Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, This Book is My Best Friend by Robin Robinson!

What better way to end the month than with a book birthday? It's always a special treat to help announce the entrance of a new read to the shelves. This one just happens to be about books and, I'm guessing, friendship. I'm wondering if there will be a bit of back-and-forth between friends with tons of humor and an important lesson, too??? That's just my first gut reaction. So, let's see if I'm right.

by Robin Robinson
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

When two young readers reach for the same book at the library, they set off on a charming romp through the stacks in this rambunctious and endearing picture book.

Sunny and Aarush both love to read. In fact, it is their favorite thing. For Aarush, a book is like a refuge for when you want to be alone. For Sunny, a book is like a companion that keeps you from being lonely. There is only one problem: they are best friends with the same book, and neither wants to share.

Clearly, one of them will have to find something else to read—but maybe they’ll discover something even better along the way. Could it be sharing is the best part of reading and friendship?



The love to read unfolds in its vast array of meanings in this fun tale about two boys and one book.

Two boys, who aren't named during the story but identified as Sunny and Aarush on the front flap, each have a favorite book at the library, but when they both try to check it out at the same time, there's a huge problem. The boys don't really know each other well, but each has a very good (and deep) reason as to why this book is so important to them. The discussion is on as to who gets it in the end.

This is a cute book with smiles, friendship, and some deeper meanings (which don't slam into the reader's face). These two boys are as different as different could be. When they both grab for the same book and neither is ready to give it up, the perfect tension is set. The boys present reasons for why this is their favorite book, which do draw sympathy. Both have issues at home, and one is as difficult as the other. Obviously, this message can pack quite a punch, even for adults, but while it hits home, it's not the concentration of this read. So, that's done marvelously.

The back and forth banter makes this read sit. The entire thing is written in dialogue and holds such a natural flow that it's fun to read. To help as a read-aloud (or for the beginner reader), the dialogue of each boy is written in a different font. 

The illustrations bring the emotions across very well, while making the scenes very recognizable. There's a slight sense of humor built in right along with the text to keep this from growing too heavy and remaining fun.

Rounded up, this is a fun book about friendship, which packs much more weight than is visible on the surface. And it does all of this in an entertaining way, which is just right.

And here she is...

Robin Robinson makes picture books and graphic novels for kids while living in a house that looks like someone threw a Halloween party in a library but forgot to clean up afterward. Robin likes both robots and rodents very much.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Today's read... Maggie and the Mountain of Light by Mark Snoad

Today's read heads in the science fiction direction but that with a unique twist. I found the blurb on this one interesting and was looking forward to see what this band of new found friends would be like. 
I don't really have a whole lot to say...so let's just dive right in!

by Mark Snoad
Monarch Educational Services LLC
Middle Grade Science Fiction
256 pages
ages 8 to 12

APRIL 3rd!!!

A respected organization, a hidden purpose, a world-ending threat.

12-year-old Maggie Thatcher longs to be a courageous Wayfinder Girl. But that's not very likely; she is barely coping with life as it is, relying on her asthma inhaler, epi-pen, and the support of her best friend, Anahira Waititi.

Maggie and Anahira attend a Wayfinder 'apocalypse training' camp in London. Despite it being just for fun, the sight of a green-skinned person with other-worldly eyes sends Maggie into a panic, especially as it’s a person that only Maggie can see.

And then Maggie learns of a dangerous secret that the Wayfinder Girls have kept hidden from the world. Anahira wants in on the secret. Maggie must decide whether to join her friend, even if she has no idea what that decision will ultimately cost.

Will Maggie face her fears and journey into the unknown?



With the support of friendship and a wholesome, girl organization, this adventure opens up the world of multiverses in an unexpected and exciting way.

Maggie has been a member of the Wayfinders for years, but she's still not sure about the idea of an 'apocaypse' training camp, when she isn't exactly a 'rugged' person. With her medicine pack, epi-pen, special made meals, and best friend at her side, she embarks on the adventure, only to discover a green person staring back at her during the registration. No one else can see this being, which is very confusing. But when the four 'best' girls from the first camp day are told to attend a special meeting and Maggie, for very unclear reasons, is invited with them, she learns that there's a secret group running within the organization, whose purpose is to protect Earth from other realms and worlds. And she knows she's the last person who should be doing this.

I was surprised at how mild and normal the setting is before diving into science fiction and multi-worlds. First, there's a foreword, where the author explains what Wayfinders is and where it can be found (fact in reality, not fiction). Then, Maggie is introduced as she and her best friend attend a very normal camp (reminding me a tiny bit of Girl Scouts and such) and are quickly yet smoothly brought into this fantastic adventure. It's an odd mix of calm normalness with delightful aliens, pending end-of-the-word, impossible heists, working together, and friendship...and all of that with a girl, who isn't exactly an adventurous type and constantly needs to watch out for allergic reactions. And it works very well.

Maggie and her best friend make a wonderful duo and have an inspiring relationship, but then, their entire group is very good at working together. The entire 'fight the world against aliens' might involve high stakes, but it's still gentle enough that even the most sensitive readers won't feel uncomfortable. The aliens have a touch of silliness, and readers will wish they could meet these themselves. 

Of course, Maggie has a lot to learn about herself and must step out of her comfort zone to learn that she's capable of more than she thinks. But there's also a well-woven plot around the aliens and invasions, and this promises much more still to come.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Today's read... Children of the Black Glass by Anthony Peckman

Today's read slides back into an ancient world, somewhere between the Stone Age and Iron Age, but swishes in magic and adventure. It's advertised as being a Howl's Moving Castle mixed with Neil Gaiman, which caught my attention since I'm a huge fan of both. But I also see this as a very dangerous comparison because you're talking about a masterpiece and a master, at the same time. Lofty expectations. 

Let's see how this read stacks up against those two.

by Anthony Peckham
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Tween Fantasy
368 pages
ages 10 to 14

MARCH 7th!!! 

In an unkind alternate past, somewhere between the Stone Age and a Metal Age, Tell and his sister Wren live in a small mountain village that makes its living off black glass mines and runs on brutal laws. When their father is blinded in a mining accident, the law dictates he has thirty days to regain his sight and be capable of working at the same level as before or be put to death.

Faced with this dire future, Tell and Wren make the forbidden treacherous journey to the legendary city of Halfway, halfway down the mountain, to trade their father’s haul of the valuable black glass for the medicine to cure him. The city, ruled by five powerful female sorcerers, at first dazzles the siblings. But beneath Halfway’s glittery surface seethes ambition, violence, prejudice, blackmail, and impending chaos.

Without knowing it, Tell and Wren have walked straight into a sorcerers’ coup. Over the next twelve days they must scramble first to save themselves, then their new friends, as allegiances shift and prejudices crack open to show who has true power.



With quite a bit of tension and plenty of secrets mixed with adventure, this is a fast-paced read with very high-stakes.

Ever since their mother's death, Tell and Wren have been doing their best to help keep their family and the village supplied with enough food to survive, while their father mines for valued black glass. When an accident leaves him blind with no chance of recovery without expensive, Tell and Wren are forced to venture down from the mountain to sell the glass themselves. Little do they know that they are about to land in the middle of a dangerous, magical rebellion run by sorcerers.

This is definitely a quick-paced, high-tension read. The world is raw and brutal, making it just right for the upper end of the middle grade audience and lower young adults. Tell and Wren have a wonderful sibling relationship and work very well together, and will need to, considering what they are up against. There are darker tones throughout but also inspiring moments of friendship and hope. The writing flows very well, and there is never a boring moment. It sticks to the high fantasy end and builds a rich world with promise of tons to come. For readers who enjoy rich fantasy and aren't faint-at-heart, it's a grabbing read.

And here he is...

Anthony (Tony) Peckham is a South African–born screenwriter, surfer, and farmer who now lives on an island in the Pacific. Decades ago, while exploring a remote, high-altitude landscape with his children, he came upon a mountain made of black glass which inspired his debut novel. His other work includes Clint Eastwood’s Invictus and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. He is a Writers Guild of America Award winner and an NAACP Image Award nominee. Children of the Black Glass is his novel-writing debut.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Today's read... Wolfwood by Marianna Baer

The cover caught my attention on today's read. It circles around the world of art, and a girl's reals struggles to discover herself in a difficult situation with a sick mother. Now, I'm not the most avid reader of contemporary and 'serious' tales, but this one takes a bit of a fantastical dive, which I'm assuming will border on magical realism. And it includes jungles and monsters. So, I'm curious to see how it all comes together.

by Marianna Baer
Young Adult Magical Realism
384 pagesg

MARCH 28th!!!

A teenage girl begins secretly forging paintings, plunging her into a dark and dangerous imaginary world
Indigo and her mother, once-famous artist Zoe Serra, have barely been scraping by since her mom's breakdown. When a gallery offers Zoe a revival show for her unfinished blockbuster series, Wolfwood, Indigo knows it's a crucial chance to finally regain stability. Zoe, however, mysteriously refuses. Desperate not to lose the opportunity, Indigo secretly takes up the brush herself.
It turns out, there might be a very good reason her mother wants nothing to do with Wolfwood.
Painting submerges Indigo into Wolfwood itself—a dangerous jungle where an army of grotesque, monstrous flora are in a violent battle with a band of girls. As Indigo enters Wolfwood again and again, the line between fantasy and reality blurs. It's a tenuous balancing act: keeping her forgery secret and her mind lucid, all while fighting her attraction to Kai, the son of the gallery owner.
And by the time Indigo realizes the true nature of the monsters she's up against, it might be too late—and the monsters might just win.


A harsh reality mixes with desperation, the art world, and violent, monstrous fantasy to create a unique experience on a journey of self-discovery.

Zoe can't believe her ears, when the art gallery's owner explains she can sell Zoe's mother's paintings for almost $100,000 a piece. After living in a run-down basement with barely enough food to survive while working two jobs, going to school, and repairing the apartments above them, it's a dream come true. But Zoe soon discovers that her mother hasn't painted the rest of the Wolfwood series and refuses to without reason...and that with even more building debt than Zoe even knew. Zoe's desperate, but she doesn't realize what monsters are hiding behind the story Wolfwood portrays...ones which are out for blood.

Zoe's rough life in poverty smashes full force into the high-class world of art, buyers, and galleries. She's been working two jobs to pay the bills, while her mother suffers heavily from depression and other unaddressed mental issues. Zoe's attitude isn't as negative as one might think, but she does wish there was a way to, at least, lighten the load and earn some real meals. It's hard not to feel for her, especially since she doesn't have any lofty desires. Despite the problems, her relationship with her mother is very good. There are some understandable arguments and misunderstandings, but the love between them is golden.

When Zoe hits the rich world, her desire to somewhat fit in builds one aspect of the plot. She tries to hide her situation, but at the same time, doesn't grow obsessed with reaching the same status...which I appreciated. Her goals stay on pulling her and her mother out of their situation. She makes some bad decisions, but even these are understandable. Even the romance end, which taps constantly on her door, plays in the background as her main goal never waivers. So, there isn't a love at first sight or even heavy concentration on this like is found in many young adult novels. It's there, adds a nice subplot, but doesn't overwhelm.

The gem in this tale comes with the whirl of Wolfwood's fantasy with Zoe's reality. Wolfwood has a very heavy story behind it, one which rotates around Zoe's mother. Zoe has no clue about what truly inspired the series, but when she paints, she's drawn into the very violent, plant-eating world with a group of girls, she's determined to save. These scenes are packed with danger and tension of a very different kind. The tale switches back and forth between Zoe's reality and the one in the paintings. Plus, the mother's own history slides in little by little in its own, shorter chapters. It never grows confusing and is very well laid out, so as to lure the reader in little by little. There were a few moments, where I found myself skimming, but it was more out of curiosity of what would happen next than boredom.

The ending leaves some questions unanswered, but I assume that's the intent. This is a tale, which calls food for thought. The ending is heart-wrenching in several ways, and yet, satisfying, too. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Today's read... Clock Striker, Volume 1 by Issaka Galadima

I had to do a bit of shuffling again and am a little late with today's read. I was so hoping to work in another graphic novel and was happy to get my hands on this one, coming beginning February. The idea of clockwork, action, and science excitement caught my attention. And doesn't that girl carry such an energetic and determined expression? 

Volume 1
by Issaka Galadima
with Frederick I. Jones
Saturday AM
Rockport Publishers
Young Adult Science Fiction / Graphic Novel
224 pages


Clock Striker, now in graphic novel format, follows Shonen manga’s first Black female lead hero, Cast, in her quest to become a member of the SMITHS, the legendary warrior engineers.
Cast dreams of being a SMITH, and though she’s rather handy with her tools, no one in her small town ever realizes their dreams. Besides, these legendary warrior engineers haven’t been seen in years and were never known for having female members. Fortunately, Cast meets one surviving member named Ms. Philomena Clock, who agrees to take her on as her apprentice, or striker.

Now Cast is thrust into one deadly adventure after another! From cybernetic desperadoes to technology thieves and more, Cast has to use her mind and her remodeled robotics-lab prosthetic hand, which offers unfathomable offensive power in the form of scientific experiments. Need lightning? Cast can generate it from her hand! Cast’s mentor seeks to uncover an ominous mystery that explains what happened to the SMITHS and shines a light on a hidden power that may be within Cast herself.

Can Cast become a new member of the SMITHS? More importantly, can Cast survive the process to become a SMITH?

Clock Striker is rated T for Teen, recommended for ages 13 and up.

Saturday AM, the world’s most diverse manga-inspired comics, are now presented in a new format! Introducing Saturday AM TANKS, the new graphic novel format similar to Japanese Tankobons where we collect the global heroes and artists of Saturday AM. These handsome volumes have select color pages, revised artwork, and innovative post-credit scenes that help bring new life to our popular BIPOC, LGBTQ, and/or culturally diverse characters.

Join in even more adventures with the other action-packed Saturday AM TANKS series:Apple Black, GunhildHammerHenshin!The Massively Multiplayer World of GhostsOblivion RougeSaigamiSoul BeatTitan KingUnderground, and Yellow Stringer.


Fast and furious, this is an exciting read, which holds the amazingness of shonen manga but intricates a Western style and adds a more diverse world.

Cast is at her wit's end. She is beyond determined to enter the upcoming contest to become a striker, the long-honored engineer-warriors, who have saved the world. But her teacher refuses, reminding her that their town is trash and not interested in math or science. Of course, this isn't enough to make her give up, especially since her mother's health and brother's well-being depend on her success. Although she's already convinced she's proven her tinkering and tech skills to her teacher, she takes things one step further and fixes up as well as adapts an old AI hand. Not only will this enable her to do lab work but proves him wrong that a girl with a disability can't handle it. Well, plus she's a girl, and Strikers are never girls. 

This is a read to sit down with, get lost in, and reach the end without realizing it. Every moment packs something to drive this one forward, whether intriguing backstory or action pure. It begins with a grabbing seen before introducing Cast and her Striker, and first then, does it head back to tell Cast's tale, before launching forward again. And it works well.

Cast is an interesting character and not because of her diverse aspects. These simply enhance her already strong and focused personality. She's a heroine to root for with a big heart. But then, Ms. Clock, her Striker, is a enigma and fits perfectly to Cast as they battle all sorts of evil, too.

The illustrations are well done, letting the action fly while never growing confusing. Especially the scenes with Ms. Clock offer excitement...and the tech is simply a treat. 

It will be fun to see where this series goes from here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Today's read... The Hidden World of Gnomes by Lauren Soloy

 When I saw today's read, I immediately thought of my European friends because this is the type of read many of them would have immediately grabbed up for their own kids. It promises to hit the world of gnomes and introduce many aspects, which will make readers dream. If it's anything like I hope it is, this one will open a gateway into an imaginative realm and let readers sink in.

Oh, and this one is hitting my possible favorites of 2023 list!

by Lauren Soloy
Tundra Books
Picture Book / Activities
96 pages
ages 3 to 7

JUNE 20th!!!

A delightful introduction and collection of facts about the secret lives of gnomes that will charm and fascinate readers of all ages.

This book is an introduction to the hidden folk called gnomes, who live in a happy place they call The Pocket. Where is The Pocket, you ask?

Well, it’s all around you, all the time.

Gnomes are curious little creatures, and they’re very shy. But after reading this book, you will learn to spot the telltale signs that gnomes are around . . . and maybe even meet one!

Lauren Soloy has been studying gnomes her whole life, and she has created this book to share her knowledge with you. For example, what jobs do gnomes do? Babysitting robin's eggs, squirrel-tail fluffing, storytelling. Where do they live? In gardens, forests and any place with plants, birds and bugs. What are their names? Hotchi-Mossy, Able Potter, Cob Tiggy and Puckle Swift, to name a few.

With charming details and surprising facts, this celebration of all things gnome will enchant readers of all ages.

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hidden-world-of-gnomes-lauren-soloy/1142297890
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-World-Gnomes-Lauren-Soloy/dp/0735271046
GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63882056-the-hidden-world-of-gnomes


Gnomes and their magical world come to life and invite in with secrets, tales, activities and more.

This book is all about gnomes, every type, every habit, and every other aspect one might dream of. There are wood gnomes, flower gnomes, and so many more. While each one receives attention, this book takes several steps beyond a usual picture book tale and opens up an entire wealth of insight into the realm of gnomes. In other words, this author has done her homework and lets the knowledge flow with imaginative fantasy and fun.

Stories invite readers to dream of this magical world and introduce the gnomes with variety and cheerful thoughts. Gnome activities and thoughts, such as in lists for gnome words, keep things gently-playful and endearing. The activities, which include everything from costume making to recipes and much more, not only allow readers to touch into the 'gnome' world but also offer great activities for those days when they need something to do. These activities will need some adult assistance, but they are definitely do-able and offer some fun. 

The illustrations are lovely and enjoyable to flip through as each gnome and scene gains magical tones. Plus, the entire read holds words of encouragement, warmth, and gentle advice. So, it's a treasure chest of many things. 

This is an adorable book for those who love to tap into the mystic world or dream of gnomes hiding in their own yards. I do see this one as bringing a smile to many readers young and old.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Today's read... Twistwood Tales by A.C. Macdonald

After the more serious tones this month, I desperately needed some silliness and ridiculous nonsense. Not only that, but I seem to be short on graphic novels this month. So, when I came across this read, I snatched up the chance to take a look at it right away. It's been getting great reviews and promises humor...the quirky type. And who couldn't use a few more laughs now and then?

by A.C. Macdonald
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
160 pages
ages 8 to 12

APRIL 4th!!!

Come and join Bucket Boy and the whole Twistwood gang as they live their lives in the forest. Travel through a magical land and meet an enchanting cast of smart, snarky, and sweet characters from the popular webcomic, Twistwood Tales.

From the worrisome Loghead, to the not-so-helpful Dr. Crowley, to the terrifying Fairy-Gourd Mother, and many more, the forest of Twistwood contains plenty of kind and magical creatures. Follow along as the characters explore moral quandaries, discuss mental health, and more. An extended story details Bucket Boy's journey to learn that he is a valuable friend, whether or not he can be useful. Full of wholesome lessons and witty jokes, Twistwood Tales will enchant and amuse readers for years to come.



Quite a bit of ridiculousness, more than a few quirky characters, and even a moments with heart and kindness make this a fun read to enjoy from beginning to end. And then, to read again.

This is a collection of many small tales, each of which takes place in the same forest and centers around a group of unique characters. The situations are humorous, some with a hint of naughtiness while others are simply cute. The characters are varied and imaginative, and they are so easy to like. Even the 'bad' ones win over as their softer sides, are sometimes slightly exposed. It's humor with tons of quirks and tons of heart.

The short tales sometimes only take one page, while others last several. In general, they somewhat weave together just enough to make them fit. Some take more thought to understand the twist of humor, while others are pretty straight forward, varying from slap-stick to clever wit. The illustrations carry a rich world and let the fantastical end shine. They balance with the text to let not only the humor sit but also allow the friendship to shine through. While one silly and odd situation goes right into another, there's a warmth and care to the characters, which really pulls in and makes this a read to enjoy.

Not only middle graders will enjoy this one, but adults will find themselves flipping one page after the other too.

And here she is...

AC Macdonald created the charming series Twistwood Tales, which tells the stories of all the strange beings that live within the Twistwood Forest.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Today's read... Junkyard Dogs by Katherine Higgs Coulthard

This month seems to be digging deeper into the serious read direction, and today's book falls right into this category. It's said to hit themes such as poverty, homelessness, and starvation, while building up a criminal scene. While it feels weird to say that I'm excited to dive in (due to the themes), I am looking forward to seeing where this read goes.

by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard
Peachtree Teen
YA Contemporary
336 pages

FEBRUARY 21st!!!

Some people dream of happily ever after, but all 17-year-old Josh Roberts wants is a roof over his head and for his little brother to be safe.

Josh's father has gone missing without a trace. Now Josh and his 9-year-old brother, Twig, are stuck living with Gran in her trailer. Problem is, Gran didn't ask to take care of any kids, and she's threatening to call social services unless Josh can find his dad. After paying off Gran to take in his little brother, Josh risks truancy and getting kicked off his basketball team to take to the streets and hunt for his dad. But when Josh digs too deep, he suddenly finds himself tethered to a criminal scrapping ring that his father was accomplice to. If Josh wants to keep Twig out of the system and return to some sense of normal, he'll have to track his dad down and demand honest answers.

GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    INDIEBOUND    /    AMAZON


Heart-wrenching and suspenseful, this read lays the harsh struggles of a teen, who just wants to gain a half-stabile life for his younger brother, bare while entering a tough world of violence, thieves, and fight to stay alive.

When seventeen-year-old Josh's father disappears, life's fragile balance tips. His grandmother doesn't want to care for him or his brother and threatens to turn them over to the social services if Josh doesn't figure out how to pay their half of her trailer's rent. Josh has a shot at a basketball scholarship and needs to keep, at least, school running if he ever has hopes of finally changing his and his little brother's life around. But he needs to know where their father went, especially since his mother has already passed away. The search, though, leads him to his father's friend, who doesn't have Josh's best interests in mind. Instead, Josh is lured into a world of thieves...and those who argue disappear.

There are some trigger-warnings for this read: murder, child abuse, foul language, violence, drugs, winks at prostitution, knife/gun threats and a few more. So, sensitive readers will need to know this.

Josh is determined to improve life, although he has no clue how outside of the hopes of pulling off a basketball scholarship. He has a real chance at making it, but life outside of school has dealt him a more than difficult hand. His grandmother's compete lack of care and selfishness breaks the heart, especially with Josh's younger brother caught up in the mess. While, at least, she feeds his younger brother, Josh is left to starve without his father's even little income. And when the Grandmother then demands Josh pay rent despite the father's disappearance, it's hard not to feel for him. 

Thanks to the death of his mother not long before, Josh hangs on his father that much more, which also means that he's more concerned with finding him than figuring a way to iron the rest of life out. This psychological end also comes into play as Josh refuses to see openings for help around him and shows mistrust at every turn. The author draws the reader into Josh's head, allowing them to sympathize with his decisions and experience how difficult it is for him to think through everything. Considering how dark the world is that he sinks into, it's more than understandable.

While the tale makes the reader wish Josh and Twig would finally get a break the entire time, the author also builds in a violent world. As those around Josh disappear, it becomes clear that he's stepped into a dangerous area. The idea of trust becomes even more blurred, and not only isn't it obvious how Josh can escape any of it without endangering the little he still has, but the threat to his own life grows. 

It's well-woven in a way, which hits the gut and heart. There were a few moments, where I found myself skimming over paragraphs, but all in all, it's a grabbing read which leaves a mark.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Today's read... Tracy Tractor and the Little People by Collins Trafton Robertson

One thing, which so many young readers never seem able to get enough of is tractor books. My sons, my nephews, my neighbors, by brothers... Just thinking about all of those tractor stories makes me stop and take a big breath. So, when I saw this book, it was a definite chance at being a book to recommend...as long as it didn't mess things up. But with that smiley, wide-eyed character on the cover, I was sure this one had a chance at being a fun read. AND...look at the left-hand corner of that cover. See those little green people? Yep, this one seems to promise a spark of originality, too.

So, let's just dive in and find out.

by Collins Trafton Robertson
Illustrated by Katie Røen
Picture Book
34 pages
ages 4 to 8

Tracy Tractor and his hardworking cousins love helping Farmer Bean with his many chores until, one day, the Farmer falls ill and is unable to harvest his crops. Tracy comes to the rescue of Bean Acres Farm by teaming up with the enchanted Little People that live in the forest, who can only be seen by children (and Tracy).



This one reminded me a bit of Bob the Builder but in a farm direction and that with the light toss-in of fantasy, too. 

Tracy Tractor needs to help out with all sorts of work on the farm from tending fields to feeding animals to hauling heavy loads. And Tracy loves the job. One day, the farmer gets sick and can't leave his bed. Tracy wants to help but it's more work than she can do alone. Luckily, Tracy has lots of relatives and asks for their help. Plus, the Little People are there to help too. Together, they might be able to get the work done.

To say that this one is for tractor and farming fans is a given, but this originally woven plot will appeal to a larger crowd. The farm work and things Tracy has to do does offer a good glimpse at many aspects of farm life, especially on the tractor's end of things. Then, for construction vehicle fans, bulldozers and other tough vehicles get involved, showing how awesome and multifaceted these machines can be. Finally, there's even a touch of magic as the Little People join in, a small race of green, human-like-ish creatures. Young readers will dream of finding these little folks in their own backyards. It's a wide mix to appeal to many types of readers...and it works.

This picture book tells a well-fleshed out story and uses a little more text than some books at this level...not over the top but it will take a reader, who is fairly sure of their words, to grab it up on their own. And that does make it a nice read for those who are heading in the chapter book direction. But this makes a lovely read-aloud, too, for those younger listeners. The tale is well-written and doesn't let boredom seep in. There's always something happening, and it's easy to like the characters involved. The messages of friendship and working together create a positive atmosphere and a warming end.

The illustrations are bright, bold and do depict the scenes nicely. The vehicles and animals are easy to recognize and hold enough details to draw in. Every scene carries a cheerful flair, and there are even moments to make listeners wonder as a crane lifts hay bales or when Tracy runs into a little trouble. 

Simply said, it is a nice read.

And here they are...

Collins Trafton Robertson was born in 1908 in Portsmouth, VA where, beginning in 1932, he was a radio announcer and morning-show host at WTAR-AM. His popular show, Sunrise Serenade, began at 6 a.m. when he woke up his audience to the chattering of the “original” chipmunks by playing 45-rpm records at 78 rpm and then played music and dispensed the homespun wisdom of “Ol’ Grandpappy.” During his career, he was also the presidential announcer in Washington, D.C., covering Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats for the Mutual Broadcasting network. He also worked on the CBS staff in New York, Tulsa and Charlotte. Trafton wrote Tracy Tractor and the Little People in 1939 for his then one-year-old daughter, Carolyn. The original typed manuscript was discovered by her daughter, Pegge, tucked away in a closet, after she had passed away in 2022. This book is his son Dick and his granddaughter’s tribute to their father and grandfather.

Katie Røen was born and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She works as a freelance illustrator with a degree in Entertainment Arts. Growing up, she was surrounded by art and developed a strong connection to drawing. Katie studied the arts first in New York City at Parsons School of Design, then Los Angeles at ArtCenter College of Design. She focuses primarily on story, utilizing elements of design and painting to give life to characters in their environments. She crafts stories and creates intricate worlds for complex characters to live in all while experimenting with various mediums, both still and motion, to tell those stories. Her biggest inspirations are her family, art history, and mythology. You can find more of Katie’s artwork here: www.katieroen.com

You can also learn more about the book at https://tracytractor.com/

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Today's review: ABCity Maze and Seek-N-Find by Roxie Munro

I love to get my hands on books such as today's read...which isn't a read so much as an activity with a few words thrown in. But it does practice the ABCs and word identification. It's a seek-n-find combined with mazes book. Plus, there's some coloring possibilities as well. In other words, this one appears to be something perfect for those indoor days.

by Roxie Munro
Schiffer Kids
Children's Activity
32 pages
ages 6 to 12

Take a walk through ABCity! Seek and find all 26-letters of the alphabet as you travel through an intricate maze of sidewalks and paths. In each of the 13 bustling mazes, look for cleverly hidden objects that correspond to each of the letters hidden within the streets and signs. From airplanes and ambulances to zebras and zippers, the maze weaves through the city as you help Chris and his dog Rusty find their way from A to Z. Answer keys are provided in the back, along with a large, two-sided, foldout poster of the city--one side to display and the other side to color. Jump-start your child's learning while having fun walking this unique one-of-a-kind city maze!

This maze book features the following:
- Oversized, full-color interior that engages young minds to interact with the alphabet in a new and unique way
- 13 educational and entertaining puzzles designed to help improve fine motor, problem-solving, and visual-perceptual skills
- Foldout, removable poster to display or color
- Final spread shows the entire ABC City

Created for puzzle-loving kids, the maze contains some complicated tricks. It's mind-bending, super-challenging, and highly visual fun for the entire family.



Featuring the busy streets of a city, these pages offer mazes and many things to discover along the way.

First, I should point out that I received a digital copy of this book, which made it more difficult to review then I expected, since this didn't allow for the same turning easy the mazes required nor the 2-page spreads, which would have made both maze and finding aspects easier. Plus, I did not get to view the removable poster and can't comment on that. So, my thoughts are limited on what I could see.

The illustrations offer the exact business needed to make a seek-n-find fun and did a good job at bringing across the variety and energy of each scene. It was enjoyable to search through everything to find the list of items and discover much more along the way.

The seek-n-find items are listed in a small, clear circle on each 2-page spread, and these are sorted in alphabetical order to also encourage practicing the ABCs. There are about seven items on each list, all of which are familiar and no problem to recognize in the illustrations...when they are discovered, of course. At the end of the book, the location of each item is presented on an overview of the entire city to help with those items, which might prove a bit difficult. Some items are easier to find than others, but none are overly difficult and fit well to the intended audience level.

As for the maze, I found this to be confusing and didn't really understand what was meant. I'm hoping this will be more clear when the 2-pages lie next to each other and when the entire map is viewable on the poster. But I really couldn't decipher much with the digital format. So, I'm going to leave this aspect out of the review.

The book does appear to be quite a bit of fun, especially if the poster offers a nice overview and the coloring is as detailed as I expect it might be. Seek-n-find fans will enjoy the fun.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Today's read... The Dead Man in the Garden by Marthe Jocelyn

Good mysteries are another hard-to-find area in middle grade literature, especially those which don't underestimate or talk down to the readers. So, when I ran into this one, I hoped it would slide right into that genre. It's from an author across the sea and has a wonderful, English flair with spas and properness and all those things. It also should include a few deaths...and yet, never grow overly dark. 
So, let's just see if it does all these things.

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen # 3
by Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
Tundra Books
Middle Grade Mystery
355 pages
ages 8 to 12

For young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, a spa stay becomes a lot more thrilling when TWO dead bodies are found in this third book in the Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, inspired by the life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot.

Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is ready to enjoy an invigorating trip to a Yorkshire spa, where her widowed mother can take the waters and recover from a long mourning period. Having solved yet another murder and faced extreme peril with her best friend Hector over Christmas, Aggie's Morbid Preoccupation is on alert when rumors abound about the spa's recently deceased former patient . . . and then another body appears under mysterious circumstances. Together with Grannie Jane, and often in the company of George, a young patient at the spa, Aggie and Hector take a closer look at the guests and staff of the Wellspring Hotel, and venture into the intriguing world of the local undertaker. Has there been a murder--or even two? As Aggie and Hector ignite their deductive skills, their restful trip takes a sudden, dangerous turn.



Wonderful characters, inviting setting, dead bodies, and a hard-to-guess mystery...there's nothing missing to make this one a good read.

Aggie Morton, her mother, and her grandmother are all off to a several week stay at the spa, so her mother can regain her health after mourning the death of the father for around a year. Luckily, Hector, Aggie's best friend, is allowed to tag along. They learn, before the arrive, about the mysterious death of an earlier visitor only days before and are soon determined to figure out the odd situation behind the woman's passing. But before they can collect too many clues, they discover another guest dead on a park bench in the same garden where the first one died. There are no obvious causes of death, and many assume it was a heart attack. Still, Aggie and Hector find everything too suspicious and are soon on that case as well.

