Volume 4, Issue 5 (May 2017)

 
cybele_young

Nancy Knows
by Cybèle Young

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Author and artist Cybele Young creates an ingenious story of Nancy, a little elephant who tries to remember something important. As she does, her mind fills with pictures of other ideas and objects. Things that go forwards, backwards, have wheels, fly, line up in a row, and other artistic combinations. But what Ms. Young creates are Nancy’s thoughts and memories masterfully presented in the form of paper sculptures. This book is an absolute must for an art study with children and a mentor text for writers … the possibilities are endless for how this delightful and heartwarming story can be used to inspire us in our own creations, all through a sweet little elephant named Nancy.


chelo_manchego

The Want Monsters: And How They Stopped Ruling My World
by Chelo Manchego

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

Stories about monsters always give me a little pre-reading anxiety because I wonder how my children will react to them before bedtime. Not this story! It is an adorable and relatable story about how our inner desires and compulsions can take hold and bring out the ugly in us (yes, adults included). Children will appreciate the “wants” the little boy has: sweet treats, video games, popularity, and other valid childhood frustrations. Unfortunately, these frustrations take hold of him in consequential ways through a want monster named Oskar. As the story progresses, it is clear that differentiating between your needs and wants (and recognizing your impulses and managing them) will result in a much happier you. Great story to read and discuss with children and the adorable illustrations will keep them engaged from beginning to end!


alison_jay

Bee & Me
by Alison Jay

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

A bee flying through a city landscape pollinating the town with future flowers and colors galore captures the title of this wordless picture book perfectly. I love wordless picture books. For so many reasons, but mostly because the reader can interpret the message in ways that make sense to them, depending on their background knowledge, family life, and experiences. This of course enriches literature discussions (or bedtime snuggle talks) and allows us to just immerse ourselves in gorgeous illustrations, like the ones in Bee and Me. This story is a journey between a girl and a bee that shows up on her windowsill. Naturally, the bee is greeted with fear and apprehension but soon welcomed and nurtured to a plentiful, happy and purposeful life—all depicted through stunning and precious illustrations that can only be summed up with one word: friendship. The author’s note at the end reminds us of the importance of respecting our ecosystem and nature’s gifts.


arlene_stewart

The Friendship Bracelet
by Arlene Stewart

Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 10

The Friendship Bracelet is a fun, engaging, and heartfelt book. The life of Olivia Jones suddenly starts to go downhill the moment her BFF and next door neighbor, Alex announces she’s moving to Paris. Olivia feels sad that evening when she watches Alex’s car drive away. How will Olivia spend her summer without her bestie? The good news is they do stay connected … by a bracelet! And more good news is Olivia makes some new friends. Read about Olivia’s crazy and fun summer!


gigi_priebe

The Adventures of Henry Whiskers
by Gigi Priebe

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

This is a great chapter book for young readers. It’s got action, adventure, and great characters—everything a reader hopes for. It’s perfect for individual or family night reading sessions. The storyline is enjoyable for all ages. There is enough suspense to keep them eager for the next reading, as well as opportunities for discussions on how they may have responded in the same situations. Using anthropomorphism, the author’s creativity makes the animals appear as if they are human, which gives kids a sense of familiarity they can identify with. Centering around a community of mice, the characters are fun and loving, and their interactions and surroundings are relatable, making this an all around good read. The actual setting in England’s Windsor Castle, and more specifically Queen Mary’s grand dollhouse adds such enrichment, and can be researched to further enhance the reading experience.


vern_kousky

The Blue Songbird
by Vern Kousky

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil 

Age-old sayings all emerged out of someone’s travels or experiences. “You can’t see the forest for the trees” must have found its meaning in the blue songbird’s story. Longing for a special song to sing so narrows the little songbird’s vision that she determines to set out upon a great quest to find it. Traveling around the world searching, and speaking with many wise birds, leads her to a land where the most beautiful songs are sung. To her surprise, it’s a land she once called home. Sometimes, the very thing we long for is right in front of us all along.


