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New books! “Amy Wu and the Ribbon Dance” and others

October 1st, 2023

Fall Books, 2023

“Amy Wu and the Ribbon Dance,” by Kat Zhang, with illustrations by Charlene Chua (Simon & Schuster, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99) is the fourth book in this sweet series about one Miss Amy Wu. She is Chinese American and goes at life with gusto. She’s kinda my hero.

Several books have arrived lately that deal with grief, loss and trauma. “Mouseboat,” written by Larissa Theule, with pictures by Abigail Halpin, is one. (Viking, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) A young girl heads to the comfort of the water to deal with the loss of her mother.

“The wind is your voice. You whisper to me. I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

Thoughtful and beautiful book. I hope it finds its way into the hands of people who need it. It’s so good. Also recommended to help readers whose family or friends are dealing with grief. The illustrations are lovely.

“My Cat Does Ballet” is a lighthearted new picture book that will be released Oct. 17th. Written by Robert Heidbreder, and illustrated by Matt Schu, this book is beyond delightful. (Atheneum, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) Fun that the author name-drops and introduces readers to famous dancers, and the ballet terms are a big help.

Sometimes I take it for granted, that publishers send me all of these cool books in the mail and I get to read them, review them, share them. I keep a few for my library, but I pass most of them along to friends, other teachers, students, neighbors. Books/books/more books. (I do not take payment or bribes, lol, for my book reviews. Not into “product placement.” It’s just a labor of love, and I don’t make any money from it.)

Some days, though, ah, some days I spend just a little extra time counting my blessings… because it’s a sweet life, getting so many review copies in the mail. Y’all know I love books. Especially when it’s a copy of “One Smart Cookie,” the new Norma and Belly book by Mika Song (RH Graphic, 2023, all ages, 99 pages, $12.99). Do you know this series? It’s a comic book series, and this is the fourth book. Yay for graphic novels, they’re a pretty, pretty cool art form. Belly and Norma are squirrels on a quest for snacks. Yes, they’ll do whatever it takes. Wouldn’t you?

Also a fan of Rob Hodgson’s “When Moon Became the Moon” (Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2023, all ages, 64 pages, $18.99). It’s written in a style called “long form picture book.” It’s a picture book, only fancier and with more details. So let’s learn about the moon and the sun, lightness and darkness and how it all works.

Like little kids, and big kids, I enjoy knowing all the facts, and asking loads of questions. This book makes me happy. The art is so cool, and I love how the facts are laid out.

You will also find inspiration with Mazie McGear, the hero, engineer, and all-round excellent helper from “Mazie’s Amazing Machines.” Her fave tool? The crank drill. Woot! This title was written by Sheryl Haft and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Mazie’s awesome machines include the “Food-O-Matic,” the “Roly Ramp,” the “Teeter Lever” and others.

Bon appetit, loves. Keep reading.


Picture books! Just in time for fall

September 24th, 2023

Woof and meow 💜

(Oregon sky, Portland suburbs; photo by Rawley, use with permission only)

Fun books for fall, let’s go!

Hello, Paw Patrol fans, I know you’re out there. You will like these titles from Nickelodeon, friends. “Skye’s Time to Fly” (A Little Golden Book, 2023, $5.99); “Power Up, Pups!” (Step Into Reading, Step 2, 2023, $5.99); “The Junior Patrollers” (Random House, 2023, $5.99); “The Official Storybook” (Random House, 2023, $12.99); and the very cool “Official Activity Book,” with puzzles, posters and stickers (Golden Books, 2023, $7.99).

“Are You Mad at Me?” by Tyler Feder, with art by Cody Feder (sisters and best friends), is a helpful picture book about a twitchy ostrich, Opal. (Rocky Pond Books, 2023, ages 5 and up, $18.99.) You know when you feel like everyone is mad at you, even when maybe (definitely, positively) they’re not? That’s Opal. Her family calls it “the noodles” because Opal, when she worries (and she worries about almost everything) gets a wobbly neck. Vivid, sweet art, and a great story. Listen to one who’s been there — it’s never to early to start talking about healthy mental healt.

