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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Thursday, August 4, 2022

Today's read... Wei to Go! by Lee Y. Miao

Today's read heads to life in California and a brother and sister's adventures. I enjoyed the energy to on the front cover, and it seems to promise a more wholesome read. After reading the blurb, I am curious to see how it handles the main character's concern for her dad's job. I can't remember a book for middle graders, which tackles something like this (although I'm sure there are some out it below if you know some titles!). 

Since it's also the beginning to a new series, I think it's worth more than a small peek. Shall we?

Ellis & Co, Book 1
by Lee Y. Miao
Clear Fork Media Group LLC
Middle Grade Contemporary
298 pages
ages 8 to 12


Ellie Wei Pettit doesn’t know much about her middle name.
She gets lost a lot. And loves butting heads with her lacrosse-crazed brother. He has the same middle name.
But he’s a walking GPS. And loves butting heads with his word-nerdy sister.

Life is good in their California neighborhood.
Until a mysterious Asian corporation threatens her dad’s firm.
With only a week before her family gives up all they love.

No way that Ellie will let this happen.
Not now. Not ever.
Can she stop this by herself, like yesterday?




A young girl's desire to help her family not only poses a big challenge, but teaches her just how vast the world truly is.

Ellie is finally finding more footing in life. She's got a best friend, a good relationship with her family (well, she won't admit that where her younger brother is concerned), and is about to start her first successful softball season after a bad beginning year. When she returns home after a day's practice, she learns that her father's company is being taken over by a firm in Hong Kong. Refusing to risk moving away from her home, she convinces her mother to take her on her trip to Hong Kong (along with her brother in tow). There, she plans to find a way to save the company, and although that was already a pretty big task, now, she realizes how ridiculously large it is.

This is a wholesome read with a girl, who has tons of determination, a love for life, spunk, and, still, isn't perfect. Little things such as her inability to immediately pick-up sports and her extreme lack of direction make her a heroine to root for. Of course, she has strengths, but these obvious problems make her easy for readers to connect with. She comes across naturally, makes understandable decisions even when they are mistakes, and has more than enough drive to do what she thinks needs to be done. Since it's written in her point of view, it's very easy to follow her reasoning and thoughts as well. 

While the mystery and tension are well laid in these pages and drive the story forward in an exciting way, there are also tidbits of information about China and the culture. The reader comes out knowing a bit of history, habits, learning a few words, and having a better grasp for what life is like in the country, and that they discover it right along with Ellie is a plus. There's also a bit to learn about business and the professional world. While that seems like a lot of brain-food, it's never boring thanks to the the adventure and hurdles Ellie and her brother meet along the way.

I especially enjoyed the sense of family in these pages. Ellie's relationship with her parents is warm and full of goodness. While she does sneak around them, the entire adventure is her attempt to keep their life as good as it is. Her irritation with her brother does bring more than a smile or two and is super-sweet in so far that's it's clear how much they truly like each other underneath those prickly layers. Plus, they add balance to one another in the best ways.

This is a lovely start to what promises to be a fun series. Ellie is definitely a girl with tons of ideas and the determination to reach her goals. So, I have no doubt that her adventures will never bring a boring moment.

And here she is...

Lee grew up in a small Pennsylvania town with a fabulous library. After studying international relations in college, she worked for a magazine in New York City and then went on to graduate studies in business. Her California-based international banking work included a stint in Asia for a few years. Eventually, she became a freelance writer and editor for grades 6–8 English language arts and social studies and then pivoted to writing middle-grade fiction. She lives with her family in New York. 

Contact information: Lee Y. Miao

Instagram: @leeymiao.writer