angie_flores

Cub’s Wish
by Angie Flores

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Sitting under a peaceful starlit sky, Cub is offered to wish upon a star. With much thought, he comes to realize his life is pretty full. What else could he ask for but to always be as happy as he was right then? Sometimes, we play the “If Only” game. “If only I were smarter, taller, prettier. If only I had more this and less of that, then I could be happier.” It’s good to have that defining moment when we truly see we have all we really need.


jose_carlos_andres

The Untold Story of the Tooth Fairy
by Jose Carlos Andrés

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Do you know the REAL story behind the tooth fairy? Whenever a child loses a tooth, a little someone takes it and leaves a small gift in exchange. It is said that the Tooth Fairy, before being a fairy, was an oyster who lived in the deep sea. Everything began when she lost her only pearl. She asked an octopus for help, the octopus asked a sardine for help, and the sardine asked a crab, and finally the crab asked a mouse for help.... Have you ever encountered the tooth fairy? Is it furry like a mouse? Does it have wings like an angel? Do you know the real story behind those missing teeth magically taken up from under our pillows? Jose Carlos Andres says he knows, and he’s willing to share the untold story with us in this delightful new book.


j.e._rogers

Kohana: A Native American Creation Myth
by J.E. Rogers

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The Native Americans always created stories to bring understanding, and to explain the unexplainable. Their stories were then passed down through time. In the story of Kohana, they tell how the wild wolf became man’s best friend—the dog. In the beginning, the Great Spirit created a beautiful world and set its boundaries. Kohana, a young mischievous wolf was part of that world. Filled with curiosity, he pressed against those boundaries. Drawn to a creature that roamed the plains on two legs, he was determined to know. In spite of warnings, he set out and formed a bond that not only lasted their lifetime, but through all time. The relationship between Kohana and the two-legged creature called man is still a powerful bond.


louise_courey_nadeau

Magelica’s Voyage
by Louise Courey Nadeau

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Magelica, with her tiny wings and long green hair, is a mystery to herself. Twelve years ago, gatherers working in a field came across a beautiful sapphire egg. The egg cracked and revealed a mysterious and magical child. She was taken in and deeply loved, and yet she still finds herself full of questions and wonder. We too may find ourselves at times wondering who we are, and why we are here. Magelica’s questions lead her on an amazing journey of discovery. A magical adventure where she finds something very special inside of her, and if she allows it to lead her, she just may find the answers to all her yearning questions, and even a greater sense of belonging. This early chapter book series is a great bridge to lead young readers into novels. It’s short enough to hold their attention, exciting enough to keep their interest, and fun enough to leave them wanting more.


louise_courey_nadeau

Magelica’s Voyage: The Rescue
by Louise Courey Nadeau

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Book 2 of our young readers chapter series opens to the stirring of Magelica’s gift in fitful dreams of a Prince in harm’s way. Searching out its meaning leads her back to the Isle of Dreams and the queen, hoping for a plan of rescue for young Prince William. The story promotes a sense of community and the power of connection. We feel the unity and love as it pulls together for a common cause, and learn the true meaning of belonging.


john_himmelman

There’s a Bug on My Book!
by John Himmelman

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is a fun book for outdoor play and imagination. Children are encouraged to plop their book on the grass and discover all the ways common insects and critters creep, slither, and slide across it. The interactive text will stretch their imagination while learning fun facts about the many creatures that share outdoor living space with us. The back pages are full of interests and activities you can use to broaden the experience.


dawn_menge

Queen Vernita Journeys on an Old-Fashioned Paddleboat
by Dr. Dawn Menge

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Queen Vernita loves to spend her time traveling and discovering new wonders of this great world she lives in. Every year she sets a new plan for its 12 months in fabulous places, and meeting interesting people. The reader follows her journey, learning with her a wide variety of facts and interests. Though we only get a taste of the flavors, the queen opens many topics we can pursue for more information and create our own journey. I personally found delight in the great formations of lava columns called basalt, and there is so much to discover about the salmon’s life cycle. I also enjoyed the beautiful rose gardens, and the tranquil balance of the Oriental gardens. You can just imagine the sweet smells and comfort of their beauty. Queen Vernita shares wonderful facts with us and broadens our awareness of this great world in which we live. Get ready to explore!


jcm

The Wackenteach Series
by JCM

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

School at Pagic Elementary is definitely a little “wacky” in its delivery, but fun and effective in its intent. The children of Mr. Wackenteach’s class emerge each year, strong in self-esteem, confident in poise and posture, and broadened in a sense of community and teamwork. His wacky antics afford acceptance, inclusion, and a common bond among classmates. He is truly a teacher who would be remembered. The story is easy to read and magically opens wide for you to engage. Mr. Wackenteach carries that delightful Cat in the Hat excitement.


michelle_path

Xalien the Purple Alien: Xalien Goes to the Beach
by Michelle Path

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Our friendly little alien is back! Having made the best of a former visit that went bad, Xalien made friends with three Earth children. In a return visit, she arrives on a day planned for the beach. Xalien and the children find lots of laughs together as they learn and share their differences.


linda_christen

Henry the Blue Monkey: Being Different Is Good!
by Linda Christen

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Henry is faced with some hard decisions. Being the ONLY blue monkey isn’t always fun, and it can often be hard on his feelings. Henry has to decide how he is going to handle those hurt feelings, and decides to concentrate on all the great things about being the only blue monkey. After all, it does have some advantages. We can’t change how other people think or act, but we can choose how we think. Positive thinking brings positive feelings, and positive feelings can bring much happier behavior.


michael_smith

It Starts with a Raindrop/Comienza con una gota lluvia
by Michael Smith

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

This is science at its best! Uncluttered, it flows as simply and freely as its subject. The illustrations and lyrical text open the wonder of the water cycle with such ease. Children will follow with marveling interest as technical concepts transform into everyday realities they can understand. The book’s structure is solid, the artwork memorable, and the content important to us all. It would make for good discussion on family night, as you read it together and think of helpful ways we can all conserve our precious water supply. Teaching our children about the Earth’s bounty and giving them a part in preserving it will nurture respect for their surroundings and a sense of appreciation of our natural resources. English/Spanish edition.


sue_ann_kunberger

The Giddlywumps
by Sue Ann Kunberger

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Are you fighting that endless war just to see a clean bedroom floor? Battling each and every day just to try and keep it that way? If you’ve bribed, cajoled, or threatened far more, this just might be the book you’re looking for. The Giddlywumps come out at night, sneaking about looking for a mess. The messier the room, the better they like it. So, if you want to keep these creepy critters away, there is only one surefire way! This story just might end the Clean Your Room war.


helen_lester

Boris and the Worrisome Wakies
by Helen Lester

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Everyone has shared a night with the Worrisome Wakies, so this story will relate to a wide audience. Boris, an adorable badger captured so delightfully by illustrator Lynn Munsinger, can’t seem to fall asleep. He’s too itchy, too thirsty, too hungry. His PJs are tangled, his cuddle bunny is hogging the bed, and on goes the hours, leaving Boris a very sleepy badger the next day. So sleepy, he misses out on all the fun his classmates share while he naps here and there. Can he overcome his worrisome ways and enjoy all the fun the next day?


maggie_grinnell

David and Rusty’s Pirate Adventure
by Maggie Grinnell

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Everyone follows the open path in their heart as they read, and this one led me to a story of letting go. David and his pirate teddy bear Rusty were great buddies, and no doubt shared many adventures together. However, the course of this adventure may be a separating of their ways. Finding themselves stowaways on a pirate ship at sea, David’s only way back home may be to leave Rusty behind. The captain of this pirate vessel seems to have a great need for Rusty to remain. Can David let him go? Or I should properly say, can he let him stay? Personal growth and healing play a faint and tender tune in the background of this story that my heart heard loud and clear.


