Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Review: The Weaver's Daughter by Sylvia Patience


by Sylvia Patience
Desert Plain Press
Middle Grade
192 pages
ages 8 to 12

“Sometimes people disappear into the North and are never heard from again.” When her papá doesn’t return, twelve year old Ixchel, a Maya from the Yucatan, resolves to leave home and make her way across the treacherous border into the United States to find him. Chel relies on an inexperienced smuggler and faces unknown dangers in a border tunnel. Frightened but resourceful, she is driven by hope, love for her father, and her dream of going to school.
“Ixchel’s story, told with honesty and sympathy, will stir readers’ hearts.”-Eve Bunting, award winning author of more than 250 children’s books.
The Weaver's Daughter is the winner of a Moonbeam Children's Book Awards bronze medal



Honesty and emotions make this a read, which draws in and leaves a lasting impression.

Ixchel is a young girl, and a Maya from the Yucatan, whose father immigrated to the US years before, leaving her with her grandmother and mother. Her mother, though, is always lost in her weaving, but Ixchel helps as much as she can by selling them at the market. When her mother has a vision, telling her to send Ixchel to the US, Ixchel is more than apprehensive. Together with her friend, Chel, she sets out on a dangerous journey with a smuggler to get to the US and find her father.

It's hard not to sympathize with Ixchel and root for her from beginning to end. Her character is as as rich as her culture, and her heart beams with determination and kindness. Still, she's understandably nervous and careful. Even the first pages with her draw in and make the reader wish they could meet her in person.

The culture and experiences in these pages make it worth a read and are excellent for anyone wanting to dive into the problems immigrants face when trying to get into the US. It displays the emotions naturally and honestly. While this is presented as a middle grade novel, there are several events and scenes which do not fit the age group and are appropriate for the young adult audience and above. However, the character depth, writing and flow is more appropriate for a younger audience. But older readers interested in the subject matter will enjoy reading this tale quite a bit.

The pacing rolls along quickly and keeps the reader in the pages. The author allows Ixchel's home to take root over more than a couple chapters in the beginning, and gives the reader a very good glance into her life, the reasons she leaves, and what it took to prepare the journey first. I found that building this end up as well really added a lot to Ixchel and her tale. It's definitely an intriguing read.

Learn more about Sylvia at her website:

As a member of SCBWI, I attend conferences, and participate in critique groups. One of my short fairy tales won an international Hans Christian Andersen first prize. The Weaver’s Daughter won best first page at an SCBWI conference. I've published articles in professional nursing and midwifery journals, poems in journals and anthologies, and an earlier middle grade book, Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz. I lived in Mexico for several years and have worked with immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I conduct groups and presentations in English and Spanish with adults and children of all ages.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Review: Slow Down, Tumbleweed! by Haven Iverson

My parents had a farm on the edge of Wyoming for many years, and there were always amazing stories to tell about the power of those seemingly harmless tumbleweeds. Never ever ever underestimate a tumbleweed...and I mean that with 100% sincerity. 

When I was discovered this book, there was no way I wasn't going to take a look at it. It comes out


and promises to offer sound advice, which doesn't involve the more sinister side of tumbleweeds (which they have, I promise you).

Ready for a look?

by Haven Iverson
Illustrated by Robert Sayegh
Sounds True
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Children will see how learning to slow down gives you a chance to notice and appreciate the beauty in the world.

In our fast-paced society, children are often missing the value of slowing down. Slow Down, Tumbleweed! is about a wild and roaming tumbleweed who thinks the world is only interesting if you rush through life. Then she gets caught on a fence and is forced to slow down.

As she learns to sit in stillness and quiet, Mabel notices the beauty of the world around her—the music of wind chimes, the shapes in the clouds, the long eyelashes of a heifer. She sees there is so much that is interesting and beautiful right here, right now. You don’t have to chase it.

Slow Down, Tumbleweed! teaches children the importance of slowing down, pausing to take a breath, and cultivating mindfulness. It shows the peace and gratitude you feel when you learn to be calm and open your awareness. This book celebrates all of life—both moving fast and moving slow.

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


Tumbleweeds have never been as fascinating and cute as the one in this book.

Tumbleweed broke off and began her journey across the state, which was the best day ever. Now, she tumbles and bumbles around, dancing with the wind and flying past on the breeze of great adventures. She even feels sorry for the other weeds, since they are stuck in the exact same spot without much excitement their entire lives. When a huge wind comes, she's sure this is going to be the most amazing adventure yet, but instead, she gets stuck on a fence and can't go anywhere.

This tumbleweed radiates a joy for life, and it's hard not to feel the excitement with her as she tumbles from one place to the next. The illustrations give the tumbleweed a nice amount of personality, while never leaving the natural shape. Her positive attitude is catchy and invites to smiles as do the scenes around her. While the illustrations are heavy on the browns and yellows, thanks to the landscape, they still pop off the pages and invite to gazing fun.

The text is good for a read-aloud, since it's a bit on the heavy side for beginning readers. The vocabulary, emotions, and settings fit well to the intended audience and even open up the door for those to learn more, who aren't familiar with tumbleweeds. The message in the book is to show listeners how important it is to slow down, but I found this part swept by way too fast and think it could have used a little more time with Tumbleweed visibly learning to enjoy a still environment with the animals (and not just the one page or so without any real emotional moments) before tumbling on again.

It's definitely a sweet read, and I have no doubt that listeners will enjoy getting to know Tumbleweed. It's hard not to like her and wish one could experience adventures with her in the future.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: Barb the Last Berzerker by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson

It's graphic novel time! My own kids are huge fans of graphic novels (as am I). So, I try to make sure to include, at least one of these every month. Today's review grabbed my attention not only because of the very active cover, but the blurb. "She-Ra and the Princesses of Power meets Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man..." Seriously, how could I not want to read this one?

Plus, the title got me thinking and the term 'berzerker'. Of course, I realize that berzerk is crazy and that it implies, in this case, a fighter, but I wondered exactly what the term means (dictionary time!) just out of curiosity.  This is what I found: 'an ancient Norse warrior who fought in a wild frenzy'. So, there you go.

Book 1
by Dan Abdo
and Jason Patterson
Simon & Schuster
Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
256 pages
ages 8 to 12


She-Ra and the Princesses of Power meets Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man in this sidesplitting graphic novel about a young Berzerker who has to rescue her fellow warriors from the evil villain Witch Head before he destroys the world!

Barb is a Berzerker, one of a group of warriors sworn to protect the land of Bailiwick from the scourge of monsters that plagues it. But the fearsome crew seem to have met their match in the nefarious Witch Head. Using power from his magical sword, he tricked the Zerks and took them captive. Only Barb was able to escape—and she took Witch Head’s Shadow Blade with her.

Now it’s up to Barb to free her fellow warriors so they can stop Witch Head from taking over Bailiwick. On the way, she’ll battle vampire goat fiends, snot goblins, and a giant with serious foot odor issues (but don’t mention that to him—he’s very sensitive about it). Luckily, she’s got her best friend, Porkchop the yeti, to help her.

But the power of the Shadow Blade has a mind of its own, and the deeper Barb gets into her quest, the harder it is to keep the blade’s awesome power under control.



Furious action and humor collide in super-fun adventure with a heroine full of spunk and determination.

Barb is a Berzerker, and the smallest one, who always is told to stay behind when the rest of the Berzerkers attack the monsters. When they attack an especially evil monster, Barb doesn't listen to orders, but this time, it's good since the rest of the Berzerker's are taken captive. Barb manages to escape with the sword, and now, it's up to her to find the Northern Berzerkers, bring them back to free her group.

This is a fast-paced tale, packed with adventure, quirky moments, monsters, unexpected surprises, a powerful sword, and friendship. Barb might be small, but she has the heart of a true Berzerker...actually, even a bigger one than that. She's brave, kind, and never bows from a fight which needs to be fought. And yet, she's horribly kind to anyone and everyone, who needs it. In other words, she is an awesome heroine, who simply loves to fight, too.

There are tons of fun fight scenes...the kind with the 'Whoosh', 'Bang' and such. Monsters need to fear when she appears with her sword, but yet, there's never a shortage on heart. This book is as much about friendship, standing up for those who need help, standing to your own mistakes, and judging creatures for who they are and not what they are. So, there are tons of good messages in here too. 

The illustrations are bright and bold and full of power. It's fun to go through each scene and watch Barb's tales unfold. The text is great for the intended audience and balances nicely with the illustrations.
It's just fun to read as tension and laughs combine into a fury of fun. Luckily, this is only the beginning of Barb's adventures, too.

And here they are...

For the past ten years, award-winning duo Dan & Jason have developed numersous animated campaigns, network TV and webseries, and critically acclaimed commercial work. Their extensive portfolio, including multiple comedic spots in both the UUS and UK, has garnered them industry wide recognition, while their humorous sensibility and diverse skill set has landed them jobs for top global brands.

