Review: Snail Mail


Snail Mail

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Julia Patton

Publisher: Running Press, 2018Ages

Ages: 3-6, PK-Grade 3

This book starts with the line: “A long, long time ago, but really not THAT long, before e-mail and testing, clicking and sending, mail was delivered in a much different way.” I hate to say this, but young readers/listeners have no idea how mail – the actual physical kind – works. I have actually had to explain to middle school and high school students how to make out an envelope! Hopefully, this book will encourage some changes.

Snail Mail does remind all of us of the pleasure of getting a real card or letter. In this book, the mail really is delivered by snails, a group that includes Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Colonel McHale Snail and Umberto. The particular letter readers get to follow on its journey across the country is a love letter.

The snails brave all kinds of weather. You remember the old line: rain, snow, sleet, hail, etc. etc. The desert is hot, mountains are high. Sometimes they receive help from others. Mostly it is a lot of hard work, but they can tell it is worth it when that very special letter is finally received.

After reading this book, I went out and bought a couple of cards to send to my own children. I put on special stamps and wrote little encouraging notes. I hope other readers will be similarly inspired.


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


Review: Draw the Line


Draw the Line

Author: Kathryn Otoshi

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Source: Public Library

I love the opportunities that wordless picture books create. In the classroom, many teachers find them helpful in teaching children to write. I also like that they give us more opportunity to open up our reading time to discussions. One person is not just the reader and one person the listener. Both are participants in a conversation.

Kathryn Otoshi’s new book, Draw the Line, is surely a book that will start a lively dialog. Two boys, drawn on opposing pages, are both drawing lines with crayons when BUMP! They collide. From there, they begin to draw and play together. However, it’s not all smooth sailing and the boys must find a way to deal with their conflicts.

Otoshi’s illustrations are black-and-white, with background splashes of colors. Notice that the pictures in which the boys are getting along are washed in a warm, sunny yellow, while the pictures in which conflicts are taking place are deeper, somber purple.

Perhaps your “listeners” are unfamiliar with wordless picture books. If they don’t initially contribute their ideas, start by asking a question.

“What do you think is happening?”

“How do these boys feel?”

“How would you feel if this happened to you?”

“What are some ways we can work together to solve a problem?”

I think you will find that involving the listener will provide a valuable experience for all.

Review: When’s My Birthday


When’s My Birthday

Author: Julie Fogliano

Illustrator: Christian Robinson

Publisher: A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Source: Public Library

If you are looking for some exuberant text to help prepare for a birthday, When’s My Birthday is certainly the book to find. When will the birthday be happening? Where will the celebration take place? Will everyone be singing and dancing? And everyone’s invited, from young friends to grandparents, from large animals (giraffe) to small (goldfish). There will be plenty of party food: tiny sandwiches with soup, berries, and, of course, birthday cake. Fancy dress is not required but certainly adds to the celebratory atmosphere. And gifts can include anything from ponies to necklaces.

In contrast, the illustrations are somewhat muted. Although the illustrations do use some bright colors, most are far more hushed than the text. That doesn’t really slow down the building of excitement, but it does help to balance it. It gives the reader a few moments to take a breath before moving on.





Review: Anna and Johanna

anna and joannaReview:

Anna and Johanna: A Children’s Book Inspired by Jan Vermeer

Authors: Géraldine Elschner and Florence Koenig

Publisher: Prestel Publishing, 2018 (English edition)

Source: ARC

Johanna is busy making a birthday gift for her dearest friend. She is spinning a beautiful lace collar.

Anna is also preparing a birthday gift for Johanna, for the two girls share a birthday. In the kitchen, she is preparing a very special breakfast to present to her closest friend.

However, both girls are about to receive a far greater gift than they ever could have imagined – the truth concerning the birthday that they share. Later the girls will celebrate.

Illustration are done in muted colors. Though I did not find them particularly suggestive of Vermeer’s works of art, they do help carry the story’s emotional impact.

I love the information at the end of the book that introduces children to the work of Jan Vermeer and explains in more depth the two paintings that inspired Anna and Johanna. (There is a full-page reproduction of both “The Milkmaid” and “The Lacemaker”.  I think the combination of story and pictures make a greater impression than explanations alone.

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


Review: Wet Cement


Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

Author: Bob Raczka

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Source: Public Library

Ages: Grades 2-4

Today’s book, Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, is one of the 2018 Nutmeg Book Award Elementary Nominees – which just goes to show that poetry can be enjoyed by everyone!

In his introductory statement, Bob Raczka admits that he likes to think of poems as word paintings. The titles are words formed to create pictures. The poems are pictures in which the words become the structure. Together, they create far more meaning than just a picture or just words. It also lends a bit of intrigue to the reading as Raczka plays with words and concepts in delightfully visual ways.

These quirky little poems encompass all sorts of topics: firefly, icicles, corners, tunnels and sunsets. I was so impressed with this book, I decided to give one little spoiler:





Review: I Am A Story


I Am A Story

Author: Dan Yaccarino

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

Source: Public Library

This picture book by Dan Yaccarino, I Am A Story, outlines the development of stories. From tales told around the fire to paintings on a cave wall, from ancient scrolls to Egyptian hieroglyphics, readers follow the development of the many ways we share our stories.

The experience of this picture book takes us full circle. We start with the stories being told by the fire. The printing press is invented; the iPad and other electronic devices are developed. Stories are acted out on stage and then television. Sometimes stories have been banned and burned, but in the end we still love stories – even when it brings us right back to stories of old told, once again, around a campfire.

The power of story is evident throughout these pages. From the bold lettering on the cover to the detailed pages of the book, story in all its forms always takes center stage. We recall the emotions we feel as we experience a story. In fact, this book itself draws the reader right into its own story. Definitely a book to add to your personal library.





Review: Runny Babbit Returns


Runny Babbit Returns

Author: Shel Silverstein

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017

Source: Public Library

Are you ready for more poems from the Silverstein archives? If so, the first step is to learn to talk like Runny Babbit. In this language, a purple hat becomes a hurple pat or to read a book becomes to bead a rook. Many of us know this language and use it on occasion already, which is good, for it is essential part of joining in the fun.

With weenie roasts with fire-breathing dragons to suspiciously eerie caves with sharply-pointed stalactites and stalagmites, we are welcomed into the world of Runny Babbit as he goes about his daily business. Whether he is finding adventures or enjoying life’s simple pleasures, Runny Babbit continues to enchant us.

This poetry doesn’t seem like poetry at all. It seems like we’ve joined a good friend in a special little chat – or should I say chittle lat?



Round-Up: Easter Basket 2018

easter-round-up.jpgEaster Basket Round-up:

Looking for something other than the sweet stuff to fill a basket for Easter? The following six new books make excellent gifts for young readers.

I recently reviewed the book Somebunny Loves Me by Parry Gripp. With the cute and cuddly baby bunny on the front cover, this book is a great, seasonally-appropriate choice.

Another recent review was Pink Is for Boys (Robb Pearlman, Eda Kaban). The cover is brightly colored and would look good nestled in the Easter grass, but more important is the empowering message of the book.

For dog lovers on your gift list, check out It’s a Puppy’s Life by Seth Casteel, offered by National Geographic Kids. It is filled with all breeds of adorable puppies. It could be just the right book for families welcoming a new puppy.

There are lots of Paw Patrol fans out there! Rescue Time is a new book with two stories: “Pups Save a Tooth” (a loose tooth comes out in a carrot which is then misplaced and must be found in order for the Tooth Fairy to make a visit) and “Pups Save the Songbirds” (the Paw Patrol helps keep eggs warm for missing mommy songbirds). This book also contains another gift: a really cool projector. Recipients can project an image on the wall. The story contains prompts for when it is time to change to a new image.

If it is a board book you are looking for, be sure to include You’re My Little Cuddle Bug by Nicola Edwards and illustrated by Natalie Marshall. It is tactile and colorful. Its message is loving and warm. After reading together, you and baby will certainly want to be cuddle bugs together.

And lastly, a hint for an upcoming review: Anna and Johanna: A Children’s Book Inspired by Jan Vermeer by Géraldine Elschner and Florence Koenig would make a wonderful gift. Look for more details on this book soon!


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



Review: The Boy and the Whale

boy and the whaleReview:

The Boy and the Whale

Author Mordicai Gerstein

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Source: Public Library

Today we are going to take a journey to the sea, where one day a boy notices something large floating in the water. Going out in their small boat, the father and son discover a whale caught in their fishing net. Both the boy and his father are hoping for something to save, but the things they hope for are very different. Papa hopes to save the net, their only net, which is very important for fishing is his livelihood. The boy hopes to save the whale. He understands that caught in the net the whale cannot breathe and he wishes to free the huge animal. Once the boy had been caught in a net and he remembers his own fear and helplessness.

While the father goes off to see if he can borrow a net to use, the boy heads back out to sea. He hopes he can cut the whale free in time to save it. But can he? It is so large, so tangled, and so very dangerous for the boy as well as the whale.

This book is filled with illustrations that capture a real island feeling. The golden sand, the blueish-green of the water and the brighter blues of the sky transport us to the beach, where the reader and the main character alike celebrate the joy of the whale’s freedom.

This book was inspired by a real-life whale rescue. The video can be seen at www.

Review: Pink is for Boys

pink is for boysReview:

Pink is for Boys

Author: Robb Pearlman

Illustrator: Eda Kaban

Publisher: Running Press Kids, Hachette Book Group, 2018

Ages: 4-8

Source: ARC

When this book came across my desk, I knew immediately that I wanted to review it as quickly as possible. It brings up an incident that happened only a couple of years ago. A three-year old boy came to school in a pink t-shirt and although they kept quiet about it, there was a lot of disapproval among staff because a little boy wore pink. So yes, we still desperately need books – starting with the youngest of readers – to empower kids to break down barriers.

In this book by Robb Pearlman, boys wear pink and girls wear blue. Girls drive racecars and play baseball. Boys cuddle teddy bears and imagine unicorns. Eda Kaban’s illustrations are vibrant and have child-like energy. Yes, they are filled with all the colors of the rainbow; colors meant for all of us to enjoy no matter what our gender.

This is a definite addition to your personal library. Share it with your preschool or kindergarten teacher or babysitter. Share with friends and family. Read it aloud plenty of times and take the message to heart: Pink IS for Boys.