to LIVE and FLOURISH.” — Benjamin Mays (from intro to “The King of Kindergarten”)

“Children must have at least one person who believes in them. It could be a counselor, a teacher, a preacher, a friend. It could be you. You never know when a little love, a little support, will plant a small seed of hope.” — Marian Wright Edelman (from intro to “The Queen of Kindergarten”)

“Abdul’s Story,” written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Tiffany Rose, is a great book for students first grade and up. (Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022, ages 4-8, $17.99.) Learning about (and teaching) writing can be tough, and I’m not the best one to advise on this, because my take on it (as a lifelong writer who just does it, la la la, see how easy writing is?) is this: You just start scribbling. How is that hard?

Writing is hard for normal people, or it can be, anyway. For weirdos like me, it’s just in our blood, see? Yeah. I can’t not write, y’know? I cannot go without writing, because it’s like breathing to me. Also I’m a little hypergraphic. Obviously. And no, I do not think it’s a disorder. 


Some of us are writers, some are visual artists; some are cartoonists, some are musicians. Some are gardeners, some are chefs, some are gifted at quilting… on and on and on. There is a lot of lovely art in the world, and a lot of terrifying art, that yes, still has merit. It doesn’t all need to be landscapes.

OK, sometimes landscapes can be scary as heck, too. But I digress. Again. Art is art is art, is what I’m saying. I do think it’s good to “cross-train,” as it were, but I can’t stand the shaming that goes along with teaching art and writing. (Writing is art, y’all, but don’t ask me to draw you a picture, because it will contain stick figures.)

“Abdul’s Story” is a blessing. It’s down to earth, it’s straightforward, it’s inspiring. It teaches you how to work to get there, and gives good tips on how to lighten up on yourself to make it happen. Honestly, I would use this book to teach students of any age some writing tips.  Abdul, our hero, loves to make up stories, but finds it challenging to get them down on paper. When he meets Mr. Muhammad, though, things change for the better. Writing can be anxiety-provoking, especially for young writers who are just learning how to put the words to paper. Bravo for Thompkins-Bigelow and and Rose for bringing Abdul’s story to life.

Moving right up the grades, “Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun,” by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021, ages 7-10, $17.99) is the first in a new series for readers who are just learning to read novels. Super fun (lives up to the title) book about a girl, her family, what it’s like to get to know new neighbors and how to go about setting a world record. 

Bon appetit, babies, and have a fantastic school year.


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

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