Thursday, August 31, 2023

What's Coming in September?

 Can you believe it's already September? The months were running by so smoothly until August hit. For some reason, time shifted into high-gear and the month slid by before I realized it'd even begun. That could be due to the fact that I've started a part-time job (farming, renovating, homeschooling, writing, and book reviewing aren't enough to keep me busy, I guess????) and have had a very busy schedule.  

Anyway, this month is a little bit strange on the reading end. My middle grade and young adult reads have managed to shove themselves either toward the beginning or end of the month, leaving picture books to take over most of the middle. And I have more than a few books centering around food, which isn't a bad thing (I love food), but I found it interesting.

So, let's just see what this month holds in store!


History, crime and a thriller? Sign me up! I'm hoping that this one will keep me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. It circles around a 16-year-old, who feels confined by the rules of high-society in 1892, but then, is accused of murdering her two neighbors and only people she feels close to. I'm hoping my expectations aren't too high, but we'll find out on the 1st.

Young Adult Historical Mystery


This read is sold as Phineas and Ferb meets Despicable Me, which made this a must for me. I have no idea how all of this will come together, especially when looking at the fantastical cover (which is very colorful, btw!), but I'm ready to find out on the 5th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


I do enjoy tales spun around music, and this one follows a girl, who loves to sing. It's a contemporary read and deals with family issues as well as teenage romance. As you might know, I'm not the biggest fan of drama, but I do dig up some, now and then, which are entertaining. I'm crossing my fingers that this one will stay in tune and not be as off-key as the title suggests. Find out more with me on the 8th.

Young Adult Contemporary


This month, the universe seems to be trying to tell me something. I have more than several books surrounding food themes...and these do have me smiling. This one is all about (as you can guess) bread. I'm looking forward to discovering the various breads from around the world and maybe finding a recipe or two? Get that appetite ready to dive in on the 13th.

Picture Book


As said, I have quite a few picture books surrounding food this month. I think it's great, too, because who doesn't like to eat? This one takes a multi-cultural glimpse into the world of food and should inspire with some pretty unique ideas...or at least, that's what I'm guessing. Find out more with me on the 17th.

Picture Book


The cover caught my attention. It reminds me of my own childhood, when I'd sit and read in the basement washroom on my mother's washing machine. I had six younger siblings and constantly changing foster siblings, so this was one of the few quiet places I could find in our house. Plus, washing machines are fascinating in their own way. I'll tell you more about this one on the 18th.

Picture Book


Sold as ,Encanto meets the Chronicles of Narnia by way of Columbian folklore', this one caught my attention. Plus, I love white-winged snakes (strange, huh?). I'm expecting a bit of myth and adventure...and I'm not sure what else, but I'm ready to find out and share it with you on the 21st.

Middle Grade Fantasy


This one is said to go in a Where's Waldo direction and present visual puzzles for readers to practice thinking creatively and critically. It's adapted from a New York Times bestseller...not that I saw the original book, anyway. I just like the idea of playing around with some puzzles and am sure young readers will enjoy doing the same if this is everything I hope it to be. Find out with me on the 25th if it's worth picking up a copy and exploring on your own.

Tween/Young Adult Nonfiction


The title caught my attention on this read and the image of the girl getting caught in between. I'm guessing this one will hold romance, drama, and a whole bunch of humor too. Since I haven't hit many romance novels this summer, I figured it was time to visit one more before we ease into Fall and the cooler days. I'm going to beach dreaming and check this one out on the 27th.

Young Adult Romance


It's not long until the 'spooky' time of year arrives and ghost stories will be at the top of many a reading list. This books screams paranormal fun and a bit of mystery too. I'm going to be checking this one out the last days of the month to help get October rolling and thoughts of Halloween underway. Get ready to hear about this one on the 29th!

Middle Grade Paranormal / Mystery

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Today's read... Gilbert's Migration Vacation by Susan Sachs Levine


    The Story of an Original Snowbird
by Susan Sachs Levine
Illustrated by Irene Bofill
Mascot Kids
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

How will Gilbert find his way south? 

Gilbert is a Sanderling chick who hatched high in the Arctic tundra. Now, he must find his way south for the winter where warm weather and plentiful food await. Join Gilbert as he teams up with two other young Sanderlings to embark on an amazing journey of over 4,000 miles. The trip is not easy! They must deal with hurricanes, hungry falcons, and confusing city lights. But as Gilbert helps his friends navigate each obstacle, he gains the skills and confidence he needs to succeed. Curious readers will learn all about shorebirds, their incredible migrations, and how we can help protect these fascinating birds.

GOODREADS    /    AMAZON    /    B&N


Gilbert is a Sanderling to adore, and combined with migration and bird facts, his adventure offers more than a fun read. 

Gilbert is finally strong enough to attempt the migration from the Arctic tundra and head south. His father gives him some words of advice before he and his friends start their journey, and Gilbert will need them. The journey holds many adventures along the way, but Gilbert is determined to make his father proud and reach where he needs to be.

Gilbert's journey is well done and grabs attention as he takes the very long flight south. The situations are based on reality, and thanks to the writing, grab attention the entire way through. The tale makes a lovely read-aloud and flows very smoothly. The illustrations bring across the birds and landscapes naturally and make Gilbert and the other birds come to life. These are enjoyable to gaze at even after the story is done.

The author goes then takes this book a step further. Each two-page spread offers a side section, where the information surrounding each step of Gilbert's journey is revealed. This offers all sorts of facts, spanning from landscapes to food to migration paths and more. These are written with the intended age group in mind but carry enough depth to make this book into an entire theme surrounding bird migration. The extras at the end of the book allow for even more depth.

This is a very well laid out and written book, which cleverly places an engaging tale alongside the facts. I see this as a wonderful edition not only to classroom settings and homeschoolers but for those readers, who are curious about nature and birds.

And here she is...

Susan Sachs Levine is a Florida-based wildlife lover and the author of several children’s picture books. Gilbert’s Migration Vacation is Susan’s second book set in Florida and is a testament to her passion for Florida’s magnificent birds. Susan’s books are known for their unique hybrid format – a fun, fast-paced, fictional story supplemented by educational fact boxes.  

Susan’s first picture book about birds Jenny’s First Catch, An Adventure with Nature’s Wading Birds was published by Mascot Books in 2020.  Jenny’s First Catch follows a young Roseate Spoonbill, Jenny, who wants to teach herself to fish and surprise her mom.  She meets a variety of wading birds along the way including a Snowy Egret, a White Ibis, a Wood Stork, and a Great Blue Heron. They try to teach her their method of fishing, but Jenny’s big spoonbill just won’t work like the other birds’ bills.  Key science themes of physical adaptation and habitat partitioning are woven throughout the story as Jenny learns important lessons about perseverance and being true to herself. 

“Parents and grandparents looking for enjoyable, educational, outdoor activities for their children will find that Gilbert’s Migration Vacation and Jenny’s First Catch can be springboards for family birding fun”, says Susan Levine.  “Florida and many parts of the eastern seaboard are a paradise for beautiful birds with many preserves for easy viewing. How many birds in the books can your family find?!”

Susan Sachs Levine grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and started her career in marketing with Procter & Gamble. She then moved to Columbus where she became VP of Marketing and Environmental Affairs for an international packaging company. A wildlife enthusiast, Susan has traveled extensively to learn about the natural world. Susan is a certified Florida Master Naturalist who now resides in Naples, Florida.

To order your custom inscribed book, set up an interview, reading, signing, or for information regarding Susan’s picture books please contact Susan Levine at

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Today's read... Empanadas for Everyone by Jackie

Today's read launches a several week peek at picture books surrounding food...not that I'll only by doing these. But for some reason, I have quite a few 'yummy' books in my up-coming pile. I'm excited to dive in because I've already noticed that more than a few of these hold recipes at the end. So, readers can dive in and try the food themselves. Plus, it's a great way to add an activity after a read.

Anyway, let's start with empanadas because...well, I do enjoy food...

by Jackie Azua Kramer
Illustrated by Lenny Wen
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

In the vein of Thank You, Omu! and Bilal Cooks Daal comes a lyrical and nourishing tale about the importance of food to a community—and value of community to the experience of cooking—as told through the eyes of a young girl helping her tía.

Every Saturday, Carina visits Tía Mimi in her barrio, which is always humming with life. There is música that hums from the windows, old cuentos floating on the breeze, and the honking of cars that creates the soundtrack of the morning. Every Saturday, she loves to make empanadas with her aunt, “I like empanadas! I like you! ¡Me gustan las empanadas! ¡Me gustas tú!”

Not this Saturday though. This Saturday, Tía Mimi has gone to volunteer at the neighborhood food center and asks Carina to collect the ingredients all on her own. But maybe, with a little guidance from friends, Carina will be able to help Tía Mimi—and learn a little about what connects a community along the way.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /    B&N     /     BOOKSHOP


Food, music, and helping others... it's a magical mix to create this fun read.

Carina visits her Tia Mimi every Saturday, and together, they create Empanadas. It's always an experience thanks to the lively neighborhood, Mimi's music, and the delicious ingredients they collect from various places throughout the neighborhood. One day, Tia Mimi decides to volunteer at the neighborhood food center and requests that Carina create the empanadas, while Tia Mimi will join her later to eat them. But Carina isn't sure she's up to the task.

This is a sweet read with tons of family love, neighborly friendliness, and good feelings pure. The text is just the right amount to create a nice read-aloud and lets the tale come to life right along with the lively and enjoyable illustrations. The good vibes radiate from every page and leave a sense of warmth, especially with the inspiring ending. 

Carina's character is inviting, and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want a relative like Tia Mimi. When Carina tries to make the empanadas, her hesitation comes across naturally and sympathetically. Listeners will be anxious right along with her. 

Then, there are the several messages. Not only does this book keep the atmosphere lively with good food and the ability to enjoy life, but shows readers that they can accomplish more than they think they can. The ending, of course, adds a special dose of goodness with a scene of working together and helping others. Plus, there's a recipe at the end so readers can create (with a little help) their own. It's an all-around lovely read with the illustrations to match.

And here they are...

Jackie Azúa Kramer studied acting and voice at New York University and earned her MA at Queens College for counseling in education. Jackie has worked as an actor, singer, and school counselor. Her work with children presented her with an opportunity to address their concerns, secrets, and hopes through storytelling. Now she spends her time writing children’s picture books. Jackie’s books include the award-winning The Green Umbrella (a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year), If You Want to Fall AsleepThe Boy and the Gorilla, and Empanadas for Everyone. Jackie lives with her family in Long Island, New York. When not writing, you’ll find Jackie reading, watching old movies, and travelling to her family’s roots in Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

Lenny Wen is an author and illustrator who was born in Indonesia. She is the illustrator of several picture books, such as Cal Everett’s Halloween Is Coming!, Amy Robach and Andrew Shue’s Better Together!, and Jackie Azúa Kramer’s Empanadas for Everyone. Lenny currently lives in Austria. When she is not illustrating or writing, you might find her staring at the trees, contemplating story ideas, reading books, filling up her cup with coffee, or hugging her dog.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Optimus Prime and Megatron's Racetrack Recon by Ryder Windham!

It's been a little while since I've been able to shout-out a book birthday. Summer does tend to be a bit slower in the book world...everyone goes on vacation? Today's read stems from the latest Transformers movie release and promises young readers familiarity and reading fun. Let's see how it does, shall we?

Transformers EarthSpark
by Ryder Windham
Illustrated by Patrick Spaziante
Simon Spotlight
Chapter Book Science Fiction
59 pages
ages 4 to 8

Transformers: EarthSpark is a kids animated series from Nickelodeon and Hasbro introducing the first Transformers bots to be born on Earth, now airing!

Follow the beloved characters on a new adventure in this action-packed chapter book with an all-new, original story!

A big auto race is happening nearby, and G.H.O.S.T. has a top-secret mission for Optimus Prime and Megatron: make sure there are no rogue Transformers robots competing in their alt modes. At first, Optimus Prime and Megatron figure this will be an easy mission…until they arrive and discover Bumblebee, the Terrans, Robby, and Mo all at the racetrack. If G.H.O.S.T. finds out about Bumblebee and the Terrans, everyone’s cover will be blown! Can Optimus Prime and Megatron work together to save the day and keep everyone’s secret safe?

TRANSFORMERS © 2023 Hasbro. Transformers: EarthSpark TV series © 2023 Hasbro/Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.



With just a little tension and more than a few favorite characters, this is a quick adventure to raise reading enthusiasm.

Yellow cars have been winning all sorts of races recently, and G.H.O.S.T. fears this may not be a coincidence. Optimus Prime, Megatron, and other agents are sent on a mission to make sure there aren't any rogue Transformers taking part in the races. The biggest fear is that Bumblebee might be involved, although he should be taking care of the kids and Terrans back at the farm.

This books comes out after the latest movie and is sure to grab the interest of young Transformer fans.
There are five chapters, each one fairly short and easy to read, while holding an interesting story. The font is larger than usual, making for easier reading. Then, there's the illustrations, which not only follow the well-known characters but let the scenes come across visually to aide young readers in understanding the text. Plus, they are enjoyable to look at.

 The characters are familiar from the movie and stick to the personalities they are known to have. The situations is tense enough to make the story interesting and, still, very age appropriate. It's a nice way to lure in even reluctant readers and let them enjoy another Transformer adventure on their own.

And here they are...

Ryder Windham is a science fiction author who has written over sixty Star Wars books as well as titles for the Indiana Jones and Transformers franchises.

Patrick Spaziante is an American comic book artist and children’s book illustrator known for his work for Archie Comics, in particular his interior pencil and cover work for Sonic the HedgehogSonic X, and Sonic Universe.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Today's read... Followers by Raziel Reid

Happy Sunday! I'm smiling today, not only thanks to the read I ran across, but also thanks to the cooler temperatures. I live in one of those areas, where we've been on the verge of hitting record levels for almost two weeks. So, I'm cold dreaming and glad to get a break for, at least, a few days. The heat did have a positive side. It kept me indoors with a little more time to read. 

Today's book caught my attention thanks to the cover and the blurb. Isn't amazing how even simple things can be so grabbing? Or maybe, it's because the cover is simple and packs a punch with only a detail or two. Anyway, let's just dive in and see what today's tale holds...

by Raziel Reid
Tundra Books
Young Adult Contemporary
336 pages

A naïve teenager is thrown into the high-stakes, back-stabbing world of reality television in this gossipy, satirical romp, perfect for fans of reality TV.

After a disastrous date results in her arrest, sixteen-year-old Lily Rhode is horrified to discover her mugshot is leaked on a gossip website. Lily is the niece of Whitney Paley, a Hollywood housewife and star of reality show Platinum Triangle , a soap-opera-style docu-series in the vein of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Hills , revolving around several glamorous families living in the Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
     When Lily's mom kicks her out of their trailer home in the Valley, Whitney (Lily's mom's estranged sister) invites her to live with her, her movie-star husband, Patrick, and their daughter, Hailey. Lily is set up in the pool house and thrust into the company of reality-star offspring -- kids who are born with silver spoon emojis on their feed. Lily's cousin Hailey and the other teens have lived their entire lives on camera and are masters of deception, with Hailey leading the pack.
     As Lily learns from the Paleys how to navigate her newfound fame, she finds herself ensnared in the unfolding storylines. What Lily doesn't know is that she's just a pawn being used on the show to make the Paleys look sympathetic to viewers while distracting from on-set sexual misconduct rumors surrounding super hero dad Patrick Paley . . .
     Is Lily safe under Patrick's roof? Or will Lily be Patrick's downfall? If she isn't destroyed by Hailey first. When Lily catches the eye of Hailey's designated leading man Joel Strom -- it's war!

GOODREADS    /    B&N     /    BOOKSHOP     /    AMAZON


Drama hits extreme heights in a tale, which sinks into the rich, back-stabbing, and dirt of Hollywood and social media dreams.

Lily's life isn't exactly star-studded, but that's fine. She does her best by working a summer job to pay the rent for the trailer her mother and her stay in...well, when her mother is there...and gets by. When Lily misjudges a situation, she finds herself facing trial for grand-theft. With her entire life threatening to shatter, possible hope arrives as her extremely rich and famous relatives step in. Lily will make the perfect addition to their popular, real-life show and help slide her aunt into a much better (and needed) light with the fans. Lily has no choice but to go with the flow, and of course, finds herself in way over her head thanks to the constant manipulation of the rich and famous crowd. That the male lead at her cousin's side takes an interest in Lily doesn't help matters, either. But it might be Lily's own heart which causes could ruin everything.

This is a cleverly done read and dives right into a nasty war for ratings, all swirling around a real-life drama show. The setting snuggles into the lives of rich and famous Hollywood families, who swim in extravagance and will do anything to remain in the spotlight of attention. It exposes the dirt and sludge needed to hold up the superficial glimmer and shine. The tale is told from many different points of view, letting the reader grasp a bit from everyone involved, while still concentrating on the main characters. Each change of view holds its own chapter with the person's social media name at the top to keep confusion at bay. Then, there's a follower number, which changes (or doesn't change) as the tale runs its course. After that, there's a short section of fan's recent comments to that character. All of this sets the atmosphere and adds the right hints and nods before each chapter starts. 

The story itself gets gritty, gritty, and gritty. There are more than a few triggers surrounding eating disorders, self-harm, suicide attempts, rape, violence, drugs, and much more. None of this hits deep descriptions, letting them happen with mentions and moments. But then, there's no time for that. The plot hits like a whirlwind from all directions, grabbing and twisting and turning to make it hard to put the read down. There is tons of scheming and horrible secrets, all used as stepping stones to up the ratings. It keeps the reader guessing the entire way through, while also promising the tension remains high.

It is an engaging read and well-worth picking up, even for those who aren't huge contemporary fans (like myself). There are some problems with the depth of a few characters, a couple confusing side-plots, and a few resolutions feel light, but that was due to the sheer quantity. There are quite a few characters involved and individual issues. A few less would have been more. Despite these stumbles, it is an engaging read and had me in my seat for an entire sitting. The ending seems to promise a book two, and if there is, I will be picking it up to see what happens next.

All about the author...

RAZIEL REID’s debut young adult novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, won the 2014 Governor General's Award for English-language children’s literature, making them, at 24 years old, the youngest ever person to win the prestigious award. When Everything Feels Like the Movies is inspired in part by the 2008 murder of gay teenager Lawrence Fobes King. It was the first YA novel selected for inclusion on Canada Reads in 2015, where it came in second place. It was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Literature, and for Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award. Published by Atom Books in the UK, The Telegraph listed it as one of the best YA novels of 2016. Raziel’s second novel Kens was named by Publisher’s Weekly as a favorite YA book of 2021, and their third novel Followers was nominated for a 2021 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Raziel lives in Vancouver.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Today's read... Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening To Ethan Fairmont by Nick Brooks

by Nick Brooks
Union Square Kids
Middle Grade Science Fiction
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

NOVEMBER 14th!!!

Nick Brooks, award-winning filmmaker and author of  Promise Boys , mixes out-of-this-world sci-fi with contemporary themes of friendship, community, and social justice in this hit middle-grade series.
Ferrous City is suddenly a lot more interesting—in fact, a little too interesting for Ethan Fairmont.

Ethan’s beloved neighborhood is full of new faces. Lifelong residents are being priced out of their homes, and new businesses are replacing old favorites. At school, Ethan finds a rival in new-kid Fatima, an inventor who is just as science savvy as him. She even has TWO patents! Then there’s the mysterious real estate agent with way too many questions for Ethan. Not to mention the extraterrestrial-obsessed Jodie and his “Aliens Are Here” club.
It’s all too much for Ethan and he begins to miss Cheese, his adorable six-eyed alien pal, even more. Fortunately for Ethan and his friends Kareem and Juan Carlos, distraction comes in the form of a top-secret project. Cheese left a communication device under Ethan’s bed before exiting the planet. There’s just one they can’t figure out how it works!
As Ferrous City continues to change and eyes are everywhere, will the trio be able to keep their secret and reach Cheese, or is something nefarious brewing right next door?
E.T.  meets  Stranger Things  in the second title of this unforgettable sci-fi adventure series, perfect for readers ages 8 to 12.

GOODREADS    /    AMAZON    /    B&N


Alien action mixes with friendship and school drama...but it's the goo, which the reader needs to watch out for.

Cheese has returned to space, leaving Ethan a little worried, since he's not sure his friend is truly safe. But then, life in Why has become unsettled as more and more people are moving in from the larger cities to find jobs and houses are being sold. Even his parents are considering putting their house on the market. School doesn't offer any more stability as a new girl causes more than a little competition for Ethan in the inventor category. When she gets placed in his group for a school project, things get sticky because he's hoping to use the assignment to spend more time working on a way to communicate with Cheese. But the stakes are about to shoot up to extremes because signs of goo are popping up, and that means the dangerous aliens are there, too.

I enjoyed this second novel more than the first in the series, and found it to be grabbing from beginning to end. Ethan has now settled into a balance between life, aliens, and his inventions. Him and his friends understand each other well, his family is life as always, and he even has the chance to really sink into his hobby and shine. With the world and character building of the first book settled, this one (while still holding character arc, learning and depth) allows for the adventure to take off. And the author doesn't disappoint on that end, either.

The title on this one is long but oh-so fitting. Ethan's problems mount and mount to form a nice weave of sub-plots...and these do all filter together at the end. The social drama, while present, is just the right amount to make the characters sympathetic and easy to connect with, while not dampening the adventure's quicker pacing. The secrets and hints of danger are well-laid, some more obvious than others. This builds the tension nicely and gives hints without completely giving away the ending, which is great for the audience level.

The science fiction end packs a bit of imagination and some tech-fun. The aliens add a nice touch of fantasy, while the inventions hit on a level which can inspire readers to try to build things on their own. A pile of parts to screw, wire, and alter to form something new is more than exciting, and not just for future engineers and scientists. This is a read with more than a little to enjoy.

And here is he...

