Monday, December 31, 2018

End of Year Wrap-Up!

Wow! Did that year fly by, but then, there were A LOT of books reviewed this last year here on Bookworm for Kids. I'm not the best at statistics, but I thought I'd put together a few before heading into my favorites for this last year.

284 Children's Books reviewed on this blog during 2018 (or something close to that. My counting isn't always perfect)

Breakdown in intended age groups:

114 picture books (ages 0 to 7)
85 Middle Grade (ages 7 to 12)
85 Young Adult (ages 12 to 18)

The adult books I presented on Mommy's and Daddy's Days are not included in any of these numbers.

Within the Middle Grade and Young Adult age categories...

Fantasy - 30%
Science Fiction - 14%
Mystery - 9%
Urban Fantasy/Magical Realism - 8%
Sports - 8%
Paranormal - 7%
Contemporary - 7%
Non-Fiction - 5%
(the rest falling into humor, history, romance, etc.)

I definitely saw a big jump in the sports end (especially sport books for girls), which was refreshing.

For those of you interested in diversity...

24% of the books centered around animals, objects or other 'main characters' (non-human)
Leaving 222 with humans as characters.

Of these...
21%  can be considered to be diverse books (this includes non-fiction). As far as I could tell, there was a definite increase in 2018 in this area as opposed to 2017.

And now that the numbers are out of the way.... here are my personal favorites!
I've chosen only three for each category this year just to keep this post shorter, but you can head on over to my Alphabetic List to see which ones I highlighted in each category. To see the post for each book below, simply click on the cover.




This list is always so hard to put together, since sometimes it simply depends on my mood and day as to which books I consider my favorites. There were so many great books this year, and I enjoyed most of them. I can't wait to see which ones will be coming out in 2019!!! (I already have a few on my review pile, which I'm excited to share with you)

My own book is coming out on March 5th, 2019...something I'm super excited about. It's been getting tons of lovely reviews (4 to 5 stars), so that already has me smiling into the New Year!

Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinée, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right...
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame Destinée’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.

(You can add it on Goodreads here!)

Here's wishing every single one of you a great 2019, many terrific reads and a wonderful year in every other aspect as well!!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon

Zora and Me, Book 2
by T.R. Simon
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Historical
272 pages

A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery.

"History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives."

When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township -- the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.


Woven in simple yet intricate ways, this is a tale with impact and will stay with the reader long after the last page.

The author has set two stories next to each other and lets them weave back and forth. One concerns Zora and her best friend Carrie as they discover the town's mute can actually speak and try to discover the truth behind his hidden ability. The other takes places around 50 years before as Lucia, a slave girl, struggles to survive and maybe seek her own freedom. The stories flow in two different times, but each one is as grabbing as the other. While Zora and Carrie are a delight to accompany in their adventure and attempt to uncover the truth, Lucia's story pulls at the heart-strings. It's well crafted and draws in.

Each character is to love or to hate. While Zora is willful, full of spice and even humorous, Carrie sits more serious and makes a perfect counter weight. The two have a beautiful friendship, and it's impossible not to wish that both were real and the reader's best friends. Lucia, on the other side, hits the topic of slavery square on. Her life is harsh, and it's impossible not to feel for her and cheer for her even when she faces horrible odds. The other characters each win their own place, and the 'bad' ones definitely are begging to be disliked. It's a lovely cast with tons of heart.

While this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone (although after reading this, I am going to head back to the first as well). The author has done a fantastic job and bringing two tales together, while hitting the gut and leaving tons of food for thought. It's a series worth reading and one that belongs in the classroom.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Junior High Drama by Louise Simonson and Jane B. Mason

by Louise Simonson and
Jane B. Mason
Illustrated by Sumin Cho
Stone Arch Books
Middle Grade Graphic Novel
256 pages

Welcome to Memorial Middle School, where drama fills the classrooms and follows students home on the bus. Social awkwardness. Mean girls. Hallway gossip. It's all part of life in junior high, but maybe it helps to know you aren't alone. Can Lucia avoid the boy-girl party? Will Kamilla overcome her self-consciousness and try out for the play? Can Allie keep anyone from finding out her secret? Told in graphic formal, Junior High Drama shows that while you can't escape the drama, you can certainly survive it.


This is a treat for middle school/junior high girls who love diving into school life and it's problems, and especially enjoy the graphic novel layout.

