Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Today's read... Sailing to the Stars by Amie and Marty McCracken... a bilingual read!

 When the author of today's read approached me with a bilingual read...and that in English/ reader heart went pitter-patter. And the cover...well, it reminded me instantly of some beloved cartoon characters in Germany. So, I had to take a peek. This one comes with the two languages very distinctly divided, so even readers of just one language will have no problem enjoying it.

But before I say more, let's just shoot off to the stars and see what adventures we'll find!

Sailing the Stars, Book 1
by Amie and Marty McCracken
Chapter Book
ages 5 to 10

Kiki never knew friends existed.

Until he started to explore the universe.
And someone invited him to play tag.

Kiki is an orphan, adopted by his friend Frank, and living on the spaceship Marauder. But Kiki would like to make more friends, so he begins exploring the Solar System—playing tag on Puck, space-walking Triton to watch nitrogen geysers, and getting lost in the markets of Pluto. He realizes there is an entire universe of aliens and planets at his fingertips.

But one day the Choppies, floating orb robots, show up. They don’t understand how to play nicely. They get rough. And they crack the glass of an adventure vehicle on Mars, putting Kiki’s new friend Grawfur in danger.

Making science and planets fun, 
Kiki Finds Friends explores friendship, bullying and social behavior. A space adventure you can’t ignore.


Space is a big adventure, especially for Kiki as he explores not only the universe around him but something called 'friends'.

Kiki enjoys life with his adoptive father, Frank, on the spaceship. Where else would biking around the rings of Saturn be a true possibility...although maybe a bit dangerous. Frank keeps him busy with all sorts of fun activities. One day, Kiki realizes there are others out there to meet and play with, which sounds great until he runs into a bunch of aliens, who are anything but nice. Suddenly, exploring the universe takes on an entirely new adventure.

Kiki is a fun alien has an unique flair, which makes him hard not to like. Unlike other aliens often found in kidlit, Kiki is very much a kid. He builds pillow forts, constructs all sorts of things with building blocks, and loves to explore. His attitude is cute, refreshing, and addicting. Frank is the perfect family at Kiki's side as he offers support, care, security, advice, and kindness. It's an inspiring relationship, which will resonate wonderfully with young readers. It also sets a firm basis for the rest of the tale.

The main message swings around forming friendships and dealing with bullies and other, sometimes difficult, social moments, and all of these stay right in the range of those type of situations, which readers might find themselves facing...just in space...which really keeps the atmosphere more fun and light. So, while there is a distinct message, it's an enjoyable read with quite a bit of silliness and adventure on the side.

This edition is written in German and English...yay! The translation is very well done and deserves kudos (that's not always the case). It is geared for the younger, middle grade end or more advanced, chapter book readers. I did find the formatting a bit difficult for this younger group, but it works as a great read-aloud for them. There's always something happening, propelling the story forward. Sometimes, there's a bit too much too quick, but for a read-aloud, this will also work well.

Then, there are the illustrations. I'm always a fan of illustrations, and these add just the right atmosphere at the right times. Space readers...especially those who are learning the two languages or are already bi-lingual, will enjoy visiting the stars with this one.

And here they are...

Marty and Amie live in Germany, though they were both born in the USA. They love exploring the mountains, in summer and winter, and spend all of their free time reading. One summer they had the idea to write a book together. Marty imagined the characters and what happened, and Amie filled in the holes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Today's read... Camping at Coyote Creek by Heather N. Quinn

Today's read comes at a moment when I'm planning a camping trip for our own family. I had to smile this morning as I read one of the character's comments (and yes, I really do read these books that last minute). When finding out the kids were sleeping in a tent in the wilderness, the character wondered how thin cloth could keep wild animals away. These were the exact same statements my own kids had, when I mentioned going camping in New Mexico. So, call this book realistic because it is!

Anyway, today's read is the third in a wholesome, chapter book series, and I, actually, have read the first two books. Since I enjoyed them, I wasn't going to turn down the chance to read this installment, too.

So grab those sleeping bags and flashlights, and let's head out into the wilderness!

My Country Cousins, Book 3
by Heather N. Quinn
Babble Garden Publishing
Chapter Book
109 pages
ages 6 to 10

The My Country Cousins series is aimed at independent readers who want a stepping stone between early chapter books and full-fledged novels.

The stories include:

    • short paragraphs and easy to read text

    • fast-paced, realistic plots

    • likeable characters with humour and empathy

    • lots of dialogue

    • new words to build vocabulary

    • illustrations to support text

    In the third book, 
    Camping at Coyote Creek, 10-year old Gemma must face her greatest fear: sleeping in a tent in bear country. Her cousins assure her she will not meet a bear. But will she?

    Join Gemma and her cousins for another fun-filled adventure today!

    You can find it...


    Camping takes on a bit of adventure and tons of fun as a girl from England learns more about living in Canada and experiences the great outdoors.

    Gemma is somewhat excited but mostly nervous about heading out with her uncles and cousins for a camping trip into the forest, especially since she doesn't want to run into any bears. Not convinced that the adventure is as safe as her uncles claim it is, she does her best to roll along with the fun and learns all sorts of things along the way.

