February 13, 2014

Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears

Goldi Rocks and the Three BearsTitle: Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears

Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton
Illustrator: Nate Wragg
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’ Sons, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Fractured Fairy Tale, Music

Opening Lines:
“Once upon a rock-and roll time,
three bears in a band jammed with ease.
The Papa Bear drummed,
the Mama Bear strummed,
and Baby bear ticked the keys.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear know how to rock! But they need a new singer, so they audition everyone—the Three Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, and more. To their dismay, no one seems just right. Could the perfect lead singer be the mysterious girl sleeping on Baby Bear’s keyboard?


Have kids make their own musical instruments, guitar, bells and drums, and more. Then have a jam session.
Lesson plan on writing fractured fairy tales for 3rd-5th grades.

Why I Like This Book:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears has to be the most popular story to do a fractured fairy tale. I’m not sure why but this rhyming version by Ms. Schwartz rockets to the top of the charts for sheer originality and fun. The rhythm and pop feel of this rendition will engage today’s kids and their American Idol watching parents. This book is a pure read-aloud joy that is enhanced by the colorful pencil and digital illustrations.


Picture Book Writers: Check-out this wonderful post by Ms. Schwartz at the Writerly Wisdom blog where she discusses Rhyme and Meter in Goldi rock style!

One lucky winner will receive their choice of a signed copy of this book OR a free picture book critique from Ms. Schwartz. In the comments answer “What favorite pop song do you like to sing or bee-bop too?” Deadline to enter is February 20th 9pm PST.

My favorite song to rock out on these days is “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received a F&G (fold and gather, not bound) copy of this story from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

January 23, 2014

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

The Great Race, Story Chinese ZodiacTitle: The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Author: Dawn Casey
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2006
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Folktale, Chinese Culture

Opening Lines:
“Many moons ago, the people of China had no calendar. With no way to measure time, nobody could tell one year from the next.

Synopsis (from Barefoot Books website):

Race with the animals of the Zodiac as they compete to have the years of the Chinese calendar named after them. The excitement-filled story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.


There are tons of Chinese Zodiac and New Year’s activities on the Internet. Below is just a sampling.

Snake Mobile Craft
Chinese New Year’s Activities for Kids – Pinterest Board
Chinese New Year Lesson Plans, Printables, and Crafts
More Chinese New Year Printables – puzzles, word searches, coloring sheets.

Why I Like This Book:

A simple, colorful re-telling of the origin of the Chinese zodiac and why cats hate rats.

The Jade Emperor decided to name each of the 12 years after an animal. To decide the order he announced The Great Race, the order in which the animals finished would determine the order of the calendar. Cat and Rat were best friends and also the smallest animals in the race. Clever Rat got them a ride on Ox. However, over-ambitious Rat pushed his friend Cat in the water and later ran-ahead of Ox to win. Cat never gets over the betrayal and this is why cats hate rats.

The text and artwork do a great job of engaging young readers. The artwork is done with paper collages and acrylics which works well in keeping the artwork simple, colorful, and childlike. The back matter contains information on Chinese festivals and more characteristics about the twelve animals and the people born in those years.


(Click to see a larger picture)

As a picture book writer, I know every word has to be carefully chosen to convey the right meaning and tone. For this reason I was somewhat bothered by the line below, which follows the scenes of Rat consciously pushing his friend cat into the water and running ahead of Ox to win the race.

“Rat may be small but he is also smart!” the Jade Emperor laughed.

I do realize the author can’t deviate from the original story, however it’s the subtext (probably unintentional) that it was okay for the rat to be mean and sneaky that bothered me. Maybe if the cat gave chase to the rat at the end I would have felt a little better.

Regardless of my pet peeve I do think this is a lovely book and is still good for introducing kids to the Chinese zodiac. Perfect timing with the Chinese New Year coming up.

This is review is a part of Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) and Multicultural Children’s Book Day! To see additional PPBF recommended books please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book.


I am very excited  to be a book reviewer participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature on January 27th, 2014Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump into a Book have organized this event to raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity and to get those books into more classrooms and libraries so more little eyes can see them. Proudly sponsored by Lee & Low Books, Wisdom Tales Press, Chronicle Books, and author Susan Fayad.

Why is Multicultural Children’s Book Day so important?

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

More than 60 bloggers are joining together to share books and ideas to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Please join us on January 27, 2014 for book reviews and multicultural activities.

Visit our collaborative Pinterest board, Multicultural Books for Kids, to see more great books and check out all of these amazing blogs participating in the event!

2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s BooksKid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Barefoot Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

December 17, 2013

Guest Post: Stacy McAnulty on Letter Writing Fun

I am delighted to welcome picture book author Stacy McAnulty to the blog today. She has a wonderful post about how to get kids writing letters! Also be sure to check out her yummy cookie recipe.

Letter Writing Fun | By Guest Blogger Stacy McAnulty


In this age of e-mail, texts, and Skype, the art of writing letters is becoming extinct. My debut picture book, DEAR SANTASAURUS, is an epistolary book—meaning a book written as a series of letters. My own children write letters to Santa annually. And it’s often the only letter they write all year. (I’m not including the obligatory thank you notes I make them pen after a birthday party.)

Here’s a quick list of letter writing ideas to get kids corresponding.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

No one would love a letter more than grandparents. These letters will likely be kept in a drawer or a shoebox forever. A kid can tell Gram about scoring a goal in soccer and tell Poppy about her speaking part in the spring play. (I used to love writing to my grammy because she always wrote back and she always included a dollar. Score!)

Dear Soldier,

You don’t need to wait until Memorial Day to remember our men and women serving in the military. Kids can write to soldiers any time. This is truly a win-win situation.  Look online for more information. Here’s one such organization http://www.operationgratitude.com/get-involved/write-letters/

Dear Teacher,

I can still remember my favorite teacher from elementary school—Mrs. Chew. If a child has a favorite teacher, why not write a letter telling her/him. I have a feeling that a heartfelt note would mean a lot more than a #1 Teacher mug.

Dear Manager,

My kids are already expert complainers—usually it’s about my dinner choices. I don’t want them writing me a letter of complaint every time I serve a casserole, but if they have a legitimate complaint I will encourage them to share their discontent. If a kid has bought a toy that doesn’t operate as shown in a commercial, he/she could write a letter to the manufacturer. If a kid thinks a slide at the local park is unsafe, she/he can write a letter to the mayor.

Dear Author,

Authors love getting fan mail. If a kid loves a book, let the author know. Questions and suggestions are also welcomed. Of course, kids can also write to superstars like Taylor Swift, but an author is more likely to write back. (Writing—it’s what us authors do!)

Dear Pen Pal,

Pen pals can be arranged through school or online. They can also be cousins who live seven-hundred miles apart or friends met at summer camp. Pen pals are a great opportunity for enthusiastic letter writers.

The list of potential recipients for your child’s letters is endless. You can even start with letters between family members within your own house. Everyone can create mailboxes to hang on their bedroom doors. (Think of the Valentine’s Day boxes you make in elementary school for all the cards.) Then let the letter writing begin.

And now for the daily cookie…

Christmas Crackle

(visit http://stacymcanulty.blogspot.com/ for the recipe)


About Stacy:

Stacy lives in North Carolina with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She loves books, Christmas, letters, and sweets. DEAR SANTASAURUS (Boyd Mills Press, 2013) is her first picture book. For more information on Stacy, please visit www.stacymcanulty.com


November 25, 2013

Best Picture Books of 2013

Hello everyone. Thanks for stopping by to read this year’s picture book round-up. I think this was  the year of the “wordless” or nearly wordless picture books. So many great titles, three titles made it on to my best of list for this year.

If you would like a printable version of this year’s list click here. In keeping with the tradition of last year’s listI have placed books in “Best of ..” categories. Have a favorite book not on the list, please share the title in the comments along with a best of category title. The zanier the better! Hope you all have a safe and happy holidays!


To read an in-depth book reviews click on the book title.

Best Non-Fiction Book:
Author & Illustrator: Brian Floca – Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Ages 4-10. The new transcontinental railroad in 1869 comes alive as readers take in the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives and the American countryside. Kids and adults will be engrossed in the myriad of details in the wonderful narrative non-fiction title.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate
Author: Melissa Sweet, Allen Young – Illustrator: Nicole Wong – Publisher: Charlesbridge
Ages 4-8. Learn about the ecosystem of the rain forest as it relates to the life-cycle of the cocoa tree and why monkeys are so important in making chocolate. Kids will also love the two silly bookworms giving commentary on the non-fiction text at each page spread.


from JOURNEY by Aaron Becker

Best Wordless Book:
Flora and the Flamingo
Author & Illustrator: Molly Idle – Publisher: Chronicle Books
Ages 3-6. A charming, deceptively simple book about a young girl and her flamingo friend exploring the ups and downs of friendship through dance. The interactive flaps are a lovely touch and heighten the emotion at every turn.

Author & Illustrator: Aaron Becker – Publisher: Candlewick
Ages 4-8. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Be transported onto a magical journey full of adventure and danger. Where a lonely girl with a red chalk has the power to create, explore, and eventually finds what she is looking for.

Best Friends Book:
Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever — or Snack Time?
Author: Tammi Sauer – Illustrator: Michael Slack  – Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Ages 4-8. A comical tale about the lengths shark will go to for preserving his friendship with minnow.

Best Sibling Book:
The Big Wet Balloon
Author & Illustrator:  Liniers – Publisher: Toon Books
Ages 3-6. Sweet tale of two sisters, Mathilda and Clemmie on a wet Saturday afternoon. It was the little things is this book that made it so real – Mathilda trying to convince the younger Clemmie of all the wonderful things to do on a Saturday, older one telling Clemmie to get her boots and Clemmie bringing her balloon and then a rubber duckie. These two girls could be any pair of sisters. Story is told in comic strip format.


Best Classic Feel Book:
Miss Maple’s Seeds
Author & Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler – Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Ages 4-8.  Fans of Miss Rumphius will adore this gorgeous picture book which introduces the kind, nature-loving Miss Maple, who celebrates the miracle in each seed.

Best Historical Fiction Book:
The Matchbox Diary
Author: Paul Fleischman – Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline – Publisher: Candlewick
Ages 5-9. A girl learns of her granddad’s immigration story to America through special objects in a collection of matchboxes. Wonderful way to learn history.


from THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL by Deborah Freedman

Best Eye-Popping Art in a Book:
Story of Fish and Snail
Author & Illustrator: Deborah Freedman – Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Ages 4-6. A story about courage in the name of friendship as snail ultimately takes a giant leap and follows fish on an adventure. The art for this work is eye-popping and pushes the boundaries of traditional picture book illustrations to create something truly captivating.

Hank Finds and Egg
Author & Illustrator: Rebecca Dudley – Publisher: Peter Pauper Press,
Ages 2-6. A simple, wordless tale of kindness brought to life  in a wholly original fresh new way of photographing hand-crafted dioramas.

Best Post-Modern Feel Book:
The Day the Crayons Quit
Author:  Drew Daywalt – Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers – Publisher: Philomel
Ages 3-7. Wacky, hilarious tale of a box of crayons going on strike. Fun for all ages.

Best Surprise Ending:
The Brief Thief
Author:  Michael Escoffier – Illustrator:  Kris Di Giacomo – Publisher:  Enchanted Lion Books
Ages 4-8. A lizard uses a pair of old underpants when he runs out of toilet paper. Not a problem until his conscience starts speaking to him. The best part is the ending and I’m not even going to give you a hint. It is PRICELESS!

November 18, 2013

Teeny Tiny Trucks

TTTrucksTitle: Teeny Tiny Trucks (book, app)

Author: Tim McCanna
Illustrator: Keith Frawley
Publisher: Little Bahalia, 2013
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Trucks, Insects

Opening Lines:
“Teeny tiny trucks. Smaller than a dime.
So much to deliver, in very little time.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Slugs in traffic jams, busy bees and caterpillar bridges you never know what you’ll encounter with Teeny Tiny Trucks! Teeny Tiny Trucks hits the road with a convoy of micro-sized rigs as they trek through a treacherous garden, down a grassy landscape, across a wide stretch of sidewalk and into the great beyond. Will they deliver their teeny tiny cargo on time?


  • Downloadable coloring sheets of the Teeny Tiny Trucks.
  • Grab some building sets, some trucks/cars, and whatever else you have and make your own truck route.

Why I Like This Book:

Breaker .. Breaker. We have got a new truck that is sure to delight all kids and will have them speaking like veteran trucker in no time. This colorful, rhyming book from debut author Tim McCanna is wonderful. I enjoyed the microcosm aspect of the book, teaching kids to see ordinary things in a new way. For example, a water hose is like a tunnel and a garden is like a jungle to teeny tiny truck.

Best of all kids can enjoy it in print form or as an interactive app. The two formats complement each other well. The print version has the bonus trucker glossary in the back. The app version has interactive elements at each spread, where kids can help the teeny tiny trucks by loading stuff onto the truck or moving obstacles out of the way. My 5yr-old daughter’s favorite part wasn’t the “helping” actions … nope, it was making the snails run into each other for the “fender bender” scene. So yes there is something for every child in this app.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.


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