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.



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:


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.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Today's read... Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen

Today's read comes from an author, whose works I've enjoyed before. His books have a very original voice and feel...and I'm not going to say more because that would spoil some of my review. But if you're into horror-ish, weird, and all with humor...well, you're in for a treat.

Ready for a fun and original ride?

Chronicles of the Deadly Dead
by David Neilsen
Neilsen Books
YA Paranormal / Humor
157 pages

The world would be a lot better off if all the dead people would stop pretending they weren’t dead.

My name is Zachariah Thornwood, but everyone, even my parents, calls me Zack. A few months ago I was a normal fourteen year old kid obsessed with movies and baseball and girls. Not necessarily in that order. And now?

Now I live life with the knowledge that there are a ton of dead people running around thumbing their noses at the whole idea of the Circle of Life. They could be anyone: the postman, the Mayor, the kid bagging your groceries, or the weather woman on TV. They seem perfectly normal, act perfectly normal, live perfectly normal lives, but are, in fact, perfectly dead...


Spooks and scares creep around every corner with mysteries and secrets, but embrace it with tons of humor and a character to adore, and it warps into a fun ride.

Zach is a pretty normal, high school kid. He loves playing for the baseball team, has friends, and is trying to figure out how to get the love of his life to go on a date with him. The only snare in his life is that his father passed away when he was young, but his step-dad isn't too bad, either. While walking home after practice, he passes a guy searching through the trees for something, but it's the hole right through the guy's head which has Zach doing a double-take. When the guy disappears into the ground and another many runs up behind, asking where the man went...and if Zach can't tell him, it's the end of the world...Zach's life swings into anything but normal. And it will never be again.

The cover, actually, isn't only grabbing but it says it all. This book slams full-force into what should be scary, but swerves into humor to create an unique and exciting twist. Oh, and see the Indiana-Jones type in the background? Well, that eludes to even more. In other words, this is a read full of all-paranormal-horror but humor, instead, and tons and tons of adventure, too. It makes for a read, which holds tons of surprises, unexpected twists, and makes the tale hard to put down.

Each character is as unique as the writing and plot. Especially Zach fits so well into the atmosphere, that it's hard not to want to be right there with him. He comes across as a very normal teen, a little awkward and insecure but handling life fine. And he over thinks everything. Extremely. The book is written from his perspective and allows the reader into his head, which is a very ramble-y, all-over-the-place spot to be. The hesitation, confusion, and uncertainty make him easy to root for as he encounters one impossible thing after the other. It's fun to watch as he trains to wrap his brain around things and figure it all out...and that never occurs smoothly. So, he's a great hero.

I do recommend this one for upper middle graders and the younger end of the YA audience. Actually, even adults will smirk and smile. It's definitely a dive into fun for those who are willing to give it a go and keep an open mind.

You can learn more about David and his other works (and he does have some other amazing reads!) at:

Chasing Tarzan by Catherine Forster with Giveaway!




by Catherine Forster

YA Memoir

In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine's life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.

As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.

Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house.

Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.

Amazon * Goodreads

Catherine Forster
is an artist, filmmaker, and writer living in the Pacific Northwest ... at the moment. Her work and love of travel have led her to six continents, including Sub-Saharan African, the source of her childhood fantasies. She still holds a fondness for Tarzan, but when trekking in the bush, hiking mountain trails, or exploring a new city, she prefers the company of her beloved husband Kevin.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Goodreads

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