“See You On the Other Side,” written by Rachel Montez Minor, with illustrations by Mariyah Rahman (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2023, $18.99). This beautifully illustrated picture book is a loving, thoughtful book about saying goodbye to those we care about, while still feeling their presence.

Besos y abrazos and talk more this week!


book list: my favorite titles from college

September 17th, 2023

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Rawley; use with permission only, please)

A few of these fall crocus have popped up, in the six years we’ve lived here. But last year? Huge, vibrant, gorgeous patches of them everywhere. I think the chicken poop is paying off.

I started making a list the other day, in my journal, of my favorite books from college. I majored in English, so you know we read a little bit. And then a little bit more. Here’s the stash:

Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” freshman year. This one changed my life. It ripped something open in me and shifted me forever. “Beloved,” “Sula,” “The Bluest Eye…” everything Morrison wrote was great. You can’t say that about many authors. “Jazz” was a favorite, senior year. I read it aloud because the cadence of the book is like a jazz composition. Morrison is that good.

“Woman on the Edge of Time,” by Marge Piercy, is one of a kind. The integrity and passion of her writing is the best. Her poetry is exquisite, too.

Senior year I read an odd little book, “Snow White,” by Donald Barthelme. I never would have given this book a second look, but It Was Required. It was spring break, I had bronchial pneumonia, was up late crazy with a fever. My live-in boyfriend, and my not-live-in boyfriend, along with all of my other friends, ran away on some school trip and I was too ill to go. It was a new low.

Especially when I found out that my live-in boyfriend spent the entire trip hitting on my other boyfriend.

When people say your 20s are the best years of your life, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s a slim book, “Snow White,” so I decided to power through it. It’s about (i recall) the princess herself, the Seven Dwarfs, porno, strange happenings, and yes, a list of things that terrify Snow White. I was like, what the actual hell?!? fell in love with it, and decided to spend the rest of my life writing 1) how I wanted 2) what I wanted 3) when I wanted. And that’s pretty much what I’ve done.

So I guess what I want to say here is, Thanks, Barthelme, ya freak.

“Norma Jean the Termite Queen,” by Sheila Ballantyne, walloped me in the head, too.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” (dubbed “One Hundred Years of Reading” by my friend Heather) and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

All 19 of the Shakespeare plays I devoured, but especially “The Winter’s Tale,” “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.” I like the sonnets, too, of course, but not as much as the plays. (Will S. wrote 34 or 38 plays total, depending on who you ask.)

Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”

Poetry by Tess Gallagher

“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker

James Baldwin, “Go Tell It On the Mountain”

“Native Son,” Richard Wright. (My not-live-in boyfriend spent the entire time we were reading the book saying, “No, Bigger, no. Please, no. Bigger, no.” You should have read our essays, extraordinary. Hahahah. Nooooooo just noooo oh this is bad please no, make it be OK.) (It’s still not OK.)

“Sister Carrie,” Theodore Dreiser

All of the Celtic mythology. All of the Greek mythology. My Bible as Literature class. Black studies. Women’s studies. Journalism classes and the readings. And cannot forget Leo Tolstoy and “Anna Karenina.”

“Oh!! How about when…?” my live-in boyfriend’s mother asks me, when she sees me reading the book, and gives away the entire ending. Gah. It was taking me forever to get through it, it’s an insane book. Insanely good, but yeah, kind of out there. I loved it, though, and was getting to the ending.

“I haven’t finished it yet,” I told her. (That’s why I was still reading it.) (Hello.)

“Didn’t you see the PBS version?” Nah, i usually just read the book.

She’s gone now, this lady. I feel bad for every time I thought rotten thoughts about her. Read, and keep reading until you can’t anymore. Then find someone to read to you.

Peace, xo and more later.


Young Adult Novels: Scary Books, Scary Monsters

August 28th, 2023

What are these???

(Photo by Rawley; use with permission only, please.)

Once upon a time, the only Young Adult novels that spoke to me, that moved me, were 1) anything by Judy Blume 2) anything by Norma Klein and 3) S.E. Hinton’s classic, “The Outsiders.” It was, and is, a brilliant work. I met Hinton at Powell’s Books in Beaverton a few years ago, and I am not embarrassed to say, yeah, I fan-girled out, just like all the other fankids in line for her autograph.

