Review: StarTalk


StarTalk (Young Reader’s Edition)

With Neil deGrasse Tyson

Publisher: National Geographic, 2017

Source: ARC

You might already be familiar with the StarTalk radio or TV broadcasts. If so, you will already have an idea of what to expect. If not, this book will be a good introduction.

If your expectation is that this is a book solely about space, you’ll be disappointed. Section One is about space with topics ranging from what Mars is like, what a wormhole really is, and where comets come from.

Section Two, however, is titled Planet Earth. This unit looks at the question: how was Earth formed? It also investigates how space affects our planet. Here the book begins to delve into areas which, at first glance, might not seem related to space.

For example, readers will learn about the water cycle. So how does that relate to space? Well, scientists think that our planet’s water might have gotten here, at least in part, from comets. (Read pages 90-91 for the full explanation.) And even though it is not technically “space information,” the book lists some very interesting facts about water. Did you know that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce every T-shirt manufactured in the United States? Or that household leaks lose at least 3 billion gallons per day? (pgs. 104-105)

Section Three is titled Being Human. This section is a bit more futuristic, exploring such topics as time travel and our interactions with aliens – and zombies. Once again, it brings up the thought-provoking question: What will our future really be like?

SpaceTalk opens our ideas of space in a very understandable and relatable manner. Readers will understand that Earth is more than a single “big blue marble” hung in space; it is an interconnected part of the whole universe.


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

Review: NG Kids 2019 Almanac

Review:NG Almanac 2019

National Geographic Kids 2019 Almanac

Ages: 8-12

Source: ARC

I haven’t put together a quiz for a bit but when I received my copy of the 2019 Almanac by National Geographic Kids I knew it was time!

1. Which of the “Big Cats” is the largest?

a. Jaguar

b. Leopard

c. African Lion

d. Bengal Tiger

2. How many flowers must bees visit in order to produce an average-sized jar of honey?

3. Which animal has the most genes devoted to the sense of smell (which helps them to have a better sense of smell)?

a. Elephant

b. Rat

c. Dog

d. Horse

4. What is a ‘zombie star”?

5. Which is the largest ocean?

a. Atlantic Ocean

b. Pacific Ocean

c. Arctic Ocean

d. Indian Ocean

6. How much time did the longest rainbow last?

7. How much does a cloud weigh?

8. Can you name three types of tornadoes?

9. Did you know that glass is 100% recyclable and that it can be recycled an endless number of times? Check out page 110 in the section titled “Going Green.”

10.What is a baby mouse called?

In addition to fun facts like these, you’ll get plenty of quizzes, games, and jokes. There are activities like making your own barometer. There are tips to write effective letters and how to ace the next science fair. It includes a lot of resource material like maps and a list of Presidents. And – as always – the book includes plenty of great photos.



  1. The Bengal Tiger can weigh from 240-500 pounds. However, the African Lion, with an average weight between 365-420 pounds, isn’t exactly a house cat. Jaguars and Leopards are relatively small, with weights of 180-250 pounds and 66-176 pounds, respectively. See page 33.
  2. 5 million (pg. 89)!
  3. The elephant has 1.948 olfactory receptors. Rats have 1,207, dogs have 811, and horses have 1,066 (pg. 95).
  4. A zombie star is the surviving fragment of a star that has exploded (pg. 151).
  5. The Pacific Ocean has a surface area of 65,436,200 sq. miles and contains 47% of the Earth’s water area. The Atlantic Ocean has 25% of the Earth’s water area, while the Indian Ocean has 21% and the Arctic Ocean has only 4%. (See pages 206-207).
  6. It lasted for six hours!
  7. A light, fluffy cloud typically weighs about 216,000 pounds (pg. 212). I guess I should stop comparing fluffy meringue to clouds!
  8. In addition to land tornados, there are fire whirls and waterspouts. Learn more about these dangerous funnels of rapidly rotating air on pages 216-217.
  9. See above
  10. A baby mouse is called a pinky (pg. 63).


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











Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

gentleman's guideReview:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

I have to be honest. Every so often I enjoy a good romance. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is the kind of steamy summer read that is both romantic and sensual. It takes place in the 1700s and explores a lot of important issues.

The plot is fairly simple. Guy A likes Guy B and there are lots of complications that make this relationship difficult (more accurately, forbidden), which should give readers a good idea of how things are going to play out.

OK, there’s more to it than that. Lord Henry Montague, Viscount of Disley, is going on the Grand Tour of Europe – after being expelled from Eton – with his best friend, Percy (with whom he is secretly in love). His sister, Felicity, is in tow, along with a suitable chaperone to keep Monty in line (as if that is possible). After the Tour is over, Monty is expected to return to England and take over the family’s estate. However, Monty’s choices are going to change the trip from a simple Tour to a harrowing manhunt, with plenty of action and adventure to keep him – and the reader – busy.

Is this story truly plausible or realistic? I don’t know. In fact, I don’t even care. The story is so good and I was so caught up in the romance that I really never gave the whole thing a second thought (at least until I read the Author’s Note – and by then I already loved the story). Monty is a lovable, witty, smart-ass who will sweep readers off their feet.

One word of warning: I really liked this book but that doesn’t stop me from giving it a huge MOM ALERT. I like to offer reviews for all levels of young readers and this is definitely a YA selection that may not be appropriate for younger readers.



Review: Animals at Night


Animals at Night

Author: Anne Jankéliowich

Illustrator: Delphine Chedru

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2017

Source: Public Library

Let’s explore the world at night. It’s actually a pretty busy place as 1/3 of vertebrates and 2/3 of invertebrates are most active during the night hours.

Animals at Night answers some of our most basic questions about nighttime animals and their activities:

Why do these animals prefer the night?

How do nocturnal animals see in the dark?

Then it introduces us to common (and some less common) animals from many different environments. We discover animals of the desert, the mountains, ponds and riverbanks, the forest, fields and orchards, country roads, farms, the beach, and even our own backyards and gardens.

The best part of this book is the glow-in-the-dark areas included on every page. This feature makes the book ideal for nighttime reading, but be sure to be close to a lamp that you can easily switch on and off. I hope it inspires you and your listeners to do some nighttime investigations of your own!


Review: Annie B., Made for TV


Annie B., Made for TV

Author: Amy Dixon

Publisher: Running Press, 2018

Ages: 8-12

Source: ARC

Annie Brown has been best friends with Savannah Summerlyn since they were six years old. When Savannah wins the “Quail Award” – award for the best overall student in middle school – Annie is happy for her. Sort of. It’s kind of hard to be in the shadow of someone who is good at everything – academics, sports, you name it, Savannah is tops.

It’s not like Annie doesn’t have talent, too. She does. In fact, Annie writes commercials. She mostly writes about her own inventions, which is why her dad coined the phrase “wrinventor” (writer-inventor). And let me tell you, her inventions are clever and fun. But being a wrinventor is, unfortunately, a bit like being invisible. While Savannah shines as the star, people barely know that Annie exists, let alone writes amazing commercials.

It doesn’t really affect their friendship. At least, not until both girls try out for a new web show called The Cat’s Meow. Savannah convinces Annie they should both try out. After all, with Annie’s wonderful commercial voice she would make a great host and Savannah could be a featured performer.

Unfortunately, the producer doesn’t quite see things the same way as the girls do. He’s not impressed by Annie’s commercial voice, but he does like Savannah’s routine. In fact, he likes it so much that Savannah is chosen to be the host of The Cat’s Meow.

Once again, Annie is “a balloon of tears” because she feels she has done a “giant Cat’s Meow belly flop.” Or has she?

No spoilers, but let me assure readers that Annie has not done a belly flop. In fact, her talents have been recognized and Annie has opportunities – in The Cat’s Meow and in her friendships – that truly are made just for her. This is a great warm and fuzzy read, perfect for summer reading when you just want to have fun.


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

June 2018 Introduction

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, the book, and the person reading.”

Mem Fox, from “Reading Magic”


This month, as school wraps up, library reading programs are gearing up. Sure, kids can be reading without being involved in an official “program,” but I feel that library-sponsored summer reading initiatives are well-worth the time and effort. I encourage parents to get their readers enrolled. Some of the advantages that libraries offer include (but are not limited to):

  1. Library programs are free, safe, and educational – not to mention fun. (And in case you have forgotten, summers can be longgggggg….)
  2. Libraries offer lots of variety and give readers of all ages a no-commitment way to explore new genres and authors.
  3. Library programs encourage readers to reach goals, which means they practice reading. Long breaks in reading cause children to lose some of their skills, while regular reading keeps their progress steady.
  4. Connecting your kids with other readers helps keep them motivated to read more on their own.
  5. Libraries offer wonderful resources for the whole family. In addition to a reading program, your library may offer all kinds of opportunities and activities for your kids. (Mine has a craft day, a Lego day, a movie day, and a weekly author visit.) Plus, you may be able to get passes to local museums or exhibits. You can check out movies and games. Maybe some music or an audiobook are just what is needed for a long road trip.

