Review: It’s a Great Big Colorful World

colorful worldReview:

It’s a Great Big Colorful World

Author/Illustrator: Tom Schamp

Publisher: Prestel, 2020

Here’s a wonderful new way to explore color. Readers can join Otto, a cat, and Leon, a chameleon, as they travel through a colorful and fun-fact filled world. It’s like an I Spy book has met with a kaleidoscope.

Here are a few things readers can learn:

  • The biggest mammal in the world is gray.
  • White is the color of the moon.
  • The leader of the Tour du France always wears a yellow jersey.
  • However, the Tour of Spain leader wears a red jersey.
  • And the Tour of Italy leader wears a pink jersey.
  • A robin’s red breast is also orange.
  • Jeans may have been invented in the American west, but the wagon canvas they were made from came from Genoa (jeans) and then from Nimes (denim).
  • Girl Scouts aged 7-9 are called Brownies.

Add to this all kinds of jokes and puns, oodles of silly pictures, and you’ve got a great book for entertaining kids by the hour. Going on a road trip soon? This should definitely be one of your “secret weapons.”


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

Review: Pets and Their Famous Humans

pets and their famous humansReview:

Pets and Their Famous Humans

Author: Ana Gallo

Illustrator: Katherine Quinn

Publisher: Prestel, 2020 (English version)

Kids love pet stories and knowing about the pets of famous people intrigues them. So, despite my own reservations about this book, I think kids will like it.

I like the idea behind the book and I am aware that there are similar titles available that are popular. My reservation comes from this: I wonder if young readers will know, or even care, about some of the famous people chosen. T. S. Eliot? Karl Lagerfeld? Ernest Hemingway? Dorothy Parker? I mean, I am interested in these people, but would a kid feel the same way? Perhaps the animals will tip the balance toward the yes.

I also had a problem with some of the illustrations. If I hadn’t read the names, I would have thought Isaac Newton and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were women. Some of the animals don’t seem terribly cute or cuddly (OK, I am not sure if a pet crocodile can ever be cuddly), but I would think that is a big part of the kid-attraction.

The bios are actually quite interesting. My concern is whether or not kid readers will make it that far. It’s definitely a book for an older picture book crowd, who may be at least familiar with some of the names.


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


Review: Breaking Through

breaking throughReview:

Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties

Author: Sue Macy

Publisher: National Geographic Partners LLC, 2020

For young women interested in sports of any kind, this book will be an inspirational resource. Though the names of these athletes will be mostly unfamiliar, these trailblazers were strong, determined, and independent. Even those not particularly interested in sports will find themselves admiring these fierce female competitors.

The book covers athletes who participated in a variety of sports. It highlights their battles for gender equality and shares the opinions of both their many supporters – and their equally numerous critics.

Here are just of few of the (mini) biographies to read:

  • Bessie Coleman was a successful show pilot.
  • Constance Applebee, aka “the Apple,” demonstrated field hockey at all the major US colleges, eventually becoming the Director of Physical Education at Bryn Mawr in 1922.
  • Sybil Bauer was the first woman to beat a men’s swimming record, an accomplishment she achieved in 1922.

I really liked that this book slipped in quite a bit of history unrelated to sports. What was the Charleston? (Check out page 37.) Who was the Duke of Harlem? (See page 63.) Did you know that penicillin was discovered during the 1920s? (Read more about it on page 78.)

Filled with great photos, excerpts from news articles, and other interesting historical information, Breaking Through is much more than a sports story. It brings the stories of legendary women to the forefront – just where they belong.


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

Review: Turn It Up!

turn it upReview:

Turn It Up! A Pitch-Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World

Author: Joel Levy

Publisher: National Geographic Partners, 2019

Turn It Up! is a combination encyclopedia of music/timeline. It’s got a bit of everything. From descriptions of musical instruments made of bones that were played by our earliest ancestors to the technology that allows us to stream music, readers get a bit of everything.

It covers instruments, like the hornpipe, the lute, the harpsichord, the cornet, the electric guitar. There is historical information. There are some technical explanations. We learn about Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart – and also about Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Puccini – and Dylan, Baez, and Sinatra. There’s information about Ragtime, the blues, jazz, country, and rock – and even each of these areas are broken down into further categories.