Times have changed, and there are so many amazing YA books — and graphic novels!! so many graphic novels — on the shelves now. Here is a sampling of recent releases… but just the scary ones.

I’m over summer and ready for autumn, and Halloween. (More titles, not so scary, to follow in next review.) Additionally? I can only read scary, creepy, jump-scare books in the middle of the day. Also? I am not going to be held responsible if you read any of these and they terrify you or your kids so much that you/they have nightmares.

OK, ready?

First up: Kelly Creagh’s “Strange Unearthly Things” (Viking, 2023, ages 12 and up, 355 pages, $19.99). I love the pink/gray/black cover, I completely love it. I know, don’t judge a book and all that, but sometimes the cover and the writing and the topic just all go pow! into a perfect storm. Plus, “Hell is coming for him… but so is she,” is a tagline that gives me the shivers.

And that is this novel.

Our heroine, Jane Reye (the book is a paranormal shout-out to Charlotte Bronte’s classic, “Jane Eyre”) is on a flight. Her own highway to hell. The flight attendant, and the passenger seated next to her, are concerned. The flight attendant approaches:

“Her lilac perfume makes me gasp.

Because Helen.

‘Can I help you with this?’ She hands me one of the sketches among the mix that doesn’t depict a spirit.

‘I’m good,’ is all I can say as I collect from her the surrealist drawing of a girl peeling her skin off like a T-shirt to reveal a skeletal rib cage stuffed to bursting with flowers.”

That’s all you’re getting from me. You like scary-goth novels? Check it out. I would say this one is for bigger kids, but books? They’re personal. I spent most of my childhood having the librarians tell me “no” and my mom saying, “Give them here,” and checking out the “grown-up” books for me. I am no worse for the wear. I liked to read, I still like to read, and I have so many questions. I did then, and I do now. So please trust your kids’ judgment. xoxoxox

“Finch House,” by the talented and amazing Ciera Burch, is a gift of a novel. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, on sale Sept. 5, 2023, ages 8 and up, grades 3-7, 197 pages, $17.99.) Michaela “Micah,” who is eleven, loves living with her Poppop and mom in their comfortable family home. But her mom wants them to start over an hour away. To avoid packing, she leaves the house, and ends up where she’s been warned to never go — the haunted-looking and run down Finch House. She meets a new friend, Theo.

Is he trustworthy? Is the house what it seems to be? And where is Poppop? Great read, gripping story, believable dialogue and characters.

“Ashton Hall” is the new book from Lauren Belfer (“City of Light”). (Ballantine Books, 2022, 410 pages, teens and older, $17.00.) It’s so… vintage. (I mean that as a compliment.) And just creepy and lovely, in that Elizabethan/Goth way. Hannah Larson, our heroine, and her little boy, Nicky, head to Cambridge, England, to care for an ailing relative. Skeletal remains are discovered and then… you’ll have to wait to find out. Fantastic descriptions, and I love the house, which is a character all its own, dating back to the early 1600s.

Next we have two scary titles from author Dan Poblocki, illustrated by Marie Bergeron, ideal from middle grades and up:  “Tales to Keep You Up at Night” (Penguin Workshop, 2022, 262 pages, $8.99) and “More Tales to Keep You Up at Night”  (Penguin Workshop, 2023, 279 pages, $17.99). I love that Poblocki has been dubbed “the middle grade Crypt Keeper.” Perfecto. (I want more art included, though — Bergeron is talented.) If this one is a hit for you, readers, he has a whole slew of other titles, including “Ghost Hunter’s Daughter” and “The Book of Bad Things.”

Speaking of bad things, haha!… our final book this evening is Rob Renzetti’s “The Horrible Bag of Terrible Things” (Penguin Workshop, 2023, 215 pages, $17.99). Zenith Maelstrom (great name) is 11-going-on-12. His first thought when he finds the so-called “horrible bag” on his front porch is, Does he want his sister to know? No. She gives him too much grief. And our story begins.