During the month, I will be posting reviews of some fun summer reads you and your young readers may want to check out. I will be reviewing a newly-published book by Running Press. Watch for Annie B., Made for TV by Amy Dixon (middle grade). For a wonderful escapist romantic fantasy, young adults might want to check out The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. It is definitely a steamy summer read! For those who like nonfiction, I will be reviewing the Young Readers Edition of National Geographic’s Startalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

On June 9th, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art will be sponsoring a discussion, “Why We Write Middle Grade.” Panelists include Jeanne Birdsall, Cammie McGovern, Catherine Newman, Liz Rosenberg, and Lisa Yee. Following this discussion, I will be reviewing some of their works on a one author per week basis. All have wonderful books  to offer our young readers.

Happy Reading!

May 2018 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of May! 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: An Atlas of Imaginary Places


An Atlas of Imaginary Places

Author: Mia Cassany

Illustrator: Ana de Lima

Publisher: Prestel Publishing Ltd., 2018 (English edition)

Source: ARC

An Atlas of Imaginary Places takes the reader to the most amazing dream world. Animals change their coats whenever anyone sneezes. A lady giant lives in the sea and she makes paper boats which she fills with beautiful aromas. When these paper boats sink, they create small, unusually shaped islands. And these islands are magical, too. They are places where it rains fish, you can climb the tallest lighthouse, and use your finger to draw a new galaxy. Mountains grow upside down. But don’t worry; if you fall off you land among the clouds. Volcanos spew multi-colored bubble gum. There is even a City of Butterflies.

The illustrations are as magical as the text. The colors are soft and muted, and the drawings of all these wonderful things will just light up your imagination. I particularly like the two illustrations with black backgrounds: the lighthouse fantasy and the City of Butterflies.

Perhaps as you read this book aloud to your young listeners, you can create new ideas for this universe that rests halfway between dream and reality.



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


Review: On Gull Beach

on gull beachReview:

On Gull Beach

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Bob Marstall

Publisher: The Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2018

Source: ARC

With summer just around the corner and so many of us heading to the beach, I thought this new picture book by Jane Yolen and Bob Marstall would be just the thing to get everyone prepped.

As a boy walks along the beach, he spots a sea star. As he attempts to pick it up, the sea star is snatched away by a gull. The boy races along the beach in a rescue mission and as he does so, we are introduced to many of the inhabitants of the beach.

At the end of the book, there is factual information called “Life of a New England Beach.” It answers questions like how can an observer identify a Herring Gull and which is correct: starfish or sea star?

I have long admired Yolen’s work and this new book not only teaches but delights readers. Marstall’s illustrations add to the experience. Done in soft blues, creamy whites, and sandy tans, readers are immediately transported to their favorite beach. If only the pages could be infused with a beachy scent!

I’m ready for a beach exploration. I hope this books gets others ready, too.


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



Review: Yoga Frog


Yoga Frog

Author: Nora Carpenter

Illustrator: Mark Chambers

Publisher: Running Press, 2018

Ages 4-8

Source: ARC

For those looking for a different type of activity – something physical, for instance – why not try some yoga?

Anyone who wants to share a yoga practice with children should get a copy of this book. Actually, it is so wonderful that even newbie adult practitioners might want to give it a try. One evening I based my practice on this book and found I loved it.

Readers start the morning with Frog, who is not a morning person and can be a tad grumpy. Together Frog and reader can go through a complete program from warm up to cool down.

The text explains each position in easy-to-understand language. Here is an example:



Sit in an imaginary chair.

Lift your arms in front or alongside your ears.

Feel your strength.

See? Easy! I shared this book with a four-year-old friend and she agreed with me.

Now add the illustrations of a cute and wonderfully flexible little frog, and the poses are very clear even to young readers. I loved the pull-out chart, too. Frog is adorable!

There is a brief note to parents at the end of the book explaining the benefits of yoga. Carpenter, who is a certified yoga instructor, gives a few useful tips in this section, too.

My only complaint is that there isn’t more! How about a nice bedtime routine to help Frog relax?



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