Saturday, September 18, 2021

Review: Pear of Hope by Wenda Shurety

Today's picture book already nods to next month—Cancer Awareness Month. The description caught my interest on this one, and I am glad I decided to give it a read. It's packed with hope, warmth and heart.

But why don't you just take a peek? 

by Wenda Shurety
Illustrated by Deb Hudson
EK Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Anna loves the old pear tree that lives at the bottom of the garden. When she becomes seriously ill, her relationship with the tree provides comfort and peace on her journey, particularly when she plants a seed from one of the tree’s pears.

Pear of Hope is the story of a little girl with cancer and her tale of recovery. This is intertwined with the growth of a pear tree, which symbolises the enigmatic concept of hope. Told through sensitive words and gentle, beautiful illustrations, the story will comfort and inspire any children who are struggling to feel positive, whatever journey they may be on.

Author Wenda Shurety wrote Pear of Hope because, as someone living with Multiple Sclerosis, hope has been instrumental in her healing process. The story is a gentle introduction to building a more positive outlook in the face of struggle. As well as adults and children suffering from illness, it will also appeal to educators discussing the topics of hope and symbolism, and to medical staff or counsellors who have to discuss hope in difficult situations.

The beautiful story of Pear of Hope and its brave, adventurous and hopeful main character, Anna, will be a crucial step towards children and their carers embracing hope in their lives. With its vibrant images, it is a reminder of the beauty of the world around us and of the fact that, like Anna, with hope you can face any battle!



Hope shines through lovely illustrations, the wonders of a pear tree, and a very brave girl.

A girl enjoys playing around the pear tree and enjoying all the exciting things thriving around it. When a storm comes, the girl remains in her bed. The tree stands but isn't its cheery self. But the storm does pass, and the girl goes back outside. She plants a seed and watches a wonderful tree grow until life is vibrant again.

I'm going to start with the illustrations because these are beautifully done. They allow the joy of nature as well as the changes to come across with simplicity, yet wonderful atmosphere. It's a joy to watch the change through the nature and the hope unfold. Plus, it doesn't forget the artistic touch, which gives the book its personal sense of warmth.

The text is kept simple and usually consists of only one sentence or phrase. So, it's very fitting for the age group and easy to understand on that front. But this book isn't so much about the words as the tale, which flows underneath the surface. It's never directly stated that the girl becomes ill nor is it said which specific problem she battles. This entire ordeal is covered with the storm and the bare tree, while the girl remains in bed inside. When she does go outside with her hair gone, the message is clear. This will need explanation for many young listeners and that opens up the door perfectly for discussions. It definitely offers tons of hope and allows a serious issue to be addressed in a very lovely and caring manner.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Review: Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee

Yay, it's Friday! This week just flew right on by, and I'm not sure where it went. But there was no way I'd skip out on reading today's book. This one caught my interest due to an original twist—makeup artistry. The main character loves make-up, not the usual 'girly' kind, but rather, she loves to learn all the techniques to allow a person to let their personalities shine as they become mermaids, zombies or anything else. Pack in several difficult themes, and this one was on my 'have to read list'.

Let's see if it was as good as I hoped, shall we?

by Barbara Dee
Middle Grade Contemporary
304 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 12th!!!

From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?



Difficult issues mix with make-up for a touching story about family, friends, and finding ones self.

Wren loves make-up and devours any video about the artistry where she can. Although she doesn't admit it, she's quite talented, too. But all of that takes a backseat as her parents divorce, her mother battles with tough working hours, and a move, which is supposed to make everything better. When Wren gets a chance to let her make-up talents shine, she's not so sure she wants to do it or not, especially when the tough secrets her mother has been hiding start coming to light.

The idea of weaving a girl's interest into make-up artistry into a tale already gives this one a unique and fun twist. The author starts each chapter with tips from Wren's videos and, mixed in these, are wise words, which glide right along with the plot and deeper problems. This aspect was refreshing and well done, already adding a lot to the read. But then, the entire thing is well written.

