Review: Sesame Street – Another Monster at the End of This Book

sesame streetReview:

Sesame Street – Another Monster at the End of This Book

Adapted by Meg Roth based on the original story by Jon Stone

Publisher: Studio Fun International, an imprint of Printer’s Row Publishing Group, 2018

This book has been around for quite a while. I remember reading it to my children, and I doubt it was newly published even then. However, it is one of those stories that never loses its charm and this new interactive version makes it even more fun.

Sesame Street characters Grover and Elmo are having a little difference of opinion. Grover is determined that they should not go to the end of the book because there is a monster lurking there. Scary! Elmo, however, is anxious to get there. He wants a good look at the monster. So he – and the reader – go racing through the pages to see just what or who is waiting at the end of the book.

Each page is filled with fun pictures, lots of large letters, and some sort of interactive portion. Some pages have flaps to turn back. Some have pull-out sections, while others are textured or have peek-a-boo holes in them. The last page, on which we finally meet the monster, has a nice, big, pop-up display.

This book is a great selection for the read-aloud crowd, and it is the kind of book they are going to want to pick up and read through on their own. Fortunately, the pages are heavy (board book heavy) and the construction is pretty solid. Still, it may have to be replaced at some point as it is sure to be a favorite book for many readers.


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

Essay: Comfort Books

I have just walked home on a bitterly cold night. The wind stung my cheeks and brought tears to my eyes while a light dusting of snow swirled about my feet. Upon entering the house, my eyes noted the stack of books waiting to be read and which I am anxious to share with readers of this blog. Yet on this night, a night when I crave warmth and coziness, I turned to something else. I turned to what I call a comfort book, in this case At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon.

Comfort books are those stories which we turn to again and again. They are books that speak to us in very personal ways and touch our souls. Obviously, this is different for every reader. Some people have certain books they like; others tend to favor works by particular authors. Sometimes we have an affinity for certain genres. It doesn’t matter; they are stories that simply call to us.

I am not alone in my tendency toward rereading favorite books. Your kids probably do it, too. It may drive you crazy, especially if you are reading the same book aloud over and over. There are plenty of reasons people reread books and there are plenty of advantages, too.

From a purely academic standpoint, rereading helps to strengthen understanding. A first reading gives us the basic story skeleton; further readings allow us to examine a story more deeply and pick up more of the subtle points. Rereading gives us more basis for analysis.

However repeated rereadings go deeper than that. Rereading a book at different ages and times of our lives gives us a different perspective. Author Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” I have found this to be true and applicable to my reading. Here is an example from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (and yes, she is an author on my comfort reading list!). It comes from the scene where Anne has a temper tantrum at Mrs. Rachel Lynde who has just told Anne that she was certainly not chosen for her looks.

“An old remembrance suddenly rose up before Marilla. She had been a very small child when she had heard one aunt say of her to another, “What a pity she is such a dark, homely little thing.” Marilla was every day of fifty before the sting had gone out of that memory.”

I read those lines when I was eleven, but I was fifty myself (or somewhere close to it) before I could fully appreciate what Montgomery had written. The book hadn’t changed; I had. I enjoyed those words as a young reader, but the deeper understanding that only experience could have taught me came later.

Sometimes we simply want to savor an enjoyable experience. Suppose you once have a delicious spaghetti dinner. Don’t you want to enjoy it again at another time? And again? We think nothing of repeating that experience, so why wouldn’t we want to do the same with a story we really liked? (On a side note, it somehow seems more acceptable that we enjoy visual stories/movies repeatedly.)

It is true that sometimes we can only have the same experience once. I remember reading the ending of The Life of Pi and being shocked. Further readings would never have the same impact. This is true of good mysteries and suspense stories. We may still enjoy the story even if we are prepared for the ending. Sometimes it leads us to read more in a certain genre so that we can recreate that suspense and surprise.

We want our children to be good readers. We want stories that deepen their understanding, but love of reading cannot be forced upon them. It has to come from their own true interests. It is fine to encourage them to find more material to read – because there are always more and more books out there for each of us to love – but it’s okay for them to pick a few to really take to heart.

So cuddle up in the blankets one of these cold nights – or next summer on a warm beach – and pull out one of those old favorites. Sit back and enjoy!

Review: One Iguana Two Iguanas

one iguanaReview:

One Iguana Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution

Author: Sneed B. Collard III

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Interested in evolution and how natural selection develops and favors those animals (in the case of this book, lizards) who adapt more readily to changes in the environment? Pick up this book, which explores the theories of Charles Darwin!

This subject could seem boring to young readers, but this book approaches the topic in a fresh way. Instead of starting with an overall explanation of evolution, it gets specific. It starts with one marine iguana diving below the water’s surface to munch on algae. Nearby a land iguana sits guarding its dinner – a prickly pear cactus. As the excellent photos show, the iguanas are quite different. Yet both live on the Galapagos islands. How did they get to be there? How did they become so different?

As the book continues, we learn how these barren volcanic islands were formed and how life (plant and animal) arrived there. Although some of the information is conjecture, the text explains how scientists have researched the subject.

Each page is filled with wonderfully, detailed photographs of the inhabitants of the Galapagos islands: lizards and birds and turtles. Many of the pages also include inset photos of details, things like the tricuspid teeth of the marine iguana or a blue-footed booby diving for fish.

This book is part of the How Nature Works series. Look for my recent review of Don’t Mess With Me for another book in the series


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

Review: Children of Jubilee


Children of Jubilee

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018

Children of Jubilee is the long-awaited and much-praised third book of the Children of Exile trilogy (Children of Exile and Children of Refuge). Once again, Haddix plunges readers right into the action of this gripping story, pulling us quickly to the resolution. Warning—some mild spoilers below!

For this volume, the point of view belongs to Kiandra, who readers will remember is the older, tech-savvy sister of Edwy. They are on the run from the Enforcers. However, it isn’t long before Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured by the Enforcers and turned into slaves.

In the previous two stories, readers have been aware that there are aliens and we humans are able to interact with them. However, there has always been a bit of a mystery about the situation. Now, in this Star Wars-style conclusion, it all becomes clear. I don’t want to give to many spoilers, but the complex web of intergalactic relationships isn’t so different – and brings up many of the issues of prejudice and social justice – that we have right here on Earth.


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




Review: Don’t Mess With Me


Don’t Mess With Me: The Strange Lives of Venomous Sea Creatures

Author: Paul Erickson

Photography by: Andrew Martinez

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Watch out! These creatures of the deep are dangerous. Just looking at the cover photo will let you know that these guys mean business.

Despite the creepy appearance of many of the sea creatures featured in the book, the material is fascinating. First of all, readers learn the difference between poisonous and venomous (and no, they are not the same thing). Then we are introduced to some of the deadliest creatures “that swim, glide, scuttle, slither and lurk beneath the waves” (3). I’d say it was like some underwater horror show, except that all of the fish/animals featured are just so interesting!

Some of the sea creatures included are the timid but deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus. This little guy, though only about the size of a walnut, is a killer that can hold his own against larger and seemingly more dangerous crabs. The Chinese Dragon Sea Slug may look like a delicacy to other fish, but beware! It has stolen stingers that irritate the mouths of those who try to eat it. If you’ve ever wondered why there is such a strong relationship between clownfish and anemones, you will find the answer in these pages.

For a strictly non-fiction book, the text is sometimes surprisingly poetic. “Tiny bioluminescent planktonic organisms twinkle like a million stars in the surrounding water” (14). The photographs which accompany the text are beautiful and vivid – and not just a little spine-tingling.

You may not think venomous sea creatures are such an interesting topic to explore, but Don’t Mess With Me will certainly change your opinion.


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





Review: Have I Ever Told You?


Have I Ever Told You?

Author: Shani King

Illustrator: Anna Horváth

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

For such a small book, this selection really packs a powerful message. Sure, we often tell our children we love them, but there are so many other important things that we might forget to say. They can be whatever they want to be, no matter who they are. Have you remembered to tell your child today that they make you happy – just by being themselves? You might not have remembered to tell them how much you enjoy their stories and the shared conversations you have with one another. Have you explained that they can come to you with their problems, no matter how big or small? Maybe you’ve forgotten to explain about respecting other people or how they should stand up for others no matter what their color, faith, or ability. Have you explained that it is OK to disagree – but even then that courtesy and respect are important?

This book could seem heavy or preachy, but it doesn’t. Part of that is due to the language, but the illustrations play an equally important role. Almost all of the pictures feature hands: hands waving to one another, hands spelling out messages, hands sharing stories by using puppets. Many of the illustrations include charming little alien-like critters who, instead of being scary, make us feel like we have the cutest sort of friends.

Together the words and illustration create a book that is beautiful, thought-provoking, and inspiring. A must read for everyone.


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

Review: Acadia Files (Book 2): Autumn Science

acadia filesReview:

Acadia Files (Book Two): Autumn Science

Author: Katie Coppens

Illustrated and designed by: Holly Hatam

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

This nice, new offering from Tilbury House Publishers does give readers information, but it is told in the form of a story.

The main character, Acadia Greene, discovers the science secrets of autumn with the help of family and friends. Topics explored include frogs, changing leaves, the water cycle (in a chapter creatively titled “Drinking Dinosaur Pee”), time zones, and germs. Each chapter ends with helpful illustrations/charts, experiments, a mini-glossary of new words related to that particular topic, and ideas that Acadia would like to learn more about. At the end of the book is a chapter-by-chapter list of helpful websites on each topic.

Though the colors are a bit muted, the illustrations are still eye-catching. Some photos are used. For example, there are before and after pictures of a pond that needed to be cleaned up. I think the blend of cartoon-style characters and real-life photos keeps young readers interested while also allowing them to understand that, while this is a story, the information presented is true.

For the science fan, especially those interested in nature sciences, this book provides a nice balance of characters they can love with the information that truly intrigues them.


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



January 2019 Update

January 2019 Update:

I hope my blog friends have been enjoying the holidays! I certainly have, but I’ve also been doing my year-end review. It helps me plan the types of books I look for in the following year and create other ideas I want to share with readers. Do I want to review more picture books? Perhaps nonfiction books haven’t had enough coverage. Maybe I had really better get over my (mostly) negative attitude about graphic novels and start reading them.

And I am thrilled to report that I have gobs and gobs of stuff to share in the upcoming months! My TBR bag has expanded and is now twice the size of the one I started with. I’ll give you just a few teasers about what you can expect to see in the coming weeks.

Look for the review of the newest book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile trilogy. There is plenty of nonfiction, including several books that deal with science topics and several others that are history related. There’s a big range in ages levels, too. Some are picture books, some middle grade, and at least one will be YA. I have a biography, some fantasy. One book will definitely include discussion questions and two books – a picture book and a YA novel – will delve into the topic of homelessness. There is even an essay on a topic I feel is very appropriate to the winter months. You’ve heard of comfort foods? Well, I think the winter months are the perfect time for comfort reads.

So stay tuned and happy reading!

Review: The Book of Boy


The Book of Boy

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

Publisher: Greenwillow Books. an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2018

The year is 1350. The place is France. One third of Europe’s population has been wiped out as the bubonic plague sweeps across the continent and starvation is a constant threat. War has ravaged many countries: England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain. During these difficult times, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are making their way to Rome.

This is the backdrop for The Book of Boy. He doesn’t have a name; he is simply known as Boy. He is working as a goatherd at the manor of Sir Jacques. Recent years at the manor have also been hard. Sir Jacques was kicked in the head during a tournament and now sits senseless in his chair. His wife and children have succumbed to the plague. The manor and its grounds are falling into disrepair. And on a cold March day, a pilgrim – a dangerous pilgrim – arrives at the manor.

The pilgrim, whose name is Secundus, is on a mysterious quest. He needs assistance and despite the fact that Boy is a hunchback, he is young and able-bodied. The other servants look at Boy as a monster and are more than willing to let him go when Secundus acquires his services as a temporary servant.

So begins an adventure of a lifetime. Boy will face dangerous brigands and wolves; pirates and ghosts; liars and heroes. Secundus’ quest, to gather holy relics, will remain a mystery and prove to be a miracle in which an angel teams up with a man who has been to hell.


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


Review: Where’s the Architect?


Where’s the Architect? From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book

Written by Susanne Rebscher

Illustrated by Annabelle von Sperber

Publisher: Prestel, 2018

Ben and Mia are on a journey to find the greatest structures ever built and readers are invited along on the journey. There is much more than just pyramids and skyscrapers, too. We explore the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower, the Moscow Metro, the Colosseum, the Forbidden City, the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building, the Hagia Sophia, Neuschwanstein Castle, Tõdai-ji Temple, and Sydney’s opera house.

The book starts with the “finding” illustrations. For example, the first location depicted is the Tower of London. We can search for Ben and Mia, count the ravens in the picture, and look for a man who is holding newly minted money (the Tower of London was where money was minted). My first thought was, “That’s it? It’s a great picture, but it has whet my appetite for more information.” I was being impatient. Readers do get to learn more but the informational section is at the end of the book.

The informational section gives important details about the location. Each section is also a fascinating mini history lesson. (And you can find the answers to the puzzles in this section.) There is a timeline that includes the construction dates and a glossary. Don’t forget to check out the end papers, which include a travel route. One last note: this book is oversized. It measures 15” x 11”, which gives the illustrations room to soar!

There are kids out there who really like this type of book. They might like the puzzles, but some kids just love architecture. This is an exceptional choice to add to their library.


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