p.j._roberts

I Lost My Sock!: A Matching Mystery
by P.J. Roberts

Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman

I Lost My Sock! is a delightful tale that enables readers to join in on the missing sock mystery. Readers will take in Elio’s illustrations of various patterns and shades of unpaired socks and other objects to help fox find his other blue sock with polka dots. Along with practicing to identify similarities and differences among shapes and patterns, readers will also learn the irony of misinterpretation and friendship. The two main characters fox and ox will likely keep readers’ attention as they encounter wrong sock after wrong sock. Ox continues to stick by fox’s side to help offer solutions to the mystery. Will they ever find the match? Readers will need to follow along to discover the ending to the mystery. Teachers and parents shouldn’t lose sight of the ability of this book to open up dialogue about matching, sequencing of events, and friendship. 


mike_lawrence

Star Scouts
by Mike Lawrence

Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 10

Star Scouts is adventurous and entertaining. The illustrations are creative and fun. This friendship story is about being courageous and true to who YOU are. Being a new kid in town and starting a new school is not always easy and it’s worse when kids label you “weird.” We all face struggles of being different and not always fitting in. Luckily Avani finds a friend in Mabel! 


eric_kahn_gale

The Wizard’s Dog
by Eric Kahn Gale

Reviewer: Diana Perry

This is a delightful tale told from the point of view of Nosewise, a white dog who is taken in by the great sorcerer Merlin. Merlin also takes in an orphan girl, Morgana, who shows promise of having great magical powers. Nosewise feels left out when the two of them are behind the locked door where they practice their magic, and manages to wiggle through to this secret room before Merlin can close the door, changing his life forever. This story is so very entertaining that adults and children both will enjoy being whisked away to Old World England with these larger-than-life characters. This book engages readers right from the first page and takes them on a journey with whirlwind dangers, seemingly unsolvable dilemmas, and endearing relationships, all presented by brilliant writing. This is a must-read if you want to be entertained from start to end and escape into a world of old world magic.

Volume 4, Issue 3 (March 2017)

 
laura_hensley_garno

Tiny Garden Big Trouble: Loving Your Neighbor
by Lara Hensley Garno

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

When good intentions suddenly take a bad turn, three young friends are faced with some very important lessons. Overly enthusiastic, they jump ahead against warning and find themselves in big trouble. The story makes room for great family discussions on such topics as following directions, not jumping to conclusions and misjudging others, and most of all, ways we can brighten a person’s day and make them feel loved. The back of the book provides activities and a project that will help reinforce the excitement of the story.


Bedtime for Buzzy

Bedtime for Buzzy
by T.J. Hackworth

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Parents know that the toughest task of the day can often be the last task of the day. Children’s creativity seems to peak at the bedtime hour, and the games begin! Well, little Buzzy is no different. He’s not ready for bed. There’s too many adventures to still be had. This cute story takes him step by step closer to the desired outcome as each adventure shuts down for the night with sure anticipation for another day.


dana_wall_amber_wall

Emma Beams During a Wonderful Dream!
by Dana Wall and Amber Wall

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

If your child struggles or finds English lessons no fun, bright-eyed and bouncy-curled Emma can be of help. In this fun learning series, Emma manages to tie in an easy lesson on such things as superlatives and comparatives, metaphors and similes, and conjunctions. Each story provides lively rhyming text, and colorful personalities that are sure to make learning fun. Other titles include: Emma Jane Goes on a Plane and Emma’s All Gloom as She Cleans her Room.


Carol_Bacon

Sarafina and the Not-So-Wonderful Day
by Carol A. Bacon

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The warm and appealing illustrations of this story create a perfect atmosphere for a colder, yet necessary topic of our day. Bullying is on a definite rise. Insensitive teasing can often bloom into downright meanness. It’s easy to follow the crowd and not rock the boat, but often small stands can overcome many troubles. Sarafina is faced with rejection. Her excited expectations fall in its paralyzing effects. Sometimes, it only takes one person to reach out and make a difference. Sarafina meets someone who understands, and encourages her to appreciate herself just as she is. This is a sweet and simple story, but it builds a broad and deep foundation for the stage of life to rest upon.


