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.

Gift Ideas: The Night Circus

Valentine’s Day is approaching! And if you’re still looking for some ideas to give the book lovers in your life to celebrate this special day, check out these ideas that were inspired by the popular Loot Crate service. You can use these ideas to create a customized “Loot Crate” of your own!

For my “Valentine’s Day Loot Crate,” I chose Erin Morgenstern’s story, The Night Circus, because I loved the book as soon as I read it, and I know so many other people who also fell in love with it immediately.

First of all, I selected a bag from Café Press to store all the gifts you purchase. Personally, I would still wrap the gifts I put inside the bag, just for a little extra fun and surprise. The bag is practical as well as pretty.

night circus bag

Photo Credit: Cafe Press // Available HERE

Then, from Out of Print, I would add their great heat reactive mug. It’s magical – just like the story! Available HERE

From Teepublic, I added a long sleeve t-shirt. If you’re not into the long-sleeved style, there are other options, including short sleeve ones. Available HERE

From Society 6, I added a Night Circus Laptop sleeve. It’s another practical item, but one will remind the user, probably daily, of their favorite story. Available HERE

There are lots of things available on Etsy, but I especially liked this ornament. It’s just the sort of thing a real book lover would want to put on their Christmas tree…or perhaps display somewhere in their home all year round!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern  Novel Ornament  image 0

Photo Credit: Etsy (noveladornment) // Available HERE

And lastly, I also liked this print I found on Etsy. It really captured the feeling of the book.

The Night Circus Illustration 11x14 Print image 0

Photo Credit: Etsy (ckornacki) // Available HERE


There are plenty of other options out there, too. There are jewelry items and home décor – lots of choices to suit your particular recipient and your budget. And although I chose a favorite book of mine, this idea can be done with many books! Check out the websites I used for plenty of additional book choices.

Feel free to share your best finds in the comments below!

Essay: Why Read Classic Literature?

In my previous post about a new book called Pippa Park Raises Her Game, I mentioned that I have been talking with parents about reading classic literature. Many of these parents are avid readers and could recall – often in great detail – classics they had enjoyed in the past. Many of these stories are books that they first read while in their teens, but continue to periodically enjoy again. Every one of these parents felt it was important for their children to be exposed to classic literature – but no one seemed exactly sure why. After all, most of us can get along quite comfortably in our daily lives without having read Romeo and Juliet or Oliver Twist.

However, there are reasons to read classic literature. The following list is mine, but I daresay there are plenty of other valid reasons.

  • These stories endure because they are meaningful. They have something real and vital to say, and the themes are often universal.  I might enjoy a light and frothy romance on occasion, and I happen to think that “guilty pleasure reading” is fine. However, I also strongly believe it is a good idea to include some reading with more substance and durability.
  • They touch our emotions. As readers, we enjoy the experience of delving into another person’s thoughts and feelings, even if that person is a character in a book. We gain understanding and empathy by putting ourselves in the character’s shoes. Classic novels are rich with such vicarious emotional experiences, which is why they are so highly satisfying.
  • The language has richness and depth. It gives our vocabulary a boost, especially since we see the words in context.
  • Classic novels make us think. We have to take time to appreciate the language. We mull over the situations. We simply have to slow down, and in an age when everything is short and fast, slowing down and really concentrating is a good thing.
  • These stories provide the building blocks for many contemporary works.
  • Classic novels can give unique historical perspectives. Unlike history textbooks, novels make history personal – and far more interesting.

Does this mean there is no room for newer alternatives? Of course not–I believe there is a place for both. There certainly are contemporary novels that incorporate just as much meaning, emotion, and powerful prose as any classic novel. Finding stories that truly speak to each of us is a very personal and individual thing. Reading both classic and contemporary stories (or even versions of the same story!) allows us to find just the right selection.

From a teaching perspective, it’s nice to have choices. To Kill a Mockingbird may be one of my favorite novels, but teaching it for three classes a day, semester after semester can get a bit dry.  It is nice to change things up, keep things fresh.  It’s funny, but I find that upon returning to the old favorite after a break, I am even more aware of all the wonderful nuances contained in the classic.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of my blog readers on this topic!



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.

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.