Thursday, December 31, 2020

Best of 2020 on Bookworm for Kids


It's time for the 2020 list of the most amazing books (in my opinion), which appeared here on Bookworm for Kids this year. But first... a few statistics.

Don't moan. It's not that bad. You might even find it quite interesting!


Picture Books:  116 

Middle Grade: 86 

Young Adult: 89

10 more fell into Mommy and Daddy's Day reviews

That's makes a total of....oh.....hmmmm....      301!!! 

I had 272 last year, so that means an up-kick of about 10%. Phew!


Every year, this tends to be overwhelmed with Fantasy. So, I'm always curious in which direction it heads and by how much. These numbers combine Middle Grade and Young Adult. I've also tightened down the categories, removing humor (I didn't have any this year really), dystopian and thriller to combine with the other categories.

Fantasy: 65  (yep, it's up from last year's 53...hitting my young adult category especially hard, this year)

Science Fiction: 28  (I tripled this one—only 11 in 2019)

Contemporary: 26  (this was also higher than last year...mostly in the middle grade category)

Historical: 11 (remained the same)

Mystery: 17 (tripled on this end)

Romance: 3 (same)

Non-Fiction: 19 (doubled this one, too)

But enough for numbers! What were my favorite reads?

(Click on the book images to be taken to the original posts)

I reviewed this one in May and found the way 'friendship' is described so priceless! Ask your kid the name of their new best friend (when they meet one at the playground, pool or where ever) and pay attention to their answer.

Love these monsters!!!!!!! (should I add more exclamation points?) !!!!!!!!

Toe-tapping, backside-wiggling, arm-swinging and pure fun!

So beautiful...and educational too!

I admit, I like this one more than my kids do...which means I probably shouldn't choose it. But it reminded me so much of my own childhood...and it's so beautiful done in every way...that I had to choose it, too!

A lovely fairy tale with tons of heart and meaning. 

My kids adored this one. My son even claimed it's one of his favorite picture books ever. So, how could I not include this one?

(Click on the images to go to the original post.)

There were tons of middle grade novels this year, which were politically and/or socially directed. While I find such books horribly important, I was also a little disappointed at the lack of pure fun and simple imagination. I felt quality was sacrificed in the drive to make books 'socially acceptable'. That definitely had an impact on which books I saw as my favorites, too.

I'm not a huge fan of animal fiction...usually. But this one...with all of it's heart...won me over.
Dark, magical and packed with true, sisterly a weird way.

Another animal read! I honestly am not usually a fan of these, but this year was full of surprises. These pets were so fun and packed tons of personality, making it to one of my favorite for the year.
Zombie ants made this one!!! Okay, not really. But it is mysterious with a touch of science fiction and simply a gripping read.

I didn't give this one 5 -stars, only 4. So, I hesitated to include this one on my favorite list. And yet, it is one of my favorite reads this year. It may not be perfect, but it's sweet, magical and isn't a read I'll forget easily.


It was so hard to choose, which titles to put on here this year. Strangely enough, around 50% of the books I covered on Bookworm for Kids were fantasy. While I can't be sure, I did have the impression that it was a huge year for YA fantasy/scifi. While there are number of books I enjoyed reading, I'm having trouble pulling out more than two or so, which really stuck with me. Many were entertaining, but to say they were 'best' is really a hard call. But these are definitely at the top of the list.

This was sweet, funny and had me smiling more than just a couple of times.

With such a rich world and intriguing plot...and a hint of darkness... this one was definitely on my favorite list this year.
I'm not a soul-switching fan, in most cases, but this one does such an amazing job of placing it in a rich, historical world. I couldn't help but love it.

I just read this series this last week, and especially this first book had me captured in the pages.

Tomorrow, it's time to take a peek at what January will hold, and you won't want to miss out because this year is really starting out with some terrific reads.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Review: The Adventures of Chips and Salsa by Cynthia Petillo

by Cynthia Petillo
Illustrated by Ana Sebastian
Mascot Press
Picture Book
38 pages
ages 4 to 8

Meet Chips, a happy-go-lucky, friendly beagle, and his pals as they welcome Salsa, a tiny, shy Chihuahua who is new to the neighborhood. The dogs become fast friends and, before they know it, find themselves on a playful adventure in the park. And though Salsa may be tiny, he proves that true loyalty, friendship, and love come in all sizes. Join Chips and Salsa as they take readers on a fun-filled and exciting journey full of new adventures!


This is a pair, which will win over dog-lovers' hearts and bring across some important messages along the way.

Chips is a wonderful beagle with a comfortable life. When Salsa, a small Chihuahua, moves in next door, he's excited to add another friend to his group. A trip to the park, however, makes it clear that not all dogs are as welcoming as Chips. But sometimes opportunities offer the chance to bridge even the rockiest waters.

These dogs already invite to smiles and will have readers wishing they could join the group of friends themselves. The dogs are lively and have only good things in mind. When the conflict does arise, it hits along lines such as bullying and insecurities about not being 'good' enough or fitting in. Of course, these are messages often found in kidlit, but this book does bring them over clearly and in a nice way. The resolution holds a bit of heroic-ness (without being overly so) and has readers feeling good at the end. 

The illustrations are bright and bold. Each scene accompanies the written tale and does allow the characters and situations to unfold clearly and understandably. For those readers, who want to explore it on their own, too, this does allow them to flip through and explore the story.

The text is written in boxes and is more suitable for slightly older listeners (5 to7, I'd suggest). The vocabulary is pretty well set for the age group and flows well enough. It allows the personalities of the dogs to come to light as well as the messages. In other words, it's a lovely, wholesome read.

Review: Challenging Mazes For Kids by Rockridge Press

 I picked this one up....well...who doesn't like mazes? As a kid, I was thrilled to get my hands on maze books and may have even had a phase where I tried to create my own. Plus, with my daughter now being homeschooled, I thought this might be a fun way to throw in extra fun or bonus moments. Now, I just have to keep myself from doing them alone.

75 Full-Color Mazes including Find the Item and 3-D
by Rockridge Press
94 pages
ages 8 to 12

75+ Brainpower-building puzzle adventures for kids 8 to 12!

Help kids boost confidence and persistence--and build their motor skills and problem-solving skills--with more than 75 ultra-colorful mazes! Go beyond other maze books for kids with puzzles that transport them everywhere from outer space to a desert oasis while challenging them to push the limits of their talents and imagination.

Find everything you want in maze books for kids, with:

A complete puzzle adventure--Find tons of mazes that feature cool illustrations, clear directions, and a whole cast of different characters.

Keep kids challenged--Unlike other maze books for kids, this one features all types of mazes and gets more challenging as the book progresses so kids stay engaged and learning.

Fun without screens--This pencil-on-paper activity book means there's no need for devices, batteries, or an Internet connection.
Keep kids entertained and delighted with a book that does more than other maze books for kids.


I picked this one up to give an extra twist to my now homeschooled child...just for fun to add it (obviously not for learning purposes).

I loved mazes as a kid, and this book is full of bright and boldly illustrated mazes. While my daughter is 13, and I knew that none of these would really pose a huge challenge, it still makes her smile when I hand one to her for fun.
The mazes are varied, not only in the layout thanks to the illustrations but also a bit in how they're constructed. There is the inclusion of several '3-D' mazes, which do add an extra twist. Some are humorous, while others go for insects, plants or...well, anything really.
The solutions are all found in a section at the very back of the book, but these were unnecessary, obviously, for my daughter. It's a lot of fun to do these, and that's exactly what I was hoping for.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Review: Nick Muffet and the Silver Coffin by Paula Berinstein

Amanda Lester Stories, Book 10
by Paula Berinstein
The Writing Show
Upper Middle Grade/YA Mystery/ Time Travel
ages 10 to 16

Beware of making promises to Sherlock Holmes . . .

After promising Sherlock Holmes he'd look after his descendants, accidental time traveler Nick Muffet discovers he's spoken too soon: from his vantage point in the twenty-first century he can find no trace of Holmes's child with the cunning actress Irene Adler. His only option is to return to the past and look for himself.

But time travel is risky and Nick fears he might inadvertently cause a disaster. Still, a promise is a promise. Against his better judgment he commandeers Simon Binkle's time machine and returns to 1890.

Unfortunately his search for the elusive offspring leads nowhere and he becomes increasingly desperate. At a loss, he realizes there's only one strategy left to him, and it's fraught with peril. He must seek out Adler herself.

Securing a job at the theater where she's appearing, Nick finds himself in the perfect position to observe the actress. But Adler is not the type to make things easy, and his distance is soon compromised. That's just the beginning of his problems though. It seems Adler is involved in much more than just acting, and Nick is in far more trouble than he ever imagined.


I've read almost every single one of the titles in this series and never grow bored of the adventures. This one concentrates on of my favorite character. 

One of my favorite things about this series is the mix of genres. It's always a surprise as to what direction the tale will take and imagination flows freely. The stakes are always high and the twists and turns fresh. Yet, it always holds to the mystery end of things and ties in Sherlock Holmes in some way or another. It's an original mix with characters to love and adventures to get lost in.

This tale isn't any different as Nick finds himself trying his best to keep a promise to Sherlock Holmes. As if the promise is a chore in itself, Nick has to battle other unexpected problems, which make it almost impossible to keep his promise. Of course, danger is only a step away and the solution is almost impossible to find. 

In other words, this is already the tenth book in the series, and I'm not nearly bored of it yet.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: The High Crown Chronicles by Jodi Gallegos

After all of the wonderful celebrating with family and, somehow, getting some clean-up done (I'm not done on that front, though), I found time to sit back and simply dive into a rich fantasy world. I ran across this series around mid-/end of November and loved the sound of it... and the cover. 
The first book came out in September, and I was able to pick up the second this last week (it came out on December 1st.) Oh, and the first book is currently FREE on, don't miss out on that!

Anyway, I read both of these books in one the grunts and mumbles of my husband...but since he didn't help with the dishes, he didn't complain too much.  If you love fantasy (but no magic really), royal plots, intrigue, secrets, danger, and are ready to meet a heroine who is strong but not 'kick-butt',  then this one might be what you're looking for.

The High Crown Chronicles, Book One
by Jodi Gallegos
YA Fantasy
310 pages

When a crown is at stake, blood will be shed…

The High Crown Chronicles is cinematic storytelling at its best. With stunning imagery, dynamic characters, and a slow-burn romance, Jodi Gallegos has built a fantastical world. Coupled with a strong female heroine who’s both relatable and fierce, this seamlessly layered plot pours the foundation for an epic fantasy series that readers will devour before asking for more.

Malory is bound by blood to ensure the High Crown is returned to her kingdom—be it the blood that runs through her veins or the blood spilled at her feet.

The eldest heir of the kingdom of Devlishire, Malory is destined to be the first reigning queen in a hundred years, though she’d prefer to spend her days sparring in the courtyard or reading tales of the long-forgotten gods rather than studying languages and royal lineage. But an upset in the balance of power between the Unified Kingdoms is about to disrupt peace in the land and promote unquenchable greed amongst its rulers.

A jealous younger brother—and a salacious rumor—leaves Malory as a pawn in her father’s plot to overthrow the new ruling king. She’s forced to participate or risk the life of her best friend Esmond, a knight in the King’s Guard. Betrayed by her family, sent away from her home, and denied her birthright, Malory will navigate the courts of her new kingdom to protect it against any who threaten it—even her. Her journey will reawaken the warrior inside herself, and the gods who have lain dormant for a hundred years.

The High Crown Chronicles is a young adult fantasy that embraces the spirit of betrayal, deception, and political intrigue that is at the core of Philippa Gregory novels, with the dark vengeance of George R.R. Martin. With heart-stopping action, relatable characters, and impeccable writing, the first novel in The High Crown Chronicles by Jodi Gallegos is sure to leave readers hungry for more.



Is this one worth a read? In short—yes! It's packed with court intrigue, evil plots, deadly secrets...upon secrets...upon secrets, a bit of romance, tons of action, and it's never clear who can be trusted. In other words, it's one of the reads which keeps the reader in the pages until the very end.

Malory is the first born in the kingdom of Devlishire and destined to be the Queen. Her knowledge and wisdom as well as her sword skills (which does raise eyebrows) are known throughout the seven kingdoms. When the High King of the seven kingdom alliance dies unexpectedly, her father's interest in regaining the position for himself and his heirs becomes his main goal. Combined with her younger brother's sudden interest in the throne—her throne, she's beginning to wonder if her position as future queen is threatened. What starts as a seed of doubt soon grows into something much larger than she ever suspected...or can guess. And so the web of secrets and lies begins.

I enjoyed this one from the very first page. The world building is very well done and draws into the kingdom and the lives of the royals as if the castle truly existed. Small details make the scenes vivid but are woven in masterfully so as not to ever make the tale drag. It sets the stage for all of the excitement to come, and there's plenty of that.

Malory has everything a great queen needs and comes across as a very self-assured young woman...but she has her self-doubts, too. And it's these doubts and the several mistakes she makes, which make her very easy to like and cheer for. She has a lot to go up against and makes mostly understandable choices and decisions along the way. Even if they aren't always good ones. 

The plot in this one weaves back and forth and up and down and all over. Add in the multiple subplots, which give depth to the other characters, too, and it's really an amazing layering. No one is to be trusted, but that doesn't mean they're selfish or evil. It's hard to know where loyalties lie, why they lie where they do, and what the future might hold. Add the constant tension of an unknown danger, and it's definitely a fast-paced, exciting read.

While the tension makes this an engaging read, I also appreciate how Malory fit into the royal ladder. She's a girl, and no matter what her heritage might be or who she is to wed, she still can't break free of society's order to things. She fights well but takes more than a back seat in that regard, since princesses and queens don't wield swords. Her education has given her knowledge and her actions are often accepted by others as being wise, and yet, she's held at a distance in the court...and she doesn't even complain because she's aware of her standing. In other words, I appreciate how the author kept a certain amount of reality to everything and didn't make Malory an instant, kick-butt heroine. It makes her likable, slides into the reality of a traditional, royal court, and makes her all the more easy to cheer for until the end. 

But the story doesn't end on the last page. Malory's journey is only beginning, and it promises to be so much more.

by Jodi Gallegos
Clean Teen Publishing
YA Fantasy
281 pages

While the war between the kingdoms grows, the long-forgotten gods are beginning to take notice. And one of them has been waiting for this moment for a very long time…

Malory has survived betrayal, an assassination attempt, and the Battle of Allondale. But months later, with the Unified Kingdoms at war, she is a queen in name only. All she rules is in ruins and her enemies won’t stop until she and Jamis are dead and their lands claimed.

Hidden deep in the forested Argralands, Malory—along with Jamis, Kennard, Katherine, Josef, and Isobel—has been systematically raiding the resources of Roarke and his allies. As Malory and Jamis work to bolster their troops so they can finally conquer their enemies, a new threat emerges that leaves all the kingdoms at risk. But ever-shifting alliances and a broken unification leave Malory questioning loyalties—even among those closest to her. Can Malory build her armies before a devastating loss brings her to the brink of her own ruin?

Queen of the Ruins picks up seamlessly where The High Crown Chronicles left off and draws the reader more deeply into this world of stunning imagery, dynamic characters, and shifting political alliances. A blend of dark, vengeful tone and deeply emotional moments will draw readers through this action-packed novel and leave their hearts thundering until the final page.


Pivoting in a slightly different direction and with even more secrets and action then the first novel , this book opens up the doors to an entirely new threat and tons of excitement.

Malory is the High Queen, but the treason and lies run deeper than she ever expected. Now, on the run with her High King at her side and their thrones destroyed, both vow to stop the evil plots of the greedy kingdoms, bring unity and peace back to the seven kingdoms, and execute revenge for those who died. They are outnumbered but have the people of the forest on their side. Together with five new friends, they war against their enemies, attacking where they can. It's not only brutal, but their chances of success aren't guaranteed. Malory finds herself not only winding through past secrets, trying to figure out who to trust, and how to fit into her new life, but hears whispers inside her head, which hint that there's more at play. 

I was eager to get my hands on this one after completing the first book in the series. And it didn't disappoint. Malory is stronger and forced to take more control of her life, but yet, she needs to work with others. Instead of acting as a queen, her new allies and friends need to be treated as equals despite their backgrounds. But this isn't the greatest challenge she faces, by any means. Secrets of her past are beginning to come to light, and with each one, the lies her life have been built on unfold. It's a horribly difficult web and while some things are easy to guess, others come out of the blue. It kept me on my toes until the very end.

Still, this book also takes a slightly different turn than the first book did. Malory hears voices in her head, and it soon becomes clear that the kings and kingdoms aren't the only war being fought. The forgotten gods and goddesses are involved and might be pulling the strings for their own purposes. But what these are is anyone's guess, and whether or not she can trust any of them, is even more doubtful. Malory is being sucked into a new position and her character is growing right along with it. The settings change to rougher ones outdoors, and the physical dangers are clearer than they were in book one. There's much more action, and a darker tone to the tale.

The romance takes a super interesting twist in this second book. While it's strong and sweet, there's a surprise which throws everything upside down. It well that it's hard not to like Malory even more, and adore her hero. For those romantics out there, this one does require tissues because it might draw a few tears and leave some heart-ache. Also, it's impossible to tell where the author is heading on this front. I have some suspicions, but there's also reason to believe that my thoughts are completely off base. So, thumbs up on this front, since I have no idea where things are headed but can't wait to find out.

Summed up... I wish I didn't have to wait until this next summer to see what will happen next. The war is upping in stakes and danger, and it will be interesting to see where it will all go from here. Especially since there promises to be more dangerous and unknown actors at play.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Review: Of A Feather by Dayna Lorentz

I happened across this one and was immediately drawn-in by the cover. It's a tale about a middle grade girl and a friendship she develops with an owl...and the healing both find through this relationship. It took some refreshing turns as it deals with foster homes and falconry. Add the fact that both tell the tale from their own points of view, and it was really a fun read. And best of all... it isn't preachy! 
But you can see my exact thoughts on this one below. 

by Dayna Lorentz
HMH Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Contemporary 
336 pages
ages 8 to 12

FEBRUARY 21st, 2021!!!!

In the vein of Barbara O’Connor’s Wish, a moving, poignant story told in alternating perspectives about a down-on-her-luck girl who rescues a baby owl, and how the two set each other free.

Great horned owl Rufus is eight months old and still can’t hunt. When his mother is hit by a car, he discovers just how dangerous the forest can be.

Reenie has given up on adults and learned how to care for herself—a good thing, since she’s sent to live with an aunt she’s never met. Yet this aunt has a wonderful secret: she’s a falconer who agrees to help Reenie catch an injured passage hawk in the wild and rehabilitate it.

When Reenie traps bedraggled Rufus, his eyes lock onto her heart, and they form a powerful friendship. But can Rufus learn to trust in the outside world and fly free? And can Reenie open her heart enough to truly soar?


A part of me wants to say that this one resembles My Side of the Mountain, but it really has very little in common with that story...outside of the relationship with the bird and maybe a broader sense of learning how to deal with the feeling of being alone. Still, it had me thinking of that story.

This story takes two very different creatures, who've been left to feel alone. One is six grade Reenie, who's being passed around homes until (and if) her mother is able to heal from her own psychological problems, and the other is a young owl, whose mother was injured and taken away. The story alternates between the two, making for an interesting mix between bird and human. It's intriguing to see both views as they grow closer and develop a bond, which surpasses simple friendship...and find their own healing along the way.

When I picked this up, I was a bit afraid it might become too preachy, and I was pleasantly surprised that this doesn't happen. It stays on the tale and shows the relationship between the two, while allowing them to still struggle in their own worlds and ways. It's great to get to know both of the characters, both being relatable and sympathetic. I'm not normally a huge fan of talking animals, but this one is entertaining and offers the needed insight to make the story endearing and hit home. Rufus, the owl, never truly speaks but this one mirrors his thoughts in a way readers can easily understand and relate to. And he has tons of personality.

Owl lovers are going to really enjoy this tale. While diving into the world of falconry, it takes an unexpected twist into the world of owls, and allows the real problems of owls and general facts surrounding them to come through. Of course, this owl is more than that, since it tells half of the story, but real traits, living habits and such are explained along the way. So, the reader does learn a quite a bit.

Middle graders will connect with these characters and see their own problems reflected. Not only does Reenie face the issue of going from one foster home to the next, but, more universally, the state of feeling alone and being hesitant to reach out is something many readers can identify at one point or another. Then, there are the usual troubles of fitting in at school and finding new friends, when no one seems to understand. I'm glad to say that this one doesn't rest on bullying...which was refreshing...but tackles the problem of learning to open up and building trust. 

Summed up, this one surprised me and was even better than I thought it might be. I can see middle graders enjoying this one quite a bit.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Holiday Review: Little Pink Kitty Christmas by Pete Marksteiner

Tomorrow's Christmas! That makes this my last holiday review for this year, and I'm so excited to end it with a very special treat for you. This isn't only a cute picture book with a lovely tale about finding the meaning of Christmas on Christmas Eve, but it's set to music and can even be viewed on Youtube, where the author/composer presents the entire tale in song form. Just head to the website below ( and enjoy.

Seriously, head over there and then click on the Youtube link. You won't regret it! (Go here - Merry Christmas)


by Pete Marksteiner
Illustrated by Gayatri Ray
Picture Book / Holidays
ages 4 to 8

​“Little Pink Kitty Christmas” is a new Christmas story picture book & Christmas song!  The lyrics of a new Christmas song tell the tale of a dad’s desperate, last minute Christmas Eve search for a stuffed pink kitty cat for his little girl. Beautifully illustrated, the story describes how just when all seems lost, dad finds exactly what he’s looking for… and how the next morning he realizes the lesson we’re all meant to share:  It’s not about things you give and receive because if you have friends and family you love and who love you, you’re already rich beyond compare.  The book, “Little Pink Kitty Christmas,” is available on Amazon and the music is available for purchase or stream on all major online retailers and streaming services.  



The magic of Christmas shines through in a delightful tale about a girl's very specific wish.

The family is ready for Christmas Eve, but as the father tucks his daughter to bed the night before, she discloses her most secret, Christmas wish—a pink kitty with green eyes. The father realizes how important this is to her, and wanting her to not loose faith in Christmas wishes, spends the next day looking everywhere for this last minute gift. The end is indeed a miracle and just perfect for the holidays.

The tale is one very suitable for a 'story time', meaning it does stretch over age brackets. I think much of this is thanks to the fact that the tale is told from the father's point of view. He wants to make his daughter's day amazing and goes on a search. He's the one who re-discovers the meaning of Christmas, too. While putting him as the main character might seem to distance this one from younger readers, it doesn't. Not at all. Young listeners will have absolutely no problem sliding into his shoes as he searches for the perfect gift. After all, kids often want to make their parents happy with a perfect gift and struggle and worry, too. As said, it's great for a Christmas tale together.

The illustrations are nicely done and allow the tale to open up while being read. Kids can follow it on their own without a reader, too. 

Of course, the extra bonus on this one is the fact that it can also be viewed or listened to. The song version is a treat as is the video version. I've watched it already a few times with my kids because we enjoyed it quite a bit.

And here he is...

A mid-life husband and dad, Pete describes himself as "a fairly average guy, blessed by an extraordinary family, leading a blissfully ordinary life." After 35 years of the Monday-Friday grind he, like many folks, started losing focus on the things that make all our lives wonderous and beautiful. As an avid songwriter and now first-time kids' book author, Pete's passion is making art, both musical and literary, that encourages smelling some roses every chance you get, and savoring life's very best moments.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Holiday Review: A Nancy Drew Christmas by Carolyn Keene

Ready for a little mystery among snowflakes, eggnog and Christmas stockings? I was thrilled to get my hands on this one. Believe it or not, I was not a huge Nancy Drew fan as a kid, bur rather a Hardy Boys one. So, I haven't read more than a couple of the books about her mysteries over the years. Still, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to mix mystery and snow. 

Nancy Drew Diaries
by Carolyn Keene
Middle Grade Mystery
343 pages

Nancy finds herself a Christmas mystery in this super special eighteenth book of the Nancy Drew Diaries series, a fresh approach to the classic mystery series.

Nancy is spending her winter vacation at the most beautiful ski resort in Montana. Everything looks perfect, from the spectacular mountain views to the cozy rooms inside complete with fireplaces and holiday decorations. Unfortunately, not all is as jolly as it seems.

Things started to go wrong on her very first day; she hit a bad patch of ice on a run down the slopes and broke her leg in a couple of different places. Then a doctor decided she needed a giant cast and lots of bed rest. It’s been a week of unfortunate events for rest the resort too; there was a sabotaged opening dinner, multiple hotel room break-ins, and a dangerous trap was set for the star chef. And if she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a giant storm is heading her way and may just snow everyone in for days. Trapped in a hotel with someone bent on destruction? Cast or no cast, you know this sleuth is on the case.

It’s almost Christmas and both guests and staff are starting to panic. With all the odds stacked against her, can Nancy solve these crimes in time and save the holiday season? Or is this one Yuletide she’ll wish to forget?


Mystery hits holiday cheer in an exciting edition to the series, which is sure to have young fans on the edge of their seats the entire way through.

Nancy Drew is off on a Christmas holiday at a ski resort. While everything is packed with Christmas cheer, her vacation soon takes an unlucky fall. After breaking her leg on ice and being forced to rest, she realizes that accidents and problems are occurring again and again at the resort. Add the tension of a incoming storm and her own impatience, and she's off on another mystery to find out who's trying to destroy the place.

The biggest bonus for me was the short visit of the Hardy Boys (I was always a fan of their books over Nancy's). Not that this had much to do with the story (and was short), but I appreciated it. Next was the mystery. It is well twisted and placed with lots of wonderful clues. Tensions stay high, secrets lurk in the most hidden places, and it's almost impossible to guess who the real villain is until the end. So, that end offers everything it should and is fun to read.

Nancy solves her mystery well, and the added troubles of dealing with her broken leg slipped in a lovely dose of empathy. I've always had trouble connecting to her, and in this one, she had even a pinch more loftiness. But the other characters are lovely and she was as to be expected.

With all of the solidness of this tale, I was a bit disappointed by the added, heavier preaching on the environmental end. A message is fine, but this was more. Also, some scenes dragged a little thanks to longer explanations, which weren't really necessary. But all in all it's a nice read, and one that Nancy Drew fans are definitely going to want to pick up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Holiday Review: All the Little Snowflakes by Cindy Jin

Only a few days left until Christmas! And we're dreaming of a white one...dreaming because it's not going to happen.  So, to help with these dreams, I'm throwing in a book which is all about snowflakes, white landscapes, and frosty fun. This one has punch-outs the entire way through and is a board book for even young readers.

by Cindy Jin
Illustrated by Dawn M. Cardona
Little Simon
Board Book
18 pages
ages 0 to 5

Celebrate winter in this rhyming board book featuring die-cut snowflakes on every page!

All the little snowflakes fall down to the ground
As bright city lights twinkle all around.

A wintry celebration full of snow and all things that sparkle, this novelty board book reminds us that everyone is one of a kind—just like each special snowflake that falls from the sky.


Snowflake and playful dreams join peaceful thoughts in this cute, little board book.

I'm a sucker for board books with the extra, little special something...and this one has small cut-outs/peep holes the entire way through. The book has the usual, nice, sturdy board book sizing and quality, meaning it will hold up in smaller hands. The illustrations are bright and bold, but not overly simplified. For those who enjoy very direct illustrations in board books, these will come across a little more busy. But I, personally, prefer them this way so kids can always discover something new. The scenes do include some which will connect with young listeners, who know snow...or snow dreamers.