Many difficult themes are packed into these pages as Wren first experiences the divorce of her parents, meeting a new step-mother, having new step-siblings, losing best friends, moving to a new place, first crushes, and, finally, parents and drug abuse. And there are even more snuck in. Still, the author does a great job at sliding this into a seamless story, which flows as smooth as make-up. It's kept age appropriate and demonstrates how some problems aren't immediately visible.

While this is a deeper read on some ends, it's actually an easy read. The dialogue and characters stay natural, and the plot keeps a steady pace, letting one scene sit, and then going right into the next. It's never boring nor does it waste time on descriptions or an overflow of feelings and thoughts. And this is where I missed a little more on the character depth and felt like everything sometimes superficially flowed by without any real emotional connections. But this did improve as the story went along.

This is definitely an enjoyable read and hits themes middle graders will recognize and sympathize with. It definitely gets a 'thumbs-up' from me.

And here she is...

Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including Violets Are BlueMy Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Review: Cat Dog by Mem Fox

Here, on our little farm, we have a mixture of animals...and yes, cats and a dog are included right along with mice (which we, obviously, have nothing to say about). Today's book had me all smiles as it presents a trio of these three and their adventure...or something like that. This one comes out later this month on the 28th.

Ready to see if it's a treat or not? Then, let's take a peek!

by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8


Join an unlikely trio for some irresistibly funny antics in this read-aloud gem from bestselling author Mem Fox and bestselling and award-winning illustrator Mark Teague.

Once there was a huge, scary dog. Right?
Wrong! But there was a cat.

In this zippy, call-and-response-style adventure, a cat and dog are astonished to find a mouse in their house! The three circle each other while the story sometimes correctly describes their antics—and sometimes doesn’t. Young readers will love participating by pointing out which parts are right and wrong.



Excited screams of 'yes' and 'no' will abound when this one is read-aloud.

Normally, I write a short summary at this point of my review, but I'm going to skip over that and head right into 'this one is so original!' Yes, it does tell a tale. Somewhat. And it does include three characters, which should and do cause a bit of natural tension when placed together around a sofa in a room: a cat, a dog, and a mouse. While there are tale-like attributes, these pages open up the story and include the listener/reader in a type of guessing game. A one sentence question asks what is happening (for example: There is a cat, right?). On the next page, there is a very clear answer—yes or no. And then, the next question is asked to further the tale. The statements rotate from true to false, and through this, let a story...a very simple one...come to life. And even the ending molds perfectly into this style with its unexpectedness.

The illustrations play a huge role as they allow the tale to unfold with the questions, allowing the scenes to change with the answers (yes or no). They are well done and, yet, hold a needed simplicity in what is presented. 

I can see this one as a favorite in group readings (as well as solo ones). Listeners will quickly fall into the yes and no pattern, and be more than happy to join in with full enthusiasm. Plus, it allows them to explore the idea of what can happen and think beyond a simple tale. The ending even allows for a bit of discussion. Thanks to the simple text, it's also appropriate for the younger audience and will delight them just as much as those at the upper ended of the intended audience.

And here they are...

Mem Fox is an educator and international literacy expert, and her many acclaimed picture books for young children include Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug!Hello Baby!Baby BedtimeI’m an Immigrant Too; the bestselling modern classics Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Time for Bed; and, for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She lives in Adelaide, Australia. Visit her at

Mark Teague is the award-winning children’s book author and illustrator of the bestselling Dear Mrs. LaRue series, as well as Fly!The Sky Is Falling!The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad WolfThe Tree House That Jack Built by Bonnie Verburg; and many other humorous picture books. He also created the art for the How Do Dinosaurs… series. His illustrated novel, The Doom Machine, received excellent reviews. Mark lives in the Hudson River Valley with his family.

White Feathers Academy by Phyllis Cherry with Giveaway!


White Feathers Academy
by Phyllis Cherry
Middle Grade / YA Fantasy

WHAT IF - Somewhere in the galaxy there is a school taught by angels?

WHAT IF – A young person with no special talent finds the one perfect gift?

WHAT IF – Youngsters who failed to survi
ve their first life are given a new life?

WHAT IF – One evil young girl threatens talented students with her greed?

Halo Havens didn’t know that angels had special talents and different jobs.

She’d never met an android, talked to a giant fish or met an angel.

Her life changed the day she skated in front of a car trying to rescue a puppy and was transported to the fantastic world of White Feathers Academy. There she makes new friends, accepts the challenge of a seemingly hopeless job and embarks on the greatest adventure of her new young life, if she can survive the tests.

Add to Goodreads

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Phyllis Cherry writes stories for the Middle-Grade, YT and YA audience. Her books are sought by readers who enjoy fantasy, mystery, coming of age and religious genres. If you enjoy a good read about angels and wannabe angels, you’ll love her White Feathers Academy Series Books I and II (Mystery at Camp Esther, White Feathers Academy Book II, to be released in October 2021, Inkspell Publishing).

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Goodreads

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$5 Amazon gift card – 4 winners!


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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Review: Merry Witchmas by Petrell Maria Özbay and Tess La Bella

It's picture book time, and today, I'm taking a glance in the direction of Halloween and Christmas mixed together. Kind of. 

The cover caught my eye because isn't that witch so adorable? I have no doubt that this one will put a smile on young listeners', let's go on and see if I'm right.

by Petrell Maria Özbay and 
Tess La Bella
Illustrated by Sonya Abby Soekarno
Boyd Mills & Kayne
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8


Ginger the Halloween witch has a big Christmas wish--a visit from Santa Claus. But Santa doesn't believe in witches--until Ginger's letter to him magically appears on his desk!

Ginger is a typical witch. She spends a lot of her time creating spells, and flying through the night on her broom. But Ginger is different from the other witches -- because she also ADORES Christmas! Even with Ginger's good deeds and endless Christmas cheer, she's never received a single visit from Santa. What's a Christmas-loving Halloween witch supposed to do? In this twist on the Christmas holiday's traditional "believe" concept, Ginger's wish of a Merry Witchmas comes true thanks to some holiday magic and good cheer.

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON UK     /    AMAZON US


The fun aspects of Halloween and Christmas come together in a witch young readers will wish they could have as a friend.

Ginger is a very normal witch. She dresses like one, flies on her broom, and enjoys Halloween, but unlike other witches, as soon as Halloween is over, she embraces and thrives on everything Christmas. With a cauldron of hot chocolate bubbling over the fire, she dreams of the day Santa will come to her house, but no matter how hard she tries, he fails to appear. But soon, things take an interesting twist.

This is such a cute witch. She might have everything all witches do, but her bubbly and cheerful nature is contagious and quickly draws a smile. The author allows the two holidays to mold as the decorations of this little witch take a Halloween-y direction and still hold Christmas cheer. Plus, this witch has a heart of gold as she goes at and helps where she can. She's impossible not to like and cheer for.

The illustrations are packed with details for tons of gazing fun. Since there's a mix of holidays, it's a treat to search and find all sorts of surprises. The depictions do a lovely job at bringing across the tale and allow readers/listeners to explore the tale on their own as well.

The messages in this one are warm, encouraging and filled with hope. Ginger's desire to do her best is inspiring, and her hold on her beliefs despite everything also warm the heart. It's a read, which leaves a smile on the face and is one that will probably be followed by that simple phrase 'read it again'.

And here they are...

Both Petrell Marie Özbay and Tess La Bella live in South Florida. Tess’ Christmas cookies are famous throughout New Jersey and South Florida. As for Petrell’s thoughts on Christmas: More is More! Both women have lent their talents advocating for literacy, fundraising for the arts and supporting children’s organizations. Illustrator Sonya Abby is based in San Francisco and grew up reading comics and fantasy fiction.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review: Life Sciences by Joy Sorman

I'm hitting two reviews today...I don't lie when I say my schedule is packed to the gills. The first one is something a little different than the reads I usually have on here. This book greets from France and addresses the phenomenon of society's trust in modern medicine/science and whether or not modern medicine/science always earns (or even ethically attempts) to live up to this trust. 

In other words, keep those thinking caps on because we're heading into controversary and deep thoughts.

Ready for the dive?  

by Joy Sorman
Foreword by Catherine Lacey
Translated from French by 
Lara Vergnaud
Restless Books
Coming of Age Novel
272 Pages

OCTOBER 12th!!!

Ninon Moise is cursed. So is her mother Esther, as was every eldest female member of her family going back to the Middle Ages. Each generation is marked by a uniquely obscure disease, illness, or ailment—one of her ancestors was patient zero in the sixteenth-century dancing plague of Strasbourg, while Esther has a degenerative eye disease. Ninon grows up comforted and fascinated by the recitation of these bizarre, inexplicable medical mysteries, forewarned that something will happen to her, yet entirely unprepared for how it will alter her life. Her own entry into this litany of maladies appears one morning in the form of an excruciating burning sensation on her skin, from her wrists to her shoulders.

Embarking on a dizzying and frustrating cycle of doctors, specialists, procedures, needles, scans, and therapists, seventeen-year-old Ninon becomes consumed by her need to receive a diagnosis and find a cure for her ailment. She seeks to break the curse and reclaim her body by any means necessary, through increasing isolation and failed treatment after failed treatment, even as her life falls apart. A provocative and empathic questioning of illness, remedy, transmission, and health, Life Sciences poignantly questions our reliance upon science, despite its limitations, to provide all the answers.

AMAZON   /   B&N  


Medicine and doctors spin and weave around a girl's pain in a tale, which questions intentions and the limits of modern science.

It started in the Middle Ages as a woman in her mid-thirties suddenly suffered a constant, tingling pain on her skin. From generation to generation, the illness continues from mother to daughter, each time bringing new and/or different symptoms. Ninon, an average teen girl, is aware of the curse she will inherit from her mother, but when it hits, the knowledge doesn't offer any relief. Like those before her, she tries to find medical assistance, but like those before her, the doctors can't seem to find a solution. With test after test and treatment after treatment, not only does she realize that modern medicine might not be capable of helping, but there are times, she's sure it's not even its true goal.

This book comes from a well-known and talented French author and has been translated into English. It's not a light book but steers with an obvious and clear purpose. The questions surrounding society's trust in modern medicine and science, how the medical world views women's health issues, and the, at times, true intentions behind medicine's greed and ambition at patients' expense are explored, allowing a darker side of all of this to come to light.  And one that, unfortunately, women can and do see glimpses of themselves.

I tend to read mostly fiction, which makes the more dry and direct flow of this book stick out to me quite a bit. This isn't written in a story form, meaning it doesn't hover around dialogue, scenes or world building in that sense, but rather takes a drier and concreter look at Ninon and her experiences. It begins with a foreword, which is interesting to read, from Catherine Lacey, and then, dives into the historical explanation of when the disease first appeared in Ninon's ancestors. It takes the form of a told account rather than sliding into a more personal tone and does flow smoothly and clearly.

Embracing hard-won realizations and exploring emotions, Ninon's experiences with her disease and the medical world leave more than a little food for thought. The ending does offer that needed ray of hope and allows even the darker shadows, which cannot be ignored, to not necessarily win the upper-hand. 

And here they are...

Joy Sorman is a novelist and documentarian who lives and works in Paris. Her first novel, Boys, boys, boys, was awarded the 2005 Prix de Flore. In 2013, she received the Prix François Mauriac from the Académie française for Comme une bêteLife Sciences is her first novel to be translated into English.

Lara Vergnaud is a literary translator from the French. She is the recipient of the 2019 French Voices Grand Prize and two PEN/Heim Translation Grants, and was a finalist for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award. Her forthcoming translations include works by Mohamed Leftah and Franck Bouysse. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Catherine Lacey is a Guggenheim fellow, a Whiting Award winner, and the author of four works of fiction: Nobody Is Ever Missing, The Answers, Certain American States, and Pew.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Review: Squirrel Do Bad, Trubble Town by Stephan Pastis

Today's review.... (there is a lot going on here today)... is a book to make one smile. I don't believe it really has any other purpose, and that is exactly what everybody needs, sometimes.

So, off we go!

Trubble Town, Book One
by Stephan Pastis
Children's Humor
288 pages
ages 8 to 12

From the author of the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip and New York Times bestselling Timmy Failure series comes a laugh-out-loud, heartwarming, full-color graphic novel series about a quirky town—just right for young readers starting to read longer books!

Wendy the Wanderer has lived in Trubble Town her whole life but never had the chance to go exploring. For this reason, she thinks she was definitely misnamed. Her dad likes to know where she is to make sure she’s safe, so she’s never been anywhere on her own. Then, her dad leaves on a trip and the babysitter doesn’t reinforce all the usual rules. Or any of the usual rules! Suddenly, Wendy is free to do what she wants, and what she wants is to live up to her name…and find Trubble.

Turns out, there’s lots going on in Trubble Town. As she encounters endearingly goofy animals and hilariously hapless townsfolk, Wendy’s very first adventure takes more twists and turns than she could have ever expected. She learns some really valuable life lessons and even teaches a few of her own.

GOODREADS    /    B&N    /   BOOK DEPOSITORY   /     AMAZON    /   KOBO


I have five words for this one: zany, looney, and simply fun. I'd leave my review at that, but I need to be a bit more, here we go.

Wendy has a wandering spirit, which gives her the nickname Wendy the Wanderer. Except she doesn't wander because her father is a very worried individual (since her mom is no longer there). When he leaves for a business trip, the babysitter should be watching her every move, but the girl doesn't. Wendy takes the opportunity to fulfill her purpose and wanders to Trubble. At the town's park, she meets a squirrel and gives him something non-peanuty to enjoy. But little does she know how much trouble this squirrel is about to cause.

This book has one purpose: to be fun and ridiculous. And it pulls this off masterfully. The graphic novel form is a treat to read with it's simple, bright and still on-spot illustrations. Wendy is adorable in every way, and I can only hope we see more of her in the future. The tale is hilarious and slides through the most crazy situations, making it one to cause more than a few laughs and giggles. Seriousness is definitely not something found in these pages. And that's good so because, sometimes, we just need a laugh.

The writing is appropriate for the younger end of the middle grade age group all the way to the older end. The scenes pull in and entertain, making this a book even more reluctant readers are sure to enjoy.
So, yes, I am recommending this one with a huge smile.

And here he is...

Stephan Pastis is the creator of the syndicated comic strip Pearls Before Swine, which appears in over 800 newspapers. He is also the creator of the Timmy Failure book series and the cowriter of the Disney+ movie Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. He lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.

I Am Smoke by Henry L. Herz


by Henry L Herz
Illustrated by Merce Lopez Ascanoio
Tilbury House Publishers
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 4 to 8


Smoke speaks in mesmerizing riddles: “I lack a mouth, but I can speak…. I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests…. I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm….”This rhythmically powerful narration is complemented by illustrations in which swirling smoke was captured on art paper held over smoky candle flames, and the dancing smoke textures were then deepened and elaborated with watercolors and Photoshop finishes. With this unique method, Mercè López “let the smoke decide how the idea I had in mind would dance with it, giving freedom to the images.” The resulting illustrations are astounding, and they resonate with the otherworldly text.


“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.”
– John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

“A fascinating, refreshing, and beautifully atmospheric take on something often taken for granted. I’ll never look at smoke the same way again!”
– Matthew Cordell, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning book WOLF IN SNOW

“I Am Smoke is an absolutely beautiful book, where smoke is both poetry and science. Readers will rest, float, and dance along with smoke’s quiet power across time and traditions. I have lingered over its pages more than once, and I’m sure young readers will, too.”
– Doreen Cronin, author of the Caldecott Honor and NY Times bestselling book CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE

– Raina Telgemeier, #1 NY Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Publishers Weekly bestselling author/illustrator

And here he is...

Henry Herz authored 11 traditionally published children's titles: MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), CAP'N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW (Sterling, 2017), HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican, 2018), ALICE'S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius, 2018), GOOD EGG AND BAD APPLE (Schiffer, 2018), 2 PIRATES + 1 ROBOT (Kane Miller, 2019), I AM SMOKE (Tilbury House, 2021), and THE MAGIC SPATULA (Month9 Books, 2022).

He sold the children's short stories: “Born to Dance” (Highlights for Children), “Pay the Piper” (Highlights for Children), “Maria & Maslow” (Highlights for Children, 2020), “A Proper Party” (Ladybug Magazine), "Bar Mitzvah on Planet Kishka" (sci-fi MG story in COMING OF AGE anthology, Albert Whitman & Co., 2021), "The Castle on the Loch" (YA story in CASTLE OF HORROR anthology, Castle Bridge Media, 2020), and “Cheating Death” (dark sci-fi YA story in THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE anthology, Blackstone Publishing, 2022).

Henry edited three anthologies: BEYOND THE PALE adult dark fantasy (Birch Tree Publishing, 2014) – stories by Saladin Ahmed, Peter S. Beagle, Heather (Zac) Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, and Jane Yolen. COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES middle grade #ownvoices (Albert Whitman & Co, 2022) – stories by Sarah Aronson, Barbara Bottner, Stacia Deutsch, Debbie Reed Fischer, Debra Garfinkle, Alan Katz, Nancy Krulik, Stacie Ramey, Jonathan Rosen, Melissa Roske, Laura Shovan. THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE young adult horror (Blackstone Publishing, 2022) – stories by Mylo Carbia, Stacia Deutsch, Sarah Beth Durst, Alethea Kontis, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Scott Sigler, Scott Westerfeld, Jane Yolen.

Henry is an editor at Running Wild Press. He's an SCBWI member and moderates author panels yearly at San Diego Comic-Con. He earned a BS in Engineering from Cornell U., an MS in Engineering from George Washington U., and an MA in Political Science from Georgetown U.

Sneak Peek: Ultraxenopia by M.A Phipps with Giveaway!


by M.A. Phipps
Project W.A.R., #1
December 1st 2020
YA Dystopian


Betrayed by Family. Tortured by the Enemy. Destined to Destroy the World.

Wynter Reeves lives by three rules: Don’t stand out. Blend in. Remain invisible. In a world where individuality is dangerous, being forgettable keeps her alive.

Until she begins showing signs of a rare disease, drawing the unwanted attention of the State’s sinister research facility, the DSD. Apprehended against her will for testing, Wynter becomes the subject of the mysterious Dr. Richter, who is determined to make sense of her condition.

However, Dr. Richter’s intentions are less than noble, and after months of horrifying experimentation, Wynter jumps at the chance to escape her captors. But freedom isn’t what she expected, and as her symptoms worsen, she must make a choice. One that will determine not only her future…

But the fate of the world.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


When I open my eyes, the exam room is gone.

I turn around in my seat. The pain that consumed me before has diminished, but it’s replaced by fear, confusion, and disbelief, which all attack me at once, overpowering the part of my brain that might actually be able to comprehend what’s happening.

Is this a dream? A hallucination?

My legs quake as I push to my feet, my fingers clutching at the chair to hold me to the one real thing in this delusion. The air is thick with dust, but through the impairing fog, I recognize my surroundings. I glimpse the familiar sight of the Heart in the details crumbling around me. But there are no people crowding the streets. No lights. No sign of life at all. There’s only me, standing here all alone, as the world I once knew succumbs to destruction.

Panic boils beneath my skin, squeezing my lungs in a vise grip. My eyes close on instinct, but some unseen power wrenches them open again, forcing me to watch every second of this nightmare. To see what I can only assume must be the end of the world.

In the blink of an eye, the destruction explodes in a torrent of flame, devouring everything. A blinding flash burns across my vision, but when it clears, the desolate landscape is nowhere to be seen.

Did I just imagine that?

Sweat suctions the thin fabric of my clothes to my body, and I wince away from the horrible screaming that it takes me a moment to realize is coming from me. I clamp my mouth shut to silence my building distress and tighten my grasp on the chair. Wisps of darkness dance in front of my eyes, and as they fade, I’m both relieved and terrified to find myself back in the exam room.

My chest constricts as I glance around at the other Examinees, every last one wearing the same wide-eyed expression. Despite the silence, I know what they’re thinking. Those words from the news broadcast earlier vibrate through my head like the pitchy whine of a bad frequency.

Enemy of the State, their faces all say to me.

And here she is...


M. A. PHIPPS is an American author who resides near the ocean in picturesque Cornwall with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook Page / Facebook Group / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter


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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Review: The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to be Patient by Argyro Graphy

Happy Sunday! Today, is always a day of stepping back in our household and letting life slow down a bit. It does slide in a bit with today's theme, since the book I'm reviewing just happens to do with patience. 

This is the 4th in a prize winning series from a Canadian author. But I'm not going to test your patience, let's dive right in!

Inspiring Children to be Patient
by Argyro Graphy
Illustrated by Michael Reyes
BHEC Publishing
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

A loud knock at the front door has Bentley startled.  Who could it be?

An excited Jaxon, rambles on not making any sense.  Racing ahead pointing in the distance Bentley follows this silly monkey.  A large crowd has gathered making it impossible for Jaxon to see what the fuss is all about.

Sprinting to the front  of the line, Jaxon is stopped and directed to the back of the line by the ticket agent.  Frustrated, Jaxon looks around waiting for the right moment.  Determined, he makes a mad dash. 

Inspiring Children to be Patient teaches:

  • the importance of waiting your turn.
  • understanding the meaning of being patient
  • identifying ways to stay calm.
  • respecting others around

Bentley has his hands full with this hyperactive monkey.  The illustrations and expressions will have you giggling in this entertaining and educational story.  

The fourth in the Inspiring Children Series, this makes a wonderful gift for any occasion, and a great addition to classrooms, libraries and daycare facility.



With vibrant characters, this book teaches an important message while keeping it fun.

Bentley's doorbell rings, and when he opens it to find a very excited monkey, the adventure begins. Although Bentley isn't sure what monkey wants, since he's too excited to speak clearly. Curious, Bentley joins his friend to see what's going on and discovers a long line waiting to see the action. But monkey isn't about to wait patiently until it's their turn and tries to sneak into the front of the line. This doesn't work out the way he'd hoped.

This is the 4th book in a prize winning series, which follows Bentley and his friends as they learn important messages about life. In this book, the monkey learns the importance of being patient in a tale, which combines humor, lovely characters, and situations readers can identify with. Before the tale begins, the author gives a short introduction on being patient and the benefits it brings.  This allows caretakers an opportunity to prepare for the book and use it with a clear intention...and that while still grabbing listeners' interest.

The tale is fun, and the characters are full of life. It's hard not to smile and wonder at monkey's excitement, and it's clear things won't run well when he refuses to wait his turn. Listeners can identify with the situation and feel for all the characters as the story unfolds. It's well and clearly written, and works well as a read-aloud. The illustrations are bright and bold with characters to make listeners smile. I was a bit disappointed that the situations were told in the text but not always displayed in the illustrations, since seeing everything step happen would draw listeners in more and make the situations clearer. Still, the book does a nice job at fulfilling its purpose. And to top it off, there are some ideas at the end for readers/listeners to try themselves.

And here she is...

A proud Canadian and the mastermind behind the Bentley Hippo Series,  Award-winning author Argyro Graphy, is acclaimed globally for her thought-provoking books for children. The author remains at the forefront to promote the worth of positive aptitudes among children of all ages, all while instilling the love for reading.

“Teaching kids the significance of inclusivity and diversity right from the start can make them caring individuals towards others. With the Inspiring Children Series, Bentley promotes humbleness among children with an aim to make it second nature, from a young age,” says Graphy.

The author’s passion for reading and her flair for writing breathes life into Bentley, creating phenomenal tales designed on the principles of ethical teachings. Each story focuses on engraving the worth of positive values, on the tender hearts of children.  With a diverse group of characters facing their own struggles her goal is to teach children that despite challenges, we are all valuable, we all matter and we must all accept and respect each other.

The characters in her books are visually impaired, as is she, have diabetes, kidney issues, autism, ADHD, as well as alopecia.  Her hope is to normalize the characters in the eyes of children so that they can grow up to be more accepting towards people who face these difficulties every day.  She encourages children to embrace their differences, celebrate their abilities and not focus on their disabilities, recognize opportunities to spread kindness while fostering a healthy mindset

Serving as the positive role model worldwide, Graphy’s most lovable character Bentley the Hippo is on a mission of spreading kindness through four Kindness Projects, that have already been introduced in classrooms locally and overseas.