    While this is the third book in the series and the authors hint at events in the first books, this still can be picked up without having read the first two books in the series. 

    Gemma's uncertainty shines through and is more than understandable, especially since the Canadian wilderness and its wildlife is still new to her. Those who haven't gone camping like that will feel for her, and those who have will still understand, although they will probably side more with her cousins, and smirk and smile. The adventure heads along smoothly, and there's always something happening. The tension mounts as the tale continues, although it never leaves a level, which even sensitive readers can handle.

    Along with the adventure of camping, the authors have built in tons of information, facts and tidbits. Not only do readers learn a bit about camping, but information about various plants, foraging, bear confrontations, and more flow right into the story. The facts slide in with the plot, never breaking the story flow. 

    The writing is appropriate for those, who have a pretty good grip on reading but aren't quite ready, yet, for full-fledged, middle grade reads. At the end of each chapter, there is a congratulatory message, which lets the reader know how many words they've accomplished up to that point. There's a wonderful sense of family and wholesome relationships in these pages, which makes it a great read especially for more sensitive readers and even homeschoolers. 

    Monday, August 8, 2022

    Today's read... This is a (Disaster) Birthday Cake by Andrew Cangelose (and a cave tip)!

    I'm shoving today's scheduled read, 1-2-3-4 I Declare a Thumb War, to tomorrow because... I've been baking a birthday cake! Well, among other things.

    There's only 2 more weeks until school starts up again. So, we've been trying to work in some extra fun for the kids. This weekend, we ventured down to northern Arkansas and visited a cave near Harrison. Okay, I'm going to go off a quick tangent here because this cave is pretty unknown and so-super-awesome to visit! It's called Eden Falls (remember that, you adventurers!) and is about a 2-mile hike round-trip with quite a few rock-stairs. 

    The trail leads past a natural bridge with a smaller waterfall running through (small rock climbing fans will love this, btw). Then, there's a much larger waterfall, farther down, with a very high cliff wall. Here, there's a large, natural alcove and boulders to climb between. No worries about the water. The level is usually not very high, not at all. 

    Lastly, at the very end of the trail is a cave. Now, there aren't any signs or explanations...BUT... knowers know that if you just happen to have a flashlight (a headlamp is perfect) and aren't claustrophobic, you can crawl through the cave (it's only about 3 feet high through a longer stretch) and break out into a 20 ft high cavern, which as a water fall cascading from the top. It is amazing and very much worth the visit...especially since very, very few people are prepared (or willing...or know what it truly is) to head on through. Yes, it is there to be explored. A park ranger comes by a few times a day, heads on back into the cave, and makes sure all's well. So, take this as an insider's tip because if you're in the area, you'll want to keep this one in mind.

    Okie, back to books... my father's birthday is today, and I truly did bake a cake. So, today's read is just perfect.    

    by Andrew Cangelose
    Illustrated by Josh Shipley
    Oni Press
    Picture Book
    20 pages
    ages 4 to 8

    AUGUST 23rd!!!

    Fan-favorite characters from This Is a Taco are back in this hilarious picture book tale of the ultimate birthday cake disaster!

    It's Taco the squirrel's birthday, and all of his little animal friends are planning a big surprise for him—they're going to make him a birthday cake! The only problem with their plan is that none of them know how to make a cake. So, as this sassy crew of critters is known to do, they set out to learn all they can about birthday cakes and how to make one, with spectacularly disastrous and delightful results.

    GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /   B&N


    Birthday cakes take on an entirely new meaning as a squirrel tries to get the party started as quickly as he can.

    The squirrel is going to learn how to bake a birthday cake from the forest's best baker, but when she starts giving him history lessons along the way and insists he remain patient...well, parties won't wait forever. So, the squirrel decides to take matters into his own hands and runs off to bake the fastest, tastiest cake ever. To do it, he might just have to make some ingredient changes, though.

    Fast-paced, zany fun slams full-force into a bit of history surrounding birthday cakes, while mixing in tons and tons of hilarious moments. And all of it swirls together more than splendidly. The squirrel's whole-hearted intentions make him easy to support, even when he goes off on a ridiculous tangent, which demands raised eyebrows, snorts, shakes of the head, and giggles (tons of giggles). It's more than clear that disaster is on its way, but it's squirrel's totally unpredictable ideas, which make it impossible not to want to know what he'll come up with next.

    The patience of the baker slams a sharp contrast to squirrel's high-strung attitude, especially when the baker presents information surrounding the history of birthday cakes, facts about ingredients, and explanations over the baking process. These are even worded in a slightly 'higher language' style to throw extra emphasis between the two characters.  Plus, they are interesting facts, which readers/listeners will grab on to and remember. 

    This makes a fun read-aloud and holds tons of silliness with just the right pinch of information.

    And here they are...

    Andrew Cangelose is an elementary school principal in Kansas City, MO. He has four children who are constantly "making" him play Legos with them.

