August 2, 2016

What a Beautiful Morning

KidsLogoORIGINALFILETitle: What a Beautiful Morning

Author: Arthur A. Levine
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Running Press Kids (August 9, 2016)
Editor: Marlo Scrimizzia
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Family, Mental Illness, Emotions


They even sang while Grandma made them cinnamon French toast. Which sometimes led to slightly burnt toast. And nobody ever minded.

Then they’d talk about their plans for the rest of the day.

“What’s on the docket?” Grandpa would ask.

And Noah always had dozens of docket ideas.

But this year, Grandpa forgot to ask what was on the docket almost every day.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Every morning is beautiful when Noah visits his Grandparents. When Grandpa and Noah wake up, they take off singing and hardly stop: walking the dog, splashing through puddles, and eating French toast with cinnamon.

But one summer Grandpa seems to have forgotten how to do the things they love. Does he even know who Noah is?

Grandma steps in energetically, filling in as best she can. But it is Noah who finds the way back to something he can share with Grandpa. Something musical. Something that makes the morning beautiful again.

This is a story about how love helps us find even what we think is lost.

Why I Like This Book:

A heartfelt story that will resonate with any reader who has an older person in their life suffering from Alzheimer’s. I like how the author has made this topic accessible by starting with a morning routine/ ritual between Grandpa and Noah and then showing how it’s changed. This allows the reader to feel Noah’s confusion and sadness. The author doesn’t try to hide the reality that things change such as Grandma now making the coffee in the morning, Grandpa needing a nap, and having to make a new and different docket for the day. But there is room for hope when we see Noah find a way to connect with Grandpa. The metaphor near the end of seeing grandpa’s smile being “like the sun breaking through clouds” warmed my heart.

The loose line and watercolor paintings are a charming and engaging. The illustrator uses color to show when grandpa is cognizant and grays when he isn’t. A great visual for those little non-readers.

A wonderful book that can be used as a conversation starter with a child about old age and mental illness.

Find What a Beautiful Morning at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762459069
ISBN-13: 978-0762459063

The review is part of the WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING BLOG TOUR. Do check out these other stops over the next two weeks.

8/2 Flowering Minds
8/3 MomReadIt
8/4 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books
8/5 Stacking Books
8/6 #Kidlit Book of the Day
8/8 Enjoy Embrace Learning
8/9 Unleashing Readers
8/10 Two Writing Teachers
8/11 Bildebok
8/12 Geo Librarian
8/13 Randomly Reading

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

July 28, 2016

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Hope you summer as been relaxing. My life seems to be a bit all over the place with writing conferences, kid camps, vacation … can’t believe summer is half over. Yesterday I did a guest post on South Asian kidlit for We Need Diverse Book’s Looking Back series. While researching for that post I felt a little sad and lost that there were no South Asian books that really made a difference in my formidable years. In fact only this past year when I watched the film MEET THE PATELS did I even realize what I was missing. What it’s like to see yourself, your experiences, your thoughts reflected in a mirror. It was wonderful. Now that we have a formidable South Asian population with people venturing into the arts, I think we’ll see an uptick in South Asian representation.

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Today I would like to shine a spotlight on some fantastic books by South Asian children’s writers that are being released in 2016. These books are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

BU cover GroundwoodTitle: Book Uncle and Meuma

Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrator: Julianna Swaney
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Category-Genre: Chapter Book

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Yasmin means to read a new book every day for the rest of her life. When her favorite lending library is threatened, she has to take her nose out of her book and do something! Explores themes of community activism and friendship in a city in contemporary India.

Bio: Uma Krishnaswami was born in India. She is the author of more
than 20 books for children. Uma teaches in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Web site:

seatTitle: Save Me a SeatGita pic 1

Author: Gita Varadarajan & Sarah Weeks
Publisher: Scholastic Press, New York
Publication Date: May 2016
Category- Genre: Middle Grade – Realistic Fiction

Synopsis: Joe has lived in the same town all his life and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Bio: Gita Varadarajan was born and raised in India and moved to the US five years ago. She has worked with children all over the world in India, the UAE, and now teaches second grade in Princeton NJ. She lives in West Windsor, New Jersey with her husband, Arun and two teenage sons. This is her first novel.

Untitled-4Title: Mirror in the SkyAditiKhorana

Author: Aditi Khorana
Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill
Publication Date: June 21st, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary/Speculative

Synopsis: An evocative debut, perfect for fans of The Leftovers and We All Looked Up, about the discovery of a mirror planet to Earth and how it dramatically changes the course of one Indian-American girl’s junior year.