I have not read the first two books in this series but had no trouble diving into Aggie and Hector's world with this third adventure. Hector and Aggie are both easy to like. Aggie is a little more shy and proper, where Hector is quick to grasp situations and makes up for her weaknesses. The two form a perfect team and have a fun and inspiring friendship. There's a little friction between the mother and Aggie, at times, but only a bit to make it come across in a natural and wholesome way...not that she gets too involved, anyway. It's fun to get to know all the characters, since each one has their own quirks and tempers—Mr. Hart with his gruff attitude and irritating flirtations, the inspector with a rough shell but  kind inside, and George, who is rude and prickly but really just trying to find a comfortable place as he comes to terms with his own situation after losing the use of his legs. It's a great cast to fit the mystery well.

The mystery is very well laid out. It doesn't seem like the first death can really be considered a murder, but as the clues start to stack, so does the suspicion. When Mr. Hart is found dead on the bench, it's also unclear if there is a murderer out and about. It might all be due to natural causes, too. This makes the entire mystery harder to solve, and even when the clues start mounting, they aren't clear cut. Aggie and Hector have a difficult task ahead of them, especially since no one will listen to two twelve-year-olds. 

Not only young mystery fans will enjoy this one, but older ones will be able to sink right in as well. It's well written from all angles and enjoyable to get lost in. I'm going to be adding the rest of this series to my to-be-read list as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Today's read... Off the Bench by Fred Bowen

I'm always excited to get my hands on middle grade books about sports, not because I'm a huge sport fan (nope, that would not be one of my stronger attributes), but rather, I know of more than a few kids who enjoy getting their hands on these. And there never seem to be enough of them in the fiction world. Add that books with male characters are another thing I've been keeping my eyes open for, and this one was definitely going on my to-take-a-peek-at-list. 

This is not the first book by this author, but rather he has entire slew of books rotating around various sports. This is, however, the first book I've read from him...I believe, anyway. Oh, and this one hits the shelves around mid-March.

by Fred Bowen
Peachtree Publishers
Middle Grade Sport Fiction
144 pages
ages 8 to 12

MARCH 14th!!!

Chris wants to be a star scorer like his brother--so why does his coach keep him waiting on the bench?

Chris comes from a sports-loving family. His brother is the star scorer on the high school team, and is being recruited by Division 3 colleges. Chris longs to earn the same adulation, and he's a good scorer for his junior high team. But why won't his coach start him? He's better on defense than his rival, Carlos, and nearly as good a shooter.

Soon Chris becomes obsessed with earning a place in his team's starting lineup. He does everything he can think of--including being an invaluable player every time he comes in. But nothing seems to get Coach's attention. Even after he learns the history of the valuable "6th man," Chris can't seem to let it go. How will he ever be a big scoring star?

For every kid who hates to read but loves basketball, comes a suspenseful novel with plenty of play-by-play sports action.

GOODREADS   /   B&N    /    AMAZON


Basketball on and off the court packs every page, making this a true read for young, basketball fans.

Chris's older brother is the star of the high school basketball team, something Chris is proud and a bit jealous about, especially since his junior high's team is just starting their own season. Chris is determined to show the new coach that he should be one of the starting five, which isn't easy considering the good players on his team. But he knows he can't be ignored. He might not be as good as his older brother, but he's not bad. When the coach uses him as the first sub instead placing him under the starters, Chris is disappointed but determined to prove his worth...if he can.

I was happy to see that this read does center around basketball, meaning that it isn't about school drama, family issues, or any other side themes. Chris lives and breathes basketball. His friends live and breathe basketball. Even his family lives and breathes basketball. While this did almost seem suffocating, it comes across realistic as there are many sport families, who really love the sport that much...every single member. And the practices, games, and such of all siblings makes every aspect of life seem to rotate around that one theme. So, it was refreshing to see things from this point of view.

With all the concentration on basketball, this book is a definite read for basketball fans. The practice and game situations will come across very familiar, and even the few plays illustrated in the pages will have readers nodding their heads in recognition. The home scenes with concern about schedules, talk of the sport, and shooting hoops with family and friends not only sticks to topic but shows a supportive, understanding, and encouraging environment. This family might be about sports, but they don't take that in a competitive way, and rather, support one another in many aspects...even when there is the occasional jealous moment or two.

Then, there's an inspiring message for those, who play basketball. The words of the coach, older brother, teammates, friends, and family offer wise insights, which will have readers, who also play sports, thinking about their own positions and attitudes. These aren't preachy and stay in a reality-based position, so that players can really use them in their own practices and games.

I do see sport orientated readers enjoy this one quite a bit.