Julianne_DiBlasi_Black

Sleep Sweet
by Julianne DiBlasi Black

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The beautiful images, the soft dreamy color palate, and the tenderly whispered text flows like a gentle lullaby that will carry your little ones into sweet sleep. Tucking in the world’s mighty creatures, under the covers of starry skies, quilts of fluttering leaves and blankets of soft grass all fall to dreamy visions of happy things. This story, along with others, works with SpellBound, a free mobile app that uses augmented reality to turn paper books into virtual pop-up books. See the pages come alive in 3D, along with sound and animation. Reading becomes an experience!


Jon_Wayne_Faust

Helicopter Harry And The Copter Kids: Dream It, Learn It, Do It!
by Jon Wayne Faust

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Imagination, excitement, history, and education all rolled into one amazing adventure! Oh, there is so much to share. My thoughts are pushing and shoving each other to be the first ones out. Dragonflies, bumblebees, copter hands, superheroes, out of this world transformers! Each one has a story it’s begging to tell, and all at once. You’ll have to read this one to take it all in. Tucked amid all the excitement is a crucial reminder for every loving parent, grandparent, and guardian. Though we desire the very best for our children, sometimes our desires just aren’t a good fit for them. Sometimes, we can unwittingly crush their hopes and wishes by inflicting our own upon them. We too, can be a holder and keeper of their dreams, just like the da Vinci dream bank, with a little understanding and encouragement. Includes a great Copter Kids Quiz and a website where you can check your answers.


arnold_rudnick

Little Green
by Arnold Rudnick

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Disappointment can be ever so lightly folded into encouragement, and Little Green seems to keep falling into its crease. Inspired by the wonder he finds in those all around him, he reaches beyond himself to discover its newness. The little green frog wants to spread his arms and soar like the beautiful white geese, and run fast through the fields and prance elegantly on his feet like a team of horses. One by one he approaches and hears, “Anything is possible if you believe in yourself ... anything is possible if you try hard enough.” But believing, and trying, no matter how hard, could not make Little Green any more than he was. Disappointed and discouraged, he wants to give up, until he learns that anything IS possible when you give all you’ve got, except you cannot be something you’re not. A great story of acceptance, appreciation for the differences around us, and contentment with where we fit in.


learning_my_way_series

Learning My Way Series
by Mary Birdsell and Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The Learning My Way series is dedicated to children attending school in Tanzania. Each book offers an educational look into a different culture and language, while based on common things we all share such as animals, family, and colors. Looking For Our Families provides an opportunity to develop matching skills that will help prepare children for basic math concepts in the future. In this book, children will learn to pick out an object and determine which group it will match, based on the familiar concept of family. Fronts For Our Backs provides another simple learning task of matching. The ability to recognize and match these animals of the wild from both their front and back views. Colors On Our Papers brings to mind Shakespeare’s reference, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Are colors the same all over the world? Even if their name is pronounced in Swahili? Is hello still hello if it’s called njano in Tanzania? It’s fun to see what other kids are doing just like us, even if the wording is a bit different.


meaghan_fisher

Tyler the Fish and the Lake Erie Bully
by Meaghan Fisher

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

It’s Tyler’s first day of school, and he’s excited. There’s so much to look forward to! He has a great day up until lunchtime, when a mean trout fish demands his lunch. Bullying has become a rising issue in our society. Parents are finding it difficult to bring reasonable understanding to their children on the matter. Younger and younger children are having to face cruelty and injustice. Stories like Tyler the Fish are helpful resources in bridging the gaps. Illustrations by Tim Rowe are bright and endearing.


meaghan_fisher

Giuseppe’s Famous Pizza Pies
by Meaghan Fisher

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Giuseppe was good at what he did, and it brought him great joy. His talent and his personality made a perfect team, and people from all over lined up to enjoy the experience. When things go wrong, and Giuseppe’s pizza cart meets its demise, he doesn’t know what he will do. In this award-winning story, we learn that Giuseppe’s love for whathe does and the time and care he gave to those he served, made the people appreciate his craft, and willing to help him expand it. Fisher provides strong and solid principles in this lighthearted tale.


