Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review: American As Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

by Supriya Kelkar
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 8 to 12

MAY 12th!!!

An Indian-American girl who struggles to navigate her two very different lives: the one at home, where she can be herself, and the one at school, where she is teased for her culture. When a racist incident rocks her small town, she must decide to continue to remain silent or find her voice.



Hitting on these such as racism, hate crimes and bullying, this read gets to the heart and awakens awareness.

Lekha's family is the only one of India-American heritage in their small town, and despite practicing her culture within her family, she does the best to hide it in school. If she didn't, she's sure she'd be laughed at and teased even more. When another family just like hers moves in across the street, she's excited to finally have someone who is just like her. And although she does have a lot of similarities with the girl, they have some differences, too. Not only do things grow more uncomfortable in school, but in the town as well. When a hate crime hits the town, Lekha is forced to re-evaluate her views.

Readers who love discovering other cultures and enjoy realistic, middle grade drama are going to sink into this one and get lost in the pages. Lekha is hard not to like. She's very caring, loves her family and friends, and is, in general, a happy girl. But she has her problems, too. Conflict is something she tries to avoid at every turn, and this ends up causing more trouble than one might first suspect. Her desire to fit in is understandable and the decisions she makes to simply feel included are ones readers will sympathize with. She's a very normal girl facing issues many kids her age group recognize, but this tale also celebrates friendship and makes it clear that just because a few might behave horribly, not everyone is that way.

The author does a lovely job at bringing the culture to life. The first chapter hit a little harder with it than I personally would have liked, but it smooths out quickly as the story gets going. Lekha faces quite a bit of ridicule, and the author brings this across in an age appropriate manner. Readers will recognize the issues and maybe, learn something along the way.

And here she is...

Born and raised in the Midwest, Supriya Kelkar learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. She is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several HIndi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya's books include Ahimsa, The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, and American as Paneer Pie, among others. Visit her online at

Review: Barkus Dog Dreams by Patricia MacLachlan

by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Chronicle Books
Chapter Book
52 pages
ages 6 to 9

Barkus is back! With new tricks. New friends. And lots more fun.

Praise for Barkus:

"Fans will be begging for more."-The Horn Book Magazine
"The charm is infectious."--The New York Times
"Will appeal to fans of the Henry and Mudge series as well as to the younger picture-book audience."-Kirkus Reviews

The lovable Barkus and his lucky young owner romp through the pages of this delightful series from Newbery Medal–winning author Patricia MacLachlan. The simple text told in short chapters is just right for children ready to take their first steps toward reading on their own.



(Note: I did not get the chance to read the first book in this series, but that wasn't a problem. Each book can be read as a stand-alone.)

Barkus might appear to be an ordinary dog, but he packs more than a few surprises and brings delight where ever his paws pass by.

Five chapters appear in this book, and each one brings along a new, surprising adventure for Barkus and his best friend, a cat named Baby. Told from the owner's point of view—a young girl—it's impossible to predict what Barkus will be up to next. But one thing is guaranteed, the end result is not what the reader might expect it to be.

Barkus comes across as an ordinary, loving dog. Even his very close friendship with a cat, which might raise an eyebrow or two, isn't completely out of the ordinary. After all, cats and dogs can get along in real life. The adventures also start out as usual events, ones which could happen to anyone—Barkus visits the vet, the neighbor gets a dog, and there's a festival at the park. Even when the adventure gets underway, it's nothing really far-fetched. Fun and entertaining, but seemingly based solidly in reality. Then, the surprise twists hit, subtle and yet making it clear that Barkus is anything but a normal dog.

The text fits nicely to those readers, who are learning how to reader slightly larger stories on their own. While most of the words are very easy to identify, a few more difficult ones are sprinkled in to help expand the vocabulary but not enough to frustrate the reader. The illustrations support the story and the plot, while adding personality to Barkus and his friends along with a charming dash of humor. It makes for a gentle and fun read, while allowing those reader skills to grow and improve.

And here they are...

The Author...
Patricia MacLachlan is a versatile and prolific author whose titles range from picture books to novels, including the Newbery Medal- winning Sarah, Plain and Tall. Barkus was inspired by the imagined adventures of her neighbor's dog.

The Illustrator...
Marc Boutavant is an internationally acclaimed illustrator. His work has been featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker as well as numerous children's books. He lives in Paris, France.