Bio: Aditi Khorana has worked as a journalist, a researcher, and an entertainment research executive. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in International Relations and has an MA from the Annenberg School for Communications. She lives in Los Angeles California. Mirror in the Sky is her debut novel.

Enter_Title_final_revealTitle: Enter Title Hererahul

Author: Rahul Kanakia
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary

Synopsis: In order to score a book deal, an unscrupulous overachiever has to turn herself into a quirky, light-hearted YA novel protagonist. But after she’s caught plagiarizing an assignment, Reshma Kapoor will need to decide how far she’ll go to get a satisfying ending (Note: it’s pretty far).

Bio: Rahul Kanakia’s first book, a contemporary young adult novel called Enter Title Here out from Disney-Hyperion. Additionally, his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Indiana Review, and Nature. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford. Originally from Washington, D.C., Rahul now lives in San Francisco.

NewRaniCover_d02Title: Rani Patel in Full EffectIMG_1669

Author: Sonia Patel
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Category-Genre: YA FICTION

Synopsis: Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer but in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham and her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. This sets off a cascade of events and naive choices, including a relationship with an older man who leads her into an underground hip hop crew, that look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.

Bio: Sonia Patel is a child & adolescent psychiatrist. She was trained at Stanford University and the University of Hawaii. She lives and practices in Hawaii. Rani Patel In Full Effect is her first young adult novel.

timekeeperTitle: Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1)Author Photo_Tara Sim

Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Category-Genre: YA Historical Fantasy-Steampunk

Synopsis: In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely. Clock mechanic Danny must figure out who’s bombing the towers around London or else risk losing the boy he loves forever. The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

Bio: Tara Sim is the author of Timekeeper and can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives.

June 30, 2016

Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch

grimeldaTitle: Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch

Author: Diana Murray
Illustrator: Heather Ross
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (July 26, 2016)
Editor: Katie Bignell
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Witches, Messiness, Consequences


Grimelda’s house was black with grime
and stacked with jars of mold and slime,
and ogre’s breath, and spotted snails,
and oozing goo in rusty pails.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Grimelda’s house may not be tidy, but it’s cozy, and that’s just the way she likes it. She also likes pickle pie. There’s only one problem—she can’t find the main ingredient in her messy house! Readers who enjoyed Norman Bridwell’s classic The Witch Next Door will love this funny, charming story about the everyday life of a witch.


  • Check out these fun witchy related activities on Pinterest. (pickle-candied cupcakes, bat crafts)

Why I Like This Book:

A cheery, roll-clicking rhyme of a book that is sure to entertain the child reader while its theme of messiness is sure to please parents.

Grimelda is a happy, go-lucky witch who enjoys her messy house until she can’t find the pickle root. So she begins her search of the house and the yard.  While successful in finding last year’s bathing suit, no luck on the pickle root. She flies to Zelda’s store but no luck there either. Then she does what everyone has been waiting for and starts cleaning and finds the pickle root. But don’t worry the story doesn’t end there on such a predictable note, the twist thrown in is true to Grimelda’s character and the accompanying consequence.

Kids will enjoy getting immersed into Grimelda’s world – missing pickle root, spell book, scream cheese spread. The illustrator’s child-appealing, messy loose art is a perfect match for Grimelda. I loved the richness the art brings to the character’s world.

The book definitely has read-aloud and re-readability charms.

Now I’m off to search for some missing pink binoculars.

Check out the book trailer. Enjoy!

Find Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062264486
ISBN-13: 978-0062264480

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

May 26, 2016


quackersTitle: Quackers

Author/Illustrator: Liz Wong
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books, 2016
Editor:  Nancy Siscoe
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-7
Themes: Identity, Fitting In, Friendships, Family


Quackers is a duck.
He knows he is a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Quackers is a duck. Sure, he may have paws and whiskers. And his quacks might sound more like…well, meows, but he lives among ducks, everyone he knows is a duck, and he’s happy.
Then Quackers meets another duck who looks like him (& talks like him, too!)—but he calls himself a cat. So silly!

Quackers loves being among his new friends the cats, but he also misses his duck friends, and so he finds a way to combine the best of both worlds. Part cat, part duck, all Quackers!