Nick Brooks is an author and award-winning filmmaker. His short film Hoop Dreamin’ earned him the George Lucas Scholar Award and he was a finalist in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Film Fest. His short film Bee won the James Bridges and Jack Larson Award for Writing and Directing and premiered at the American Black Film Festival. A rising star, Brooks is poised to be a breakout author with his debut middle-grade novel, Nothing Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont, and his YA debut title, Promise Boys. Nick currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and is originally from Washington, D.C. Visit Nick at

Friday, August 25, 2023

Today's read... There's a Yeti in My Tummy by Meredith Rusu

I don't think there's enough Yetis in the least, ones in books. I'm not so sure I want the real ones running around all over the place. Or maybe yetis are very friendly and sweet? I'm betting the one in today's read is super fun. After all, that smile on the cover is pretty contagious. 

The Mighty Good Series
by Meredith Rusu
Illustrated by Martin Moron
4U2B Books & Media
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

AUGUST 29th!!!

What happens when your inner yeti comes out to play?
Matthew is a young boy with BIG, BIG feelings—so big it sometimes feels like there’s a YETI just bursting to get out! And when Matthew’s yeti comes to play, he’s bound to stay all day. That silly yeti comes out of Matthew’s feet, his nose, his hair, his burp, and even his BUTT!

Bound to make any child roar with laughter, There’s a Yeti in My Tummy teaches kids that strong feelings are okay, and so are their inner yetis. Along with Matthew, kids learn to channel those feelings in constructive, positive, and loving ways. And parents will pick up a few tips on language to help children understand when and how to rely on their inner yeti.

An imaginative and fun story told in delightful rhyme by Meredith Rusu and crazy-fun illustrations by Martín Morón, There’s a Yeti in My Tummy is a big, bold, instant classic.
There’s a Yeti in My Tummy is the first book in The Mighty Moods series from 4U2B Books & Media, where we strive to create resources that enable children to become joyful, compassionate, and brave, and that empower parents and adults to instill those qualities in children.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /    B&N


With a yeti constantly there to liven things up, not much can go wrong...maybe.

Matthew wakes up one morning, feeling that odd rumble in the tummy, which can only mean one thing. His yeti is ready to have some fun. Mom and Dad aren't extremely excited, but it's off to school before much can happen. There, Matthew's yeti peeks out more and more. Better yet, others are letting their yetis appear as well. Soon, silliness is everywhere...and maybe too much.

This is a cute read, which is sure to have listeners smiling most of the way through. The yeti's antics cause a little havoc, keeping the giggles high. It was fun to watch the yeti come out little by little and show up in various areas of the body depending on the situation. Sometimes, that itching to do something crazy does hit that way. The situations come across as familiar, while still holding tons of humor and fun.

This is said to be a book about big feelings...and seeing the yeti take over as ridiculousness hits does make that point loud and clear. But it doesn't come across as a bad thing, most of the time. Just a little naught. Matthew and the others are easy to empathize with. But this doesn't come across as a serious read. Rather, the yetis let silliness come out, and while these do need to get reigned in a little at times, it's the silliness of this read, which holds center stage and will keep readers coming back again and again. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Today's read... Dropped! by Alice Kuipers

It wasn't the cover on today's read, which caught my attention (surprise, right?). It was the blurb. It sounds like it could be tense and modern and just what a young teen audience might appreciate. Then, I saw the page count. Under 100 pages with romance drama and survival? Can that even be done? So, I'm hitting this one with a huge hope that it does pull off this amazing feat. It would be great to have a wonderful read, which isn't over 300 pages...for those quick excitement reads when life is tight.

So, I'm sitting down with a sense of determination and seeing what these pages hold.

by Alice Kuipers
Orca Book Publishers
YA Contemporary / Action
96 pages

FEBRUARY 13th, 2024!!!

Dex is dropped onto a deserted tropical island to be a player in a social media competition. Dex is one of six contestants on Dropped! , an internet reality show. He’s glad to escape his real life after being dumped by his girlfriend, Lola, and destroying his social life. He and the other contenders have to spend five days on a deserted island, and the person who gains the most likes and followers will be the winner. The prize is a ton of money and status as an influencer. Keeping people watching is the challenge, and Dex will do whatever it takes. He needs to win―it’s the only way to get Lola and his popularity back. But on the island, away from his ex, he finds himself flirting with the gorgeous and popular Amina. When Dex keeps placing behind Amina, he realizes he has to be more daring to get the engagements he needs. But how extreme will he need to be? And is it worth it to win?

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON


Survival takes on a modern meaning in this quick and engaging read.

