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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,


Sunday Book Review, on a quiet November morning

November 19th, 2023

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Baby me with Dad, 1964, family photo files)

Hello, kids and kittens, what’s up?

This week:

Alex Willan’s “Elves are the Worst!” is a comical and fun new picture book (Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $18.99). Willan, the author and illustrator, brings us a unique twist on what the world of elves looks like. Wait, what’s Gilbert the Goblin doing here? And wait, again… because there’s a “worst” series? Yes! “Unicorns are the Worst!,” “Yetis are the Worst!” and “Dragons are the Worst!” Check them out.


Author Zoe Tokushige and illustrator Jennifer Naalchigar bring us the newest in the awesome and hilarious Airi Sano series: “Airi Sano Prankmaster General: Public Enemy Number One” (Philomel, 2023, ages 3rd grade and up, 273 pages, $14.99). I love this kid, she’s a lot of fun, and her friends and family are, too.

This one isn’t skedded for release until Feb. 27, 2024, but keep an eye out for “Hooray for She, He, Ze, and They!” (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2024, all ages, $18.99.) Learn about the importance and happiness of pronouns with writer Lindz Amer (they/them) and and illustrator Kip Alizadeh (they/them). Joyous and timely story, super-cool illustrations and an empowering message.

“Our Italian Christmas Eve” is a new picture book about food, family and love. Siblings Danielle Sedita and Francesco Sedita wrote the story, with plenty of love and care, and sweet art by Luciano Lozano. (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) (Includes a cheesecake recipe!)

So… bon appetit! And happy happy holidays. Love, peace, and Bobby Sherman!


Book review #1,247

November 14th, 2023
2022 Photo by Rawley; reprint with permission only, please) Yeah, I have no idea how many book reviews I’ve actually written. Is it a thousand? More? Less? I don’t always remember to tag them. But I’ve been at this awhile so there you have it. We’re in the hundreds now, I bet. Up this week: The “She Persisted” series is based on the picture book series by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger. The latest book, written by Laurel Goodluck, with drawings by Gillian Flint, is about Congressperson Deb Haaland. (Philomel, 2023, ages 6 and up, 67 pages, $6.99.) Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Nation, one of the first Native women to be elected to Congress and also a military kid (dad was a Marine; mom was Navy). She is now President Biden’s Secretary of the Interior! OK, that’s all pretty cool. Check out the other books about Haaland, too, including “What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me.” Biographies are pretty great, and autobiographies, too. This series is well worth reading, and keep the picture books in mind, too. “Holy Night and Little Star: A Story for Christmas” is a gorgeous new picture book by author Mitali Perkins, with stunning illustrations by Khoa Lee (Waterbrook/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, 40 pages, $15.99). “He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names.” — Psalm 147:4 The story of the birth of Jesus is told from the star’s point of view. Awww… love it. Yes, I’m ready for holiday books. So moving right along we have… “Merry Christmas, Red Truck” is a new board book by Kersten Hamilton, with illustrations by Valeria Petrone (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages baby and up, $8.99). Sooooo cute. Only why is it always a female getting rescued and a male tow truck driver? A switch-up would have been nice, but this is a happy little book and mom gets home safe and sound. Two thumbs up. I am not trying to love germs, they kind of stress me out, but I do appreciate this new picture book by author-illustrator Bethany Barton. “I’m Trying to Love Germs” is a new release that will change the way you look at… everything. Yikes. (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) The writer describes herself as an “artist, author, illustrator, mommy, wife, and perpetual optimist.” Great description. She puts together very cool STEM books, and when she’s not doing that? She is a prop master (shows include “The Muppets Mayhem” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi”). Now that, my friends, is a well-rounded human being. Talk soon! WM

YA novels make me happy

November 12th, 2023
Winter 2021-2022

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Rawley; do not reprint without permission, thank you)

Good afternoon, my lovely readers. That photo is from a couple of years ago. Am I looking forward to the snow? Only if I get to stay home, ha. I’ve been reading grown-up books lately, what a treat! And I have some cool young adult books to delve into next. All would make great holiday gifts, I’m just saying.

On the nightstand this week:

“Walkin’ the Dog,” skedded for release March 12, 2024 (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ages 8 and up, $17.99). This new novel from Chris Lynch, an author who lives in Boston and Scotland, is pretty fun and insightful, too. Louis has been homeschooled, and is not sure about what public high school will be like. He accidentally starts a dog-walking business, landing new canine and human friends along the way.

“Your Pal Fred: Low Power,” the sequel to “Your Pal Fred,” is another cool graphic novel from writer/illustrator Michael Rex (Viking, 2023, ages 7 and up, $22.99). Rex, a New Jersey guy, has written and/or illustrated more than 40 (forty!) children’s books, including the Fangbone series.

“Beneath the Swirling Sky,” presented by the Restorationists Series, is a cool read from Carolyn Leiloglou (Waterbrook & Multnomah, 2023, ages 8 and older). Vincent wants to be done with art, then he and his little sis, Lili, get stuck spending spring break with their uncle, who is an art conservator… of sorts… and his second-cousin. Lili disappears — into one of the paintings! — and things get crazy.

The Lia Park series continues with “Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms,” by Jenna Yoon (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2023, ages 8 and up). Lia is now 12, and she and her best friend, Joon, are full-time students at International Magic Academy. Fans of the Harry Potter and Aru Shah series will love this one, and will have fun learning about Korean and Korean mythology. (I reviewed this earlier this year, too. Highly recommend.)

I geek out on authors — I think you already know this — especially when retired or former librarians and teachers take a dive into writing books for kids. Yeah, it makes me do the happy dance. Author Jessica Kim’s (“Stand up, Yumi Chung!”) bio says that before she became an author, she studied education at UC Berkeley. She taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grades in public schools. A woman after my own heart; those have always been my favorite grades to teach, too. “Make a Move, Sunny Park!” is her new novel and it’s a lot of fun.

Sunny, a 7th grader at Ranchito Mesa Middle School, loves K-pop, her granny, shrimp chips, and her BFF, Bailey. Sometimes things change. Thoughtful story about friendship and middle school life.

“The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria,” by Adi Alsaid, takes on loneliness, life and friendship (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2023, ages 8 and up). The cover art is beautiful, and the story sounds funny and intriguing. Alsaid’s other YA books include “North of Happy” and “Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home.”

“Looking Up,” by Stephen Pastis (the creator of one of my favorite comic strips, “Pearls Before Swine”) introduces us to Saint, a girl growing up on the poor side of town, who takes on gentrification when the neighborhood toy store is threatened. (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $13.99.)

Bon appetit!


Daily poetry… give it a try

October 28th, 2023


I’ve been trying to follow my late friend Loran’s lead and read poetry first thing every morning. I alternate with affirmations and meditations, too.

It works.

It makes me calmer, keeps me from rushing into the world, hyperventilating; it makes me take a little minute and a little breath. Inhala/exhala, inhala/exhala, inhala/exhala… keep going.

Highly recommend for all ages. If morning doesn’t work for you, try a different time. Here are some titles (new and old favorites) that I’ve been reading:

“Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices,” by Paul Fleischman, with illustrations by Eric Beddows

“Ten Poems to Change Your Life,” by Roger Housdon

“The Little Book of Prayers,” edited by David Schiller

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

Shakespeare, always

“The Book of Delights,” by Ross Gay

“A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings,” Coleman Barks

“Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, with an introduction by Parker J. Palmer and Tom Vander Ark

“Prayers for Hope and Comfort: Reflections, Meditations and Inspirations,” Maggie Oman Shannon

Picture books/two, no three! biographies/plus one graphic novel, yay, team!

October 19th, 2023

Winter 2021-2022

(Sweetie-pie of mine/photo by Rawley, use with permission only, please and thank you)

Yes, I have a super-cool selection of books for you today. But when is that not true? (Smiles.)

  • “Little Black Hole” — written by Molly Webster, illustrated by Alex Willmore; Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99. Inspired and fun picture book about our hero, Little Black Hole, and her galaxy of friends. She wonders, though, what’s it all about? Good way to introduce some complex science to the littles.
  • “Flora’s Wish” — story/art by Fiona Halliday; Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages little and up, $18.99. Flora’s best friend is Lion (as in Dandelion). The little field mouse and the flower love each other. One day, though, things change for Lion, and Flora, forever. Lovely, beautiful illustrated book about friendship and grief.
  • “There Was a Party for Langston” — Jason Reynolds, author, and Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey, artists; A Caitlyn Dlouhey Book/Atheneum Books for Young readers, 2023, all ages, $18.99. Do you know Amiri Baraka? Maya Angelou? Zora Neale Hurston? Claude McKay? Alice Walker? Richard Wright? Octavia Butler? You will hear their names and want to know more about them, and other writers, after reading this fantastic new book. You will also, of course, get a glimpse into the life of one of my favorite poets and storytellers, Langston Hughes. *** Highly recommended for classroom and library purchase.
  • “Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All” — written by (Olympic Medalist siblings) Maia and Alex Shibutani, and Dane Liu, with illustrations by Aaliya Jaleel. (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) Thirty-six Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are profiled in this new, beautiful, much-needed book. Learn about movie star Anna May Wong, Congressman Daniel Inouye, composer Robert “Bobby” Lopez, astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawala and so many other beloved heroes. *** Highly recommended for classroom and library purchase.
  • “Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series” — by author Traci Sorell, with illustrations by Arigon Starr; Kokila/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99. Lovingly researched and illustrated story of baseball players, and Native American men, Charles Bender and John Meyers, whose paths crossed during the 1911 World Series. Astounding book. *** Highly recommended for classroom and library purchase.
  • “Witches of Brooklyn: Spell of a Time” — Sophie Escabasse, author/artist; book four in the series; RHKidsGraphic, 2023, all ages, 217 pages, $13.99. I love when I get specifics on how the art was done. This one was “drawn with pencil, and then all the pages were scanned. Inking and coloring were done with Procreate and Photoshop.” Our hero Effie is pretty cool and collected, but when her school trip to Coney Island does not go according to plan (and a mermaid is missing)… yeah, buddy.

All for now, more reviews in a few days!


Let’s go! More book reviews, y’all.. “Sankofa” and other new releases

October 18th, 2023

Fall Books, 2023

“Sankofa: A Culinary Story of Resilience and Belonging,” is an inspired new release from Eric Adjepong, with cool illustrations by Lala Watkins (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and up, $19.99). This story is based on the childhood stories of the author, who is from Ghana and grew up in New York City. Recipe for Jollof Rice (so delicious) is included in the back of the book. Adjepong is also known as a celebrity chef. He was a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and is the host of “Alex Vs. America” on the Food Network.

“The Power of Yeti,” by Rebecca Van Slyke, with illustrations by G. Brian Karas, is a fun new picture book for all ages. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99.) Learning to tie your shoes? Not a problem, small-footed human, when you have a Yeti friend to help.

Amy June Bates (“The Big Umbrella”) has a new book on the shelves: “The Welcome Home.” (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023, ages 4-8, $18.99.) Introducing the Gargleson-Bittles, who are missing a little something in their home. What could it be? You may be surprised by this one. Dreamy, soft illustrations and an engaging story.

Have a wonderful rest of your week, everyone.


Saturday morning, reading, reading

October 14th, 2023

Fall Books, 2023

“Saving H’Non: Chang and the Elephant”: Great new graphic novel, based on a true story, about animal conservation. (Trang Nguyen and Jeet Zdung, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House, 2023, 128 pages, $13.99.)

“Little Bear (You Are the Light)”: Awwwww… sweet new board book for the littles, about a mama and baby, living their best lives… catching fish… sniffing honey… from author Lisa Edwards and illustrator Kat Kalini. (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, $7.99.)

“Jose and Feliz Play Futbol” is the newest release in this sweet, bilingual (Spanish and English) chapter book series from Susan Rose, Silvia Lopez and Gloria Felix. (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $9.99.) Includes a list of Spanish words and phrases.

“Flubby Does Not Like Snow,” is the latest in the Flubby series (words I have never before said), by J.E. Morris. Flubby is a sweet fluffy cat who would rather be inside than out in the cold, but his friend Kami is ready to play. We will have to see how this goes! (Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House, 2023, all ages, $9.99.)

“Cory and the Seventh Story,” a tale of diverse neighbors trying — and failing — to get along, is from authors Brian D. McLaren (a speaker and activist) and Gareth Higgins (a storyteller and writer who grew up near Belfast, Northern Ireland. Anita Schmidt, an artist from northern Germany, designed beautiful art for this picture book. (Convergent Books/Random House, 2023, all ages, $13.99.) Peace/love/understanding/please.

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