January 2020 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the months of January! 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: 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: 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.


Review: The Red Book

the red bookReview:

The Red Book

Author/Illustrator: Barbara Lehman

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004

Source: Personal Purchase

Step into a world of adventure! A girl in a city finds a red book. On an island, a boy also finds a red book. The two children are able to communicate, to be friends. What will happen when the girl loses her copy of the book?

This is one of those wonderful wordless books that teachers have been using so successfully in recent years. Sure, there aren’t any words. That doesn’t mean readers still can’t explore language. The nice thing is that young readers can make those explorations at their own level and make their own interpretations based on personal experiences.

I like that the illustrations are not overly busy. Sometimes students who struggle with language get overwhelmed by too much busyness. These pictures have just the right amount of detail: enough so that the reader gets caught up in the story, but not so much that they are caught up in inconsequential material. I like the use of primary colors. It catches the eye and helps bring the focus to the objects that move the story forward, mainly the book, but also some balloons (no spoilers, but this is a fun bit!) and the main characters.

On the jacket, Barbara Lehman gives the inspiration for this book as her longtime love of maps. This is something I think should be encouraged in today’s kids. Even if the maps here are not meant for accuracy, the sense of new possibilities that exist around us comes through loud and clear.



Review: Heartbeat



Author: Evan Turk

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

It is not often that I cry over a picture book. Heartbeat is an exception. It is powerfully emotional. It’s moving and intense and although it is the story of many, it feels personal.

The story involves a young whale and her mother. They swim in the ocean’s depths together. Two hearts together singing a song of love. Then whalers kill the mother whale and the young whale is left to swim alone. One heart, one song – all to fuel the ever-growing needs of a human population.

The initial illustrations are in deeply intense, moody colors. Brighter colors blossom across the pages as the two whales swim together. Then harsh white spears break through blackness, as harpoons attack.

Though this story may sound depressing, it is actually a story of hope. After the darkness of the lonely pages, a change occurs. A young girl on a cruise ship hears a message. Two hearts, which may be different, can still sing one song and this song can happen for all of us. “One world, one song, one heartbeat.” The illustrations are once again brighter, more exuberant, giving the feeling that we have come full circle.

Be sure to wipe away the tears in order to read Turk’s Author’s Note at the end of the book. It tells of his personal inspiration for this story, gives a bit of the history behind it, and once again brings us full circle to a more hopeful outlook.

Review: With All My Heart

with all my heart

Source: https://www.amazon.com/All-My-Heart-Stephanie-Stansbie/dp/1684129109


With All My Heart

Author: Stephanie Stansbie

Illustrator: Richard Smythe

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, 2019

Welcome to the first post of 2020!

Looking for a sweet and loving bedtime story? With All My Heart will exactly fit the need. It is reminiscent of books like Guess How Much I Love You and The Kissing Hand.

Mama Bear and her baby bear are sharing some loving memories as day fades to night. The text, which is soothing and reassuring, taking the readers forward, from day to night, from season to season, and year to year. And though things may change, Mama’s love is constant.

The illustrations are both vibrant and gentle. Readers can enjoy the sweeping visuals while at the same time exploring the smaller spaces provided by peek-through cut-outs. The cut-outs provide clues as to what will be happening on the next page. They also draw the story forward, using the repetition of the words that appear within the shapes to build the text on the following page.

Text and illustrations work together beautifully. I felt as though the book was providing a visual lullaby.


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

Review: Hiro’s Hats

Image result for hiro's hats elisa kleven

Photo Credit: elisakleven.com


Hiro’s Hats

Author: Elisa Kleven

Publisher: Wild Swans Publishing Cooperative, 2019

Source: Personal Purchase

Hiro is a young snow monkey who finds a hat. Unlike some monkeys, Hiro does not think of the hat as just something to keep his head warm during the cold winter. The hat is a friend. Hiro sings to his hat. He shares chestnuts with his hat and with a hungry robin. One day the fierce winter wind blows Hiro’s hat away. The robin, who is by now also Hiro’s friend, is blown away, too. He feels sad without his friends. Unfortunately, one will not return. No worries, though. The ending is sweet and upbeat.

Although Hiro is more like a boy who just happens to look like a snow monkey, I like how Kleven gives information about real snow monkeys at the end of the story. We get a nice mix. A little fiction, a little fact.

The illustrations are mixed-media collage. I love how richly detailed each picture is. Although you can’t feel the texture on the book pages, you certainly get the sense of it. When there is a snowstorm, the reader is right there in the midst of the whirling snow. When spring arrives, you are sitting among the lush foliage and flowers.  I also love how many of the illustrations are framed, with text appearing in the white space surrounding the picture.

Check out Klevin’s website for more information about her and her books: https://www.elisakleven.com/





Review: Winnie’s Great War


Winnie’s Great War

Authors: Lindsay Mattick & Josh Greenhut

Illustrator: Sophie Blackall

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company,

Source: Personal Purchase

Winnie’s Great War is another version of the true story of Winnie the Pooh. It’s told as a bedtime story for a young boy who thinks he knows the whole story about a bear named Winnie, but learns that the story is deeper that he has suspected.

I should have loved this story. I’m sad to say I didn’t. There were several reasons for this. First, and probably the one that turned me off the most, was that it reminded far too much of the story of Bambi. Yes, I was turned off when Winnie’s mama bear is killed by a trapper. Sorry, that’s no good for me.  Too dark – and since it comes right at the start of the book, it sort of colored everything that came after that.

Secondly, I just didn’t care for the point of view. Winnie is referred to as “your bear.” I found that irritating. Maybe I should have been able to let it go, but there you have it. I suppose the authors thought that would make the story more personal. Here’s a sampling of what was continually running through my mind: “Go ask YOUR mother.” “It is YOUR job to take out the trash.” ‘That’s YOUR problem.”

I did like the illustrations. Done in sepia tones, they have a nice, old-timey feel to them like Little House on the Prairie. I also liked the Colebourn Family Archive at the end of the book.

I love when I can give books rave reviews, but honestly this book was a miss for me.


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!