Saturday, September 30, 2023

What's Coming in October?

One of the things I love about the upcoming months of the reading year is the holiday theme, which steers my reads. October centers around spooky, paranormal, mystery, and Halloween fun. The entire time, I nibble on fitting candies, drink my pumpkin-spiced lattes and sip hot teas. In a non-reading  direction, sweaters are back in play as well as fun themed clothes and decorations. Plus, my baking ramps up right along with my crafting as I hope to finish a few things up for the fast-approaching Christmas season. All in all, these winter months count to one of my favorite times of the year.

That also means a great line-up on the book end. This month sinks heavily into the Halloween-y direction, but I also have a several non-fiction reads coming up and some simply adventures and fun. But let's just take our monthly peek and see what lies in store.


This month holds several non-fiction reads, and what better way to begin than with amazing animal facts? This book takes a peek at 22 animals and their very unexpected capabilities. It's suppose to include several directions of science, too. So, I'm really curious to see what these pages hold. Put on your exploring hats with me as we head in on the 3rd to learn more.

Children's Nonfiction


We're heading into the world of magic with this read. It slides into an academy direction (haven't read one of those in awhile) and from what I can tell, should be pretty dark. It holds secret societies, mages, danger, mysterious deaths and more. I thought it sounded perfect to get the Halloween season going. Since it hits the shelves the beginning of this month, you can take a peek right away, too. I'm exploring this one on the 5th.

Young Adult Gothic Fantasy


I've always loved visiting Pumpkin Patches and the many activities they offer...and the apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Yummy! This book promises tons of Autumn and Halloween fun in all the right ways. I'm taking a look at it on the 6th.

Picture Book


Doesn't that cover promise a perfect Halloween vibe? The main character in this one has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts, which has left him with tons of dead relative companionship and very lonely among the living. He's about to get involved in some huge paranormal adventures, which promise high stakes, actions and more. I'm crawling under my blankets with a flashlight to read this one on the 10th

Middle Grade Paranormal


I'm going to take a gamble on this one because I'm not sure the illustrations will be my thing or not. It surrounds the adventure of some children, who get stuck in a witch's sack and promises...well, I'm not sure. I'll find out, though, on the 13th.

Picture Book


Maybe, you've heard of the Cat Ninja series? I reviewed this popular series a few months back and enjoyed the graphic novel adventure. So, when I ran across this one, I had to smile. It's for slightly younger, graphic novel readers and circles around the early days of the Cat Ninja character. I'm expecting adventure and humor, too. Find out more with me on the 17th.

Children's Graphic Novel


I don't seem to get my hands on enough historical fiction. So, I was happy to add this one to my schedule. It goes back to WWII and follows two 13-year-olds as they steer between Nazis, and then, the division of Germany under the four nations. I'm curious to see where this one goes. Find out more with me on the 19th.

Young Adult Historical


Since there's a ship involved in the last peek, we'll just hit another one. This one, however, sails through space with a pirate, who is determined to save her parents...and the galaxy. I'm expecting some quirky adventure and tons of scifi fun. Let's see how this adventure hits those waves on the 24th.

Middle Grade Science Fiction


I just saw this title and was already smiling. I have no clue what to expect with this read outside of tons of humor. And hotdogs. Maybe, vampire hotdogs? That'd be different! I have no doubt this one will offer a lighter side to the entire Halloween experience. Get ready to discover something new with me on the 26th.

Picture Book


Anyone else finding this one possible creepy material? It surrounds a girl's desires to enter an Ivy League school and the deadly competition she enters to get there. It should remind a bit of Squid Games...and I have no idea how this is going to work. But let's get ready for some chilling moments on the 28th!

Young Adult Thriller

Every month, I have more books on my to-be-read-and-reviewed pile than I could ever hope to get to. Since my schedule tends to shift around a bit, I usually can find a way to squeeze one favorite one. This month, I'm hoping to fit in:

I have no idea what to expect with this one, but it looks pretty creepy and Halloweeny to me. It's a picture book...about a skull? Original, right? It just released this last July and has been getting good reviews. So, I thought it'd fit perfectly into this month's reads. Better yet, it's a library read, too! Yep, I picked this one up through our small town library, which means you probably can get your hands on a library copy as well.

Picture Book


Friday, September 29, 2023

Today's read... Scream for the Camera by Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus

It's almost October, and I have a great read to lead into the spookier month of the year. This is the second in a series, and believe it or not, I have read the first. I'm hoping this one holds as much fun as the first book in the series. So, grab that blanket and flashlight because this should be spooky fun.

Graveyard Girls, #2
by Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus
Union Square Kids
Middle Grade Mystery / Horror
256 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 3rd!!!

New York Times bestselling authors Lisi Harrison and Daniel Kraus deliver a s lightly scary, extremely addictive contemporary middle-grade series—perfect for fans of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Ann M. Martin’s The Babysitters Club.
It’s been a month since the Graveyard Girls—Gemma, Whisper, Sophie, Frannie, and Zuzu—discovered Silas Hoke’s empty grave. A month, and no answers. That changes when messages from the other side start to creep up on the Graveyard Girls. Gemma’s good-luck charm. The skull in Whisper’s spilled milk. Sophie’s vanishing phone. Frannie’s theater curse. And Zuzu’s possessed Jōurnal. Who is trying to reach them . . . and why?
The good There might be one person with some answers. The bad She’s a mortician . . . with a deadly secret.
Speaking of bad news, straight-A Sophie is quickly sliding down the scale to becoming a B-flat friend. She is spending way more time hanging out with “Danger Me” and way less time with the Graveyard Girls and her schoolwork. Will her scary story be enough to win back her pals, or will her picture-perfect life become the ultimate photo bomb?



Middle school drama mixes with spooks, chilling moments, mystery, and a wonderful dose of friendship for a fun read.

The tale takes off right away, and while building from where book one left off, it's not too hard to sink right into this one. I would, however, recommend starting at the beginning of this series so all the information sits.

These girls might have a bit of experience thanks to the first adventure, but there's so much they aren't ready for...and that hits even in the first pages. The switch between girls and their perspectives runs smoothly and is never confusing. Instead, each personality shines and gives insight into what's going on. This is a fun group with tons of spunk.

Edging into spooky, there's a well-balanced mix of thrills, humor, and drama. It edges on scary but manages to remain in the middle grade range. So, those who like creeps and surprises will enjoy it.  Friendship also rings high for this group, even when the girls have their own issues to deal with. Of course, the supernatural world is best to handle when they stick together. 

It's a fun read with a plot which runs smoothly along. And surprises are guaranteed.

And here they are...

Lisi Harrison has written thirty-seven YA and middle-grade novels including the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Clique, which has sold more than eight million copies, and the Monster High series. In 2021, Harrison launched two new middle-grade books series, Girl Stuff and The Pack. Lisi lives in California, and in addition to her work as an author, she is the cofounder of Thrive, a wellness center that teaches tweens, teens, and parents how to have healthy, drama-free friendships. Visit her at or

Daniel Kraus is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling horror writer and coauthor of both the Trollhuntersseries and The Shape of Water with Guillermo del Toro. Kraus has won a Scribe Award and two Odyssey Awards, has been a Library Guild selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults recipient, a Bram Stoker finalist, and more. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Daniel lives in Chicago. Visit him at

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, A British Girl's Guide to Hurricanes and Heartbreak by Laura Taylor Namey!

We're celebrating today with another book birthday...well, a slightly belated one. Today's book hit the shelves yesterday and slides into a direction I don't hit very often. Romance! This is an off-shoot book from the author's bestseller, A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. Of course, I didn't read this first book (because I rarely do that) and just hit this book with fresh eyes. It circles around a British girl, Florida and a hurricane...or that's what I'm getting from the cover and blurb.

Ready to see if this one blows the reader away?

by Laura Taylor Namey
Atheneum Books
YA Romance
320 pages

In this highly anticipated companion to the New York Times bestseller A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, Flora Maxwell heads to Miami to find a path for her future… and finds her heart along the way.

Winchester, England, has always been home for Flora, but when her mother dies after a long illness, Flora feels untethered. Her family expects her to apply to university and take a larger role in their tea-shop business, but Flora isn’t so sure. More than ever, she’s the chaotic “hurricane” in her household, and she doesn’t always know how to manage her stormy emotions.

So she decides to escape to Miami without telling anyone—especially her longtime friend Gordon Wallace.

But Flora’s tropical change of scenery doesn’t cast away her self-doubt. When it comes to university, she has no idea which passions she should follow. That’s also true in romance. Flora’s summer abroad lands her in the flashbulb world of teen influencer Baz Marín, a Miami Cuban who shares her love for photography. But Flora’s more conflicted than ever when she begins to see future architect Gordon in a new light.

Laura Taylor Namey’s newest novel navigates heartbreak that feels like a hurricane in a city that is famous for them.

GOODREADS    /    BOOKSHOP     /     AMAZON     /    B&N


With times of brewing storms, chaos, and peaceful breezes, this romance grabs and promises an ending with a satisfied sigh.

Flora's life is like a hurricane. After her mother's death, she knows she doesn't deserve anything good in her life for years to come, but that's only the beginning of her troubles. She needs to figure out what to do with college, how to swerve around her father, and what to do with the problem of her best friend taking off to study architecture abroad. It doesn't help that her own temper blasts with the power of a devastating storm. So, she does what any catastrophe would do—she takes off across the ocean without a word. The escape to Florida lands her in a different environment, but the winds don't die down. Now, she's dealing with a new love interest, fake dating, and so much more.

Romance fans are going to sink into this one and enjoy. The main character, Flora, is a force to be reckoned with and completely lost, when it comes to her own  goals. Those ran into chaos with the death of her mother. Her emotional wounds are extremely clear, and her energy is addicting. It's fun just to watch her learn to handle life around her because there's no doubt that she's going to be a powerful force when she does get things figured out. The characters around her pack just as much personality, which really makes each scene and interaction a treat...and a bit unpredictable.

There is a nice balance between humor, serious emotions, and the unexpected throughout the tale. While I'm not a huge fan of more serious, internal conflicts with thought and contemplation, this read handles these with finesse. They are definitely present but roll with the rest of the plot to make sure boredom stays at bay. Plus, the life lessons Flora faces are easy to relate to and her reactions, even if extreme at times, understandable.

This is a fun read with tons of heart. There are the misunderstandings and insecurities that young adult literature tends to bring with it, but these are met with enough maturity to keep it from becoming cliche. It's a read to sit back and enjoy, and one I do recommend.

And here she is...

Laura Taylor Namey is the New York Times bestselling author of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, a Reese Witherspoon YA Book Club pick, as well as A British Girl’s Guide to Hurricanes and HeartbreakWhen We Were Them, and The Library of Lost Things. A proud Cuban American, she can be found hunting for vintage treasures and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Don't Worry, Wuddles by Lita Judge!

by Lita Judge
Atheneum Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

In this snowy day picture book, a kindhearted but overeager duckling tries to be helpful by sharing Wuddles the sheep’s wool to make sure all their animal friends stay warm—but will there be enough for Wuddles?

Snow is coming, and the barnyard animals are preparing for the cold. Duckling has an excellent idea! Fleecy Wuddles the sheep has plenty of wool to keep everyone nice and toasty. Surely Wuddles doesn’t mind sharing? Soon there’s a goat in legwarmers, piglets in onesies, and more! But will this outpouring of generosity leave Wuddles himself out in the cold? Not to worry—Duckling has one final, absolutely heartwarming idea!

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    BOOKSHOP   /    AMAZON


Quite a bit of eyebrow-raising silliness snuggles into puffy warmth to create a smile on the face.

It's going to snow, and that means the cold is coming, too. But nobody has to worry because the duckling knows exactly what to do. To make sure Wuddles, the very fluffy, woolly sheep, doesn't feel guilty about its excess access to warmth, the duckling weaves together all sorts of warming accessories for the animals, who might suffer from chilly temperatures. But that's not the only idea this ducky has. 

This is a cute read with enough silliness to guarantee a few snorts and giggles, a bit of ridiculousness to let the reader feel uneasy, and positive vibes demanding for a loving snuggle to match. The duckling's energy runs at high-gear, and while its heart is in the right place, even listeners will quickly catch-on to the slightly-off thought pattern. And yet, its hard not to think that maybe that duckling isn't completely wrong. It's so its own way.

The illustrations add to the text in the most delightful way as the humor especially hits the animals' expressions and reactions. Plus, Wuddles has such a fluffy, wonderful wool that it's hard not to want to dive right in. It's fun from beginning to end and wraps off on the perfect note. This is a read for groups and individuals, and will want to be heard more than a few times.

And here she is...
Lita Judge is the award-winning author and illustrator of many children’s books, including Flight SchoolPenguin Flies Home, Red SledRed HatGood Morning to Me!Born in the WildEven the Smallest Will GrowWhen You Need Wings, and her illustrated young adult novel, Mary’s Monster. She lives with her husband, two cats, and a parrot in New Hampshire. You can visit her online at

Monday, September 25, 2023

Today's read... Vivian Van Tassel and the Secret of Midnight Lake by Michael Witwer

Today's read is the beginning of a brand new series for the middle grade audience. It slides in the Dungeons and Dragons direction and promises tons of action as well as mystery. I'm all for an exciting, middle grade read and hope this one offers more than just a hint of adventure.

by Michael Witwer
Middle Grade Fantasy
366 pages
ages 8 to 12

A debut epic middle grade fantasy from the New York Times bestselling Dungeons & Dragons expert Michael Witwer!

Twelve-year-old Vivian Van Tassel is angry about her mom’s mysterious and sudden death; at her dad for uprooting their lives in Chicago to move to the sleepy, creepy town of Midnight Lake; at the bullies who seem to be drawn to her no matter how much she tries to keep her head down…but mostly angry at herself for causing bad things to happen wherever she goes.

When a class assignment at her new school prompts Vivian to research the history of Midnight Lake, she quickly discovers her new home is even more peculiar than it seems. Not only was the infamous Beasts & Battlements (B&B) roleplaying game invented in Midnight Lake, but there are also some hard to explain coincidences about the town and its history that seem to tie back to the game in a way that’s as puzzling as it is disturbing.

When the biggest oddballs at school attempt to befriend Vivian and introduce her to their game of B&B, she’s torn between wanting to follow the path that has always worked for her—keeping everyone at arm's length—and giving these strange kids and their even stranger fantasy game a chance.

Maybe that’s what it will take to get to the bottom of the mystery of Midnight Lake…and why Vivian was really brought there in the first place.

GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON    /    BOOKSHOP


Dangerous moments, strange secrets, quirky characters and even heart make this into a fun read.

Vivian has been acting out ever since the death of her mother, but she's pretty sure the move to her mother's family house in a small town isn't going to make things any better. Vivian's fears seem confirmed as she immediately butts heads with the school's mean girl and giggles follow everywhere she goes. But her problems are about to change as farm animals are dying under mass attacks from an unknown creature, and her own teacher disappears. Although a few acquaintances she plays with claim to be new friends, she refuses to open up and decides to take on the growing weirdness and mystery alone...but she's taking on something deadlier than she could have ever dreamed.

This is a tale loosely spun around Dungeons & Dragons (aka Beasts & Battlements, in this tale) and launches nicely into its own, rich world. Vivian and her friends play B&B, but it's the mystery surrounding the school and people, which really dig in. Of course, it helps that the school was once an asylum (great way to build up the spooks and tension) and that the founder of B&B just happened to have lived in that town and had an odd history himself. While it's not too hard to guess where some of this is going, the author weaves wonderful tension with interesting details to make a grabbing tale. 

While the monsters and secrets keep Vivian and her 'acquaintances' on their toes, the emotional end doesn't dissipate. The usual bulling theme comes in with the cliche mean-girls, there's guilt after the death of a parent, and the inability to open up and receive support from others rings loud and true. These themes, while not rare in kidlit, mold nicely into the plot and do add needed depth without bogging down on the action and mystery end.

While this tale clearly spins around D&D, there are also references to other cultural points. These work here even if I'm not a huge fan, since they will tend to age the book quickly in the long run Plus, I wonder if some of these will connect with the average middle grader as its hoped they will. There are many references to Harry Potter, which held an odd edge against the D&D's main lead. But this will hit every reader differently and by no means diminishes the fun of this read.

It's an exciting tale with so many aspects to make it fun from the first page until the very last. I am excited to see where this series heads next.

And here he is...

Michael Witwer is a New York Times bestselling author known for his work on the Hugo Award–nominated Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana, the critically acclaimed Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons, and the bestselling Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook. His most recent works include Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Visual Dictionary, and when he’s not writing books about games, he loves playing them. Michael lives in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Vivian Van Tassel and the Secret of Midnight Lake is his debut middle grade fiction novel.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Today's read... Pit and Pat by Miss Wendy

Sometimes the simplest things mean the most, and I'm hoping that's true of today's read. This is a small book meant for the beginning reader. It is a combination of first words, rhyme, and plenty of pages for kids to color in. I'm curious what this interesting pair of characters will hold. So let's dive in and find out!

by Miss Wendy
Children's Fiction / Early Reader
Activity Book
32 pages
ages 3 to 6

What do you get when you cross an easy reader with a coloring book? An "easy-reader coloring book"! Children can practice their own self-expression and creativity while learning to read, all the while enjoying a fun story. Join friends, Pit and Pat, as they roll around together discovering all kinds of opposites, and best of all, having tons of fun.
Check out the whole story in the video posted below!



With a mix of rhyme and pages to color, this is a read to help first readers dig into learning words.

This is a simple, small book, which might seem super basic but still packs punch. It surrounds the characters Pit and Pat, who fit snuggly together...but still, hold separate surprises. The text is as simple as the characters, sticking to easy-to-read words in short sentences. They rhyme and flow with tons of repetition in a sing-songy way. Even if readers struggle to recognize these first words, the rhythm draws in and will have them easily repeating the phrases, which helps them to soon understand what each word is. It's cute, contagious, and leaves a positive atmosphere, which will have readers smiling and wanting to repeat the entire tale again. And that's not where this one ends.

The entire thing is black and white, leaving each page open for readers to color and add their own decorations. The mix of hands-on with the fun phrases strengthen the learning process in an entertaining manner and give the book a personal touch. It's a great tiny read and offers so much.

And here she is...

Miss Wendy has loved writing stories ever since she could write, and she’s loved working with children ever since she could work. Her favorite things include summertime, rainbows, family, friends, and art. She currently lives in Colorado.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Today's read... Clementine: Book Two by Tillie Walden

by Tillie Walden
Skybound Comet
YA Zombie Fiction / Graphic Novel
296 pages

OCTOBER 3rd!!!

Clementine and her new friends are rescued by an island community led by an enigmatic doctor called Miss Morro, but just as Clementine’s scars are finally beginning to heal, she discovers dark secrets that threaten to tear her new life apart.

Can Miss Morro be trusted? What about the rest of the islanders?

And just how far will Clementine go to protect the ones she loves?


Within a realm mirroring The Walking Dead, the battle to survive takes interesting twists and turns.