OK, I have the shivers now, and it just got dark outside. It’s that time of year when it gets darker and darker, earlier and earlier. Maybe I’m not ready for fall? Too late.

Have fun reading, y’all. Talk soon.


Monday Book Reviews: “Bitsy Bat” and other new titles

August 7th, 2023

Wacky Cat 1, Thrilled

(Photo by Rawley/Use with permission only)

I have a big ol’ stack of Young Adult novels to review, but for now, finishing up on the gorgeous selection of picture books I’ve received. All are sure to make the kids (and their parents) smile.

“Bitsy Bat, School Star” has BIG STAR plans. Big, big, batty plans. The inimitable Kaz Windness wrote and illustrated this fun and poignant book, which is perfect for those of us who are not your typical peeps. (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99.)

“This Train is Bound for Glory,” by Alice Faye Duncan, with art by Paul Kellam, is pretty glorious, in the truest sense of the word (WaterBrook, 2023, all ages, $14.99). “‘All aboard!’ calls the merry conductor. His voice is like the wind — loud, warm and strong,” and off we go on a big adventure on the Glory Train.

This story is based on the African American spiritual first recorded in 1922.

“My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, Or Things” (1973). This Judith Viorst classic, with drawings by Kay Chorao, is a lot of fun (even if you’re a little bit scared of zombies or any of the other creatures mentioned in the title).

“My Dad Is a Tree,” is a hilarious new picture book written and illustrated by Jon Agee (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Madeleine’s dad is cleaning up leaves while Madeleine pretends to be a tree. Why? “Because a tree gets to stay outside all day long!” Will her dad play, too? The yard mess can wait. Cool illustrations that will give readers fun ideas on creating their own art. Maybe with leaves?

Have a superfun, happy, good August, and keep reading. All for now, bon appetit!


Sunday Sunday Funday Book Review

August 6th, 2023

hanging basket
(Photo by Rawley/Use with permission only, please)

“These Olive Trees: A Palestinian Family’s Story,” (Viking; release scheduled for end of August, 2023; ages 3 and up, $18.99). Aya Ghanameh, a Palestinian writer, illustrator and designer, is from Amman, Jordan. She did a tremendous job with this work, her first picture book, which is based on her family’s history, loss, and perseverance.

It’s 1967 in Palestine, where Oraib lives in a refugee camp with her parents, younger brother and younger sister. Every year, Oraib helps her mother make the olive oil, picking the fruit, stomping on it, then curing and brining it for the final product. They don’t just make oil, though — they use the trimmings to light fires, make tools and ornaments, and they make soap, too.

Then one day, Mama says they have to leave.

The colors of this exquisite book are muted and rich, all at once. Shades of brown, green, yellow and soft gray tell a heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story.

Check out the author’s website: AyaGhanameh.com. She posts on Instagram at @AyaIllustrates.

“The Together Tree” is a cool new picture book by Aisha Saeed, author, and LeUyen Pham, Caldecott Honor winning illustrator. (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2023, ages 3 and up, $18.99.)

“Rumi joined Ms. Garza’s class on the first warm day of spring. Icicles melted from trees. Water dripped from the eaves. Droplets trailed down the windows.”

You know the picture books I love? The ones with art so beautiful you could frame it; the children’s faces, so vivid and alive; and every book on the shelf, in the illustrations of the classroom or the library, a different color, all lined up. Awww, that’s this book. So pretty.

Great art, and a great story about how we can work together instead of tearing each other apart.

Author Jonah Winter and artist Jeanette Winter bring us “The Snow Man: A True Story,” a picture book-biography about billy barr (he spells it without capital letters) who has studied the weather, flowers and life, in general, from his cabin in the Rocky Mountains. (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $18.99.)

barr’s story is incredible, and the details make this book pretty special. He grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, but for 51 years now he’s lived in the wilderness, near a ghost town called Gothic. The closest town, Crested Butte, is eight miles away. He intended to stay one summer, but started measuring the snowfall, watching the wildlife and the wildflowers, and has been able to use his work to show the impact of global warming. Fine illustrations (look for barr’s friends, the skunk and the pine marten) and a great story. (Yes, barr still lives and works in his favorite place on earth.)

