September and October 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the months of September and October! 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!

Review: Small Spaces

small spacesReview:

Small Spaces

Author: Katherine Alden

Publisher: G.P. Putman’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

Ollie Adler has a major attitude, one that causes her plenty of issues. It’s this attitude which results in her taking actions that send her heading away from school toward the river. Here she encounters a weeping woman who is threatening to throw a book into the water. Ollie grabs the book away and after a mysterious speech about a smiling man, the woman gives Ollie one bit of advice. Avoid large places at night. Keep to small.

What follows is a deliciously creepy story. It’s got it all: an unsolved mystery from the past, a haunted house, ghosts and other evil creatures, a corn maze that is far more than a maze, and especially very, very scary scarecrows. It doesn’t take long to realize that these scarecrows are the ones that Ollie must stay away from and to do so, she must hide in small spaces. Only if she is not caught will she be able to solve the riddle of the corn maze and free others from the workings of the smiling man.

Ollie has the help from a couple of friends. Coco, the seemingly small and sweet, and the ever-resourceful Brian the Boy Scout help her battle forces of evil that none of them even actually understand. There are also messages that pop up on Ollie’s watch, messages Ollie is certain come from her recently deceased mother who is trying to protect Ollie. And through it all, Ollie is bold, brash, sassy – and wonderfully brave.

This book is a great read during the Halloween season!

Review: I Want a Dog

i want a dogReview:

I Want A Dog

Author: Jon Agee

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019

Source: Personal Purchase

Jon Agee has lots of fans – and for good reason. His books are quirky and fun to read.  His illustrations are somewhat spare, but with lovable characters. His new book, I Want A Dog, is no exception. It’s a book that readers will thoroughly enjoy (whether or not they want dogs, too.)

A very determined young lady has shown up at the Happydale Animal Shelter. She is seeking a dog. Happydale has lots of interesting animals in need of homes – but no dogs! The manager tries to convince her that perhaps another animal would do. However, our young friend knows what she wants and it is definitely a dog.

Everyone will love they way the problem of no dogs is solved. Don’t forget to check out the very last illustration. She really does love her new pet!

Review: Disney Stories for 3-Year-Olds


Disney Stories for 3-Year-Olds

Publisher: Studio Fun International, an imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group, 2019

While the Disney volume I reviewed earlier this week did not contain the classic stories that are so familiar, this one does. But don’t worry, they are very abbreviated versions. They can still be managed as a bedtime read.

This volume contains stories like 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, and The Aristocats. The text on the page is a bit longer than that contained in Stories for 2-Year-Olds, but not so excessive as to lose the listeners’ attention. There are still plenty of pictures, and while Mickey and company don’t figure into these stories, I think children will recognize most of the characters.

One of the best things about this book is that is could whet the listeners’ appetites for future reading. For instance, Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book are marvelous stories. Perhaps if children are familiar with the story and enjoy them at a young age, they may want to read the full version when they are a bit older. Reading that leads to interest in more reading is always great!


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

Review: Disney Stories for 2-Year-Olds

stories for two year oldsThis week I have two great selections – especially for parents. You know how sometimes you’re looking for a nice, quick bedtime read? Something short and sweet. It needs to be age-appropriate, but you don’t want it to be too simple or too boring (especially for the reader, who is often just as tired as the listener). My next two posts are on a couple of Disney books that are just right in length and pictures-to-text ratio. The characters are familiar, featuring many of our Disney favorites.


Disney Stories for 2-Year-Olds

Publisher: Studio Fun International, an imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group, 2019

This new Disney volume contains 14 stories. There isn’t too much text on each page and the illustrations are bright and engaging, but not overpowering.  The stories tell incidents of everyday life. Mickey and Donald Duck’s nephews are going to visit the firehouse. The Disney gang, including Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, go on a camp-out and it rains! They visit a pet shop, go on a picnic. The stories are easy for a 2-year-old to relate to.

While these are not the classic Disney stories, they are typical Disney-style fun!


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

Discussion Questions: Maybe He Just Likes You

maybe he just likes youDiscussion Questions for Maybe He Just Likes You


  1. For her friend Omi’s twelfth birthday, Mila and her friends plan a special birthday surprise/celebration. During this time, the “basketball boys” give Mila a hug – of sorts. But is this really a hug? And do you think these boys are just being friendly like Zara claims?


  1. During band, Callum gives a “hand swish” that brushes against Mila’s shoulder. She feels it was enough to deserve an apology, yet no one else seems to feel that way. Do you think Mila is right or is she overreacting?


  1. Mila is trying to disguise her developing body by wearing a concealing fuzzy green sweater. Is this strategy working?


  1. In band, Dante offers to let Mila use her music if she gives Leo a “birthday hug.” Do you think this is a fair offer? When Mila questions whether it really is Leo’s birthday, she finds they almost blame her for not believing them. However, Callum won’t meet her eye. Does this behavior seem sketchy to you or is Mila once again making too much of it?


  1. Mila finds out from Zara that the boys lied about it being Leo’s birthday. Why doesn’t Mila feel comfortable sharing this information with Zara?


  1. Another of the basketball boys – Tobias – is looking for a hug. He gives the excuse that Mila’s green sweater contains some kind of magic, that the boys who touched it achieved their personal best after touching it. Mila feels relieved – mystery touches explained! But do you really believe his explanation? And do you think Tobias or Callum both might just like Mila?


  1. On the bus, the boys are giving Mila lots of attention, but very little of the bus seat. Does this crowding seem fair? Normal? And do you think the boys are really interested in the fuzzy green sweater?


  1. Do you think the plaid shirt Mila borrowed from her mom is going to help the situation with the basketball boys?


  1. Samira noticed what happened on the bus and told Mila she wouldn’t allow the boys to treat her that way. Samira seemed to be blaming Mila for the incident. Do you think Mila “allowed” it? What else might Mila done?


  1. As Mila was leaving the band room, Callum made a comment about her butt. Was this appropriate? And how would you have handled this remark?


  1. Mila’s friend Max has noticed the way the boys are treating Mila and he offers to help. Max has been bullied in the past. Is what the basketball boys are doing bullying?


  1. What do you think Zara’s problem is? Is Mila’s guess that she might be jealous correct?


  1. Mila tries to go to Guidance to get some help. Was Mr. Dolan helpful? Should Mila have been more honest with him?


  1. After the chair incident in band, Mila is accused of overreacting. Is she? Do you think Ms. Fender is blaming Mila for the incident?


  1. Mila arrives home late and wants to hide the real reason from her mother. Do you think this is a good decision?


  1. Mila runs into to Tobias in the park. She considers confronting him about the behavior of the basketball boys, but changes her mind. Were her reasons valid? Would this have been a good way to solve her problem? And why are things different when it comes to Mila?


  1.  What do you think of the karate class at E Motions? And what about Mila’s thoughts and concerns after her first experience?


  1. Mila wonders: Does her mother know she needs “coverage”? What do you think?


  1. Zara apologizes to Mila for not sticking up for Mila during lunch. Do you think everything is right between them now?


  1. At her locker, Mila feels Tobias grab her butt. Then he denies it and says it must have been her imagination. When she tries to talk to her friends about the incident, she gets all kinds of mixed reactions. Describe some of their reactions. Who is right?


  1. Mila runs into trouble again on Friday afternoon when she and her friends plan to go to CVS. Zara says she has to deal with the situation herself because Mila is not dealing with it. Is Zara’s accusation accurate? Is Zara’s idea the right solution? And did her actions really solve Mila’s problem?


  1.  Mila becomes aware her mother has some issued going on as well, both at work and with her father. This makes the family’s situation  – especially from an economic standpoint  – difficult. Should Mila confide her own problems at this time? What do you think of Mr. Fitzgibbons?


  1. Do you think that karate may be the solution to Mila’s problems? And does any of the initial training seem like it will be helpful?


  1. Through Omi, Mila finds out the real reason the boys have been so anxious to touch her. What do you think of this game? What do you think Mila should do?


  1. How might Mom losing her job affect Mila and her situation?


  1. Do you think Mila should have apologized to Zara? And should she have expected an apology in return?


  1. Callum says the scorecard on Mila is just a game. Is it? And is Mila’s reaction the right one? The result was Ms. Fender changing her band position. What do you think Mila should have done differently?


  1. In karate, Mila and the other students get a lesson in self-defense. What does she learn? Do you think this is going to help her?


  1. When Callum grabs Mila’s arm, she comes back with some of her new techniques learned in karate. Does this seem to help Mila’s problem?


  1. What do you think about Zara’s reaction when she learns about the scorecard? What do you think of Max’s suggestion to go to Mr. McCabe?


  1. Mila spills some of her frustration to her mother, complaining she doesn’t know what to do when others won’t listen. Mom suggests finding a way to speak their language without physical attacks. How might Mila manage this?


  1. Is Omi brave? Is Mom brave?


  1. In a conversation with Erica, Mila might have found an opportunity for Mom. Did she learn to speak Erica’s language or was it something else?


  1.  Max has a conversation with Mila about her problem. He wants to help, but Mila responds with the comment that it is her problem. Is it? Should she follow Max’s advice and go to an adult? Is she a bully victim? Or is it really something else?


  1. What do you think of the game of Untag? Why is blame for the situation shifted to Mila?


  1. Mila admits to her friend Samira that the situation is out of her control. Even with her friends’ support, it doesn’t seem to be enough. What do you think she should do?


  1. Mila gets through her days by practicing karate, thinking about karate, and attending karate classes. She is making progress. How has this helped her? Do you think it will be enough?


  1. What do you think of Callum’s comment at the band concert? How does it affect Mila? What do you think of her response at the band concert?


  1. After the concert, Mila has to face Ms. Fender and the truth of the situation finally comes out. Was the response from Ms. Fender what Mila (or you) expected?


  1. What do you think of Ms. Fender’s solution? Should Mila agree to this?


  1. How does Mila’s conversation with Liana affect her decision?


  1. What did you think of the “community meeting”? Do you think this was an effective way to deal with the harassment? Was it better than, say, a traditional punishment (detention, suspension)?


  1. Have you ever had a problem that you think might have been solved in this way?


  1. Talk about how the perspective of the characters – Mila, Callum – has changed. Do you think these changes would have taken place without the community meeting?

Review: Frankie’s Scared of Everything


Frankie’s Scared of Everything

Author/Illustrator: Mathew Franklin

Publisher: Building Block Press, 2019

Looking for a treat alternative to all the Halloween candy available in stores? This book is an excellent choice. It’s got a nice message, but is just scary enough to qualify as “spooky.”

Frankie’s imagination has run away with him. That crashing and creaking must certainly be an evil robot. And that scraping and scratching? Yup, a dangerous dino is on the loose. Frankie looks for – and finds! – his worst fears and he’s running out of places to get away from them all.

Fortunately, there is always the safe haven of Mom’s Room. As Mom points out, an imagination is a “slippery slope.” It’s a wonderful thing, responsible for so many of the good things we have, but it needs just a bit of control.

The illustrations are wonderful. They are a bit reminiscent of Tim Burton’s style. The pages, though almost all black, have wonderful pops of luminous color in vivid greens and lurid purples, perfect choices for this wonderfully crafted story.


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



Interview: Lydia Lukidis (No Bears Allowed)

no bears allowedA few week ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing No Bears Allowed by Lydia Lukidis. It’s a great story of friendship and learning to understand other people’s view points. Don’t forget to check out the full review!

I’ve also had the exciting opportunity to discuss the book with Lydia Lukidis–and I’m sharing that interview with you today!

  1. Was there a particular incident that inspired this story?

NO BEARS ALLOWED was character driven, so the characters emerged before the narrative. Rabbit came to mind first, and I imagined him as reserved and afraid of everything. He lets fear and worry govern his actions. Then I thought it would be interesting to add a bear and somehow have them develop an unlikely friendship.

2.  I love the idea of cultivating empathy. Do you have suggestions for parents about ways to start a conversation on empathy?

As parents, one of our jobs is to help our children be self-aware and cultivate empathy. I think it starts with open communication, talking with your child and asking them to identify how they feel and why, then talking about how we can affect others. Encouraging them to see the other person’s point of view is also helpful, but it all begins with self-love and respect.

3. I know one of your goals is to foster the love of literacy. Again, do you have some quick tips to share with parents?

When your children are young, READ to them as often as you can! Set aside some cuddling time where you can share stories and enjoy each other’s company. After your read a book, engage in conversation. What did they like about the book? What else could have happened in the story? Help them understand how narratives are created, ie. there’s always a central conflict that needs to be resolved. When your children are older and can read on their own, find out what they like and buy/borrow as many books as you can. Encourage them to read every day, and then discuss what they liked about the books after.


Sounds like great advice! And NO BEARS ALLOWED might be just the place to get those conversations started!


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