This is the second book in the series, obviously, but I decided to take the risk of diving in without taking a peek at book one. While there were more than a couple holes to fill, it wasn't impossible to sink into this tale. I'd still recommend starting at book one, though, since this book takes off where that one ended.

Clementine is an interesting character, who faces a deadly world with more than a few handicaps to hold her back. Her friends have their own issues, but the bonds are strong and make them a force to be reckoned least, enough to survive. There is quite a bit of action in these pages, but there are also more than a few moments of more emotional struggles. It's a very rounded read with more depth than I expected, and characters to really dig in. This kept some pages speeding along, while others slowed quite a bit more than I, personally, prefer. But those who love teen depth will appreciate the moments.

This is a raw book not only on the thrill side but also on the emotional one. There are triggers concerning pregnancy, self-harm, death of loved ones, suicide and more. These stay at a teen level, mostly, and do give the tale an unexpected breadth. It makes for an interesting read, which slides right along with the well-done illustrations and gains grit. For those, who enjoy zombie survival tales, it's more than worth picking up and taking a peek.

And here she is...

Tillie Walden is a cartoonist and illustrator from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Over the course of her time at CCS she published three books with the London based Avery Hill Publishing. She has already received an Eisner Award nomination and two Ignatz Awards for her early works. When she is not drawing comics, Tillie can be found walking and listening to audiobooks or asleep with a cat. She also enjoys studying architecture and tries to incorporate that passion into her comics. Spinning is her first long form autobiographical work. (taken from Goodreads)

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Today's read... The Story of Pasta and How to Cook It! by Steven Guarnaccia

Any pasta lovers out there? I know that's a dumb question. Anyway, today's read is all about pasta. History, interesting tidbits, recipes and more make this read into a true pasta celebration. I'm not exactly sure how it all fits together, but I'm excited to dive in and get my water boiling to make some noodles myself.

by Steven Guarnaccia
with recipes from Heather Thomas
Phaidon Press
Middle Grade Nonfiction / Cooking
160 pages
ages 6 to 10

OCTOBER 3rd!!!

A playful, fact-filled exploration of the fascinating history of 35 famous pasta shapes with a delicious, child-friendly recipe perfectly suited to each shape In this ultimate book of pasta for children ages 7-11, 35 pasta shapes are brought to life through clever illustrations and fascinating facts to feed children's imaginations - and their bellies!



These pages celebrate pasta, teach a little history and food facts, and help readers to discover the variety themselves.

It starts off with a short exploration into what pasta is, the history, interesting facts and more. Then, it dives into 35 famous forms of pasta (shapes) and explains all sorts of things about each of them. Each pasta form is accompanied by a recipe, and there are lovely illustrations the entire way through, which add a touch of humor and fun. 

Not only pasta fans are going to enjoy this, but rather, the facts and information bring some interesting and unexpected insights. The text is heavier in this read, so readers will have to have a very good grip on words before tackling it on their own. I see grades four and up as ideal, but younger audiences will also enjoy all the goodness with a little assistance. 

The recipes hold a wealth on sauces and preparation possibilities. There's something for everyone. These aren't for beginner cooks to attempt on their own but do require some guidance. It is important to note that some of the recipes call for wine in the sauce. While this is an obvious and necessary ingredient in true pasta fans' eyes (and cooking it means no alcohol), parents need to be aware of this before they attempt some of these recipes with their children. The ingredients offer a wide variety and show how vast the possibilities are. It's a fun look into the world of pasta with lots of tasty benefits.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Today's read... The Wishing Machine by Jonathan Hillman

Today's read hit a wonderful memory from my childhood. With many younger siblings, sometimes I needed a place to escape...somewhere they wouldn't even dream of going. And that was our washing machine in the very back corner of our basement. I'd sit on either it or on the chest freezer and sketch or read. But wishing on a washing machine? Well, that never happened. So, I was curious to see how the magic in this read unfolds. 

Note: I'm adding this one to my possible favorites for 2023 list because I enjoyed it quite a bit.

by Jonathan Hillman
Illustrated by Nadia Alam
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8


Oge Mora’s Saturday meets Carmela Full of Wishes in this touching and whimsical picture book about a mother and child’s last trip to their local laundromat before moving away.

Every Sunday after cereal, Sam and Mom walk to the laundromat, wash their clothes, and see their friends. But this Sunday is different. Today, doing laundry means packing clean clothes in boxes to move away. Sam doesn’t want to leave their neighborhood and friends. Maybe if they hope with all their might, they can turn a washing machine into a wishing machine!

Sam’s imagination transforms the mundane into a series of wonders as they cope with change and learn the true meaning of home.

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON 


With a hint of magic, tons of hope, and a desire for wishes to come true, tons of goodness unfolds in this read.

Every Sunday, Sam and his mother walk to the laundromat, meet others, and wash clothes, but this Sunday, everything is about to change. His mom and him are moving, which means he'll never go to that laundromat again. So, he decides to give something a try and wishes on the washing machine.

My favorite aspect of this read is that it is very easy to identify with. While many picture books have characters, who live in nice houses or apartments, this one hits other circumstances. It shows life at a laundromat, and even mentions how Sam and his mother are going to move into the grandfathers small trailer, where it's tight but full of wonderful things. Sam is happy. The friends at the laundromat are happy. And the magic seems to pour from every corner without really being there at all.

Then, there's the washing machines and the hint of imagination surrounding them. It hints at magic and wishes to add just the right dusting of magic, while never really leaving the amazing twists life offers. It's warming and uplifting without bending past the magic of reality. The text flows smoothly to create a lovely read-aloud either in groups or smaller settings, and the illustrations will have listeners coming back to explore the tale on their own. It's one of those reads to enjoy.

And here they are...

Jonathan Hillman is a graduate of Hamline University’s Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) program, where he received the Walden Pond Press Scholarship for Excellence in Middle Grade Fiction. His essay and poems are featured in the Fat & Queer anthology, and he is the author of picture books Big Wig and The Wishing Machine. He lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his two cats. Visit him at


Nadia Alam is a second-generation Bangladeshi Canadian illustrator. She lives in Toronto with her husband, daughter, son, and dog named Momo. The Wishing Machine is her first book for children. Visit her online at

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Today's read... The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejia by Alexandra Alessandri

 by Alexandra Alessandri
Atheneum Books
Middle Grade Fantasy / Myth and Legend
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte.

Twelve-year-old Valentina wants to focus on drawing the real world around her and hopefully get into art school in Bogotá one day, but Papi has spent his life studying Colombia’s legendary creatures and searching for proof of their existence. So when Papi hears that a patasola—a vampire woman with one leg—has been sighted in the Andes, Valentina and her younger brother Julián get dragged along on another magical creature hunt.

While they’re in the Andes, a powerful earthquake hits. Valentina and Julián fall through the earth…and find an alternate Colombia where, to Valentina’s shock, all the legends are real.

To get home, Valentina and Julián must make a treacherous journey to reach this land’s ruler: the madremonte, mother and protector of the earth. She controls the only portal back to the human world—but she absolutely hates humans, and she’ll do anything to defend her land.

GOOREADS    /    BOOKSHOP     /     AMAZON    /    B&N


Adventure mixes with rich legends to create an engaging read.

Valentina follows her brother and father on one of their family's crazy quests to discover legends, while their mother is away, continuing her studies of a volcano. When an earthquake catches them off guard, the family is separated and left in danger. With her brother at her side, Valentina struggles to rescue her father, but instead, runs into the creatures behind the legends her father has chased for years. These powerful beings are not pleased, but somehow Valentina is going to have to steer through them as she learns to deal with her own emerging abilities...or everyone is doomed.

From the very first page, this read grabs. Valentina's family comes across extremely realistic...maybe a bit quirky, at times, but that makes them that much more likable. The relationship between Valentina and her brother really shines and gives this entire read a nice family vibe. However, this read isn't as much about emotions as it is adventure, which is great because it makes the pages fly by as the reader gets lost in this world.

The messages hit a varied spectrum from battles with oneself to family to environmental issues and more. These weave into the plot well, allowing the tension to take over. The mythical creatures bring various legends to life and broaden readers' horizons. There's even a bit of Spanish mixed in. So, it's a rich read on several ends.

I do hope the author has more adventures for this family planned, since it was a fun read.

And here she is...

Alexandra Alessandri is the award-winning author of The Enchanted Life of Valentina MejíaGrow Up, Luchy Zapata;Isabel and Her Colores Go to School; and Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!. The daughter of Colombian immigrants, she is also a former associate professor of English, a writer for Curriculum Associates, and a poet. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Today's read... Little Puffs of Clouds by R.A. Douthitt

Happy Saturday! I don't know about you, but our weather is finally cooling down a tad bit, which means that being outdoors is more enjoyable, too. While I still try to avoid any grass and weeded areas (chiggers!), outside is the place to be. That's one reason this book made me smile. Cloud gazing is something which not only gets a person out under the sky but calls to creativity. So, I was more than happy to take a peek at this book and see if it holds as much goodness as I suspect it might.

by R.A. Douthitt
Illustrated by Scott O. Douthitt & R.A. Douthitt
Picture Book
76 pages
ages 4 to 8

What do you see when you stare at the puffy white clouds in the sky?

In their secret haven, a grassy meadow nestled amongst whispering trees, Jane and her brother Joey lie on the grass, heads tilted back, gazing up at the ever-changing tapestry of clouds. Each fluffy formation becomes a creation of their Dragons, castles, or unicorns. As they venture deeper into their whimsical creations, the children transcend the ordinary. They embark on grand adventures without ever leaving the sanctuary of their beloved meadow.