Sneak Peek: Karma's Dilemma by Karma

by Karma

Karma, a young man, knows very well who his soulmate is. Or so he thinks.

But, really, who is the one?

The posh Angela who he worships. Or is it Sana, the wild racer, who drives him crazy. Or is it Simi, the sensible psychologist, who puts him back together.

Or maybe there is no one for him because Karma’s deeds in his all-consuming quest as he scours the world have broken so many rules that, one day, karma, the immortal and unrelenting collector of soul-debt, comes calling for Karma, the mortal, himself.

The novel demonstrates the lengths one is willing to go to, the rules one is willing to break and the soul-debt one is willing to accumulate in the quest for a soulmate. Truly, everything is fair in love, even if not in war.

Will Karma the mortal outwit karma the immortal? Or will karma wipe Karma away...


~ Sneak Peek 1 ~

Bengaluru, the city of gardens. The city with lovely weather. The city of the fashionable and the hep. The Silicon Valley of India.

No, that wasn’t my Bengaluru. My birthplace became a part of Bengaluru only when an estate agent wanted to sell you a house.

To understand why I wished for her, you also need to understand the background in which the wish was made. That established, the name of the small town where I was born was Hulimavu, which translated into English as sour mango. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why someone would choose that name for a place, but I have a good guess; pregnant women loved sour mangoes and my town had a high birth rate. My town was fifteen kilometres from “proper” Bengaluru and its nearest claim to fame was being close to the Bannerghatta National Park, a forest reserve, where tigers lived in blissful ignorance of their nemesis, the army of sour mango eating women, whose children would probably take over tiger territory one day.

~ Sneak Peek 2 ~

It was my mother who named me Karma. It so happened that my chosen name was Kumar, but I am told that the outspoken nurse, who looked after my mother at the hospital during childbirth, said: “Tell your husband that your undernourished body is not meant to be used as a child producing factory. You have already given him two sons, what more does he want? This child is not Kumar. He is karma, the karma of your husband’s lust, who almost took your life.”

“But he didn’t take my life. So, if he is anyone’s karma, he is mine. My good karma,” Mother replied and named me Karma.

Download a copy on 2nd May!

About the Author...

Dear Readers,

Before I tell you more about myself, I want to answer a question that might arise in your mind. Given there are already so many writers (some might think too many), the question is: Why should I write at all?

Simply, I write because I was not allowed to write. Or read, any book which had the word love in it. In my family, it was believed that reading about love lead to rebellion. I myself picked up the pen when my only child was six-months old. At that time, I was without a job. I wrote because there was a lot that I wanted to tell my child, even if one day in the future, to make sense of this world. Writing also helped me keep hope alive, one page at a time, as I went from one fruitless interview to another.

As my child took first steps, I reached a milestone of my own. I completed my first book; the story of a young man's quest to find answers to life's questions. A boutique publisher in Paris loved it and translated my work into French. I even found a job soon after.

I am choosing to write under a pen-name because I am at a stage in my life where I prefer and love anonymity. Once my child is older, I intend to write under my own name.

Many thanks for reading my post and I hope you enjoy reading my novels.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Review: Lambs of Fairy Glen by Sheila Kogan

by Sheila Kogan
Illustrated by Stefan Turk
Picture Book 
72 pages
ages 4 to 8

When Mr. Treat strides down the ferry into the peaceful town of Uig, Scotland, he is intent on using Fairy Glen for his own profit. With the help of Mr. Pharma they introduce the sleep inducing I-Want-More dust.

Eight-year old twins, Hilda and Heather, who normally bicker at each other, join forces to enlist the Spirit of Beauty for help. And it is the gentle lambs who offer their wooly warmth to turn the tide.

Lambs of Fairy Glen is a warm and humorous story about lamb power, where kindness and love overcome malevolence. It is beautifully illustrated with twenty-two paintings filled with wit and whimsy. A universal tale, Lambs of Fairy Glen is designed for eight-year olds but is appropriate for eight to eighty



A pinch of fantasy and a whole lot of cute, cuddly fun make this a lovely tale, which can be read again and again.

This book takes the reader on a trip to Northern Scotland and even begins with the ferry ride to the island. A tad bit of mystery is filtered in as the reader bumps into an obnoxious man before stepping out onto land and discovering the quaint town. From there it follows a pair of twins and an adventure, which takes some interesting twists and turns.