Dan & Jason have set up properties at Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, and Nickelodeon as well as a feature animated film through Paramount Pictures The well-versed storytellers have developed original content for a wide variety of platforms, including print (Nickelodeon Comics, The  New Yorker), theater (Pilobolus) and  digital.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Review: Alley & Rex by Joel N Ross

Happy Sunday! We're supposed to finally see a few drops of rain the next days, and the temperatures are thankfully dropping (I'm not a hot weather friend). Today's book is perfect for rainy weekends or a few evenings of reading. It's  a chapter book on the verge of the middle grade novel border and is packed full of fun humor.

Ready for a few laughs?

by Joel N Ross
by Nicole Miles
Atheneum Books
Chapter Book / Lower Middle Grade
144 pages
ages 7 to 10


Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Wayside School will love this first book in a new, off-the-wall middle grade series about two boys—one with the heart of a lion and the test scores of a baked potato, the other a shy boy genius in a bunny suit—finding their strengths and true friendship.

Sixth-grader Alley Katz is innocently trying to help a bunch of kindergarteners when the burrito hits the fan. Literally. A burrito. A ceiling fan. A hail of beans. Now he has to get an A on his science test or he’ll be transferred to the dreaded Steggles Academy.

An A seems impossible! Alley is kind, intrepid, and well-liked, but for some reason he doesn’t get graded on any of that. So the principal assigns a peer mentor to help: Rex, a fourth-grade genius who wears a bunny suit.

Alley is totally in favor of both bunnies and fourth graders, but he doesn’t need Rex. He has his own foolproof plan to ace the test. Still, Rex is determined to fulfill his duty as Alley’s mentor—and he may need some help of his own. One boy needs to stay in school, the other needs to get through it. Can this odd couple save the day—and each other?



Silly pranks and laugh-worthy humor make this trouble-maker one to adore, and that before he discovers real friendship with the most unlikely of people.

Alley (aka Alex) has a super-ton of ideas and loves to put them into practice. Unfortunately, not all of them are good ideas, not even close. As the new school year begins, so does a last chance for him to prove that he can behave...or else, it's off to the private school and living with his impossible grandma. Forced to complete the ridiculously-never-going-to-happen goal of gaining an A on the next science test, he's given a Host to help him through. It's no one else than the new, younger kid, who dresses up  like a bunny every single day. 

Alley is a character to love. He's a huge trouble-maker but not out of spite. His curiosity and experimental friendliness get him into trouble time and again. He has a heart of gold and is never mean. His thoughts wander all over the place as he explains everything in an open honesty, which also calls for giggles and even a 'huh' at the warped, yet innocent, logic. He's the kind of kid to root for and wish you could be watching him, when he attempts all the ridiculous things. He definitely will grab the attention of the intended age group and keep them reading until the very end.

The writing is age appropriate and keeps a simple enough vocabulary, while also building a few more difficult terms in. Rex, the bunny-boy, is great on this end. The font is easy to read and the chapters are kept relatively short. Add the lovely illustrations, and it's a nice paced, more advanced chapter book, which doesn't easily scare readers away.

Friendship and finding it in unexpected places is one of the key themes. There is a little bullying from one of the side characters, but this is kept light and doesn't overtake the main plot of Alley and his own issues. The characters are, generally, kind to each other and offer help, when needed. It's a tale with tons of humor and laughs, and I do hope to see more of this pair in the future.

And here they are...

Joel Ross is the author of The Fog Diver, Beast & Crown, and Alley & Rex series. He’s never worn a school uniform, but he did try a spoonful of calves’ foot jelly once. The taste lingers. Visit him at

Nicole Miles was born in the United States but grew up in the Bahamas where all schools have uniforms but nobody eats calves’ foot jelly (as far as she is aware). She feels this is a fair compromise. She now lives in the United Kingdom, and her tiny place on the internet is

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Review: Pear of Hope by Wenda Shurety

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

But why don't you just take a peek? 

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Review: Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee

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

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

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

OCTOBER 12th!!!

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

And here she is...

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

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Review: Cat Dog by Mem Fox

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

And here they are...

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

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

White Feathers Academy by Phyllis Cherry with Giveaway!


White Feathers Academy
by Phyllis Cherry
Middle Grade / YA Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads

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

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Goodreads

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$5 Amazon gift card – 4 winners!


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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

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

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

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

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


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

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

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON UK     /    AMAZON US


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

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

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

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

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

And here they are...

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review: Life Sciences by Joy Sorman

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

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

Ready for the dive?  

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

OCTOBER 12th!!!

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

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

AMAZON   /   B&N  


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

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

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

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

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

And here they are...

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

Review: Squirrel Do Bad, Trubble Town by Stephan Pastis

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

So, off we go!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

And here he is...

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