But when their little brother Jimmy interrupts their adventures, they push him aside. So, Jimmy sits alone on a hill as the clouds pass him by. Will Jane and Joey realize that gazing at clouds is more fun together than alone?

In this heartfelt tale of friendship and wonder, with its colorful illustrations, Jane and her brothers embark on their celestial odyssey of their vivid imaginations, one puffy cloud at a time.



The art of cloud-gazing swirls with imagination in this fun adventure.

Jane and Joey enjoy their time outside by lying on the grass and gazing at the clouds. The forms and shapes soon have them dream of more than just a little adventure...until their little brother ruins the fun. They shove him off to the side, but that won't be the end of it.

I'll admit that the 76 pages made me wonder, considering this is a book aimed for at the preschool/kindergarten/lower grade audience, but it works wonderfully for a story time. The tale runs smoothly and hits the age group nicely. There's just enough text to tell the story without bogging down, and the illustrations do the rest as they allow the fantasy to take flight. There's enough humor to bring smiles, and the messages cause a little food for thought. It's something readers can sympathize and identify with...and be inspired by.

While the story is grabbing and the message wholesome, it also opens the doors to allow young readers to take the time to try cloud-gazing themselves. The adventure in this tale stretches the imagination and creates the opportunity for readers to cloud-gaze themselves. That makes this one great not only for reading at home, but also for groups and classrooms, since it can be tagged on to an obvious activity. 

And here she is...

Former writing teacher Ruth A. Douthitt is an award-winning multi-published author who puts her heart and soul into her work, hoping to encourage others through her stories. Winner of the 2022 Christian Indie Award-First Place in YA, and the 2017 Moonbeam Children’s Books Award-Bronze Medal for Best Book Series, Ruth is  a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and hosts A Writer’s Day podcast.

Ruth lives in Arizona with her husband and their little dog. When she isn’t writing, Ruth loves to run, draw, paint, and garden. For more information about Ruth and her books, visit her website: and find her on Facebook and Instagram

Friday, September 15, 2023

Today's read... My Life Off-Key by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

The title on today's read made me pick it up. Music is such a wonderful thing, and not seen often enough in literature...which is strange considering how many people listen to the radio or sing or play an instrument. Of course not professionally, but think about all the school choirs and marching bands and such. And yet, how often are any of these mentioned in teenlit? This book circles more around family drama, but that's fine.

Another special aspect about this read is that it's intended for those teens who struggle with reading. It's under 100 pages and carries a lower reading level than most young adult novels.

by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Orca Anchor
Young Adult Contemporary
96 pages

FEBRUARY 13th!!!

Seventeen-year-old Jen is shocked to discover that the dad she grew up with is not her biological father. Jen loves to sing. But the rest of her family can’t carry a tune. When a stranger named Mike gives her roses at her concert and reveals that he is her birth father, Jen's world flips upside down. Mike is a musician, just like Jen, and now she understands why she looks nothing like Steve, the only dad she’s ever known. When Steve learns the truth Jen's mom has been hiding all these years, he moves out, and Jen can't help but feel responsible. Worse, she doesn’t know who she is anymore. It feels like her whole life has been a lie. Is Steve still her dad? What about Mike? When it feels like her family is falling apart, Jen doesn't know where she belongs.


Emotions run high in a concise and smooth tale.

Jen's nerves are already approaching overload as she stands on stage to sing her heart out to the high school, but when a strange man gives her flowers in front of everyone, she has no clue what's going on. The news that this is her true father, not only blows her mind but has her entire family scrambling with the news. 

This is a book, which has been written for those teens, whose reading level isn't quite where the average young adult novel hovers. At under 100 pages, this is a quick read and won't weigh the intended reading group down. The chapters are well-placed to give short reading bursts with the opportunity to take breaks in between. Each sentence is concise and direct, keeping complexity and difficult vocabulary away. So, it fits the intended audience very well.

As to plot, this is a topic which the age group can sympathize with. Jen's worries and concerns as well as her interactions with her family come across in a fairly realistic way. Descriptions and thought-sequences are kept to a minimum, but the feelings still come across clearly and understandably. Some aspects could have been less choppily written, and a few of the characters' reactions surprised me, but it does keep the family drama and tension high. It's a nice quick read, which serves its purpose well.

And here she is...

Gail Anderson-Dargatz is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees, which were finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has also written a number of short novels for striving readers, including the Orca Currents titles Bigfoot Crossing and Iggy’s World, both JLG Gold Standard Selections, and The Ride Home, which was shortlisted for a BC and Yukon Book Prize. Gail lives in the Shuswap region of British Columbia.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Meet Author Marneta Viegas and the Relax Kids Series

We're going to change things up today and steer away from my usual book reviews. Instead, I'm excited to have author Marneta Viegas popping by to answer a few questions for us—so kind of her!