    Josh Shipley is an illustrator, designer, and animator currently living in Kansas City, MO. He has two sons who help push him to tell better stories, keep his illustration skills top notch, and remind him to always (and they mean ALWAYS) keep his silliness silly.

    Sunday, August 7, 2022

    Today's read... How Can We Be Kind? by Janet Halfmann

    Today's read slides into the animal world, while delivering a message of kindness along the way. While I'm not the hugest fan of the cover (I can be picky), I did enjoy this read quite a bit. (Don't always judge a book by its cover, they say!)

    Read on to discover the goodness and even take a peek. 

    Wisdom From the Animal Kingdom
    by Janet Halfmann
    Illustrated by Darla Okada
    Frances Lincoln Children's Books
    Picture Book
    40 pages
    ages 4 to 8

    This special book asks children a simple question: How Can We Be Kind? The answer is: by learning from the animal kingdom!

    Animals demonstrate kindness and empathy towards each other, and care and compassion can be seen all throughout the natural world.

    This book shows children the ways they can be kind just like animalsare to each other, while at the same time teaching them about the magic and the beauty of the natural world.

    They can learn to be welcoming like capybaras, who let other animals sit on top of them while they wallow in mud.

    Or perhaps they might want to be like dolphins, who guide other species to their destinations. Or maybe they would like to work together like ants and bees, share what they have like jackdaws or stick up for their friends like zebras.

    With beautiful illustrations from Darla Okada, this beautiful picture book will enchant and entertain children time and time again. There are facts at the back about how each animal lives with and looks after its fellow creatures.


    Hitting two directions at once, these pages introduce known and lesser known animals while showing how easy it is to simply 'be kind'.

    This is a nicely illustrated book, which dives into the realm of animals in a fresh way. Various animals, some well-known and others not so much, are depicted in group settings. A natural habit of each animal group is depicted, which portrays 'kindness' such as sharing, offering support, or care. Each illustration holds a positive atmosphere. The animals are portrayed in an easy-to-recognize fashion while giving off a joyful vibe. The living environment also gains a bit of attention as the background demonstrates a bit of each creature's habitat.

    The writing flows smoothly with only a short sentence on each page. It makes a lovely read-aloud and leaves room for discussions and comments along the way.  Plus, there's a 'Meet the Animals' at the end of the book to add more facts and tidbit fun.

    The message is simple and clear, but thanks to the animals, doesn't come across as overly preachy, either. I could see some young listeners 'turning' into animals themselves, afterwards, and mimicking the habits...and probably going way beyond.

    It's a cute read, which especially animal fans will enjoy. 

    A few words from Janet...


    I was inspired to write this story to add positive ways to look at the world. Since nature can be so calming and restoring, I spotlighted the positive ways animals react to one another as examples for all of us to follow

    Educational Connections:

    Empathy, compassion, caring, kindness, animal interactions, capybaras, European badgers, jackdaws, ants and bees, African elephants, prairie dogs, orangutans, blue manakins, white pelicans, emus, zebras, banded mongooses, dolphins, chimpanzees

    A "Meet the Animals" section at the back of the book has facts about how each animal lives with and looks after its fellow creatures.

    Learn more about Janet and the Illustrator, Darla Okada, on the following sites:

    Saturday, August 6, 2022

    Today's read... Sharing Joy in the Neighborhood by Alexandra Cassel Schwartz

    Today's read comes from the Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood world and features not only Daniel Tiger but Mr. McFeely, too. Of course, I'm expecting a very neighborly read with tons of good vibes and smiles. 

    Ready to take a quick look?

    by Alexandra Cassel Schwartz
    Illustrated by Jason Fruchter
    Simon Spotlight
    Board Book
    16 pages

    A new generation of children love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, inspired by the classic series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!

    Daniel Tiger spreads joy around the neighborhood in this 8x8 storybook that comes with twelve perforated notes little tigers can use to write to their family and friends to spread joy around their own neighborhoods.

    After receiving a special note from Grandpere, Daniel decides to write to the friends and family he misses, too! With Mr. McFeely’s help, he gets his notes off with a speedy delivery and brightens his neighbors’ days!

    © 2022 The Fred Rogers Company

    You can find this at:

    AMAZON :

    B&N :



    Neighborliness abounds in an inspiring tale, while giving kids an idea on how to make their own neighbors smile.

    Daniel Tiger is super happy to find the mailman delivering a letter to his house. After a bit of thought, he decides to send letters to his own neighbors, family, and friends. Now, to see if such an action will also make them smile.

    This comes from the more modern shoot-off of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and includes ever-so-loved characters such as the postman, Mr. McFeely. Being a board book, it is thought for younger readers and will take a bit of abuse. The pages are bright and bold, allowing the situations and emotions to come across clearly, so readers can flip through and discover the tale also on their own.

    The entire thing is written in rhyme, which usually flows fine. There's a bit more text than in some board books, making it better as a read-aloud for slightly older audiences (3 to 5) than younger ones. But even younger ones will understand the message about sharing little things to make those around you smile.

    It's an up-lifting read and will especially please Daniel Tiger fans.