Why I Like This Book:

My list of lovelies:

  • Opening page – juxtaposition of a cat saying “meow” with the text reading “Quackers is a duck.” You know it’s going to be a good story right from the beginning because that question WHY has popped up  along with a billion other questions which the author skillfully navigates.
  • Theme – finding your place and that it doesn’t have to be with just Group A or Group B but can be something in-between of your own choosing.
  • Art – so adorable and simple. Lovely and perfect for young kids.
    • I love the shades of green with muted red barn and blue-green water. The white ducks and orange cat just POP in this spread.quackers_2
    • This spread packs an emotional punch of what it’s like to feel different.quackers-interior-2

Grab a kid and read this book together at home or use it for story time in a classroom.

Find QUACKERS at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0553511548
ISBN-13: 978-0553511543

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 an F&G of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

May 2, 2016

Interview with Molly Idle

Last Friday, I shared the newest addition to the Flora series, FLORA AND THE PEACOCKS. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with the talented author/illustrator Molly Idle.


What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?

I think, captured in the books I make, are my feelings from childhood. Love and belonging, anxiety, anger, wonder… those feelings are what I try to connect with when I work.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh, so many! Visually, I am hugely influenced by classic films. If it’s a 1940s musical, filmed in Technicolor- I’ve seen it, and most likely, love it! Lovely lines are what draw me to certain artists. I never tire of watching Disney’s early animated films, and the work of the Nine Old Men, like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, and Marc Davis.
And I could stare at drawings by Daumier and Degas forever.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?

To authors, I would say: Read and write every day. To illustrators, I would say: Draw every day. Nothing will do so much good for you as consistent practice will.

Since you are an author and an illustrator, what comes first for you when creating a book?

It’s different for every book. Sometimes, an image pops into my head, and I start working from there. Other times, a name, or phrase comes to mind, and that becomes my starting point for a story. Beyond that initial “lightbulb” moment though, there’s a back and forth in the way I work between imagery and writing (if there are words in the book). Sometimes, a picture tells me what needs to be said, or more importantly, what doesn’t need to be said. And other times, it’s the text that directs my visual compositions.

The FLORA books were groundbreaking in their storytelling structure. I love how the flaps help move the story along. How did the use of flaps in that manner come about?

Prior to making picture books, I used to work in animation. When I started playing with the idea of creating a wordless picture book about friendship, told through dance, I knew it was a story that was all about movement. And I wondered if there was a way that I could bring the illusion of movement created in an animated scene, into a book. Making moveable flaps that acted as animated “key frames” was the answer!

What challenges did you face in creating a book with flaps?

The first challenge finding a publisher that was up for trying something new. Fortunately , Chronicle Books took a look at my original dummy of the book, saw what I was trying to do, and took a chance on it, and me! Not for nothing is their corporate motto “See things differently.” Once they has acquired the book, I worked in tandem with my editor, art director, and designer to figure out how the flaps would work in printing and production, and what they would cost. We also had to figure out a way to make the flaps as durable as possible!

I love how the flaps do different things in each of the books. In FLAMINGO – the flaps were showing the next scene. In PENGUIN – the flaps were showing movement along the ice. In PEACOCK – the rise and fall of the plume flaps were showing an intensified emotion of happy or sad. What things did you do to keep pushing the creative boundaries?

The stories themselves present challenges that keep me pushing my creative boundaries. Each story needs to be told in the way that best suits it. In Flamingo, the flaps needed to be such that they would allow the reader to change the characters interactions with one another. In Penguin, the characters were skating, and I needed to find a way to move them physically closer and farther apart as they skated through the book, in the same way that their relationship moved closer together, and father apart, emotionally. Hence the horizontal flaps. But in Peacocks, the story was about the push and pull of attention within a trio of friends. I wanted the reader to be an active part of that push and pull between the characters. The best way I could think of to do that, was to make the flaps part of the characters themselves. Making the tails of the Peacocks into the flaps was the ideal means of doing just that.

Your FLORA books have a beautiful movement and choreography to them. What were your influences?

The answer to this question takes us back to my love of old musicals. I could watch Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dance all day!
Here is a clip from Singing In The Rain that makes me smile every time…

Any future tales in-store for Flora?

Yes! Coming out in 2017 are two new Flora board books:
Flora and the Chicks, and Flora and the Ostrich!

Board books, cool! What aspects of friendship you are exploring? Will the books have your signature flaps?

As to the board books…
Flora and the Chicks is a counting book, and Flora and the Ostrich is a book of opposites.


Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator?

I might go back to making movies… or maybe I’d try my hand at something completely different, like gardening.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?

What book is on your bedside table?

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: Idle Illustration
Instagram: @mollyidle
Twitter: @mollyidle

Thank you Molly for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

%d bloggers like this: