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“Puff: All About Air” and some other excellent new reads

February 27th, 2024

mist over the trees

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

Emily Kate Moon’s new science-themed picture book, “Puff: All About Air,” is a fun one. (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, scheduled for release March 19, 2024, all ages, $18.99.) Puff and his friends surround our planet with air:

“Like tiny shields, they protect us from dangerous things, like space rocks and radiation. And like puffy little blankets, they hold in heat and keep out cold.”

Great illustrations and an approachable, deft style. Moon also wrote “Drop: An Adventure Through the Water Cycle.”

“The Great Puptective” hits the shelves on March 19, too. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ages 6-9, $12.99.) Author and illustrator Alina Tysoe brings the kids a fun pair of adversaries in Truffles the cat and Poppy the Puptective. Truffles wants her “me time” back, but what will she do to retain the status quo? Sweet illustrations and a frolic of a tale.

And now one for the big kids: “Daughters of the Lamp,” a new book by Nedda Lewers, is book one of two of a new series. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/ Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 8 and up, 336 pages, $18.99.) Cool mystery starring Sahara Rashad, who travels to Cairo with her dad for a family wedding. A bride-to-be (who might be a witch? What?), a glowing necklace, and Ali Baba’s treasure… and that’s just a little bit of what readers can expect with this well-written and entertaining novel.

And now for one of my favorite subjects: Mariposas. There are so many lovely words in Spanish, but mariposa (butterfly) is one of the best. “A Flicker of Hope: A Story of Migration,” was written by Cynthia Harmony, with illustrations from Devon Holzwarth (Viking, 2024, ages 4 and up, $18.99). Las monarcas (the monarchs) are traveling north, as they do every year, and so is Lucia’s papa, to look for work. This is a sweet, wistful story that will speak to anyone who is anxious, hopeful, and struggling with change.

Great new reads, and more to come. What are you reading this week? Talk soon. All titles used by permission.


“Sleepy Sheepy and the Sheepover” and other new titles

February 26th, 2024

moon over cedar tree

(Pic by Rawley, use with permission only)

“Sleepy Sheepy and the Sheepover” is kinda a great title ever, eh? I love it. Say it five times fast, woot! (Written by Lucy Ruth Cummins, illustrations by Pete Oswald, Flamingo Books/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 3 and up, $18.99.) Sweet little picture book that helps kids get used to the idea of staying over at someone else’s house. It can be a little much, aight?

You know what’s cool? Sleepovers are fun, sure. Well, unless you don’t want to stay anywhere but in your very own bed, which is the case for a lot of us. Copyright laws! Yeah, you never saw that coming, did ya? Many publishers are now including copyright notes in with their Library of Congress info. Here is Peguin’s (used with permission, of course):

“Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.”

And now, for five brand-new board books:

“One,” an awesome little book, was written by Ruth Forman (“Curls,” “Glow,” “Bloom” and “Ours,”… I love this series) with beautiful illustrations by Katura Gaines. (Little Simon; 2023; ages infant and up; $8.99.) Counting/friends/community/love, perfection.

“My Little Lamb” is a puffy little board book from writer Hannah Eliot and illustrator Jennifer A. Bell. (Little Simon; 2024; ages infant and up; $7.99.) Vintage feel to this one, which stars a wee lamb who is happy to venture out… and happy to return home to mama, too.

“’90s Baby” is a second cute new release from Hannah Eliot, this time with art by Alyssa Nassner (Little Simon, 2024, ages babies and big kids, $6.99). Wicked, fly, iconic as can be, as the kids used to say. (I’m not old, you’re old. Now get off my dang lawn and get out of here.)

“Hey, Little Night Owl” was written by Jeffrey Burton, with illustrations from Joy Hwang Ruiz (Little Simon, 2023, ages baby-baby and up, $8.99). “Hey, little night owl, up with the stars. These hours are perfect, all quiet and ours.” Awwww… and the art is warm, amber-colored and happy. Sweet.

Double-down! “Easter Bunny, Where Are You?” is another darling one from Jeffrey Burton, with art by Juliana Motzko (Little Simon, 2024, for babes in arms and older, $8.99). Get a copy of this lift-the-flap book for the Easter baskets, and remember… “Easter Bunny, here we come hopping down the trail. I think I see some bunny ears behind the shiny pail.” Now I’m ready for spring. And candy.

Bon appetit, babies. The titles in this post were all reviewed with permission.


poem of the day — Merwin

February 18th, 2024

For the Anniversary of My Death


“Every year without knowing it I have passed the day   

When the last fires will wave to me

And the silence will set out

Tireless traveler

Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer

Find myself in life as in a strange garment

Surprised at the earth

And the love of one woman

And the shamelessness of men

As today writing after three days of rain

Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease

And bowing not knowing to what”

W. S. Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.

Source: The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1993)

Spring books, on the way…

February 17th, 2024

Spring Books 2024

  • Chickens! Bok. “Family is Family,” written by Melissa Marr, with lovely, vibrant art by Marcos Almada Rivero, is a sweet delight about Little Chick, who is becoming aware of other families. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House; skedded for release 3/5/2024; picture book for all ages, $18.99.) He’s confused when the first-day-of-school-letter from Miss Walrus says to have your mom/dad/big brother or/big sister walk you to school. “First days can seem scary!” But all Little Chick has is his two moms? No dad, no siblings, hmmm… Thoughtfully written and most definitely inclusive.
  • “Wild Places: The Life of Naturalist David Attenborough,” is a new gorgeous picture book from the author-illustrator team of Hayley Rocco and John Rocco. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House; scheduled for release 2/27/2024; all ages; $19.99.) “If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us,” Attenborough said. This British biologist, naturalist, broadcaster and documentarian has been doing the astounding work he does for seven (7) decades. SEVEN DECADES. This is thrilling. Here’s some more info about him. Happy reading, happy viewing, and what a great story. “We must rewild the world,” he said, “If we act now, we can yet put it right.” Please, and thank you. (Includes author’s note, photos, bibliography and more. Peace.)
  • Hello, beauties. “Sourgrass” is a sweet and delightful book about the friendship between two little girls, Sofia and May, who share a love for each other, their homes, playtime and sourgrass. (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster; skedded for release 3/26/2024; $18.99.) Written by Hope Lim, with illustrations by Shahrzad Maydani, this is an ethereal, delicate and powerful picture book. Highly recommend all three of these titles.

Bon appetit, babies. Enjoy your weekend.



February 11th, 2024

“A time it was, and what a time it was, it was/ a time of innocence/ a time of confidences…” — “Old Friends/Bookends,” Simon & Garfunkel

Steve and I split up a few years ago and I still can’t really write about it, wrap my head around it. So I won’t.

(All photos by Steve P. Rawley/use with permission only, please)

Apple Blossom time


Keeping a watchful eye

A little help from our friend

berry patch

Onion bed Work in progress work in progress North Portland transplant Chicks and hens Planted!! Progress Florette Getting established Finally ripening World's smallest watermelon? Columbine Stepping out granny smith

and sometimes…

February 10th, 2024

Then & Now

“Miaow” (Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley/2023/use with permission only, por favor)

…I just want to read, not review. So that’s what I’m doing. What’s on the coffee table today?

Bon appetit and have a superfine weekend.


“Go Forth and Tell” and other new picture books

February 9th, 2024

Spring Books 2024

  • I reviewed “Mazie’s Amazing Machines” awhile back, and wanted to give it another shout-out. It’s a heck of a picture book. (Written by Sheryl Haft, with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes; Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House; 2023, all ages, $18.99.) Whether she’s building a Roly-Ramp, a Pulley-Lifter, or a supercool Waker-Upper Rocket Machine, Mazie McGear is always getting creative and helping others at the same time. Woof, Doodle! Love this one for bringing STEM and STEAM to life. (In honor of National Engineering Week, Feb. 18-24.)
  • “God’s Little Astronomer,” is science and theology from writer/elementary teacher Tina Cho, with sweet drawings by Spanish illustrator Marta Alvarez Miguens. The littles are given Bible verses along with info on the constellations, dwarf planets, and all 100 billion galaxies in the universe. (WaterBrook, scheduled for release Feb. 20, 2024, 40 pages, all ages, $12.99.)
  • “Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller,” is the newest release from Breanna J. McDaniel and April Harrison. Augusta Baker’s story needs to go in all the school libraries, asap. You know how I feel about librarians, especially the ones with big personalities and huge spirits. This was Baker, who was the first Black coordinator of children’s services at all branches of the New York Public Library, and a champion of books, always. Beautiful work from McDaniel, who also wrote “Hands Up!” and “Impossible Moon,” and Harrison, who is a 2023 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award winner.
  • “Algo, algun dia” (“Something, Someday”) is a lovely new book by Amanda Gorman, author, and Christian Robinson (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 4 and up, $18.99). The translation was done by Jasminne Mendez, and the book is also available in English. The Presidential Inaugural Poet has a done a deft job, with a light hand and confidence, in giving us this tale of a child, who with the help of his friends, sees hope and growth where others see brokenness and trash.