This tale makes a wonderful read-aloud. The length is a little longer than many picture books, but this one also holds a richer story, the kind perfect to read before bedtime. The first pages directly grab the reader taking on more of a 2nd person flare before swooping into a twist, which has the twins at the center of the adventure. And this flows nicely.

Adventure doesn't hit right away but allows the reader to first sink into the Scottish landscape and town...and especially the people in the story. It's never boring or drags, but rather lets the entire thing come to life. Plus, there are hints at what is to come as the twins meet a neighbor or two. When the really troubles start, a pinch of magic and lots of tension grab until the last page. The ending is so sweet and unexpected, not to mention heartwarming and cuddly. It's a well-rounded story from beginning to end.

The illustrations fit the tale wonderfully and I enjoyed how well they artistically brought across the landscape. The moments are brought to life with the various emotions and even, at times, a little tension. It's fun to flip through these and gaze at them without the text.

And here she is...

Lambs of Fairy Glen sprang from a trip to the Hebrides in Northern Scotland.  When she was there, Sheila accidentally discovered the enchanted glen and met Mr. and Mrs. Potts, Gordy, the twin girls and the lambs.  The story presented itself like a gift.
Sheila Kogan has taught dance for most of her life.  Her book, Step by Step: A Complete Movement Education Curriculum is a classic in schools and studios. 
Ms. Kogan is the mother of three and grandmother of four.  She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Visit her website at

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review: The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls by

by Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by Duane Smith
Lee & Low Books
Middle Grade Historical
80 pages
ages 8 to 12

This exciting entry in Lee & Low's "Story of" line of chapter-book biographies introduces readers to Robert Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who commandeered a Confederate ship during the Civil War and escaped with his family and crew to freedom.

Growing up a slave in South Carolina, Robert Smalls always dreamed of the moment freedom would be within his grasp. Now that moment was here.

Robert stood proudly at the Planter's wheel. Only seven miles of water lay between the ship and the chance of freedom in Union territory. With precision and amazing courage, he navigated past the Confederate forts in the harbor and steered the ship toward the safety of the Union fleet. Just one miscalculation would be deadly, but for Robert, his family, and his crewmates, the risk was worth taking.

The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is the compelling account of the daring escape of Robert Smalls, a slave steamboat wheelman who became one of the Civil War's greatest heroes. His steadfast courage in the face of adversity is an inspiring model for all who attempt to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. This chapter book edition includes black-and-white illustrations as well as sidebars on related subjects, a timeline, a glossary, and recommended reading.



This book is part of the 'Have You Heard the Story Of...?' series, a series which highlights world-changing figures, who also belong to one of the minority groups here in the U.S.. This was the first book I've had a chance to read in the series, and it gets a big thumbs up from me.

Robert Smalls was born a slave before the Civil War, who, thanks to some interesting twists in his life, was able to work the docks and found his way to learn how to pilot a ship. His talent not only gained him respect but lead him to much greater places than he could have ever dreamed...especially after such extremely humble beginnings.

History can be so interesting if told correctly, and this book definitely accomplishes that. At less than eighty pages, it's not daunting at first grip...something reluctant readers will appreciate. The print itself is large, making it easy to read, and the book is not only divided up into interesting chapters, which mark the various stages of Robert Smalls life, but also throw in extra segments, which explain aspects of the time, which don't directly deal with Robert Smalls but rather deepen the understanding of what he faced or what he was working with. The entire text isn't written as dry facts, either, but allows Robert Smalls to come across as a real person and enables the readers to connect with him as an individual.

The illustrations in this book are a lovely addition. Not only do they help bring Robert Smalls to life, but also make it easier to picture the world he lived in. There are also maps, sketches and other visual aides, which assist in understanding what is explained in the text. Since these decorate almost every page, it's nice to flip through and simply gaze at them—another aspect which is sure to appeal to those with a shorter attention span.

At the end of the book, there's a timeline of Smalls' life, a glossary and a list of recommended reads for anyone wanting to learn more.

For those curious about Robert Smalls or the history of the Civil War or slavery, this read holds a lot of facts and information. For those who are discovering the era for other reasons, this is an interesting way to attack it, and it's hard to come away without knowing a few more details and gaining a better understanding of the time and Robert Smalls. In any case, it's not a boring, historical read but brings an historic figure to life in a way even those who aren't enthused about history will enjoy.

And here they are...

The Author...
JANET HALFMANN is the author of more than forty books for children, including Lee & Low's Midnight Teacher, which Kirkus called “An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time” in a starred review. When she’s not writing, Halfmann enjoys working in the garden, exploring nature, visiting new places, especially wildlife areas and living-history museums, and watching movies. Halfmann lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Visit Janet Halfmann on the Web at

The Illustrator...
DUANE SMITH is an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer with a degree from Pratt Institute in New York City and a Master’s in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology. His wide-ranging works have been featured in periodicals, books, movie storyboards, and galleries. Smith also works in graphic design and interactive media development, and splits his time between homes in Brooklyn and Albany, New York. Visit him online at

Monday, April 27, 2020

Dawn of the Patriot by Okimi Peters

Heart of Ziik
by Okimi Peters
YA Graphic Novel / Adventure
30 pages

Plagued by the mysterious death of his older brother, the unassuming yet highly spirited 19 year old Ziik will be thrust on the daunting path to becoming a vigilante in the Third World. Progressively finding himself as a symbol of light through the shadows of Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, Ziik must not only weave through the present day complexities of his homeland on his quest for justice; he must also learn to overcome himself to find peace.

And here he is...

As a first-time author Okimi Peters is new to writing books but he is not new to the world of writing. He has written scientific papers for reputable journals. His proclivity for writing began during his studies at McGill University where he pursued a Master of Applied Science degree. He wrote several papers and articles as a prerequisite to the attainment of his degree and this instilled in him a strong sense of writing. Okimi would go on to pursue a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Toronto as an international student. It is here that he began his first book project, Dawn of the Patriot. This project sparked the birth of the Movie-in-a-book penchant; an initiative that saw Okimi writing his books for big screen adaptation.

Okimi has since shifted gears from the scientific world into the world of business and currently works as the Executive Director of a telecommunications company called Alpha Technologies Limited. In his own words, “Africa could use more business solutions in transforming her from a third world to a more developed region.”


Monday 20th April

Tuesday 21st April

Wednesday 22nd April

Thursday 23rd April

Friday 24th April

Monday 27th April

Tuesday 28th April

Wednesday 29th April

Thursday 30th April

Friday 1st May

Sneak Peek: Some To Kiss My Scars by Brooke Skipstone with Giveaway!

Someone To Kiss My Scars 

A Teen Thriller
by Brooke Skipstone
October 17th 2019
YA Thriller

First Place Pencraft Award in Young Adult Abuse
Readers’ Favorite International Contest: Silver Medal in Young Adult Thriller

“Powerful. Original. Deeply felt and convincing.” — Kirkus Reviews 
Hunter needs to remember. Jazz needs to forget. They need each other to heal in this teen thriller of survivor love.
Hunter’s past is a mystery to him, erased by a doctor at the direction of his father. But memories of the secret trauma begin to surface when Hunter sees other people’s memories–visions invading his mind with stories of abuse, teen self-mutilation, rape, and forbidden sex.
His best friend Jazz has dark and disturbing memories of her own that she hides behind her sass and wit. Hunter discovers he can rescue the victims, even though he risks adding their suffering to his own.
Hunter and Jazz kiss each other’s scars and form a bond of empathy no two teens should ever need.

Only 99¢ for a limited time!


Jazz waited for Hunter inside the front doors of the K – 12 school, home to 150 students from the small town of Clear Creek and ten miles in either direction on the nearby highway. Her big boots stomped on the metal grating just inside the door as she paced, wondering what was keeping him. Her flatworms had regenerated their heads and tails and still remembered what she had taught them prior to decapitation. Memory can exist outside the brain! How cool was that? She couldn’t wait to tell him.
“Girl, you need to get to class,” said Patty, the secretary, in her loud, thick drawl. She was a large woman with a big smile, born in Texas, who lined her eyes in dark blue, wore big hoop earrings and gaudy silver necklaces. Today she wore jeans, boots, and a bright yellow top with white fringe and turquoise pieces sewn into the fabric. She loved the kids, and most loved her back, including Jazz.
“I need to show something to Hunter. It’s so cool!”
“Mr. Roberts approved you being out of his class?”
“He knows. He said it was OK.”
She had advanced to the state science fair a month ago and now wanted desperately to go to the international fair next year, her last chance before graduation. Maybe she could win a scholarship or some money for college. Mr. Roberts, her science teacher, had given her a corner of the school lab to run her experiments even through the summer. She’d been hired as extra maintenance help at the school, so she would have access to the building through August.
Jazz straightened up and put her hands on the glass door as she saw his truck roll into the parking lot.
Jazz watched Hunter park his truck and run toward the front door. As usual he looked flustered and a little clumsy when he ran, but God was he cute! She loved his long, floppy hair, his thick eyebrows over his dark brown eyes. And his mouth was gorgeous—so full and soft. He was the only guy in school who didn’t think she was weird for loving science and who smiled at her like he meant it. He was her only real friend. Before he came in August, the only people who cared about her were the teachers and Patty.
Just as he reached for the entry bell, Jazz pushed the front door open.
“Hey, Hunter!” She knew from the heat she felt in her cheeks she was blushing behind her big smile.
“Hey, Jazz. Sorry I’m late. I know you wanted me here early.”
“It’s OK. I have something to show you.” She grabbed his arm.
“I’ve got to get to class,” he said, panting.
“Patty said she’d give you a pass. C’mon!” Jazz pulled him down the hallway. “I said no such thing!” yelled Patty as the two kids ran past her.
“You know you will!” shouted Jazz over her shoulder.
Jazz dragged him down the hall to the science wing, opened the lab door, and walked to the far side of the room near the fume hood and a short lab table against the wall—her domain. One of the fluorescent tubes flickered on the ceiling. She looked up and shook her head. “That won’t do. Can’t have another variable in here. I’ll talk to Mr. Roberts later to have this fixed.”
She carefully removed a cover from a small shelving unit to reveal a series of petri dishes containing small brown worms. “Ta da!” said Jazz.
Each dish lay inside colored tape strips, labeled with names and dates. A clipboard with the color-code key hung from a hook.
Hunter bent closer. “Worms? Did you make them?” He wrinkled his nose. “Kinda. I trained them with food and bright lights until they remembered what to do in different environments to find their food. So if those memories were stored in their brain, which is similar to ours, you would think that if their heads were amputated, the new regenerated brain wouldn’t remember their training. But they did!” She threw out her hands in excitement.
“Yeah! As a group they didn’t do quite as well as the trained, uncut controls, which were not decapitated, but the ones that regrew their heads did as well as those which regrew their tails. And both groups of regenerated worms found their food faster than an untrained group. ”
“Meaning what?”
“Meaning memory is not confined to their brains!” She lifted up onto her toes and felt warmth radiating throughout her body. “If it were, the ones that grew new brains wouldn’t remember the training. Don’t you see? So many people think memories are stored in the brain, but they may be stored in other parts of the body or outside it.”
“At least in worms. What about in humans?”
“Could be the same. I haven’t figured out an experiment for them yet.” She moved closer and straightened the collar on his shirt. “But I’m looking for volunteers to help me.” She touched his nose with her finger. “How about you?”
“Sure. Unless you plan to chop something off me.”
She moved closer, enjoying the tease, locking her eyes onto his. “First, I train you, then I chop.” She picked up a ruler off a table next to her and slapped it into her hand. “Do you respond better to punishment or reward?” She walked toward him, shaking the ruler. “I used bright lights and raw liver on the worms.”
He backed away, chuckling. “So which one of those is the reward?”
“The liver, obviously. But for you . . .” She thought of so many things she wouldn’t dare say to him. “How about fresh chocolate chip cookies after school? I could come by your place.”
“Cool. I’d like that.”
He was so much fun. “When are you going to show me more stories about the Tremarians? I haven’t read any for a while.”
A pained look crossed his face. “I had to start writing something else.” “You had to? Why?”
“I’ll explain later. How about when you bring the cookies?”
“OK.” She noticed his frown and felt a chill. “Are you all right?” “Sure. Well, not really.”
“What’s wrong?” She almost reached out for his hand, but pulled back and clasped her hands against her chest.
“I realized this morning I never asked you about the things you didn’t want to remember. When we first talked. In the gym months ago. I told you I wanted to remember my past, and you said there were things you wanted to forget. What are they? And I’m sorry for not asking you before now.”
She felt her eyes widen and her heart race. How could you remember that? “So many things, Hunter, but none of them involve you.”
His shoulders slumped.
Jazz felt a rush of fear. Had she offended him? “What made you think of that now? I mean, I love that you care enough to ask, but what brought that up?”
Hunter bit his lip and frowned. “I haven’t had much sleep. I tried to find something from my past in my dad’s room, but the few things I found meant nothing to me. And I think he’s lying to me about . . . why we came here.” His chin quivered.
She moved closer to him, unable this time to resist, and reached for his hands. He tensed, causing her to pause. “Do you mind?”
She held both of his hands and felt them quivering within her own. “I’m your friend, Hunter. Something’s going on with you, and I want to help.” She looked into his brown eyes and saw them twitch. “Why don’t you come to my house for lunch today? I’ve got some leftover spaghetti and meatballs.”
He looked at their hands touching and smiled slightly. “That would be great. I forgot to bring anything to eat today. Lucky this school allows us to go home for lunch.”
“Good.” She squeezed his hands then let them go. “You better get to class.”
“Yeah, thanks.” He turned to leave and opened the door then looked back. “So what’s the brain for if not to store memories?”
“It’s a receiver and transmitter, like a TV set. A signal comes in, and a movie memory plays in your head.”
His eyes widened as he just stared at her with his mouth open.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah. Gotta go.” He left the room.
She thought he would be excited or awed about her conclusion, but he seemed
terrified. Why did he have to write something else? Something was going on inside Hunter’s head. She’d sensed it since they first met. He said he couldn’t remember his past, yet he often seemed haunted.
She knew what nightmares the past could bring.