Dex is one of six people chosen for a new, internet reality show, where the contestants are dropped off on an island and the winner is the one who gains the highest social media status. For Dex, this is the chance to reboot his crashed internet presence thanks to a messy break-up with his girlfriend. The island is a tropical paradise and the show's promoters have everything planned out perfectly, but the competition is fierce. Dex knows his stuff and with his ex watching, he's sure he has a pretty good shot at winning...if the entire thing doesn't go too far. 

This is a neat twist on the survival show insanity, which manages to keep the tension pretty high while not pushing it further than most sensitive readers could even handle. In other words, this one is perfectly fine even for the upper middle grade audience. The writing grabs as the writer cleverly weaves the media postings with described screen shots, and still, even weaves in enough traditional storytelling to keep it all together. The descriptions are concise, yet, give enough to make the world vivid. Even the emotions, on Dex's end, come across clearly and understandably. Outside of the break-up with his girlfriend, he's actually well-placed in life and fairly ordinary, making him very easy to root for.

Unlike many young adult reads, this book weighs in at less than 100 pages, and the author, for the most part, uses this space very well. Of course, the depth and background isn't as present as in a full-fledged novel, especially in the sub-characters, but for the purpose of the read, it works well. It's nice to dive in and enjoy the short tension, and this one holds enough action to keep the pacing high. The resolution, however, didn't get the attention it needed and came across as rushed and edged the last impression to superficial. But it was still an enjoyable read and does have digestible food for modern thought.

The messages in this one rotate around the addiction to social media and how much it takes over people's lives. The question surrounding appearances versus reality is also touched upon. It drives the point home in a clever way, while offering the warmth of kindness and of true, forming friendships. It is a great read for classroom settings as well as homeschoolers...or simply to grab up for a tale all on its own.

And here she is...

Alice Kuipers is the author of more than ten books for young readers, including the Arthur Ellis Award winner The Worst Thing She Ever Did, as well as World's Worst Parrot and Pia's Plans in the Orca Currents line. Her work has been published in dozens of countries and has also been made into plays and produced for radio. She lives with her family in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Today's read... My Cute Kawaii Drawings by Mayumi Jezewski

Learn to Draw the Cutest Kawaii Picture in Easy-To-Follow Steps
by Mayumi Jezewski
David & Charles
Middle Grade / YA Nonfiction
112 pages

Learn to draw the cutest kawaii pictures in easy-to-follow steps!

Kawaii is a Japanese term that means adorable or cute. In drawing, it describes a simplified style with rounded shapes, representing characters, animals, food, or any object that has a cute, childlike look.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /    B&N   /    BOOKSHOP


From adorable food characters to animals and more, young artists are shown how to sketch one cheerful thing after the other.

This book is divided into four chapters: Sushi, Cupcakes & Company, Adorable Cats & Kittens, Unicorns & Other Cute Animals, and Funny Characters. Each of these holds around twenty different characters in various poses. All of them are cute and radiate sunny personalities. 

The directions are very straight forward, starting with a basic shape and building to it little by little until the entire character is done. These are easy to follow and can even be traced if necessary. Thanks to the chapter set-up, the sketches do gain a bit of difficulty as the book goes along. There are very original ideas as well as more standard, making sure young artists gain a variety, which they can later play with and change.

Each of the characters is placed in an entertaining pose or situation, and not just the character straight-on. I did wonder, at first, how this would work, since it seems to leave the artist learning only that position, but as the book goes on and the difficulty gently increases, inspiration and ideas swing right in. 

This is a lovely book for beginners as well as slightly more advanced (as inspiration and fun). 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Today's read... A Spider Named Itsy by Steve Light

Today's read...well, more the spider on today's read...grabbed my attention. I don't know what it is about the artwork, but that spider promises potential fun and adventure. I've had this one sitting in my to-read pile for almost a couple of months, and my fingers have been itching to grab it up and take a peek. But I really try not to play favorites and let my curiosity get the better of me (life as a reviewer is SO hard!) Yeah, you can roll your eyes at that statement.

Anyway, I'm highly suspecting that this one will take a twist on the well-known children's song/rhyme. So, let's see how it does.

(After thoughts: I was extremely on the fence about putting this one on my possible favorites of 2023 list because I enjoyed it so much and just decided to give in and put it there. Yep, this one could be a favorite of 2023)

by Steve Light
Candlewick Press
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8


Why did Itsy Bitsy make his famous journey? With a dose of warmth and whimsy, Steve Light's remarkable, intricate artwork spins a backstory of unexpected friendship.

Itsy Bitsy sits at home,
drinking tea, all alone . . .

Everyone knows the rhyme "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." We know about the climb up the waterspout, the washout, the return of the sun, and the determined climb back up the spout--again. Generations of children have sung this beloved verse and mastered its accompanying twisty finger play. But what sent the tiny spider on his upward trek to begin with? What happened along the way--and where is Itsy now? Steve Light--with his meticulously rendered, highly detailed pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations and an endearing cast of insect characters--riffs on a classic as he offers some surprising answers, ushering us into a charming tale of perseverance, kindness, and community. And it all starts when a branch falls from a tree . . .

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON


Taking the well-known song/rhyme "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", this author spins Itsy into an eight-legged chap with oodles of personality and more.

Itsy is very satisfied to enjoy his web on the watering can and spend the day in the sun...until the wind picks up with the threat of an incoming storm. With his home destroyed, he searches for a new place to stay and decides to head up the rain gutter. But with the weather's turn for the worse, it's a hard journey. Even those on their way up with him are faced with impossible difficulties. Luckily, Itsy isn't the type to ignore them and stomp on by.

Before grabbing up a retelling, I'm always a little skeptical and hope it doesn't prove worse than the original. While the parallels to the famous rhyme are clear and impossible to overlook, Itsy takes on a personality to adore and root for. He's has a touch of a traditional style reminding of top hats and long-coat tails, while still staying whimsical and inviting. And although I can't say exactly why, his adventure had me thinking of James and the Giant Peach. Maybe, it's due to the wonderful artwork, which added so many fun details, that readers will want to gaze at each page themselves again and again. Or maybe, it's due to the kindness found in the pages. 

The text stays short and concise, allowing the illustrations to take over. It is written in rhyme, and and this flows just freely enough to play with the various situations Itsy faces. The visual scenes drive this one forward and bring smiles and curiosity with the small details surrounding the other insects. Although the plot should be crystal clear, the tale takes on enough of an original atmosphere to have the reader wondering what will happen next...despite knowing what it will be. It kept the read engaging and held a unexpected and wholesome end. It's a book to be read in groups, in cozier situations, and even as a bedtime read.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Today's read... Dinosaur Mazes for Kids by Duff Waddell

Activity books were always a treat when I was a kid, and my own children have always smiled to get their hands on one too. Today's is a book of mazes, dot-to-dots, and coloring activities...and all surrounding dinosaurs. I'm expecting this one to be tons of fun and great to fill in some free time. Let's see if it does the job or not.

by Duff Waddell
Buzzing Bee Press
Children's Activity
ages 4 to 8

Help your children develop problem-solving skills with this fun and engaging dinosaur-themed maze activity book!

Your kids will be excited to head out on a Jurassic adventure with seven fun dinosaur characters. They will challenge their problem-solving skills as they lead each dinosaur through mazes (set amidst scenes of Jurassic wilderness), searching for hidden clue words. The dot-to-dots will allow them to develop their fine motor skills and allow for some fun coloring in once completed.


Inside, you and your child will find:

* A Beautiful Glossy Cover

* 28 Beautiful originally illustrated mazes that will engage and challenge your child

* Four levels, increasing in difficulty (for ages 4 & Up)

* A dot-to-dot to complete and color in each level

* 7 additional adult versus child raptor mazes to do alongside your children

* Clue words to find after each maze is completed (words put together after completion will form fun sentences)

* Large 8.5” x 11” format


This one starts with a little introduction to caregivers and parents, explaining ways to positively encourage the children during the activities. Then, there's a quick introduction to each of the dinosaurs found in this book followed by short instructions. There are four levels of mazes (7 each) and 7 'adult' mazes, too. Each maze holds a clue word at the end, which can be used to find a special sentence. Dot to dot activities are sprinkled in and there is a cutting activity at the end as a sneak peek to other available books. So, there's a lot to do in these pages.

Dinosaur fans are going to enjoy this quite a bit. The illustrations surrounding each maze off dino fun and surroundings. These can be colored in. The mazes take up the center, are clearly created, and do offer increasing difficulty through the levels. It forms a nice variety and allows maze doers to push themselves as they go along. The illustrations are fun to look at, too.

While this is an activity book, which readers can mostly do on their own, it also encourages caregivers and parents to join in, which I find nice. The sentences, which need to be formed, do involve help. And the mazes for the adults can also be done in partnership with the younger reader...which will make them feel very successful when they can assist in these more difficult problems. 

It's a nice collection and serves it's purpose very well.

Note: The author has a variety of activity books available for various ages groups. So, it's worth taking a peek at the selection.