The book is colorful and energizing (perfect for making readers want to join in and dance!) with lots of great photos. My only regret: I wish a CD had been included! However, on each page there is a “Listen Up!” feature. You can go online and listen to an essential musical composition featured on that page. It’s a wonderful alternative.


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

Review: The Collectors


The Collectors

Author: Jacqueline West

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

Source: Personal Purchase

Did you know that wishes are dangerous? Think about it: what if everything we ever wished for came true? We would certainly live in a very different world. Godzilla or King Kong or Jurassic Park could be real.  Plenty of the things we wish for aren’t so destructive, but they probably aren’t the best things for us either. What if the only food in the world was chocolate ice cream? Delicious, but not as healthy as we probably need.

Fortunately, there are collectors. Most of us aren’t aware of them, but they help take care of all those wishes floating around out there in the ethosphere. They help keep things in control. However, “[c]ollecting is a slippery thing” (103). Are all wishes bad? And do all people who collect those wishes have good intentions?

Giovanni Markson, Van for short, is a unique individual. He is able to see what most of us cannot: those individuals who are working tirelessly to accumulate all our wishes. However, there is more than one side to collecting. Van’s trouble is deciding who is collecting wishes for the right reasons and who is not. Who should he trust? The irascible Penny and her unusual associates? Or the kindly Mr. Falborg, who keeps some of his collections so secret that even the other side doesn’t know what he has?

The Collectors is fast-paced and fun, keeping readers guessing as Van struggles with the dilemma of wishes. The best part? The adventure continues in a sequel, The Collectors: A Storm of Wishes.

Review: Pippa Park Raises Her Game



Pippa Park Raises Her Game

Author: Erin Yun

Publisher: Fabled Films Press, 2019

Source: ARC

Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a retelling of the Dickens classic, Great Expectations. I want to get that fact right out there, because, frankly, I don’t think young readers are going to realize it. This book is a middle grade novel and usually Dickens isn’t read until high school (if at all – my school no longer includes Dickens stories in our curriculum).

Here is the nice thing about this novel. I don’t think the fact that the young readers don’t know the original story is going to matter. It is such a nice, fresh retelling, with likeable/relatable characters and a modern plot that I think it will appeal to the middle grade crowd despite their lack of knowledge about the original story. Hopefully, they might even be encouraged to go back to the original source eventually!

Although the plot does run along similar lines to the original story, I do want to talk about one twist that I think is fabulous. I really like the fact that Korean American Pippa Park has received a basketball scholarship to a ritzy private school. While there are plenty of books out there for boys who are involved in sports, it seems to me that there are not nearly as many about girls getting sports scholarships. That alone is enough for me to recommend the story, even if I do think there are plenty of other reasons to praise this book.

As far as I know, Fabled Films Press had plans to publish other classics for middle grade readers, providing contemporary updates to stories usually encountered in high school. The publisher hopes that by providing these selections, students will be able engage with and understand the material when it is introduced at a higher level in the school curriculum. I certainly hope they are successful in their effort and look forward to seeing how some of the other classics are handled. I have recently had discussions with other parents on this topic who are also excited and hopeful about the idea of getting kids excited about classic stories.


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

Review: A Big Mooncake for Little Star

big mooncake for little starReview:

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

Author/Illustrator: Grace Lin

Publisher: Hachette Book Group, 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

Little Star’s mama has made a big mooncake. Will she notice as night after night Little Star nibbles away at the mooncake until only crumbs are left?

This may seem like a simple story – and it is – but Grace Lin has achieved her goal of sharing the “traits of the (Chinese) Moon Festival….quiet joy, love, and beauty.”

There are many ways in which to enjoy this book. Mischievous Little Star, nibbling away at the moon, gives parents the opportunity to teach about the phases of the moon. Readers can simply enjoy the beauty of the illustrations. It is also a wonderfully, comforting bedtime story, perfect for parent and child to cuddle together while reading.

Review: Lowriders in Space


Lowriders in Space

Author: Cathy Camper

Illustrator: Raul the Third

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

As regular blog readers will be aware, I am generally not a fan of graphic novels. They are just not my cup of tea. However, this selection is an exception. As a matter of fact, I love the graphics for this particular story.

Three friends (Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and Flapjack Octopus) work together on cars. Lupe is the finest mechanic around. Elirio can detail a car better than anyone else and Flapjack cleans and polishes cars until they shine so brightly that they look like stars flying in the night.

The three friends have a couple of dreams. One is to own a garage. The other is to actually own a car. Those dreams might just come true. They just have to win the Universal Car Competition.

They get their hands on a car – a lowrider that is so low and slow that it doesn’t even run. They put all their extra time and money into fixing it up. The question is: will it be good enough to win?

Then on a test ride, the car goes hurtling out into space. This is the part where the graphics really shine. The friends encounter all sorts of things in space and everywhere they go, some special feature is added to their car.  Of course, these extra special details are going to make the car – and the book – sure winners.


Review: Strong as Sandow


Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth

Author/Illustrator: Don Tate

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

If you look back at the panel discussion post, you’ll see that Don Tate was the artist who suffered from “crippling shyness.” Keep that in mind as I tell you more about this book.

I have to admit that I did not know who Eugen Sandow was before purchasing this book. For those other readers who are also not familiar with him, he is considered the father of modern-day body building.

Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Muller) was not a natural-born athlete. Although he loved athletics, he was a weak and sickly child. He exercised like crazy, but didn’t have the success he hoped. Although he studied anatomy at the university, it wasn’t until he ran away to become an acrobat that he began to develop the muscles that would eventually have him gain fame as the strongest man on earth. While his job with the circus would not last, it propelled his bodybuilding career forward.

Now, as inspirational as Sandow’s story is, what I found to be even more inspirational was the story from Tate’s Author’s Note. He was a skinny kid and his father gave him information on nutrition and bodybuilding to help him beef up. It wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he began competing. His first efforts may have been disappointing, but Tate persevered – and won! There are lots of kids out there who are interested in bodybuilding and while it is nice to learn about it from a historical perspective, I think it is even better to hear about it from someone like Tate. Here is someone who was skinny and shy and artistic, not someone you would think of as a strong bodybuilder. He is, however, a strong person and I truly admired that he shared his personal story and interest in bodybuilding.

Tate admits in his Note that this story may not be historically accurate on all counts. Despite his research into the man’s life, very little is actually known about Eugen Sandow. The lion story seems to have been exceptionally difficult to gain the truth. Still, I am glad it was included.

I haven’t talked much about Tate’s illustrations. That is not because I didn’t appreciate them; I just found the story fascinating. I feel sure, however, that those who want to appreciate the book for its drawings will do so as much as I did for the text.



Review: A Child’s Book of Prayers and Blessings

child's prayer and blessingReview: 

A Child’s Book of Prayers and Blessings

Author: Deloris Jordan

Illustrator: Shadra Strickland

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017

I think this book is a very nice beginning prayer book for young children. It encompasses faiths from around the world and though there will be poems/prayers that will be new to all readers, many will be familiar. However, since this book was illustrated by an artist from my recent panel discussion, I am reviewing this book with more of a focus on the illustration.

I like how Shadra Strickland handled her illustrations. The prayers and blessing are multicultural and so are the pictures. She does not, however, bang us over the head with this fact. People are just shown together in loving groups. Not all the characters are children – or even young. I think sometimes we forget about representing older people when a book is intended for children. This book gives us children, family groups including some who are grandparents, neighbors, and friends.

Some of the illustrations have just a single character in them, but shown in diverse landscapes. It’s nice to appreciate diversity in our natural world, too. There are people working together in a garden, families sharing an outdoor meal together, a nighttime cityscape, and ocean scenes.

Strickland’s use of color pulls the book together and gives a uniformity to the pages. She uses muted, soothing tones. Even the nighttime scenes have warmth to them. The lights from the windows glow in warm golden tones, rather than harsh brilliant colors. It just makes everything have a comforting feel which is so important in a book of this type.