And here she is...
Brooke Skipstone lives in Alaska, where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.


Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: The Kids on the Bus by Kirsten Hall

A Spin-The-Wheel Book of Emotions
by Kirsten Hall
Illustrated by Melissa Crowton
Chronicle Books
 Board Book / Activity
16 pages
ages 2 to 4

An interactive board book that lends a new twist to "Wheels on the Bus"!

The feelings on the bus go 'round and 'round, All 'round the town.

Take a turn on this busy city bus to discover what everyone is feeling. Spin the wheel to match the feeling to the scene, then sing along with the familiar song in this creative introduction to emotions. A fun, updated take on the classic children's song, this novelty board book shaped like a stylishly modern bus will have kids acting and singing along—and reflecting on their own varied emotions.

• A cute and clever intro to emotions for babies and toddlers
• Classic sing-a-long for parents and children
• Unique shape and interactive features help engage young readers

A classic read-aloud sing-along book for young fans of such books as My Fun School BusTonka: Fire Trucks!, and The Little School Bus.

This charming sing-able, read-able board book helps children identify emotions, a key early childhood developmental milestone.



Playing on the familiar son, The Kids on the Bus, this book spins into the world of emotions...and I mean that literally.

Shaped as a school bus, this book immediately embraces the theme and sets the mood. Every page flows with a verse fitting to the song, making this a book which can be sung along. At first, only a few kids enter the bus, and with each turn of the page, more get on. Before flipping, though, the reader is asked 'How Are You Feeling Today?' A wheel then allows the reader to spin emotion faces—visible in a round opening above the bus driver's head—until they reach whatever emotion they believe is being displayed on the bus at that moment.

Even at first glance, this book gives a cute impression. The school bus form draws in and the animal-children are vibrant and full of excitement. The atmosphere is a very pleasant one the entire way through. The illustrator also makes sure to pack in diversity and needed politeness. So, it's a nice 'feel good' read, perfect for young listeners. Add the text, which can be easily sung in thought of the original song, and it's also a wonderful read-aloud, which is sure to grab young listeners' interest.

The point of this book is to teach young listeners to recognize emotions...or so it would seem. The idea of placing the different (and simple) emotion faces on wheel, which the reader spins, is a lovely touch. Young listeners will enjoy spinning it around and around. The emotions include mostly positive ones with only an 'angry', which hits when the bus driver gets a bit over-whelmed with the giggling on the bus. I did find this a little odd and would have liked to have seen a more solid reason for the driver's anger. But then, all the kids on the bus know is positive. Other emotions like being sad or worried aren't included, which was also a shame.  Still, it's a cute book which is sure to have young listeners flipping through again and again.

And here they are...

The Author...
Kirsten Hall is an author and literary agent. She lives in New York City.

The Illustrator...
Melissa Crowton is an illustrator. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: Ultra Squad by Julia DeVillers, Art by Rafael Rosado with Giveaway!

Ultra Squad banner

Ultra Squad


Ultra Squad #1
by Julia DeVillers
Art by Rafael Rosado
Justice Studios
Middle Grade Graphic Novel/ Superheroes/ Science Fiction

“Funny, fun, and lots of heart. I’m an Official Member of the UltraSquad!”—Max Brallier, NYT bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth


When an evil force from the far reaches of the galaxy threatens Earth, the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice, is enlisted to battle the overly smug villain. Along with their bizarro-cute extra-terrestrial sidekicks the Pallies, the kick-butt girls employ their magical ultra-superpowers to save the universe! This first book in a new graphic novel series inspires girls to reach for their dreams, work together, and make a difference.