Saturday Book Review: Books for the Littles

August 5th, 2023

my tulip

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

What’s on the dining room table today? Hmm… Good books!

“Girls on Wheels,” written by Srividhya Venkat, illustrated by Kate Wadsworth (Kokila/Penguin Young Readers, 2023, $18.99). Three fictional skater girls, Anila, Sana and Damini, take part in the modern day female skateboarding revolution in India. Yes! Empowering, cool picture book for ages 4 and older.

“You Can(‘t) Be A Pterodactyl!” by James Breakwell, with illustrations by Sophie Corrigan (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99). Super sweet book about a little guy who is living his best life — and best dreams — in spite of what anyone has to say about it.

“Sometimes I Am Furious,” written by Timothy Knapman, with art by Joe Berger (Penguin Workshop, 2023, ages 3 and up, $18.99). “Small girl… BIG feelings!” I can relate.

“If You Get Lost,” by Nikki Loftin, with illustrations by Deborah Marcero (Anne Schwartz Books, 2023, $18.99). A sweet girl loses her stuffed bunny. Will he find his way back to her? His forest friends will help. Lovely book.

“The World’s Best Class Plant,” by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, with pictures by Lynnor Bontigao (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99). Scanlon and Vernick collaborated on a very funny book, “Bob, Not Bob!” and Bontigao wrote (and illustrated) “Sari-Sari Summers,” an ode to the Philippines, and grandmothers.

In this new creation, we are introduced to Arlo, his teacher, Mr. Boring (not his real name) and the students of Room 109. They do not have a class cockatiel, or chinchilla. They have a… plant. And it just kinda sits there. They name him Jerry, because he looks like a Jerry. And then… things change. Sweet book, great info about plants, with detailed, superb illustrations. This is a cool story about what happens when the unexpected happens.

“Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson,” was written by the daughter of the famous and talented baseball player. (Scholastic, 2009, all ages.) Sharon Robinson’s story about her brothers, herself, her dad and the neighbor children is full of smiles. Kadir Nelson’s art, brilliant as always, was made with oil, watercolor and pencil. Two thumbs up.

Ahhh, I like when people write what they know. Before she illustrated the popular “Fancy Nancy” books, Robin Preiss Glasser was a dancer, a ballerina, a beautiful and gifted ballerina, in fact, with the Pennsylvania Ballet. She is also an alumna with the American Ballet Theatre’s scholarship program. Her sister, Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, is also a big deal. She wrote “You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum,” a very awesome kids’ book, and its sequels. She created them with her sister! And I bet they didn’t even have one fight while they worked together on them.

Their newest book, presented by American Ballet Theatre, is a delightful picture book called “Gloria’s Promise: A Ballet Dancer’s First Step” (Random House Studio, 2023, $18.99).

All for now, friends! Talk soon. Keep reading and enjoy your August.


Thursday Afternoon Book Review

July 27th, 2023

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

Today’s reviews: graphic novels for young readers.

Francine Pascal’s “Sweet Valley Twins,” an oldie but goodie series for ages 4th grade and up, is being reissued in comic book form. “Teacher’s Pet,” adapted by Nicole Andelfinger, with illustrations by Claudia Aguirre, is first on the shelf (RH Graphic/Random House Kids, 2023, 200 pages, $13.99). California sisters Jessica and Elizabeth are back, and in rare form. Who will be cast as the lead in the upcoming ballet recital? And will Jess ever get to go to the beach with her friends and just relax? The graphic novel format suits the series — the drawings are reminiscent of the Archie comics. The book includes an excerpt of the upcoming Sweet Valley release, “Choosing Sides.”

Underwater party! Here is “Shark Princess: Shark Party!” written by Nidhi Chanani, with color by Elizabeth Kramer (Viking, 2023, ages 5 and up, 79 pages, $12.99). This fun read for summer has a hardbound cover (perma-bound, as it’s known in the publishing industry — no dust jacket, and sturdy). Kitana and Mack are off on new adventures. Mack is ready for the shark party — playing games, dancing, meeting new sharks and having fun. But Kitana has other plans. So many puns, bright colors, and lots of shark info are wrapped up in this book.

“Enlightened,” written and illustrated by the gifted Sachi Ediriweera, is an outstanding new biography about Buddha. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, 2023, tentative release date end of September, $13.99 paperback, $22.99 hardcover.) The graphic novel, aimed at young adults (grade 7 and up), truly is a groundbreaking work. The art is done in a two-color palette, and is beautiful. The storyline (lightly fictionalized, but based on historical facts) follows the young Prince Siddhartha from the palace at Kapilavastu, in the plains of central Nepal, to his later years, when he becomes the sage who founds Buddhism. Good resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about Buddhism.

All for now!


Sunday Book Roundup: Books for Young Adult Readers

July 23rd, 2023

art, downtown Portland, Ore.

(Jamison Park, downtown Portland, Ore. Photo by Rawley; use with permission only, please)

Not writing a review today — I’d like to spend the day reading, instead. How’s that for an idea? I just received four outstanding young adult novels, and yes, I did start reading all four of them at once. I do this all the time and it’s my worst/best habit. I’ll give you the titles and a bit of info for now, in case you’d like to check them out for yourself, a kid or a friend.

Happy Sunday! Happy reading.


I received two novels that are written in free verse. I love this style and how it invites the reader in. Here is the first one:

“The Order of Things,” by Kaija Langley (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, 269 pages, $17.99). Heartbreaker of a story, with a rhythm all its own. This is the tale of April Janelle Jackson and her best friend and neighbor Zee (Zander, son of Papa Zee), April’s mom and the others in their life. Zee plays violin; April is a drummer; and this, this new school year, they’re starting at different schools. They are A-Z.

The Moment

the elevator doors open on our floor,

the blissful scent of baked

bread and cloves fills the hallway.

Mama bakes all kinds of things,

rolls and loaves, cookies and

croissants, muffins and buns,

making my mouth water each time.

I high-five Zee goodbye for now, slip

into my apartment like a whisper.”

“Aniana Del Mar Jumps In,” by Jasminne Mendez, is the second free verse book, and is great, too. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, 374 pages, $18.99.) Aniana lives with her Papi and Mami in the Dominican Republic. Thoughtful, poetic book about living with a chronic, scary disease, and fighting to not give up the things you love.

“Give Me a Sign,” by Anna Sortino (G.P. Putnam/Penguin Random House, 2023, 303 pages, $18.99). Tender, lovely book about first love at a youth summer camp and Deaf Pride. Great read for summer or any other time of the year.

“The Year My Life Went Down the Toilet,” by Jake Maia Arlow is another new book about a potentially tricky topic — Crohn’s Disease. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, 284 pages, $17.99.) The only thing worse than dealing with middle school is dealing with middle school when you have a situation you do not want to discuss.

Talk soon, everyone, hope you’re finding some good pages to read. (It’s Disability Pride month, by the way, and those last three titles are in honor of it.)


Sunday Book Review: “I Have Seven Dogs” and other new titles

July 16th, 2023

four o'clocks and sunflower/ our kitchen

(Photo credit to Rawley; use with permission only)

Good afternoon, friends. I’m trying to write a book review a day, wish me luck.

“I Have Seven Dogs” is a new, funny, furry, cute picture book from storyteller Molly Horan and artist Dana Wulfekotte. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99.) This book and its creators cannot go wrong with me, even before I open it up, because 1) Not just dogs, seven (count ’em 7) puppies and 2) They put two big collies on the front cover. My neighbor has one, and when he looks at me, he slooooooowly rotates his head like an alien, and it fractures me every time. Collies are nutty and hard-working, I love them so. I love dogs, cats, and chickens, people! Not skunks. But they’re good little diggers so that’s something, I guess. The skunks eat the bugs and grubs and all.

The star of our book, lil Zoe, wants a dog, but her family doesn’t have room for one. (I’m pretty sure she’s a NYC kid. Or maybe Brooklyn?) So she finds a creative solution and awwww… The two collies from the cover appear during Zoe’s piano lesson — they like to dance to the music. Surprised? Ha. Awesome book, with a fun story and lively illustrations. And now, a brief story a la Wacky Mommy. (Did I ever tell you about the reporter I worked with who constantly mixed up words? “Ooooooh, I love little antidotes!” Heeheehaaaaa. It was cute, yet a little annoying.)


When I was a kid, my mom had this boyfriend who was nice enough, but oddly, my ma wasn’t as impressed with him as he was with himself.

I think he was a dentist. Or something. Everyone I knew worked at gas stations or the store, or built things, so I was confused by this “career choice,” as was my sister. He drove a weird car (our late father drove a ’66 Chevy Nova, fire engine red, with a red interior, and hello, a V8, because in the ’60s and ’70s they built some bitchin’ cars).

But this poor guy… weird car. Little. A strange little squished-in car. Not from a wreck, it was just… squished. Small. Like a tiny little pretend car. Sure, we were only kids, but we knew cars.

“What’s wrong with his car? Mom, it’s like a little… a little… sardine can or something!?!? It’s all squished in,” my sister and I wailed. In unison no doubt, because we backed each other up and pretty much terrorized everyone else, starting with our family and neighbors.

Mom, hissing, warning us to not insult the poor guy: “It’s a Mercedes.”

Like that made a difference. So we kept repeating, Little sardine can, little sardine can… until she gave up on us.

Look, I feel bad, telling you this story, about this poor guy and his poor little smushed car, but there’s a happy ending, I promise. Well. Not for the dentist, so much.

My mom was a young widow, beautiful, sweet and funny, with these two, I’ll just go ahead and say it, darling little well-behaved girls, so guys were always pestering her, giving her flowers and trying to steal her heart.

“If you really want to win my heart, bring me a puppy, not flowers,” she told Mercedes Guy.

Why she said this, I have no idea. We always had pets, they were always nuts, and the last thing she needed was another puppy, or kid at her house. (Our house was the neighborhood house for restless and misbehaving children and their parents, who usually showed up with a bottle of wine and in need of food. The parents brought the wine, I mean, and everyone wanted to eat.)

The Dentist/Mercedes Guy brought Mom a purebred Shetland Sheepdog. He was the best. He had papers (“Not just newspapers, either!” the grown-ups joked.) His purchase price was three times what our house payment was. Seriously. Our friends and extended family were known for our ill-behaved mutts (my dog bit the neighbor, my best friend’s dog “retrieved” eels from the river, and then swallowed a fish hook, on and on). So a fancy dog was new to us.

Being a fantastic herding dog (he would have done well in Texas, or Australia), he tried to herd the kids, the other dogs, or cats, the neighbors. I mean, he was long-suffering because we never did what he wanted.

I loved my Sheltie. They look like little collies is my point. (You knew I’d get there eventually, no?) Every time we took him for a walk, three or four little kids along the way would scream, Mommy, look, it’s a little Lassie! and yeah, that was hilarious.

Oh, dogs. I love them so, crazy or well-behaved. Oh, right. Mama kept the puppy and ditched the Dentist/Mercedes Guy. The End.

OK, what else am I reviewing this week? Cuz this post is getting too long.

“Chickadee Animal Adventures: Discover the World’s Amazing Animals,” by Stephanie Ledu, translated by Mark Stout (Owl Kids, out of print, unfortunately — I found my copy in a Little Free Library and you can find used copies online). So good, and it’s broken down into categories: In the Country, In the Ocean, in the Desert, etc. Super fun, and cool photos. If you’re lucky enough to nab a copy, the little kids will want you to look at it with them over and over. Perfecto.

Now. Last, but never ever ever least… Really psyched to read “The Bigfoot Queen,” by my BFF Jennifer Weiner. (Only in my head, right, is she my bestie. We’ve never actually met, but I’ve loved her work — artistic and political — since way back when.) This is the third (and final) middle school-level book in Weiner’s Littlest Bigfoot series. (How did I miss the others? I do not know.) It’s due to hit the shelves Oct. 24th, but since she adores me, like I said, I received an early copy.

This one can stand alone (recaps from the earlier books are included) but it’s always great to read the entire series. Have fun, bon appetit, and catch you tomorrow!


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