This book is a collection of several stories, each rotating around difficult situations girls in this age group can face. Because life in junior high isn't easy. The problems surrounding self-consciousness, rumors, mean girls, first dates and so forth are placed in engaging junior high settings with characters which are easy to connect with. Each situation is done well, allowing the characters to gain footing before facing their troubles. The solutions aren't always easy but do-able. And the entire thing never runs into the realm of ridiculousness or over emphasis. These are normal girls who are up against hurdles very typical for a junior high setting.

Each story centers on different characters, showing that everyone faces troubles. The characters are also very diverse, keeping stereotypes at bay. These girls may make mistakes, but most have good hearts and simply aren't sure how to handle the situations. The results and solutions hit real life possibilities, and bring encouraging messages which strengthen self-esteem. After each chapter, there's a slightly more in-depth question and answer section (in form of interviews) and sometimes, extra tips. While these tales are entertaining, the book also offers realistic help on how to deal with such things and where girls can find more assistance if they need it.

Even with all the messages and help, this is simply an enjoyable read. The illustrations allow the emotions to flow and the scenes to come to life. The characters hold depth and make understandable decisions. Plus, there's more than just the drama. These girls have lives and will connect with the readers. The stories are quick paced, not overly dramatic and hold enough tension to keep the pages flipping until the end of the story. It's a lovely read and holds tons of purpose as well.

Review: Tom Gates Is Absolutely Fantastic (at some things) by Liz Pichen

Tom Gates, #5
by Liz Pichen
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Humor
272 pages

What could be better (or worse) than a class trip? Tom's about to find out in this fifth wicked diary from his award-winning series.

Since Tom forgets everything, it's not surprising that he forgot all about the trip he's supposed to go on with class 5F. It's good that his family helps keep him on track (even, once in a while, his grumpy sister, Delia)! Luckily, there are loads of excellent things to do on the trip, like making rafts, eating snacks, and seeing some very weird creatures. That is, as long as Tom doesn't get stuck in a group with anyone who snores or worse (looking at you, Marcus Meldrew!).


With random thoughts in the ridiculousness of every day adventure, this is a fun tale with tons of illustrations and zest.

Tom forgot to get his form filled out for the three day school trip, but with everything going on in his life, that isn't surprising. His sister, Delia, is a pain, his grandparents sweet but odd, and his own parents...well, let's not even go there. The daily school drama doesn't help things either. But after a lot of effort and even more forgetting, he finally gets his form in and snags a spot thanks to a cancellation. But once the bus is underway, he's in for anything but a boring adventure.

While a few nice messages are wrapped up in this tale, the book centers around one thing—silly fun. Tom is pretty normal for his age, and his mind wanders everywhere but in the responsible direction. He's a nice guy and simply tries to get through the chaos called life as best he can, which makes him easy to relate to. The situations he runs into come from daily life and reflect those which average kids will face. And while all of it seems dramatic at times, it's Tom's very honest, uncensored thoughts, which make it a hilarious read.

This is not a fast-paced book into adventure, but rather humor with spice. It takes a heavy several chapters before Tom's trip gets underway but anticipation is always half the fun. The author brings even the smallest things into a new light thanks to Tom, one that ensures giggles and chuckles. After all, many kids have the exact same thoughts even if they don't say it.

Of course, the heaps and mounds of small and large doodles and illustrations are probably the key factor in these pages. Not a sentence goes by without a funny, scribbled that adds snorts and giggles along the way. The book might seem thick, but it's perfect for reluctant readers who aren't thrilled by seas of words. The story is there, and it is funny, but without these doodles, it wouldn't be anything exceptionally special.

I recommend this book to especially middle grade boys who love a little fun because they will definitely find it here.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Review: Little Otter Learns to Swim by Artie Knapp

by Artie Knapp
Illustrated by Guy Hobbs
Ohio University Press
Picture Book
32 pages

In this endearing and beautifully illustrated picture book, a baby river otter learns to swim, dive, and play in her natural habitat. Encouraged by her mother, the little otter soon sets out to explore on her own, quickly learning to escape shoreline predators and to find her way back to the security of home.

From children’s author Artie Knapp and wildlife artist Guy Hobbs, Little Otter Learns to Swim is an entertaining and colorful tale for ages four and up. The story is followed by two pages of fun facts about river otters as well as information and resources from the River Otter Ecology Project.


Sweet, informative, and gentle—this is a lovely book which introduces young listeners to the world of river otters.

The time has come for Little Otter to learn how to swim. He's nervous but his mother knows how to handle the situation with loving care. Soon, they're swimming and diving. When the mother leaves Little Otter alone for awhile, she soon encounters unexpected dangers. But the river is always the otter's friend.

This is simply a wonderful read. The story is written in rhyme, one that flows pretty nicely the whole way through. But, in general, the text is kept to a minimum and is appropriate for even younger listeners. Little Otter undergoes a small adventure, but it's a gentle one and allows the wonder for the animal to come across as it swim among other residents of the river. The more tense moments, which Little Otter must survive, give the listener an idea of the predators an otter faces with a tiny dash of tension. The warmth at the end of the story will have young listeners ready for a last cuddle.

At the very end of the book, there more detailed information about otters is offered. These pages provide material for parents/guardians to either use in discussions or simply as more information for themselves. Either way, it makes for a rounded book, especially for otter fans young and old.

One of my favorite aspects of this book are the illustrations. The are beautifully done, spur emotions at the right moments, and invite into the otter's world. The depictions are realistic enough to bring across a true impression of the otters—something real fans will love. And it's a treat to gaze through them even when the text isn't being read. It makes for a wonderful read.

 And here he is...

Artie Knapp is the author of over 40 published children's literature works that includes books, videos, stories and poems. His children’s stories have been featured in several course books by HarperCollins, Orient BlackSwan, Oxford University Press, Pearson Education, and The Chart Institute in Japan, among others. Additionally, Artie’s work has been published in various magazines and newspapers, as well as online publications. Among his writing credits are the children's books Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand and Living Green: A Turtle's Quest for a Cleaner Planet, a shortlist finalist for the Green Earth Book Award. He is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and graduated from Ohio University. Artie lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife and daughter. To learn more about Artie and his work, visit him online at

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review: The Squirrel Manifesto by Ric Edelman and Jean Edelman

by Ric Edelman and Jean Edelman
Illustrated by Dave Zaboski
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8
40 pages

From acclaimed and award-winning financial adviser Ric Edelman comes a modern-day fable in the spirit of The Ant and the Grasshopper that teaches kids—and their parents—the value of spending money, saving for the future, and giving to charity.

Financial habits form early. Children learn by observing a parent’s behavior and through their own experiences. That’s why it’s important to make sure your children are treating money the right way. From allowances and birthday money to cash they’ll one day earn babysitting or mowing lawns, The Squirrel Manifesto provides a platform to set your children on the path to a lifetime of fiscal responsibility.

Just as a squirrel gathers nuts to prepare for the winter—eating some now and storing some for later—kids can learn the value of money by spending some of their allowance now and saving the rest for later using animals as examples.


Diving into the beauty of the forest, this book takes a look at a lively, playful and yet, productive bunch.

My favorite part of this book are the illustrations. Done in aquarelle, there's a beautiful, artistic flair which brings the colors of the forest across wonderfully. It's a joy to flip through these, watch the animals bouncing around and enjoy the activity.

There is a theme to this book, obviously, but it doesn't come across as forcefully as I feared it might. The first third or so of the pages allows the reader to sink into the forest life. First, about halfway through, does the idea of collecting, spending and giving come into play. The author does a nice job or letting it flow into the lively day and fun of squirrels being squirrels. There is some saving and the manifesto, but by no means is the joy of living and having fun forgotten.

The entire thing is written in rhyme and holds only a few lines per page. The vocabulary isn't necessarily the best for the youngest readers, and there are a few hints and mentions which might go over even slightly older readers' heads. Adults will find a chuckle or two, though. But as a story, it didn't flow as well as it could have and receives its marks because the message does flow well and makes a point young readers understand. This isn't a book to pick up as a bedtime read for entertainment...although a gentle and lovely peek into the forest definitely is there. Rather, it's a nice way to teach kids a little about saving and a way to divide their earnings in their lives which makes sense.

And here he is...

For thirty years, Ric Edelman has worked to teach everyday people about persona finance. He's widely regarded as one of the nation's top financial advisors, having been ranked #11 on the 2017 list of the nation's Top Wealth Advisors by Forbes. He was previously ranked the nation's #1 Independent Financial Advisor three times by Barron's. Ric is the 2017 recipient of the IARFC's Loren Dunton Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement for his "substantial contribution to the financial services profession and the financial interests of the public." He is an inductee of Research magazine's Financial advisor Hall of Fame, and has been named among the "15 most transformative people in the industry" by Investment News and one of the investment advisory field's "10 most influential figures" by RIABiz. Ric is also #1 New York Times bestselling author who has written nine books on personal finance. His most recent, The Truth About You Future, was published in March 2017. You can visit him at

Happy Book Birthday, The Vampire's Mark by Rachel Jonas

The Vampire’s Mark
by Rachel Jonas
Upper YA/NA Paranormal Romance | Urban Fantasy | Reverse Harem Romance | Vampire Romance
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber of Najla Qamber Designs

Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR

Four blood-sucking princes. A beautiful anarchist. One dangerous mistake.
To the vampires who dominate each quadrant of the Lydian Dynasty, I’m only known as “Blackbird”—a masked vigilante who, at nineteen, is already public enemy number one.
To what’s left of humanity, I’ve been called a superhero, a title I neither welcome nor deserve. My only objective is to offer the enslaved what was stolen from us …
However, a failed plan lands me in the last place I imagined, at the mercy of all four Dynasty princes—Julian, Levi, Roman, and Silas. They’re monsters, each with a heart rumored to be as cold as his icy skin. And what’s worse, thanks to the slip-up, my fate is suddenly theirs to decide.
It’s up to them whether I’ll swing from the gallows, and I’ve given them every reason to sentence me to such a fate. Yet, I felt something unexplainable when our paths first crossed.
Something that gives me hope.
We should be one another’s worst nightmare. Only, I’m beginning to wonder if, somehow … these four princes might be my saving grace.

Hey! I'm Rachel, a Michigan native with a passion for writing. I have several young adult releases on my schedule. Those releases will be within the genres of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and dystopian fiction, so I hope you stick with me and check out my future work!
Aside from the many hours spent happily pecking away at my keyboard, I'm a wife, mother of three, an avid reader, and a gamer with a penchant for all things Sims. There will always be a keyboard at my fingertips and I look forward to the words that will flow from them for many years to come. As a self-proclaimed nerd, there's not a more satisfying career choice I could have made. Happy reading!

Buy Links:

“Interesting … A prince adored by the public, avoids them every chance he gets.”
In my peripheral, I caught the glint of white teeth when he smiled.
“Will that be the headline for your next article?”
My mouth curved up despite my best efforts to stop it. “I suppose if I had any interest in writing about you, it could be.”
“Ouch.” He chuffed a short laugh as his hands left the banister and slipped inside his pockets.
“I meant what I said about my being here having nothing to do with you,” I reminded him, hearing the flirty undertones I didn’t mean to let slip when adding a coy, “Your Highness”.
A breath hitched in my throat when he turned, facing me full-on. I refused to do the same.
“Is it bad I wish that weren’t true?" he asked. "That I wish you had come here for me?”
The question left me speechless. To keep from letting him see how he affected me, I tried distracting myself by naming the different flowers I could spot from here.
… Hydrangeas.
… Lilacs.
“I’m not usually so forward, but … you’re beautiful in this light, with the moon high and clear,” he stated boldly. “Although, I imagine I’d say the same even if we were standing in a storm.”
… Roses.
… Lilies.
I was suddenly aware of soft music floating to this terrace through the open doors of the one below, from the gala where Julian had just whisked me away. His formidable body moved closer and I stared when a hand was extended toward me.
“May I have this dance?”

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: I'm Ok by Patti Kim

by Patti Kim
Atheneum Books/ Simon & Schuster
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 10 and up
288 pages

Ok Lee knows it’s his responsibility to help pay the bills. With his father gone and his mother working three jobs and still barely making ends meet, there’s really no other choice. If only he could win the cash prize at the school talent contest! But he can’t sing or dance, and has no magic up his sleeves, so he tries the next best thing: a hair braiding business.

It’s too bad the girls at school can’t pay him much, and he’s being befriended against his will by Mickey McDonald, the unusual girl with a larger-than-life personality. Who needs friends? They’d only distract from his mission, and Ok believes life is better on his own. Then there’s Asa Banks, the most popular boy in their grade, who’s got it out for Ok.

But when the pushy deacon at their Korean church starts wooing Ok’s mom, it’s the last straw. Ok has to come up with an exit strategy—fast.


When Ok's dad suddenly passes away, he tries to help his mother make ends meet but ends up struggling more than just with the financial end of things.

Ok is in middle school. His parents moved to the US from Korea, and his name is pronounced like 'pork' but without the 'p' and 'r'. All is fine, until his father falls from a roof and dies, leaving Ok's mother struggling terribly to make ends and meet. Ok decides to help out by braiding hair for pay at school, but it this doesn't bring the riches he'd hoped. When the deacon at church starts to move in on his mother's life—a man Ok doesn't like—he realizes he might be getting in the way of things. 

While there are humorous moments, this is a read with heavy undercurrents. Racism plays a big role as the kids at school single out Ok, keeping him on the outskirts of the class. One boy in particular is harsh in the bullying. Not all of the bullying is racism, however. Ok's developing friend also suffers verbal turmoil for completely other reasons, making it clear that the school has a pretty difficult atmosphere. While the racism aspect is well done, it wasn't a topic Ok (or his mother) hits head-on. He doesn't like the treatment and lashes back in a natural but not kind way. The whole topic of racism ends up sliding in as a more rounded bullying issue than settling into a topic in and of itself...which is probably a more realistic and natural response in most school yards.

The Korean church and women in it was a funny, nice touch. Especially the Deacon is well done as it's not clear whether it's Ok or his mother who are seeing the man for who he really is. Ok's mother dates the man extremely quickly after the father's death (within a couple of months), and when compared with the job end of things, all of it was squished pretty quickly into the time frame. One of the Deacon's biggest secrets, insurance sales, is never explained and hangs as a loose end.

Ok as well as the two main sub characters are harsh in their interactions, which came across pretty mean at times. Still, the building friendships happen smoothly, believable and is are an inspiration. But this harsh side strings through the entire book, especially when Ok takes a pretty nasty personality turn for a while. While it was nice to see him forgiven for his mean actions later, the lack of true consequences didn't necessarily leave the best message to readers of that age group.

All in all, this was an engaging read with lots of food for thought . The themes are realistic and hit a nerve for not only middle graders. While not everyone in the intended age group will feel at home in this story, when placed in the right hands, it's a book which holds until the last page and leaves the reader thinking.

And here she is...

Born in Busan, Korea, Patti Kim immigrated to the United States on Christmas, 1974. Convinced at the age of five that she was a writer, she scribbled gibberish all over the pages of her mother's Korean-English dictionary and got in big trouble for it. But that didn't stop her from writing. The author of A Cab Called Reliable, Here I Am, and I'm Ok, Patti lives in University Park, Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and a ferocious terrier. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Review: Lu by Jason Reynolds

Sometimes You Gotta Jump Anyway...
Track, #4
by Jason Reynolds
Athenium / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Middle Grade Sports
224 pages

Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. 

Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.

Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means. 

Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.


I've read some of the other books in this series, and while it's not necessary to read them in a certain order (each works fairly well as a stand-alone), it does make for a more rounded read to have the background information from the books before diving into this one.

Lu is co-captain of the track team, the Defenders, and as so, at constant rub with the captain. But he takes everything more or less in stride. He also is an albino, which has caused problems in the past but has nothing to do with track. Add his diamond earrings and gold chains, and he isn't the shabbiest kid on the team. Plus, he runs well. At least, until it's time for him to run hurdles. Fear holds him back, but soon he learns that the physical hurdles on the track aren't the only thing he's going to have to learn to get past.

This is an easy read centered as much around Lu's family and social life as it is around track. There aren't any huge moments, but rather, a line of difficulties that force him to grow as a person and realign what the real important things are in his life. He does run track, and while his heart is in running, this story focuses more on the other aspects of Lu's life. None of which are earth-shattering, but problems which readers can relate to. 

Lu has some fears to overcome, but learns that the people around him have their own hurdles to jump too. Some have made it, others are still struggling, and others will never get past them. It's a strong life lesson, but one that is wrapped up in an entertaining and, at times, thoughtful read. 

Lu's family sits strong in these pages, one that is more supportive than the families in the books before. His mother especially holds lots of character, and adds a nice flair of fun and humor to the mix. The relationship with the parents is an inspiration while not leaving the realm of reality. It makes for a read, kids will easily see themselves in. And the message, while clear, is subtle in its own way. As to the end of the book—the last twist holds a surprise which allows those warm fuzzy feelings to remain long after the book is closed.

This is a wonderful addition to a lovely series.

And here he is...

Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, national Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. The American Booksellers Association's 2017 spokesperson for Indies First, his many books include When I was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which recieved both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at