First, I'm just going to give a quick parade of her Relax Kids series...and give a glimpse at how broad and fun this series is...before diving into more about her. Marneta Viegas isn't a first-time author, but rather has quite a few titles under her belt. Her messages offer encouragement and always hit a positive note. Plus, it appears that these books have lead to an entire movement in the UK. I might have found more (and very inspiring) information thanks to a few Youtube videos...which I highly recommend you take a peek at to gain an even better impression about what Relax Kids is all about. (   

Laugh together as you create your own positacular and specmarkable affirmation words with this fun flip flap book.

Encourages mindful awareness, mental creativity and imagination.

Create your own mindful meditations and discover how many wonderful combinations you can make!


What will you choose to be today? Flick through the flaps to create your own positive persona -- and its amazing title -- each day.

Quite the selection, isn't it? I love the colorful and lively covers. But then, I have reason to believe that Marneta is exactly the same way. 


Thank you so much for taking the time to be here today and for your willingness to answer a few questions. It's always so interesting to meet the author behind the book and learn a little more about them. I'll admit that I did take a peek around the web and was amazed at how much you've woven your life around making kids smile. Before turning to writing, you ran a clowning business - I find that so interesting! What inspired you to move into this new direction?

I had been a clown for 10 years and over that time, I noticed a change in children’s behaviour. Their concentration and attention was worse and having practiced meditation since I was a child, I felt it would help. So I started some visualisations to calm children down as part of the entertainment and the children and parents loved it. Ion 1999, I had an idea to write meditations based on all the fairytales - Lying on Sleeping Beauty’s bed, Floating on Aladdin’s magic carpet and climbing Jack’s beanstalk and floating on a cloud. It worked so well and I got a 2 book deal. I stayed with the publisher and went on to write another 17 books. Alongside the meditations, I started classes in my small apartment for friend’s children and they loved it. 
I developed a 7-step relaxation system MOVE PLAY STRETCH BREATHE BELIEVE RELAX. The classes were fun and children loved them. 
I couldn’t keep up with the demand and so started training in 2005. I have now trained nearly 6,000 coaches who run their own business teaching Relax Kids classes.
I went on Dragon’s Den which is the equivalent to Shark Tank and although they didn’t invest, It helped get my brand known. You can see the video on you tube.
I now have a wide range of products - books, audios and packs to support children’s mental health.  My products have been used in over 5 million homes and schools across the globe.

That's quite the journey, and it sounds as if so much of it was a path that was meant to be. With that much engagement, you must enjoy doing it. Now, that you've turned to writing, what is your favorite part about it? 

I love being creative. I have been writing children’s theatre shows for over 25 years and I love making ideas from my head come alive on paper. I love colours and having fun with words.

And what would you rather eat worms than do?
I hate going high speed or scary fair rides or parachute jumping.

I completely agree on the parachute jumping - so scary! After reading a bit more about you, I discovered that you're also heading into a new project for women. Could you tell us a little about it?

Over the years, as I have grown older, I have realised my main motivator is creativity. I love creating all sorts of things. I wanted to create a lovely online group where women can come together and be creative. We meet weekly on Wednesday at 7pm UK time and I have a free session once a month to try it out. Each week we have a theme and create and chat about life and art and what inspires us. We often all come tired and leave so energised and everyone says it is the highlight of their week.

That does sound wonderful, and we could all use a bit more energizing in life. 
It seems that many authors were avid readers as children. What were your favorite books while growing up?

I loved all the fairytales and Aesop’s Fables because of the morals.

Oh, I do wish Aesop's Fables were more visited these days (at least, here in the US). I've met so many kids, who've never heard them, which is really unfortunate. 
When you aren’t working on a new project, what do you like to do? 

I love swimming and being in nature. I also like creating new comedy characters for stand up comedy. I always have a notebook and pen wherever I go as I have so many ideas. I have drawers and drawers of notebooks with ideas. 

It sounds like you have your own 'treasure chest'. With so much creativity and positivity, I do wonder, what was your biggest wish as a child?

I wanted to be a performer - to entertain. I wanted to be a singer.

It seems like you were lucky enough (at least, partially) for your wish to come true. Who knows, maybe singing will slide in someday?

Thanks so much for taking the time to share everything with us. I know I enjoyed it quite a bit. I do wish you the best and look forward to what else still lies in store because it sounds like there is much more to come.

About the Author

Marneta Viegas is the founder of Relax Kids Ltd - the UK's leading expert on children's relaxation. She is a best-selling author and has produced a range of relaxation CDs and has appeared on BBC Dragons' Den. She was invited to perform at Buckingham Palace for HRH King Charles’ 50th Birthday. Marneta has over 40 years of experience in meditation and relaxation and runs a training program where she has trained over 5,000 franchisees in her unique award-winning method of relaxation. She lives in Oxford, UK. For more information on Marneta and other Relax Kids products visit: