Saturday, April 13, 2024

No Escape by Maren Stoffels

I was hoping to get to this one earlier, since it came out the beginning of this month, but time got the better of me. I have been really looking forward to this one, since it could be an amazing read for action and thriller fans. I've heard that the first one from this author in this direction was very good. 

Also, now that it's out, you can dive in right away too...looking at the bright side!

by Maren Stoffels
Young Adult Thriller
208 pages

Following the success of her unputdownable debut, Escape Room, Maren Stoffels is back with a new standalone horror novel about a twisted game master who has no intention of letting their players go.

You have been chosen to participate in a new Escape Room. You can bring one person. The one you trust the most. Your very best friend.” When Lexi receives an invitation to participate in a brand-new escape room, along with her best friend Tess, she’s thrilled. They could both use the distraction after a recent tragedy. But once inside, they learn that they must compete against one another.

What do you do when your best friend suddenly becomes your biggest adversary, and every choice you make puts her in danger? How far will you go to win?

GOODREADS    /    AMAZON    /     B&N


Some stories dig in their claws and don't let you go, and some leave off in a murky place between what is right and what is wrong. This read does both.

Lexi has been handling the suicide of a friend better than her cousin and best friend has, but the aftermath has left its marks even on her. When she's invited by a strange woman in red to join in on a new Escape Room with her best friend as her partner, Lexi figures it's worth a go. The woman claimed it was an experience like no other, and Lexi soon realizes the dark truth behind the woman's words. But by then, it's too late. The game has already begun.

This is the second novel from this author on this theme, and while it might carry a tie or two to that one, it is a novel all of its own. The tale switches between various perspectives, allowing the reader to sink into three of the four players' heads. There's also an excerpt, every now and then, which comes from notes of a psychiatrist, who is handling one or two of the players in the aftermath. This switching around is no problem to follow and hits the needed views at the right times to give impact and depth. And there is depth.

Each of the characters comes with their own angles...and not only the four players. The wide array of difficulties they've faced and decisions they've made create an understanding for each one. No one is simply crazy but carries complexities. Still, this depth never bogs down or slows down the pace of the story as it heads from one dangerous situation to the next. The tension remains high the entire way through. The clues are very well laid, the situations unexpected, and the danger deadly. Underneath all of this is a driving goal, whose intentions leave food for thought.

This is a quick, grabbing read which had me unable to put it down until the last page. Even those who don't want to dive into a longer, deeper novel will enjoy this one. The moments are thrilling, the twists unexpected, and the ending whispers the haunting promise of more to come. 

And here she is...

Maren Stoffels published her first book at age seventeen. She likes stories that are based on real experiences. Reading her books make you feel like it could all happen to you. And maybe it will. . . .

Friday, April 12, 2024

Tuggoat by Kersten Hamilton

I saw today's cover and wondered how in the world this would even work. We've had goats, and they weren't as easy to care for as cattle. Plus, they ate all of my flowers whenever they escaped, and they are clever creates. I do find the cute, though. Especially from a distance. My brother and his wife have raised goats for decades, and it's fun to see them grazing and playing around on the pasture. They can do amazing things and should never be underestimated. But a tuggoat?

Hmm...I'm definitely curious to see where this one goes.

by Kersten Hamilton
Illustrated by Adriane Tsai
Beaming Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8


Kids will giggle with joy at Cordelia the goat's antics in this whimsical tale about self-confidence, empathy, and never backing down from big dreams.

Cordelia is not like other goats. While others gambol on the hill and nibble on interesting things, she looks out with longing at the tugboats in the bay. Cordelia may be a goat, but she wants to be a tugboat. And she's going to be a tugboat--a tuggoat--no matter what anybody tells her! Even if the world doesn't believe in her, Cordelia knows exactly who she is.

With plenty of heart and lots of laughs, Cordelia's story will inspire readers to be themselves, no matter what other people say. Sometimes that means extending a helping hand--or hoof--to the ones who doubt you. Tuggoat reminds kids that anything is possible when you believe in yourself.



Never underestimate a goat, especially a tuggoat who is determined to accomplish its goals and knows how to have fun along the way.

Cordelia loves to gaze at the tugboats in the bay at the foot of the grassy hill. She dreams of being a tuggoat and decides it's time to give it a try. When she runs across a tire with a rope attached, she finally has her chance to show what she can do. Tugging her best friend around the barnyard is so much more fun than she ever expected, but the other goat won't just let her be and constantly criticizes her every effort. Still, Cordelia isn't about to give up her dream.

Giggles and smiles are sure to come during this cute tale. Cordelia is such a fun goat, which becomes clear with even the very first scene. She's sitting straight up on a hill right next to her best friend, a small pig, as they watch the boats in the bay below, while the other goats behave like normal goats around her. This tight balance on the border between realistic and fantasy holds throughout the read and gives it an interesting atmosphere. But then, the entire read doesn't head quite where a person might think, and the reactions from other characters even a good way.

The story flows well and holds quite a bit of humor. Cordelia is an active goat, and her pig friend is ready to join right in. This fun slams against the more serious goats to work in a dual message surrounding the importance of helping others as well as the golden lining life holds, when we don't take everything overly seriously. If this read felt like it was heading into a serious message direction toward the end, the author quickly shifts gears to make sure the fun holds strong. 

It's a lovely read for story times and I think readers might even hope to see this goat again in future reads.

And here they are...

Kersten Hamilton is a critically acclaimed author of books for toddlers, teens, and all people in between. She is the author of Red Truck, which received a starred review from Booklist, First Friend: How Dogs Evolved from Wolves to Become Our Best Friends, and the YA novel In the Forests of the Night, among many other books for children and teens. She currently lives in New Mexico

Adriane Tsai is a Taiwanese American illustrator from Southern California. As someone who has wanted to be an artist since childhood, she encourages everyone that they can acieve their biggest dreams. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wrath of the Rain God by Karla Arenas Valenti

I'm excited about today's read because it happens to come from a writer I worked with years ago. I'm so happy to seeing her works appearing, and each one looks exciting, too! This is the first in a brand new series for middle graders, which circles around Mexican legends. I curious to see where it heads, so let's dive in!

Legendarios, Book 1
by Karla Arenas Valenti
Illustrated by Vanessa Morales
Middle Grade Fantasy
144 pages
ages 8 to 12

APRIL 16th!!!

Twins coping with moving to a new city get swept back in time by a magical book in this first book in the Legendarios chapter book series that’s Magic Tree House meets Heroes in Training!

Nine-year-old twins, Emma and Martín, couldn’t be more different in their personalities, interests, and even their looks. But one thing they absolutely agree on is that moving from Cuernavaca, Mexico, to Illinois is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, they’re not given a choice when their dad lands his dream job as a middle school principal in Chicago. To help the twins stay connected to their Mexican heritage, their abuela gifts them a book of Mexican legends. The book turns out to be more than a going away present…it’s a magical item that transports them directly into the legends!

In the first legend, Emma and Martín encounter Tlaloc, the god of rain. Tlaloc is angry because his lightning bolt has been stolen, and his rage is manifesting as a torrential downpour over the ancient city of Texcoco. The rain won’t stop until the lightning bolt has been returned, so Emma and Martín set out to recover it.

Will they find Tlaloc’s bolt in time to help the people of Texcoco save their home? Or will the wrath of the rain god mark the end of this legendary city?


There's little room for boredom as the tale heads from one difficult situation to the next, while throwing in insights into Mexican legends and myths.

Twins Emma and Martin are as different as different could be, which can cause tensions, but that's nothing to what they are now facing. When their father lands a dream job in Chicago, that means moving away from their beloved home in Mexico to the United States. To help them keep their ties to Mexico, their abuela gives them a book over Mexican legends. Soon, the twins discover it's actually magical. The book takes them to ancient Texcoco, where the lightning bolt has been stolen from the god of rain. He refuses to stop the heavy rainfall until his bolt is returned, and somehow, the twins need to accomplish this or history will see the end of Texcoco and be radically altered.

This is an exciting beginning to what promises to be a fun series. The twins make a wonderful duo and a pair of heroes, who are easy to connect with and root for. There is little depth to the characters, allowing the plot to push every page forward. The tale races along, making sure something is always happening. The book seems to aim more for the lower end of the middle grade audience and offers a buffer between shorter chapter books and deeper middle grade novels. This makes it a lovely read even for more reluctant readers.

Mexican legends come to life in a fun and adventurous way. While readers learn a bit about history and legends, it's kept light. Descriptions are held to a minimum, which fits well to this younger audience, and while a little more would have added richness, the balance keeps the tale entertaining. There are also nods to a thief, which promises much more to come and adds a clever way to bond the series. It will be fun to see where the twins head next.

And here they are...

Karla Arenas Valenti grew up in Mexico, a land of great myths and many legends. From a very young age, she loved getting lost in stories (and, in fact, she considers herself the very first Legendario). As a grown-up, she still loves getting lost in stories and is now creating adventures for readers to do the same. In addition to chapter books, Karla is the author of many picture books and middle grade novels. She currently lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband, three kids, two cats, and hundreds of books. 

Vanessa Morales is a Mexican illustrator, kid lit artist, and concept artist with a deep love for portraying nature, fantasy, and daily life with a touch of magic. She has been working in different fields of illustration for almost ten years.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Look by Gabi Snyder

by Gabi Snyder
Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 4 to 8


In the tradition of Tomie dePaola’s Quiet , this lyrical, timely picture book with beautiful diorama illustrations shows that if you really look, you never know what the world might give you to see.

The natural world is full of patterns to enjoy for those who can ground themselves, be mindful, and truly see.


Patterns pop out in a new way, creating a different view of the world around us.

Following the day of a child and mother, this book encourages readers to stop and take a look at the world around them. Starting with the simple shadow from the back of a chair, each page leads further into the realm of patterns. From gardens to animals to stores and more, patterns are discovered everywhere. 

Readers are directly addressed and encouraged, step-by-step, to gaze at their surroundings and discover various patterns. The text holds a playful, lyrical atmosphere as it suggests various places where patterns can be found. It fits the intended audience nicely and does make a nice read-aloud, but for group readings, it is important to have the illustrations very visible, since it's these which make this read hit home.

With a 3-D feel of texture and patterns, each page offers quite a bit to gaze at. I was surprised at how well suited this art style is for the purpose. The scenes are familiar, enticing readers to search in their own lives for patterns after the book is set down, but the scenes offer tons of seeking possibilities, too. It's fun to search through each one and not only discover the pattern mentioned in the text but see if others are visible as well. 

This does a nice job at demonstrating how patterns are found even in unexpected ways and places. It never grows dull or monotonous but keeps expanding the variety, inspiring to immediately go on a search when the book is done. The last pages do hold a bit of information about some pattern types and offer ideas on seeking and creating patterns as an extra activity. 

If nothing else, it is enjoyable simply to flip through the illustrations again and again and enjoy each and every scene.

And here they are...

Gabi Snyder is the author of several picture books, including Two Dogs on a TrikeListenToday, and Look. She studied psychology at the University of Washington and creative writing at The University of Texas and is a member of SCBWI. When she’s not writing, she loves taking nature walks, visiting Little Free Libraries, and baking sweet treats. She lives in Oregon with her family. Learn more at

Samantha Cotterill has written and illustrated many popular books for children, including the Little Senses series, Thankful by Elaine Vickers, A Grand Day by Jean Reidy, Look by Gabi Snyder, Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! by Lisa Mantchev, and Just Add Glitter by Angela DiTerlizzi, which The New York Times called “a sparkle of genius.” Samantha lives with her family in upstate New York. Learn more at 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Road That Weaves and Bends by Caroline L. Thornton

I'm heading back into poetry and prose with today's read. I'm always very critical when it comes to this lyrical form. So, I'm hoping this one impresses, but after a very quick glance at one or two illustrations, I have a feeling it will be worth a read.

So, let's take a peek.

by Caroline L. Thornton
Illustrated by Leo J.
Children Poetry
48 pages
ages 5 to 10

A beautiful tale about the ups and downs of life. We all need reassurance now and then and to know that we're not alone. This book reminds us that life is a journey marked by laughter and tears, hope and frustration, happiness and sadness. That life is a road that weaves and bends.



Beautiful illustrations combine with flowing prose to follow the ups and downs of life and the emotions that come with it.

These pages are filled with encouragement and inspiration, and speak to the reader directly. It's broken down into three parts. The first one expresses individuality and the positive aspects surrounding living. This offers warming thoughts, familiar situations, and shows the joys every day moments alone and with others can bring. The second embraces the title and explores various problems and bumps, while offering words of encouragement. It gives support, doesn't brush such problems off, but illustrates how these are part of a path, don't mean the end, and strengthen/enrich the journey. These are done with care and concern, and gently handle the theme in an uplifting manner. The last section gives words of wisdom about taking things with patience and realizing that every step is part of a learning process.

There is quite a bit of depth and words of wisdom, and this comes across nicely in the prose form. The author keeps the text lovely but short, making it appropriate for the age group. The thoughts fit a wide span of ages and something will connect with most readers, thanks to the overreaching theme. 

While the text carries the meaning, the illustrations make this one well worth a peek. These are very well done and bring across a wonderful atmosphere with each page. This is what will grab readers and make them want to pick it up and glace through it again and again. It's a treat to sink into these, one by one, and get lost in the scenes.

There are many wise words, which will ring true and offer encouragement to those readers, who let things sink in. It's also a lovely addition to a look at poetry and prose, or works nicely as a calming read for more quiet moments. 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Student's Literary Toolkit edited by Charlotte Fiehn

I'm sliding in my Joker Read today and taking a peek at something for students, teachers, and homeschoolers. This is a collection of three, well-known short stories with questions to help students strengthen their literary analysis skills. As a homeschooling mom with my student now at the high school levels, this caught my interest...I'm always on the look out for good teaching material. It's not as easy to find as a person might think!

So, let's see what this workbook holds and find out exactly what it does. After all, each student is different and it's important to know if something will really work for what is needed.


The Most Dangerous Game
The Story of an Hour
The Garden Party
edited by Charlotte Fiehn
CAEZIK Academic
English Literature Workbook
Young Adult
207 pages

APRIL 30th!!!

This fully annotated anthology is a meticulously curated guide that serves as an indispensable and convenient resource for students and teachers. The combination of annotated texts of these classic stories with additional aids including detailed explanations and incisive critical essays will greatly aid students in their journey through literary analysis. Each story has been thoughtfully chosen to address specific themes and concepts that are vital to literary studies, ensuring that students not only enjoy the narratives but also gain a profound understanding of their significance in the world of literature. 

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Edward Connell Jr — This story is a cornerstone in literature education. By diving into themes of morality, empathy, and survival, it offers students the perfect platform to hone their skills in character analysis and situational ethics. The gripping narrative draws students in, challenging them to think critically about human nature and the complexities of morality. Its timeless relevance ensures that it remains a topic of vital discussions in classrooms, enabling students to connect with and reflect on profound ethical questions. 

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin—This tale is a powerful lens through which students can explore the intricate dynamics of women's roles and personal freedoms in the 19th century. As a landmark piece of feminist literature, it serves as an invaluable springboard for discussions on gender, societal norms, and the essence of individual identity. By engaging with this narrative, students are encouraged to think analytically about the societal constructs of their time and the timeless challenges of self-definition.

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield— Beyond its captivating narrative, this story is a treasure trove of themes that are pivotal for comprehensive literature studies. By delving into topics of class distinction, mortality, and self-realization, it offers students a unique opportunity to dissect social constructs and ponder the intricacies of the human condition. As students navigate this narrative, they are propelled to think deeply about society's layered structures and the profound questions of life and identity. 

With this anthology in their hands, students are equipped with the tools they need to embark on a rich and rewarding literary journey, fostering a deep appreciation for the art of storytelling and its profound impact on intellectual growth.

GOODREADS    /      AMAZON    /    B&N


With three, well-chosen short stories, this workbook guides students through literary analysis, centering on themes, characters, and vocabulary.

The three tales in this collection hit a variety of themes, lengths, and styles, offering a nice spread of directions for students to work through. Each story is included in the workbook in its entirety. Each tale is then followed by around eight questions surrounding themes, author's intentions, and so forth, with enough space for a paragraph or two answer. Next, there is a section for vocabulary. The students are to locate chosen words in the text, write the meaning as taken from the text, and then, write the dictionary definition. After this, each word is to be placed on a semantic map, which allows a little more creativity to help strengthen the memory as well as gain greater insight into the importance of these words in the text. After that, comes the character analysis of the main characters, each of which contains several pages of questions to dive deeper into those as well. Finally, there's one last, longer essay question to dig deep into the theme with ten, lined pages to insure enough space for even lengthy answers.

For teachers (or to help self-study), there's a section which holds background information for each story, character insights, vocabulary definitions, a sample essay for each ending essay, and one sematic map example to help students understand the exercise. 

So, this is a well-rounded workbook with everything included. 

I do enjoy the choice of tales and find the selections nice for the purpose. There is an empty sidebar along each tale, allowing space for student notes. The questions following each tale are very in-depth and help develop needed inquiry skills, especially if students are planning to head into higher education. These aren't for lower English levels, and I'd recommend them more for 11th or 12th grade English levels as they do require quite a bit of analysis and thought. The heavy emphasis on writing will fit better to some students than others and does offer quite a bit of writing practice. The teacher information for each story is short but gives the necessary foundation for most of the questions. The answers to the questions, however, are not included.

The vocabulary section is well done, and I was especially glad to see that it weaves in how certain words play along with meaning and symbolism. There is a concentration on connotation versus denotation, which gets those brain gears turning. I would have liked to have closer reference to where each word was found in the text, since it does require extra searching to locate each one.

At the very end of the book, there is a list of end notes, which were notated during each story. These offer nice insights, which are very helpful and interesting. I do wish these were placed at the end of each story, or better yet, as footnotes during the tales, rather than a compiled list at the end of the book. This does cause unnecessary flipping and searching, but it isn't a true problem, either.

This workbook includes many essays and questions for students to get a good hold on literary analysis and does offer deeper questions and opportunities to enhance those writing skills. While advertised for eighth grade and up, I'd recommend this one more advanced English inquiry and those who don't mind essay writing.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Hey Now, Little Man by Dori Elys

I was so tempted to hold off a few days on today's read, but my schedule just wouldn't allow's almost time to shout 'Happy Book Birthday'. But it's still a little early. *pfff*

Anyway, my husband smiled when he saw this cover. The artwork is right down his line, and I find it original and wonderful, too. Plus the boy on the front radiates assuredness. This one should be about boy empowerment, something I don't think is hit often enough anymore in kidlit. So, I'm excited to dive in and take a peek. Oh, and this one is for the youngest readers out there—a board book.

by Dori Elys
Illustrated by Chris Park
Little Simon
Board Book
ages 0 to 4


Young boys can read all about the dozen, hundred, thousand ways to be themselves in this sweet and colorful board book. Hey now, Little Man, what’re you all about? Let’s break it down for the crowd. Let’s figure it out. What does it take to be a Little Man? From lending a hand to expressing creativity to enjoying silence, young boys learn that the right way to be is your way.


Little man power shines and empowers in this inspiring book for small hands.

The boy on the cover starts this one off in exactly the right train of thought—colorful, assured, and that with unique aspects, which may be 'off' to some but can be (and should be) owned by him. This read is all about boy empowerment. Each page is bright, bold and colorful as a very diverse bunch of boys are shown in all sorts of situations, being themselves. Sometimes. this means helping others or letting someone else take the spotlight.. Other times, it means being as loud or quiet as a boy needs to be. It's about letting personalities shine and knowing that everyone is different.

The board book is constructed for younger readers' hands and can take a little abuse. Rhyme flows the entire way through, smooth and not forced. The word choice includes modern slang terms, making it time appropriate, while keeping the vocabulary at a level many readers will understand. The illustrations are colorful to mirror the diversity, and very positive to flip through. These are probably my favorite part of this read.

This isn't a true story but rather dances through various situations to show how different people are, while empowering them to embrace these differences and see them as strengths. The ideas are more vague than concrete, although the scenes are familiar. I especially enjoyed the addition of the fathers, who accompany their sons in several scenes. It gives a solid message and a sense of foundation and security, which adds to the goodness of this read. 

And here they are...

Dori Elys both writes and edits children’s books. She lives in New York City with her furry best friend. 

Chris Park has been a professional illustrator for over twelve years. His work focuses on color and vibrant scenes striving to elicit an emotional connection. Chris lives in Minnesota with his wife and two sons.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Minor Miracle by Meredith Davis

Due to some scheduling problems, I had to slide today's read up a couple days earlier than planned...which is a good thing since a superhero adventure is exactly the right thing to fuel excitement after the last days of storms and colder days. The blurb is what caught my attention on this one, and I love the sense of friendship on the cover...makes me want to grab up a couple friends of my own and save the world. With a trumpet and whiffle ball? Anything is possible! 

The Amazing Adventures of Noah Minor
by Meredith Davis
Illustrated by Billy Young
Middle Grade Fantasy  /   Superhero
272 pages
ages 8 to 12

MAY 7th!!!

What happens when an average kid finds out he has not-so-average powers? And what if the bad guy the CIA expects him to catch is none other than his long-lost great-uncle? Noah Minor must figure out the answers to these questions and more in this action-packed adventure for young readers.

Noah Minor is a pretty average kid. Nothing major has happened in his life except for the time he survived falling sixteen stories as a baby—and he doesn’t even remember it. As he enters seventh grade, Noah is hoping to be less average and more extraordinary like his best friends, trombone prodigy Rodney and the practically perfect Haley. But during a standard vision test, Noah learns that he can manipulate gravity and a special section of the CIA called Gravitas wants to train him. He also learns that his fall twelve years ago wasn’t an accident. It turns out his family's beloved great-uncle Saul dropped Noah as part of an illegal experiment, and is a wanted fugitive.

Noah is simply ecstatic to learn that he has “super powers” (even though Gravitas refuses to call them that), but he quickly learns that unlocking and harnessing his power isn’t so easy. Plus, it seems Gravitas only wants Noah as bait to capture his great-uncle. But is Uncle Saul really the bad guy—or just the right person to help Noah reach his full potential?



The elusive world of spies meets superhero adventure with excitement, heart, and the difficult question of who can really be trusted.

Noah's only had one amazing moment in his life; he survived falling sixteen stories and hitting the ground as a baby. Since then, his life has been more than average. His two best friends add the only excitement to his life, one being a talented trombone player and the other almost perfect in everything. When a usual vision test suddenly has him pulled into a secret room and told he has the power to manipulate gravity, everything changes. Not only is he sucked into the CIA group, Gravitas, for training, but he's immediately given a tiny mission. His great-uncle is a wanted fugitive with superpowers, too, and Noah needs to inform the CIA when his uncle reaches out to him. But things aren't that black and white, especially when Noah learns that his uncle is the only one who knows how powerful Noah really is and is the only one who can help him reach his full potential.

Noah is an easy character to connect with. He starts as an average kid with average problems, nothing over-the-top but normal, day-to-day issues middle graders often face. The relationship to his family is good but not perfect, and his friends have his back, although even that isn't without its ups and downs. When his superpowers hit, his attitude is understandable, for the most part, and makes him easy to root for. He might be over-powered, but this brings its own set of problems...many of which add humorous moments. 

Action mixes with humor, while the hurdles offer depth and add heart. Noah has a lot to learn, especially in the superpower realm. This comes with errors and frustration, especially since it rubs against a bit of jealousy he's been harboring. The area of friend and family relations holds the center of the read as these are tested and prodded in unexpected ways. But then, saving the world, no matter how small the part in the mission might first seem, tends to be an adventurous undertaking with difficult and dangerous surprises. 

It's an easy, quick read, which flows well. There are a few hiccups in the logic, but nothing which bothers the stories fun and messages. It's a fun adventure for superhero fans or those, who just enjoy an action-packed adventure.

And here she is...

Meredith Davis is the author of THE MINOR MIRACLE, and a second untitled middle grade book (Waterbrook, 2024/25) and co-author of HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK (Scholastic, 2019). She once worked at an independent children’s bookstore, started the Austin Chapter of SCBWI, and earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults at VCFA. Her superpowers include reading, grandmothering, and finding ways to fit more books in her Austin, Texas home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

IWSG and Jerk Chicken Magic by Noel-Andrew Bennett and Roxanne Bennett

Happy IWSG day! This group is definitely worth celebrating. Starting as the brainchild of the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh, this support group for writers has transformed from a monthly blog hop to a true platform, where many just as amazing writers gather and exchange thoughts, worries, ideas, support, encouragement, and more. We still meet the first Wednesday of every month, though, the group can be now found in many other settings. 

Special thanks goes to this month's co-hosts: Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!

And yes, I'm a bit late in posting this. I put today's read post together, went to bed, and realized....oh my! It's IWSG again!

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot to say on the writing front, so I'm going to peek at the monthly question instead.

How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

Hmmm....honestly, I'm not sure. Fifteen years? Has it been twenty already? I switched site locations somewhere during the time, so I really have no idea. I've been on Twitter since 2011, but I was blogging before that. 

As to the changes...hmmm...Twitter is an obvious change thanks to X. Blogging has changed on many fronts too. For one, it's not as popular as it was when I first started. At that time, everyone blogged. Now, not as much. My own blog has gone from a all-over-the-place review, writer types, writer reach-out, I-had-no-clue-what-I-was-doing to Bookworm for Kids. And even that has changed from a post of some sort on kidlit a few times a week to a daily review. Every day. 

I don't have nearly the same closeness I did to other writers anymore, which is too bad. I'm not sure if that's due to the blogging changes or my own life changes. Probably a bit of both.

So how long have you been doing this? What have your experiences been?


by Noel-Andrew Bennett &
Roxanne Bennett
Coconut Milk
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

A love letter to immigrant families everywhere!

Jerk Chicken Magic is a heartwarming story of a multi-generational immigrant family (The Higgins), through the eyes of a charming 6-year-old girl named, Lizzy — as she explores the culinary magic of Jamaica's most famous cultural export, jerk chicken. In awe of her Mom, Lizzy learns about the history of jerk chicken, how to make it, and the magic the dish brings to her whole family. This book celebrates themes of resilience, adaptability, and the importance of preserving generational recipes and cultural traditions.

Jerk Chicken Magic is the debut children’s picture book from husband and wife duo Noel-Andrew and Roxanne Bennett. This tasty story redefines immigrant storytelling and is the perfect gift for kids on any occasion.



Every page shines with energy and good feelings, and will have readers wanting to try jerk chicken themselves.

This is a brightly illustrated picture book, which lets the fun flow the entire way through. It centers around a young girl, whose mother has not only continued to treasure their Jamaican heritage but makes the most amazing jerk chicken. While the food's history and creation are touched upon, this book goes beyond that. It's the wholesome goodness behind the family, which sticks together, and makes this book shine.

The scenes have a realistic touch, which invites in with familiar details and tons of emotions. The text flows right along, guiding each scene and adding to the atmosphere. It makes a lovely read-aloud even for more impatient listeners. The culture comes through, while still staying very set in a daily life readers will recognize. The excitement from each and every character adds positivity and makes it clear how much they care for one another. 

To round everything off, the authors have included a jerk chicken recipe at the end. I haven't given this a go, yet, but am looking forward to trying it out because after reading this, it's hard not to want to dive in and enjoy the dish, too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Happy Book Birthday, Kids in the Kitchen by Rossini Perez!

We're going to celebrate another book birthday today! This one hits a direction my kids have always loved— cookbooks! Whenever we go to the library, I'm not surprised when they pick up a book about baking or cooking or food in general. Not always but probably 25% of the time. How often do they actually cook one of the recipes? Hmm...I'll just say 25% to that, too, because it's amazing how often the cookbooks hold recipes which require hard-to-get products (the selection at the grocery store is pretty traditional and limited in a small town) or have 'healthy' food, which I'm sure some people love but even after living in several countries, we tend to steer clear of it due to the not-so-us flavors. 

Anyway, let's just dive in and see how this book is.

70+ Fun Recipes for Young Chefs to Stir Up!
by Rossini Perez
Rock Point
Middle Grade Cookbook
192 pages
ages 8 to 12

Get kids in the kitchen with Kids in the Kitchen , for a crafty and enjoyable activity for all ages.

Do you have kids who always want to help out in the kitchen? Want to find a new way to keep them busy in a way that benefits everyone? Tired of having meals refused by picky eaters? Kids in the Kitchen  to the rescue!

The recipes will teach your mini chefs the basic skills needed to thrive in the kitchen. With minimal ingredients (both good for the stomach and eyes), easy instructions, and requiring only standard equipment, find recipes that get them involved and satisfy their palates.

The scrumptious recipes
Come together in the kitchen with this kid-friendly cookbook. Teach children the world of the kitchen, give them confidence when cooking, all while letting them play.



Kitchen tips, cooking hints, and much more food goodness accompany a variety of recipes for snacks, meals, and more.

Over 70 recipes fill these pages, ranging from ideas for the daily meals to snacks and more. Each one is presented with a colored photo of the completed dish, has a list of ingredients, and holds easy to follow steps for baking, cooking, or mixing. But there's more. At the beginning of the book, more than a few pages carry information about cooking, and at the back of the book, more information surrounding a healthy diet can be found. To add even more knowledge goodness, information about various foods are sprinkled in between the recipes, offering insights into the history, purpose or other tidbits surrounding certain food items. It's a book packed with more than recipes to give a rounded introduction to food, cooking and the kitchen.

There are quite a bit of facts in this book outside of the recipes. When I opened up the first page, I was surprised to find that the first 20 pages give insights into safety, pantry ideas, measuring points, term definitions, technique explanations, and more. It offers more than most cookbooks for kids that I've run across and goes into explanations, which are important but often overlooked. While not all readers will carefully go through this section, it does offer a nice resource to flip back to when questions arise. The information found in the last five pages heads into a health direction and offers suggestions to parents as well. So, it's well-rounded on that end. The wealth on text and knowledge slides this one into a solid middle grade read...although younger ones can find recipes to work with in the pages with assistance as well.

The recipes cover a large span of directions, making sure there are fun things that will catch younger cooks' eyes as well as healthy treats. The directions are easy to follow and hit a variety of cooking levels. From simply mixing a non-bake snack to brownies or steak strips, these pages offer something for most young cooks. The ingredients are, for the most part, not hard to find, and the few recipes, which do call for more special ones (depending on the household), offer a chance to cook something different. While there are recipes, which call for box cakes and the such, these are kept to a minimum, allowing kids to cook from scratch. 

It's a well thought out cookbook for more than just cooking fans.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Happy Book Birthday, Would You Dare Put a Diaper on a Bear? by Lillias Kinsman-Chauvet!

What better way to start the month than with a book birthday? Today's read steers towards humor, animals, and the difficult task of toilet training. I have a feeling this will be for animal fans and bring tons of smiles along the way...but let's just take a look and see.

by Lillias Kinsman-Chauvet
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

This lighthearted tale highlights the absurdity of diapers as seen through the eyes of a child. Would you dare put a diaper on a bear? Or a flamingo or a rhinocerous! No that would simply be preposterous.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /    B&N


Toilet training takes a silly twist, which inspires while bringing giggles with every page.

This is a read for those who are entering the challenge of toilet training. While this book probably won't bring overnight miracles, it adds a bit of fun and might inspire young listeners to work a little harder toward the end goal. 

Various animals are displayed, each donning a fuzzy, white diaper. Not only is it silly to see the animals running around with this accessory, but the words encourage humorous thoughts to ensure a smile each time. From giraffes to crocodiles, the illustrations cover a wide variety of creatures, who would be difficult to get a diaper on. I would have loved to see the rhino with its diaper, too.

The illustrations carry a comical twist and portray the animals in natural but active postures, with and without diapers. Each one is easy to recognize and adds a hint of humor while making the oddness clear. The text is kept very short and plays along with each situation to make the scene hit with humor and understanding.

There's a little surprise toward the end as it then steers in the direction of humans and brings in the question of whether or not they should wear diapers. It's age appropriate but ensures wide-eyes and giggles. The last steer toward the tiny toilet seals the deal and makes this a pointed read, which steers without ever feeling preachy. It's a fun book and meets the message nicely.

And here she is...

Lillias Kinsman-Chauvet is an author, an artist, and a musician. This is Lillias’s first book for children. She manages to balance art, music, unschooling with two young children, and the building of a nature-directed, consent-based learning community. Lillias has a degree in music, and a postgrad in graphic design from London School of Arts. In 2012, Lillias cycled through Cuba researching screen-printing techniques. Lillias works and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.