meaghan_fisher

If I Could Pull the Moon from the Sky
by Meaghan Fisher

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

If you could find a rope big enough and pull the moon from the sky, what would you do with it? Would you put it in a wagon and pull it all around? One little boy has lots of ideas in this charming picture book that inspires little readers to use their imaginations.


diane_bourgeois

Aimee and Divine Inspiration: On a Journey
by Diane Bourgeois

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Aimee sets out on her life journey. Eager to discover the wonders set before her, she embarks upon her little vessel and sails away. Where will this divine river lead? What changes will it bring? Will she find strength and love as she drifts through the magical forest of dreams? Will the cave of shadows challenge her as she steadily navigates its course? Will Aimee find her rainbow, and acquire the greatest treasure of her life? There’s only one way to find out. Embark the tiny vessel and take the journey with her, page by page in this meaningful storybook.


jessie_sima

Not Quite Narwhal
by Jessie Sima

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

In today’s world, family has broadened and stretched, transforming into new shapes and images. Sometimes, the lines blur and kids become confused. Unsure of how to process the changes, they can often feel misplaced and torn. Jessie Sima offers a story that can help the process and bring a happy conclusion that it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to have two places where you’re safe and loved equally.


anna_mcquinn

Lola Gets a Cat
by Anna McQuinn

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Lola loves cats, and looks forward to owning one. When mother tells her they require much care, Lola sets out for the library to learn all she can on the subject. She pretends her toy cat is real and practices to be a diligent pet owner. So often, the excitement of wanting a pet is quickly overpowered by the reality of care and responsibility that is necessary to make it a forever experience for all. Our animal shelters are filled with tried and botched attempts. Anna McQuinn provides a sweet and delightful approach, as we follow Lola’s earnest desire all the way through to a positive outcome, and what is sure to make a lifetime memory. The illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw will warm your heart as Lola achieves her heart’s desire.


richard_michelson

The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew
by Richard Michelson

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Earnest desire often weds sacrifice and bursts forth change. The Language of Angels is a story of just such a union. In 1885, few Jews in Israel used the holy language of their ancestors, and Hebrew was in danger of being lost—until Ben Zion got involved. Through the help of his father and a community of children, Ben modernized the ancient language, creating a lexicon of new, modern words to bring Hebrew back into common usage. Together, father and son were able to grow, expand, and preserve it, to the joy of all.


stacy_mcanulty

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite
by Stacy McAnulty

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The age-old debate rages on. “Mom loves you best….” has echoed the halls of most homes. All the adorable animals of this story must come to realize, as does every child growing up, we are all favorites in our own special way. Everyone offers something unique to their own personality that another cannot shade or take away. When we realize that, we can all be content with our place. This is a sweet peek into an age old controversy.


ame_dyckman

You Don’t Want a Unicorn!
by Ame Dyckman

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

Wouldn’t it be great if we all could learn from one person’s mistake? Bestselling author Ame Dyckman and beloved artist Liz Climo bring us a fun-loving story with an important reminder that all is not as one may imagine, and to be ever so careful what we wish for! This is truly a snuggle and giggle storytime treat.


cynthina_levinson

The Youngest Marcher
by Cynthia Levinson

Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil

The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young civil rights activist, debuts on the dimly lit stage of our day that casts its dark shadows against a beautifully set backdrop. A story of hope, strength, and valor to be remembered and honored in the heart of a growing nation. A story where courage rose in the hearts of the youth, set to make a difference in their day. Courage determined to make a stand, believing and willing to sacrifice themselves for that belief. Audrey Faye Hendricks was 9 years old and wanted to enjoy life like everybody else. She was willing to stand for what she believed in, and helped usher in the change of a nation. This book is a treasure for all children. To know the country they call home ached with growing pains, and they still came forth with our banner waving.


larissa_juliano

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes
by Mary E. Lambert

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

One of my favorite middle grade books I’ve read in a long, long time. It was emotional, funny, sad, and heartwarming …. and dealt with the addiction to hoarding. Annabelle and her family are dealing with their mom’s accumulation of everything from milk cartons, old toys, sheets, dog food cans (but no dog), newspapers sorted by the weather, and more—and the repulsive effects it has on their emotional and physical well-being. Family “game nights” turn into revelations of family history and dysfunction (and a mother who genuinely wants to please her family). Despite the seriousness of topic, there is still such an earnestness and sweetness to Annabelle’s voice, it made me feel like I was hearing my best friend share her innermost painful, funny, and sordid family details during a Friday night sleepover.


maria_d_laso

Otherwise Known as Possum

by Maria D. Laso

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

An exquisite middle grade story about a young girl nicknamed “Possum” who lives in the deep South during the President Hoover era. Told in Possum’s southern twang, the narration almost has a warmth and familiarity reminiscent of The Help—tween version, of course. With every page I turned, I loved this book more and more. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was emotionally invested in Possum and her father’s journey to discovering their life without their Momma. Despite the heart-wrenching grief of losing a parent, the story also has so many sweet and funny moments with Possum starting school for the first time, being protective of her daddy, and navigating through school friendships. I savored every description, dialogue, and interaction that exemplified Possum’s vulnerability, adorability, and bravery. I can’t wait to read this book again. Inspirational to a reader and most definitely a writer. An absolute gem.


cary_fagan

Wolfie & Fly
by Cary Fagan

Reviewer: Larissa Juliano

An early chapter book that portrays the complexities of friendship, anxiety, and imagination in an adorable page-turning read. Renata (Wolfie, as she is nicknamed later in the story) is an only child who is smart and sassy … but elements of her reclusive personality keep her isolated and wary of fostering friendships—much to her parents’ dismay. Renata prefers to create, engineer, and build things all by herself, until one day, a next-door neighbor needs some help. Renata is reluctant to assist Livingston (Fly) until he pleads that his older brother will seek revenge on him for losing his baseball. The adventure of this unlikely pair is so fun to read and brings us back to those beautiful neverending afternoons of our childhood. Humor, tenderness, and the sweet reminisce of new friendship makes this a must read for all ages.


dan_smith

Boy X
by Dan Smith

Reviewer: Diana Perry

His mother is a scientist. His dad was a soldier. Twelve-year-old Ash is something new altogether. Kidnapped, he wakes up in a strange white room in a clinic on a remote tropical island. Ash needs answers and he has 24 hours to get them. To escape, he must risk his life. But what’s more dangerous: the jungle, his captors, or the mysterious chemical injected into his veins? This is brilliantly written as, just like Ash, I couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad. It all comes together in one satisfying ending. This book could easily be and should be a movie. While there was no mention of a second book, the last sentence leads us to believe that Ash McCarthy’s adventures aren’t over yet.


gabrielle_kent

The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle
by Gabrielle Kent

Reviewer: Diana Perry

Alfie Bloom, the most unpopular kid in the world, gets a letter: He has inherited a castle! But being the owner of a castle isn’t all fun. Hexbridge conceals a centuries-old secret, the heart of a dangerous mystery that threatens to destroy everything in Alfie’s life. The story hits the ground running and never slows down. Full of mysterious people with even more mysterious names, a bear rug that talks and flies, dragons, druids, and all kinds of magical mystical things. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it does. The only disappointment was reaching the end.


amy_gary

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown
by Amy Gary

Reviewer: Diana Perry

The life of the author behind the beloved children’s classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny comes alive in this fascinating biography of Margaret Wise Brown. Margaret’s books have sold millions of copies all over the world, but few people know that she was at the center of a children’s book publishing revolution. She lived life bigger than most of us. Amy Gary does a terrific job of capturing the life of an eccentric, exceptional, and extraordinary woman.


sundee_t_frazier

Cleo Edison Oliver in Persuasion Power
by Sundee T. Frazier

Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 10

Cleo is a girl with a big vision. She and her best friend Caylee start a brand new business, making personalized barrettes. Cleo has always wanted to meet her birth parents. She has a small chance and a little bit of hope which might lead her to them. I encourage you to read this energetic, exciting, and eventful novel, because for Cleo, nothing is impossible!