Meet the Ultra Squad!
- Posey (Pink): She loves acting and has a passion for fashion, especially anything with sequins and glitter! Her motto is “Born to shine!”
- Anna (Turquoise): She is a gymnast who loves to stay active both through sports like lacrosse and rock wall climbing. Her motto is “Girls run the world...and the galaxy!”
- Lyric (Purple): She lives for music and her guitar and also loves writing poetry and volunteering at the dog shelter. Her motto is “Girls rock!”
- Sky (Green): She is super plugged into technology and loves science experiments (like slime!). Her motto is “Problem? Problem solved.”

You can find Ultra Squad on Goodreads

You can buy Ultra Squad here:
- Justice Store
- Amazon
- Barnes & Noble
- Indiebound


Girl power packed with quirky humor and fast-paced adventure makes this into an exciting read.

Four girls with very different interests, but all talented at what they do, are called into the school's office. They can hardly believe that they have been chosen to be members of the Ultra Squad, a group, whose duty is to protect the the universe. But considering the teacher can switch from a human into an alien, who are they to argue. They are instantly given their first mission and must quickly figure out what this entire galactic fighting squad truly means before they take on a very nasty villain.

This is a fun read from start to finish. The four girls are very different, but each has their strengths and weaknesses...and a heart of gold. Although they have a few difficulties, they learn to get along quickly and help each other overcome or, at least, find a way to deal with their issues. The extra characters—side-kicks, villain, and leader—flow right in and add extra zest to make the story simply an enjoyable read.

The illustrations are bright and full of energy just like the girls. They help the fast pacing of the story flow seamlessly. Each character's personality shines as their expressions and emotions come across. The spunk is clear even in the illustrations, and this adds to the reading fun.


Ultra Squad

Ultra Squad Under the Strangebow
Ultra Squad #2
by Julia DeVillers
Art by Rafael Rosado
Middle Grade Graphic Novel/ Superheroes/ Science Fiction

An evil, strange rainbow! A former nemesis! And four girls who look exactly like the UltraSquad! It’s an epic battle on an alternate universe for the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice. Can the girls and their sidekicks, the Pallies, once again save the world and make it a better place through teamwork, positivity, and unstoppable fierce girl power?

You can find Ultra Squad Under the Strangebow on Goodreads

You can buy Ultra Squad Under the Strangebow here:
- Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
- Indiebound

Meet the characters from Ultra Squad!

Ultra Squad characters

Artwork from Ultra Squad!

Ultra Squad artwork 1

Ultra Squad artwork 2

Ultra Squad artwork 3


“Funny, fun, and lots of heart. I’m an Official Member of the UltraSquad!”—Max Brallier, NYT bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth

“A super-fun, super-adorable, super-bighearted read! I want to be part of the squad, my daughters want to be part of the squad. And so will readers!”—Sarah Mlynowski, NYT bestselling author of the Whatever Ever and Upside Down Magic series

“UltraSquad is ultra-fun. We’re lucky we have these girls to save the universe!”—Cindy Callaghan, author of Just Add Magic and Saltwater Secrets

“Quirky, funny, exciting, sweet!”—Michael Buckley, NYT bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm series, and Finn and the Intergalactic Lunch Box

“Four best friends who save the world? Yes, please. I'll follow the UltraSquad anywhere! —Lauren Myracle, co-author of the NYT bestselling Upside-Down Magic series

“The UltraSquad show us what we knew all along: girls will save the universe! These four talented besties are armed with super smarts and generous hearts. Intergalactic villains, beware!”—Christina Soontornvat, author of The Diary of an Ice Princess series and A Wish in The Dark

“Ultra Squad for the win! A graphic novel with heart, brains and lots of camaraderie. Oh, and four brave girls who rock the world with their super powers and smarts. A high-energy, thrilling ride!”—Ronald L. Smith author of Black Panther: The Young Prince and The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away

“I read this book straight through! There were great plot twists! I loved all of the characters. Bob was my favorite sidekick character. I'm so excited to read the next novel!”—Ava Lilian, Los Angeles, age 8

“Sophia was so excited to finish reading the book that she took it to school so she could read it there, too! It always makes me happy when the girls discover a book that they just don’t want to put down!” –A mom from Charlotte, NC

“I found myself in the book as "Lyric," whose passions are music and writing poetry. These girls rock!”—Elisakh Hagia: Los Angeles, age 13

“My students love being a part of the Ultra Squad—boys and girls! Highly recommend." –Mrs. Deskowicz, Troy, NY

And here they are...

