Review: The Big Book Adventure


The Big Book Adventure

Author: Emily Ford

Illustrator: Tim Warnes

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, an imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group, 2019

Two friends are comparing their adventures of the day. One friend has gone to a tea party, visited with a mermaid, visited Gran in her cottage in the woods with friend Red (and is pretty sure that someone else is lurking in those same woods), and found buried treasure on an island. The other friend has had a similarly busy day – learning how to fly, taking a trip to space and encountering aliens, lunching with a dragon, visiting three bears, and taking a magic carpet ride. Sound impossible? Not with a good book, it isn’t. These two friends have found the real magic of reading! And best of all is the fact that these adventures can be shared.

I love how this book introduces young readers to classic stories and brings home the point that reading opens up whole new worlds and experiences for them. If the adventures don’t sound interesting enough, the illustrations will convince anyone to go out and get copies of these stories. They are truly magical themselves. Each page is unique to the story being read. There is the dark and scary forest to be traveled with Red. The pirate’s treasure is done in sepia tones so necessary for old maps. We travel across a deep blue sky strewn with stars on the magic carpet ride or we find ourselves swimming in a beautiful aquamarine underwater world.

Together Ford and Warnes have produced a book that will excite youngsters (and perhaps those of us who are just young at heart) to go out and find these – and more – adventures. I can’t think of anything better a picture book could do.


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.



Review: Awesome Achievers


Awesome Achievers Science

Author: Alan Katz

Illustrator: Chris Judge

Publisher: RP Kids Publishers, 2019


Awesome Achievers Technology

Author: Alan Katz

Illustrator: Chris Judge

Publisher: RP Kids Publishers, 2019


Let’s face it: some kids just do not like to read fiction. They want to read facts. They read to learn. (I know adults who are like this, too, so my unproven suspicion is that reading preferences do not change over a lifetime.) So, it’s especially nice when nonfiction books actually present new information. These two volumes are perfect examples. Katz gives us information that is simply not same-old same-old.

For instance, in the Awesome Achievers Science volume, readers learn about Dr. Henry Heimlich, the doctor who found the way to help choking victims. Before his technique was developed, victims often suffocated even when they received help. There are eleven other innovators discussed. Do you know who the developers of sticky notes are? Probably not, but you will!  And who is Edwin Land?

The Technology volume is also filled with intriguing people. Readers will find out about Mary Anderson, developer of “a window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice, or sleet from the window” (aka – a windshield wiper). Or read about Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven.

After each mini-biography, there are a few pages of “extras.” These are things like funny little poems, jokes, cartoons, diagrams. Personally, I didn’t think these were necessary and frankly found many of these tidbits corny, which is why I think kids will love them. In fact, I think this silliness will be what really sells kids on these books. They can learn, they can laugh. Sounds like the perfect combination to me.


*Note: I received both of these books for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: The Problim Children


The Problim Children

Author: Natalie Lloyd

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

The Problim children – there are seven, one for each day of the week – are left to live alone in a ramshackle bungalow in a swamp. When one day this blows up, they must move to their late grandfather’s home in Lost Cove. But that is not all. There is a madcap mystery to be solved here and the Problim children are just the ones to take it on.

Fans of Lloyd’s quirky sense of humor will appreciate this book. For my personal preference, there were way, way too many references to farts, as Toots has a different smelling one for every occasion and the odor is described in detail. Younger readers will probably find this hilarious, but it wore really thin with me.  This brand of humor just doesn’t tickle my funny bone. I wouldn’t be quick to choose this as a read-aloud and also won’t be quick to pick up the sequel, which is something I always find disappointing.

Review: Don’t Pigeonhole Me!

don't pigeonhole meReview:

Don’t Pigeonhole Me! Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook

Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems

Publisher: Disney, 2013

Source: Personal Purchase

Fans of Mo Willems are going to want to include this treasury as part of their Willems collection. It is exactly what it says – copies of his sketchbooks – but in actuality, it is so much more. It combines his art with introductions that are more like journal entries. These sketchbooks give us insight into his ideas and books. As Willems writes, “…I found I could mine the sketchbook for ideas” (6). He goes on to explain how these sketches created the spark for his other works.

This book might bring up old familiar favorites (like Pigeon), but it also introduces readers to some of Willems’ other work. For instance, did you know that Willems talked NPR into allowing him to be the “Radio Cartoonist” for All Things Considered?

Most of the sketches are black and white and may seem a bit rough. They are hilarious, a bit raw at times, and, occasionally, surprisingly tender. There is a little bit of everything here. Some real life is blended with fantasy. Some realistic art makes way for other pages that are filled with decidedly Picasso-esque portraits. Each viewing will bring new details to light.

Though Willems’ sense of humor shines through on every page, I found the book to be mostly inspirational. Perhaps this book won’t work for the typical bedtime reading story, but it is still a great resource to include as part of your picture book library.

Review: Noah Builds an Ark


Noah Builds an Ark

Author: Kate Banks

Illustrator: John Rocco

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2019

Source: Public Library

A storm is coming and while Noah’s family prepares, Noah is also preparing for the creatures in his garden. He builds an ark, fills it with nuts and seeds, and invites the animals to gather inside for safety.

Inside his own house, his father tells stories to pass the time. Inside the ark, the beetles and birds each tells their own story in their own way. Noah’s mother sings to help Noah sleep. Crickets in the ark chirp to help the others rest.

Finally, the storm ends and a rainbow appears in the sky. Noah and his family are safe. Noah’s animals in the ark are also safe and can return to their garden home.

The language in this book is wonderfully poetic. Listen:

“A curtain of darkness drew across the sky.”

“The rain splashed down like silver swords thrown down from heaven.”

The illustrations match the mood of the pages perfectly. We see the black clouds of the coming storm. The light fades and the dark curtain is drawn across the page. At the end, as the clouds roll away, there is the exuberant color of the rainbow.


Be sure to look under the book jacket as the books cover and jacket cover are different.

Review: Spoon AND Chopsticks



Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrator: Scott Magoon

Publisher: Disney Hyperion, 2009

Source: Personal Purchase



Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrator: Scott Magoon

Publisher: Disney Hyperion, 2012

Source: Personal Purchase


Since I enjoyed Scott Magoon’s Linus the Little Yellow Pencil so much, I decided to check out more of his work. These two books, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal,  were not published together, but they do make good companion stories.

Rosenthal gives us two stories that invite the reader to change perspective. In Spoon, poor Spoon feels everyone is luckier than he is. Knife is so lucky. He gets to cut and spread. Fork gets to go everywhere and Chopsticks are always together. However, with a nice little twist, Spoon realizes that they are not the only lucky ones.

This same concept of new perspectives is also present in Chopsticks. Chopsticks are always together – until one sad day when one Chopstick gets broken. The second one stays close by to be supportive while the broken one is healing (the glue needs time to set), but is encouraged to go out and have adventures. The Chopstick finds that there is plenty to do on its own and that those activities don’t interfere with the Chopstick relationship. On the contrary, it makes their partnership even stronger.

You can tell both Rosenthal and Magoon had a lot of fun with these stories! The plays on words, the quirky little extras in all the illustrations. It is so obvious that this work (and it is work, but who says that can’t include joy?) was enjoyable. I love when that feeling comes through because frankly it makes it even more enjoyable when others share these stories. This joy makes the stories unforgettable.

Review: Linus The Little Yellow Pencil


Linus The Little Yellow Pencil

Author/Illustrator: Scott Magoon

Publisher: Disney Hyperion, 2019

Source: Personal Purchase

I recently had the opportunity to attend a program by author/illustrator Scott Magoon (An Unlikely Story 7/24/19). Scott talked about his newest book, Linus the Little Yellow Pencil, with a community of readers that displayed a lot of excitement and energy. After sharing his story, the reason for all the enthusiasm was obvious. It’s a wonderful book that talks about creating in a constructive, team-building way.

It’s Linus the Pencil’s first time for entering the family art show. Only “art with heart” will win the prize. Of course, Linus would like to win. He certainly has ideas. He also has Ernie, his eraser. And Ernie isn’t easy to please. Ernie is just a tad critical. All the other family members create beautiful things, unencumbered by a nasty little eraser/voice who is continually telling them their work is not good enough. It is only natural that Linus becomes discouraged.

Fortunately for Linus, he meets someone (no spoilers) who gives him a different – perhaps sharper – perspective. Linus is able to not only break free of Ernie’s negativity, but they actually find a way to create together.

This book is fun, has a great message, and is filled with illustrations that explode with color. During his presentation, Scott talked a bit about his process when working on illustrations. He admitted to particularly liking to draw inanimate objects and turning them into “people.” Well, animate objects. He did talk more about his art and gave demonstrations, both by hand and by computer, but here’s one fact that stuck with me. In illustrating, eyebrows are your friend! (Much like I always say that in sewing, the seam ripper is your friend – only for a different reason.) Eyebrows are what convey a lot of emotion. Notice this in Scott’s work and be sure, when working on your own drawings, to pay attention to those eyebrows!

Also, be sure to check out the book’s cover under the paper jacket and the end pages. You don’t want to miss all the wonderful illustrations hidden there.

July 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the month of July! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!