The text is just right for ages 2 to 5. It's short and builds the scenes as well as the excitement for snow. This book is all about playing in snow but also slides more along the lines of experiencing the falling snow. Not only as it falls but also when it ends... and the hope it will start up again. Simply said, it's a celebration of snow.

And here they are...

The Author
Cindy Jin edits and writes books for children. She lives in New York City.

The Illustrator
Dawn M. Cardona is a self-taught illustrator who has been cutting out her intricate and playful illustrations by hand since she discovered her love for paper in 2004. She currently lives and works out of her home in Hawaii.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Holiday Review: The Story of the Three Wise Kings by Tomie dePaola

The count-down to Christmas is almost done...yes, it is leaving me snowballed, too. But there's no way I'm going to miss the holiday spirit. So, this week is packed with holiday and wintery reads for all ages. Today's isn't a 'new' book but rather a re-release of an already popular one from a very talented and well-known artist. 
retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola 
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book / Holiday / Religious
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Three wise men of the East, having seen a new star symbolizing the birth of a great king, follow the star to Bethlehem where they present gifts to the newborn Jesus.


Sliding into the place of very well becoming a Christmas classic, this is one of those books, which can be revisited year after year and holds a special place as a Christmas read.

The tale of the Three Kings is by no means an unfamiliar one, and yet, this one does give a little extra food for thought while offering a wonderful presentation of the well-known incident. This book starts with the individual kings, each in their own country, and explains why they probably noticed the star and followed it. Their paths cross, and they continue their journey together until they find the babe in the manger. I found it wonderful how the tale takes the time to first dive a tiny bit into the background of these kings...not a lot but just enough to get them going and explain why they followed a star. After all, that is quite the undergoing. And it does it simply, quickly and exactly enough for young readers to understand.

The rest of the tale follows the well-known side and does it with care and reverence. The artwork goes hand in hand with the text and creates a wonderful balance, which draws in and makes it a delightful read. Of course, being from a well-known author/illustrator, this one is a treat. The artwork holds some aspects which remind of a more traditional Christian, middle age form, while bringing in a modern flair as well. The text tells the story but never becomes heavy. Instead, it stays short and keeps to a vocabulary young listeners will understand and enjoy.

It's no wonder that this one has been around for years and continues to be printed again and again. I'm going to be adding it to my own shelves and am looking forward to adding it to the few Christmas reads I share with my own younger listeners in the future.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Review: Lemonade Code by Jarod Pratt

Graphic novels are a huge favorite with my middle grader. So, I'm always excited to pick one, I just might have a soft spot for these myself.
This one had such a cute cover and a wonderful blurb, that I had to give it a read. After all, I did have a lemonade stand as a kid and my own kids tried their luck with one a few times, too. To see this at the center of an entire story definitely caught my interest. 

by Jarod Pratt 
Oni Press
Middle Grade Graphic Novel 
Science Fiction
160 pages
ages 8 to 12

JANUARY 18th, 2021!!!

This is a fully illustrated graphic novel about a middle school super genius who starts a lemonade stand to fund his ultimate top-secret project, only to find unexpected competition right across the street when the new kid starts a rival stand.

Robbie Reynolds isn't just a genius. He's a super SUPER genius! But he doesn't have the cash to fund his ultimate (and top secret) project. That's why he's opening a lemonade stand. Not just any lemonade stand: this one is state of the art, and his automatista can make you any flavor of lemonade your heart desires! Bacon, salsa, potato salad, dirty diaper—anything you want.

Unfortunately, Robbie isn't the only one in the Lemonade Hustle. Daphne Du-Ri, his new across-the-street neighbor, has her own setup going, and something about her lemonade is resonating with people in ways Robbie's can't. Before the week is over, Robbie and Daphne are in a full-on Lemonade War.



After reading the blurb, I was excited to give this one a read...but to say it wasn't anything like I expected would be an understatement.

Robbie is a super-amazing, over-the-top genius. But he has a problem. His secret project has run out of funds. So, to help out, he creates a very special lemonade stand, where there isn't a flavor that his automatista can't create. It's an amazing stand, and it catches even more attention...and money...than he could have hoped for. When a cute girl opens a very simple lemonade stand across the street, he declares war, especially when she starts winning over customers with her very simple recipe. 

It took me a few pages to fall into the flow on this tale. The science fiction is heavy, and Robbie is more of a mad scientist than a kid. So, when this one starts out with a blast into high-tech, a genius Dr. Mama, and a boy, who is more than just a little energetic about threw me for a bit. But after I got a handle on the direction this book takes, things flowed much better. Just don't pick up this one and expect any sort of normality because it's not there.