The Author...
JULIA DEVILLERS is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than two dozen middle-grade and teen novels including How My Private Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, Liberty Porter First Daughter, and Girlwise. She also created the first retail branded book series for girls, Tween Brands (Justice/Limited TOO), and USA Today called it "a novel approach for retailers." She has appeared on the major television networks and in the New York Times as an expert on tween girls. She lives in Ohio with her husband and their two children. Visit her at:

You can find and contact Julia DeVillers here:
- Website
- Facebook
- Goodreads
- Instagram
- Instagram Ultra Squad
- Instagram Justice

The Artist...
 Born in Puerto Rico and based in Ohio, Rafael Rosado is a veteran of the animation industry. He is currently a storyboard artist for Warner Brothers, Disney, and Cartoon Network.

You can find and contact Rafael Rosado here:


There is a tour wide giveaway for the book blitz of Ultra Squad. 3 winners each win a prize package (US Only). The prize packages include: the 3 Ultra Squad books + a $25 Justice gift card & an Ultra Squad hat.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book blitz is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 20 till 26 April. See the tour schedule here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Happy Book Birthday, Rain Boy by Dylan Glynn !

by Dylan Glynn
Chronicle Books
Picture Book
ages 3 to 5
40 pages

A heartfelt picture book about differences, acceptance, and loving yourself for who you are.

Wherever he goes, Rain Boy brings wet—which means he's not very popular. Sun Kidd brings sunshine everywhere she goes, so everyone loves her. Only Sun Kidd sees what's special about Rain Boy. But when she invites him to her birthday party, disaster strikes, and Rain Boy storms. Now the world is nothing but rain. Will the other kids ever love Rain Boy for being himself? And. more importantly, can Rain Boy learn to love his rain? Debut author and illustrator Dylan Glynn's colorful and evocative illustrations color this story with all the emotions of the rainbow in this universal story of reaching out to those who look different from you, making new friends, and learning to love yourself.

• Important lessons on acceptance, bullying, self-reliance and empathy told in a beautifully illustrated, accessible story
• A great read-aloud book for families of children struggling to fit in and find their self-confidence
• Perfect book for educators, caregivers, and librarians to help with lessons on bullying, kindness, LGBQT themes, and friendship

Fans of OneThe Big Umbrella, and Be Kind will find Rain Boy's striking artwork and positive message an important addition to their bookshelf.



Storm clouds and gloomy weather are blown into a new light, which gives a lovely message of hope and rays of healthy self-esteem.

Rain Boy has it rough. While he tries to get along with everyone at school, no one ever seems to like having him around. Especially since he's always brings moisture. When Sun Kidd joins the class, she draws in new friends instantly with her sparkling warmth. Which makes Rain Boy even more alone than before. As Sun Kidd throws a part, Rain Boy hopes it will be his chance at some fun, but things don't run smoothly.

The two main characters in this book are simple yet clever. A rain cloud already sets many readers into a wet, heavier atmosphere, where the sun brings happiness and brightness. So, it's no problem for readers to sink right into the tale thanks to the familiar emotions already connected with the two sorts of weather. This also works nicely with the message, since rain clouds aren't really bad but have their positive, necessary and important aspects. No one wants just sunny weather, either.

The illustrations carry a very creative flair and steer clear from the usual exact lines and depictions. Rain Boy consists of a cloud with lines of raindrops forming his legs and arms. It's interesting to see see him in direct contrast with the very human students. Interestingly enough, Sun Kidd is illustrated pretty much as a normal, human girl...which my kids found a bit odd. The atmosphere does come across clear in every picture, and it's fun to flip through and enjoy the story that way alone.

As for the message, it comes across loud and clear. It's obvious that this book was written with an intended purpose, and the theme is brought across very bluntly—everyone is special in their own way and is important. Bullying or shutting others out isn't right, and everyone should be proud of who they are.

And here he is...

Dylan Glynn studied animation at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, and La Poudrière in Valence, France. Dylan's work has been recognized by and exhibited in Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Somerset House, and the Canadian Screen Awards. He is based in Toronto.