Picture books-palooza

January 27th, 2024


(“Happy Winter,” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley/use with permission only)

I can almost see the dining room table now, I’ve been reviewing so many books. It’s funny cuz it is true, dear readers. Lots of great titles for 2023-2024. It’s a great time to be a book reviewer. Happy 2024, y’all.

  • “Be My ValenSlime” is a new, gooey and heartfelt (see what I did there?) book by Kris Tarantino, with big, beautiful illustrations by Cori Doerrfeld (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2023, ages 3 and up, $13.99). This is a Christian book about monsters, valentines, and a happy little monster named Snoodle who really loves candy hearts, sparkly stickers and fun stuff. Will they be able to win the others over? I love the enthusiasm and sweetness of this picture book. Highly recommend.
  •  Now comes Flubby in another new release in the Flubby series. This one is “Flubby Does Not Like Valentine’s Day,” by J.E. Morris (Penguin Workshop, 2023, all ages, $9.99). Cute illustrations, simple sentences, and our hero, Flubby, shines.
  • “Cupig: The Valentine’s Day Pig,” by Claire Tattersfield, with illustrations by Rob Sayegh Jr. (Flamingo Books, 2023, all ages, $14.99). Cupig, flying around the world in heart-patterned undies, loves her work. But sometimes? She makes some mistakes. Funny, rhyming story that the kids will get a kick out of.
  • “Lola and the Troll,” by Connie Schultz (author) and Sandy Rodriguez (illustrator) is another good read. Fun books this week! This debut picture book (Razorbill, 2024, all ages, $18.99) gives us a creative take on how to deal with bullies.
  • “Grumpy Monkey Spring Fever” (with stickers, yes, stickers and hidden eggs included), is a new read in the Grumpy Monkey series from Suzanne Lang and Max Lang. This is the ninth title, and they’re all pretty funny. And, you know, kids like monkeys. Great illustrations, very lively and bright.

Bon appetit, babies. It will be spring soon.


Wacky Mommy

Book reviews for the New Year

December 17th, 2023

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

Year of the Dragon, kids, my year!! is coming right up. I think I’ll skip whatever holidays are between now and Lunar New Year, thank you. (Just kidding. I’ll be cooking, cleaning and remembering to inhale/exhale from now ’til then.)

More reviews, coming up!

“Snow Leopard,” by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Publishers Group West, 2007, all ages, $30). This magical, beautifully illustrated picture book came out 16 years ago and is a lovely one for collectors and anyone who likes a fairy tale.

“High in the mountains the sacred cat walked alone, cloaked in her shadow-dappled fur. Crisp snow sparkled in icy stars beneath her huge paws, and all the while she sang.

“Down in the valley the Child slept, and in her dreams she heard the ghost cat’s secret music and saw the shadow of her dappled coat.”

Also highly recommended: “Small-Girl Toni and the Quest for Gold,” a brilliant, golden new picture book, based on the early life of writer Toni Morrison. It was written by Giselle Anatol, with illustrations by Raissa Figueroa. (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99.) The drawings are ethereal, bright and happy. I appreciate the way the author took Morrison’s back story — growing up in Lorain, Ohio, with one sister and three brothers, during the Great Depression — and wove it into historical fiction. The book includes references to Morrison’s work, with lots of details and encouragement for young readers to check out the novels when they are older. Nice job on this one. (I love Morrison, by the way. “Song of Solomon,” which I read when I was a freshman in college, changed my life, along with the lives of many others, of course. All of her writing is genius. If you haven’t read her, or re-read her, please do.)

  •   Ah! Good. More outstanding illustrations by Raissa Figueroa are showcased in “Like So,” a lovely new picture book written by Ruth Forman. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2024, all ages, $18.99.) Golds and yellows for the Toni Morrison book; greens, purples and other colors of nature for this story of a little girl, her grandmother and her family. So much love. “I hug you like so/you hug me like so/we got love/like so.” This is one you will want to read with the kids over and over again.

“The Masjid Kamal Loves” is a new picture book from writer Ashley Franklin and illustrator Aaliya Jaleel (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $18.99). This introduction to Islam introduces us to Kamal, who loves Fridays because he gets to worship and meet with his friends and community leaders.

“The Little Tiger,” “Too Much” & “Today” + others — book reviews

December 17th, 2023


“Morning Light,” photo by Rawley/use with permission only

Well, good day, friends. Here are a few cool picture books, in case you’re looking for last-minute holiday gifts.

“The Little Tiger” is the latest in the “My Little Animal Friend” picture book series from author/illustrator Nicola Killen. (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023, ages 4 and up, $17.99.) Killen studied children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art, and her work is light and beautiful. Her trademark little windows are included, and kids will get a kick out of Ollie, who receives the tiger suit she wanted for her birthday and gets to go on a magical journey.

  • “Too Much: My Great Big Native Family” is a cool new picture book from author Laurel Goodluck and illustrator Bridget George. (S&S Books for Young Readers, 2024, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) This delightful book introduces us to Russell, who is over the moon to have a part in the school play. But… “It’s Family Time.” Is anyone paying attention to Russell, and his news? Vivid and playful illustrations from Bridget George (Nimkiinagwaagankwe), who is an Anishinaabe artist from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. Great artwork that makes Russell’s story come alive. Goodluck is the author of “Forever Cousins,” “Rock Your Mocs” and other works. She is Mandan and Hidatsa (from the prairies of North Dakota) and Tsimshian (from an Alaskan rainforest).

I really loved “Today,” a powerful and sweet book about mindfulness, for children and grown-ups of all ages. Written by Gabi Snyder, with illustrations by Stephanie Graegin (“The Long Ride Home,” the Heartwood Hotel series and other titles). (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024, $18.99.)

  • Oh, hey, Santa! “Santa’s Gotta Go!” (written by Derrick Barnes, with illustrations by Courtney Lovett, Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Hysterically funny picture book about the Mack family, who think they want Santa to stay at their house — until he does. Turns out, he’s a rocker, and a little bit out of hand. How will they handle all the, uh, fun? Great title to add to your Christmas book collection.

“My Block Looks Like” is a fantastic new release from author Janelle Harper and painter and illustrator Frank Morrison (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2024, all ages, $18.99). Reminds me in the sweetest, best way of John Steptoe’s “Stevie,” a book I read (until the cover and pages were tattered) when I was a kid. The author/illustrator was only 19 when the book was published, and this gave me hope, as a young writer. Author Harper, a Bronx native, is “a proud veteran public school teacher.” Yes! And thank you. Morrison, who “started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey” (practice and more practice for a young artist) and has now illustrated twenty-plus children’s books. Buy this one, and make sure you put out art supplies to go along with it.

  • “First Day, Worst Day,” is a funny, sad, kooky, sweet new illustrated chapter book. It’s from the “Very Worst Ever” series, by author Andy Nonamus and illustrator Amy Jindra (Little Simon, 2024, grades kinder and up, 117 pages, $6.99). Our hero will not tell us his name, mainly because he’s kinda shy and a little embarrassed, but hello, yes. He will share his day with us. Let’s go!

#Lastbutnotleast… If you’re looking for a wacky, whimsical graphic novel, check out David Ezra Stein’s “Beaky Barnes and the Devious Duck.” (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2024, ages 4 and up, 118 pages, $18.99.) There’s a new duck in town, and he’s tricky. Better watch out, townspeople. Check out more of Stein’s work here. He’s good at drawing! as my students would say.

Bon appetit, talk soon,


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