This tale is fast-paced and races from one scene into the next. Robbie is all over the place, but it fits his character well, considering his mind must be one busy space. When he sees competition pop-up across the street, it's understandable that he'd be a bit protective and not overly friendly. Unfortunately, Robbie's head is so much in his own realm that he goes beyond normal rudeness, and despite the girl's positive nature, is simply a big, selfish jerk, who only shows kindness to his mother. It makes him very hard to like even when he does help 'save the world' at the end. He starts as a brat and ends as one, too. The girl is cute, though, and the dog definitely earns bonus points..

As to the illustrations, these are bright, bold and do bring the story to life. The scenes are well placed and allow the visual story to build with the written text. Like the tale itself, these sometimes were on the frantic end...but then, this one doesn't have a calm plot. The text blocks on the illustrations, unfortunately, hit the heavy side. I found myself skipping more than just a couple of them. I'm not sure the intended audience will take the time to read all of them, either. Plus, there are more than a couple heavier, scientific terms, which will be beyond what many of this age group can understand. However, I do appreciate how the author filtered these in with a fun plot. They just will go over some readers' heads.

All in all, this is an imagination packed read, which races through an original and exciting adventure. There are more than a few unexpected twists, and lemonade takes on an entirely new meaning after this book is done. Just don't pick it up with the expectation that it will have anything to do with how usual kids might stage a lemonade stand war.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Review: Lulu Llama and the Triangle of Drama by Kim Linette

Today's review comes from a series, which won the Moonbeam Best Series Award...and deserves it (in my opinion). The EQ Explorers series is designed "to educate and inspire" and bring across the "powerful principal of happiness and emotional awareness". And these do...but honestly, I just enjoyed the cute adventure and fun illustrations (I'm not only centered on 'depth' when it comes to kidlit).
Since I've been honored to receive several titles in this series, I'll be presenting them one by one over the next couple of months. This one...being about a my daughter's absolute favorite. 

EQ Explorers
by Kim Linette
Illustrated by James Loram
Kapalua Cove, LLC
 Picture Book
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

With a trio of high-drama llamas as friends, how will Andi have any fun?

Stuck doing chores on her family’s llama farm, Andi longs to have more fun. She tries to befriend a trio of llamas, but she quickly gets caught up in the triangle of drama caused by Bully Bart, Victim Viv, and Fixer Fred.

It’s only with the help of another, wiser llama—Lulu—that Andi begins to understand the drama-free truth.

This story centers around the powerful EQ principle: Choose to be Drama Free.
It's a lesson in emotional intelligence that is essential for every child.

Get to know the entire EQ Explorer's Series—including how we donate 100% of profits to help underserved kids around the world!


Llamas fans will love the different personalities and llama drama packed into these pages...and even find a bit of wisdom along the way.

Andi has been helping feed and take care of the llamas for many years and is a little sick and tired of cleaning up after them and all of the other worked involved. When she decides to have some fun and play with them, she discovers three llamas off to the side. But they aren't having fun; they're arguing. Soon, she's introduced to the 'drama llamas', a certain sort of llamas, which engage in drama all over the world. Although she wants to help them bring an end to their drama, she might find herself stuck up in their never ending triangle herself.

I'm usually skeptical about self-help books or ones which are on a mission to teach a lesson. This book, however, manages to balance the realm of fun and messages splendidly. Readers/listeners will like Andi from the first page and completely understand her frustration. Taking care of animals isn't always fun. As she ventures across the drama llamas, the humor rolls in and is sure to have listeners nodding but also smiling and giggling, too. These llamas pack tons of personality, quirks and are definitely anything but boring. 

The illustrations are very well done. Each llama's personality radiates from the page and even displays extra visual traits to make things fun. The emotions are portrayed clear on the expressions. Also, the illustrations clearly show the triangle between the three llamas (it never disappears), and this subtly reinforces the main message.

As to the main's more than clear. The idea of how to avoid drama is very distinctly and bluntly restated at the end of the story. On the last page, there is also a list of several things a person can do to avoid the 'drama llama triangle'. So, it doesn't end only in this lane, though, the author also throws in a list of llama facts.

In other words, this is a lovely book for llama fans and a wonderful way to bring across the message about avoiding drama and how, maybe, to even assist others when they find themselves caught in the triangle.

And here they are...

The Author

Kim Linette is the mother of six wonderful children and an entrepreneur at heart. She founded Kapalua Cove Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering underserved children. She is the author of  EQ Explorers, a children's book series designed to inspire children to live big, happy, emotionally healthy lives. Raised in Southern California, Kim Linette now splits her time between Alpine, Utah and Lahaina, Maui.

The Illustrator

James Loram is an illustrator based in South West England. He attended Plymouth University where he received his BA (Hons) in Illustration. James specializes in children's book illustration, and his work has been feature in numerous galleries and publications throughout the world.