Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Level


On the Level is one of the books by David Michael Slater that features favorite tool characters, such as Nevil Level, Mini Screwdriver, Don Hoe, Henry Sprinkler, and more.

In this book, Nevil Level is preparing for a soapbox race, keeping his car "straight and true." The tools have never won a race before, and Nevil's poor performance makes it seem that they never will. The other tools are mean and stomp off in a huff, complaining about Nevil. Only Mini Screwdriver has faith in Nevil's level abilities.

Mini gives Nevil the gift of a black box, in which she says there is a powerful magnet that will draw him to the finish line where the other tools will be waiting.

Throughout the race, any time that Nevil thinks he is failing, he thinks of that powerful magnet in the black box in his car and is able to keep on moving forward. When he wins by a landslide, the Hammer Slammer and the Driller Thriller accuse him of cheating.

In the next race, Nevil again focuses on his powerful magnet drawing him to the finish line as he races the Flame Thrower. Again, he is accused of not being on the level with his racing ability. He decides to confess, and pulls out the black box, only to find that it looks empty. He realizes that he won because he was being carried by the faith of a friend. And he inspires the other tools to carry their "empty extra parts" filled with faith to lead them through their races.

It's an inspirational story that reminds children that if they believe in themselves, they can accomplish anything. It also tells them to show their faith in their friends to help their friends accomplish their goals, as well.

Characters in the book, though they are tools, can appeal to girls as well as boys. The puns on their names make for great groaners that can keep parents and teachers entertained as they read the book out loud. The idioms contained within are defined at the end of the book and lead to great lessons on the English language.
Illustrations by Andres Martinez Ricci will also appeal to children, as their style mimics kids' favorite cartoons on Cartoon Network, brightly colored and cartoony expressions.

Purchase On the Level (David Michael Slater Set 2)

I received a PDF proof copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

The Bored Book


The Bored Book by David Michael Slater is a wordless wonder that children of all ages can understand and enjoy.  The book is purely illustrations that tell the story of two young children who are sitting in the grand library of their grandfather's home. Bored out of their minds, they start beating each other with sofa cushions and fighting. Their grandfather leads them to the dusty attic, that almost resembles an abandoned bookstore, where numerous books are stored.

The children come across a stack of books called The Bored Book and pull a dusty copy off the shelf. As soon as they open it up, a bright world of color emerges, with maps and pictures, that literally sucks them within.

The children experience a new world of exciting creatures and people, including an Abominable snowman, pirates, sharks, dragons, and more. The illustrations take the reader on the journey with them. The lack of words allow the reader to create his own version of the story - whether it is a short one or a long one.

At the end of the adventure, the children reemerge and begin at Grandpa's house and begin to explore the treasure trove of literature found on his shelves. And all was quiet again....

The book is like The Wizard of Oz or Pleasantville in that it opens with the world in black and white as long as the children are bored. When they discover the magical world found within books, suddenly the illustrations become colorful. The color stays with them, as does the magic of the books.

The Bored Book is appealing because it promotes literacy and quality literature as being a great escape. The advantage of being wordless is that children can enjoy it at any age or reading level. The illustrations by Doug Keith are highly detailed and tell their own story. It allows for open-ended interpretations of the story and allows children to write their own versions as often as they want.

Parents can enjoy some one-on-one conversation time with their children, as they talk about what is happening within the book. It can be a great segue into determining what other books the child may wish to read.

The Bored Book would be a welcome addition to any home or school library.

Purchase The Bored Book

Andrea Coventry received a PDF copy of this book for review purposes.

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Night I Met Santa

The Night I Met Santa by Lora Johnson is the perfect blend of the two kinds of Christmas.  When I think of Christmas, I think of the "church Christmas" with Baby Jesus and what we call the "true meaning of Christmas".  Then there is also the "Santa Claus Christmas".  Some families are able to blend the two traditions to an extent, but rarely are they truly connected.  This book does it in 32 pages.

It's just before Christmas, and Jeremy has been naughty.  Because Santa Claus only gives presents to those children who are nice, he assumes that he isn't going to get any presents this year.  Also, Mommy has taken down his stocking and told him as much.

But when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he sneaks down to find Santa putting out the presents, and a new stocking where his old one used to be.  Santa is still giving him presents!  Feeling relieved, he turns to go back upstairs, but Santa calls him back.

Santa tells him that Mom was right, and Jeremy really doesn't deserve the presents.  But Jeremy will receive them anyway. When Jeremy asks why, Santa tells him a story of when he was a young man.  He had met the famous man named Jesus, long before he had become Santa Claus.  Santa was feeling particularly burdened, and Jesus asked to take the burdens from him.  He told Jesus everything that he had done wrong and Jesus forgave him.  Soon after, Jesus died on the cross to save everyone's sins, including Jeremy's.

Santa held on to the lessons learned from Jesus, and decided to give children gifts, even when they are naughty, to teach them that they are forgiven.  This also reminds them that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the man who came to save all of our sins.

Hearing a story like this one makes me feel better about children who receive gifts from Santa, despite having been naughty at this time of year.  Too often I hear parents threaten to have Santa not bring presents, only to give in and get the children everything that they want.  The lack of follow-through doesn't teach children anything, so the whole idea is wasted.  Hearing that receiving the presents is a form of forgiveness may inspire children to behave a little bit more.

In addition to this great story is a poem about Santa praying before going out on his Christmas Eve rounds.  The whole book is filled with gorgeous, vibrant paintings by Christine Ann Edwards.

This is the kind of Christmas book that deserves to become a Christmas classic and be read by all families who celebrate the holiday.  It embraces both kinds of traditions, while simultaneously reminding us the true meaning of the Christmas spirit and the holiday.

I received a review copy of this book from the author.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bubble Riding: A Relaxation Story

Bubble Riding: A Relaxation Story
is a part of the Stress Free Kids series by Lori Lite. `This is a series dedicated to teaching stress management techniques to children. And parents can also learn a lot from them.

In this book, the child is asked to imagine being either the sea child or the turtle who are the main characters.

The sea child finds her way to a water spout on the bottom of the ocean floor that provides lots of bubbles. When a big enough one appear, the sea child embraces it, and slowly makes her way inside it. It provides her with a warm sense of security. An observing sea turtle quickly follows suit.

As the bubble rises through the ocean waters, the sea child notices a beautiful rainbow above her. She closes her eyes to reflect on the power of each individual color.

The color red provides the sea child with a sense of health and energy. Orange gives her happiness. Yellow allows her to feel an inner glow, as the green color fills her with love. Blue provides relaxation, while purple allows for peace and clarity. As these senses of strength and peace come together through the rainbow, they blend together to create a pure white light that provides balance and calm.

Visualizing color has long been a practice that provides empowerment and peace to those who do it. This book is the first one for children that I have come across that seems to explain it in a way that young children can understand. It can easily be used in the classroom, as well as within the family home, to encourage stress management and to build unity.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Purchase Bubble Riding: A Relaxation Story, Designed to Help Children Increase Creativity While Lowering Stress and Anxiety Levels. (Indigo Ocean Dreams)

Sea Otter Cove: A Relaxation Story

Sea Otter Cove: A Relaxation Story
by Lori Lite is a part of her Stress Free Kids series, designed to help children develop stress management techniques. The book begins by asking the child to pretend that she is either the sea otter or the sea child featured in the story. She is to imagine that she is perched on a special rock, just like the book characters. Then, just like the sea child, she is to imagine how far down that sea rocks goes, all the way to the center of the Earth. This helps ground her, giving her a sense of security and connection to her world.

Lori then describes the sights and sounds experienced by the two characters, evoking images in the child's mind as she listens to the story. Imagining the sounds of ocean waves can be enhanced by playing an ocean wave CD in the background. The sounds of waves crashing serve to further relax the child.

At one point, a sea gull is flying overhead and drops a feather. The sea child fills her belly with air and blows to keep the feather up in the air. She teaches the sea otter how to place his hands on his belly, to feel it rising and falling as he breathes in and out through his nose. "Breathe in...2...3...4....breathe out...2...3...4." This belly breathing is a great relaxation technique for children to use.

As the sea child continues to teach the sea otter, more and more sea otters join them on top of the rock, until it is full of creatures breathing in unison. This part of the story evokes images of a whole group of children breathing together, to create a collective calm in their classroom. It also evokes images of families relaxing together, creating a deeper sense of unity.

The illustrations by Max Stasuyk are both gentle and vivid, at the same time. You can sense the calm and relaxation as the sea child and sea otter breathe in and out in unison. The bright colors also make the pictures appealing to young children.

This book can be beneficial to both the classroom and to the family unit. In these days of living at a frenetic pace, it is important to take some time out to care for self. Deep breathing relaxation techniques can help in this process.

Information provided by the publisher also states that techniques, such as deep breathing, can help children with many issues, including ADHD, OCD, anxiety, stress, anger, depression, panic disorders, hyperactivity, and more.

Purchase Sea Otter Cove: A Relaxation Story introducing deep breathing to decrease stress and anger while promoting peaceful sleep (Indigo Ocean Dreams)

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gassy the Cow

Gassy the Cow
by Garth Dahl is a children's book that has great potential to be really funny. The premise is a cow that has lactose intolerance. However, I failed to see how the story had anything to do with lactose intolerance, other than flatulence becomes a serious issue for the cow whenever he eats certain herbs. If the food he eats causes him problems whenever it helps him develop milk, then to me it logically follows that all such foods would bother him.

The educator in me is slightly bothered that the lead character, a cow, is a male, simply because cows by definition are female. But more bothersome to me, from an educator's point-of-view, is the crude humor. Children are infinitely tickled by potty humor and fart jokes. But, they just are not appropriate in the classroom. Even if read outside of school, potty-talk is quickly encouraged by phrases such as "his butt perfume was too strong".

That being said, from a regular adult point-of-view, the book is pretty comical. I shared it with adults, including my parents, and we all had a great chuckle over the story. Gassy is in love with Mona, but isn't as cool as the Elvis wannabe, Bruno. He also has a tendency to "blow it" in front of her, naturally causing tremendous embarrassment. When he finally realizes what is causing his gastrointestinal distress, he introduces Bruno to the special patch of herbs, so that Bruno can now make a fool of himself.

The book claims to be for ages 2 to 12. It is definitely not appropriate for the younger end of the spectrum. It's also too long for a 2 year-old to sit through, in my opinion. But older children, and those adults who are young at heart, are going to get a kick out of it.

Purchase Gassy the Cow

I received a copy of this book through my association with

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Am an Individual

I Am an Individual by Deborah Jean Lane is a book geared toward helping children be proud of who they are. It's quite catchy, and reads well in a big, excited, sing-songy voice, that will make it even more appealing to children when they hear it. They will probably also start marching around chanting, "I'm an individual, an individual indeed!"

The book also seeks to point out that despite the differences between us, be it skin color, or choice of activity, we need to celebrate those differences. The differences make us unique and special. They make us individuals.

For younger children, the idea of being an individual is quite vague. This book will have to be used as a foundation for conversations and activities that help children identify what makes them an individual.

Illustrations are simple black and white drawings. They would have also been wonderful in color, yet the simplicity speaks to the simplicity of the message contained within the book.The pictures can also provide a springboard for the children to think of ideas on how they can celebrate their own individuality.

I received a complimentary copy of I Am an Individual as a member of the
Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit to
learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

The Millionaire Kids Club: Penny Power

Penny Power
is the fourth book in The Millionaire Kid$ Club series by Susan Beacham and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. In this book, the kids' teacher, Mrs. Berry, invites them to search out the meaning behind the phrase, "A penny saved is a penny earned." She also wants them to investigate how one penny can turn someone into a millionaire, ten pennies can cure a disease, and 100 pennies can help lots of children.

The four friends, Isiah, Dennis, Sandy, and Stephanie, get together that Friday after school to start strategizing how to go about researching their assignment. Sandy talks to her mother, who teaches her about the power of interest in a savings account. Isiah reads through old newspapers and finds out about President George W. Bush asking all of the children in America to send in $1 to help children in Afghanistan. And Stephanie and Dennis learn about the March of Dimes from the librarian. On Monday, they present their findings to their class.

This book is an interesting look at how small amounts can quickly add up to be worth so much. It's another good lesson about saving money, even if it is only one penny at a time. And it's a good reminder that children can easily help others, even if it is only $1 at a time.

Again, this book is more appropriate for the elementary crowd, as opposed to the age groups in my classroom. Nevertheless, it is a another good compliment to any discussion or study of money for kids.

Purchase The Millionaire Kids Club: Penny Power

I received a copy of this book to review on my blog.

Millionaire Kids Club: Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home
is the third book in The Millionaire Kid$ Club series by Susan Beacham and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. In this book, Stephanie is upset because her family is losing their home and they are going to have to move. She's scared about getting a new room, that she'll have to go to a new school, and that she will have to leave her cat behind.

Stephanie's father had lost his job several months prior, and the expense of the mortgage has become too much for the family to handle. Their house is going into foreclosure.

The kids are confused about what mortgages and foreclosures are, so they bring an article into class to have their teacher decipher the terms for them. She sends them off to go do some of their own research. They start by looking up the terms on the Internet, then decide to go to Stephanie's house to talk to her parents about it.

Stephanie's parents reassure her about her fears about moving. Their good news is that they have found a house to lease that is still in the neighborhood. She will have a new house, but will go to the same school, and be able to keep her cat.

This book actually tackles two issues. One is to introduce the concepts of mortgage and foreclosure to children. Unfortunately, with the economy the way that it is, these terms are creeping up more and more in family conversations. It supplies just enough information for children to gain a basic understanding, without overwhelming them with too many details. It also speaks to the importance of making sure you can afford something before you try to purchase it.

It also touches on the uncertainty and confusion involved any time a family prepares to move from their home. The scared feelings that Stephanie feels are common amongst children, regardless of the reasons for their move.

This book is definitely more appropriate for older children in elementary school. Again, it can lead to good conversations and lessons in the classroom, and possibly even at home.

Purchase Home Sweet Home

I received a copy of this book to review on my blog.

The Millionaire Kids Club: Putting the "Do" in Donate

Putting the "Do" in Donate
is the second book in The Millionaire Kid$ Club series by Susan Beacham and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. In this book, Dennis is all excited because his grandfather gave him a $100 bill on his own birthday, as he saves money to donate every year. The stipulation is, he isn't allowed to spend it on himself. He wants Dennis to go out and do something good with it.

The friends aren't sure what to do with the money, but in class that day, their teacher Mrs. Berry is talking to them about donating. She talks about how the food pantry's shelves are almost bare. When Dennis offers to give her the $100 from Grandpa George, she refuses it, saying that it wouldn't solve the problem. Instead, she encourages them to put the "do" into donate by giving of their time and talents.

The four kids strategize ways to make extra money through odd jobs around the neighborhood, lemonade stands, and donating old toys and belongings to supplement the food at the food pantry. They invest the $100 as seed money to get their project started. In one weekend, they manage to turn that $100 into $1000 for the food pantry.

Will kids always have such success in a similar situation in real life? Not necessarily. But that does not negate the important lessons learned in this book. Children today don't understand how much they can do to help others, through their actions as well as through monetary means. They don't understand the value of that $1. I think this book should be used in classrooms as a launching point for children to come up with their own projects to give back to their communities. And, while the younger ages may not understand it as well, the foundation of a giving nature can still be laid.

Purchase The Millionaire Kids Club - Putting the "Do" in Donate

I received a copy of this book to review on my blog.

The Millionaire Kids Club: Garage Sale Riches

Garage Sale Riches
is the first book in The Millionaire Kid$ Club series by Sysan Beacham & Lynette Khalfani Cox. In this book, Isiah's mom is preparing to have a garage sale to get rid of some of the stuff cluttering the house and garage. She tells him that if he helps, he can keep any money that he earns at the sale.

Isiah enlists the help of his friends Sandy, Denis, and Stephanie, promising them a share of the profits in return. As they work, they encounter a variety of people who share with them how they earn money: the mail carrier, a salesman, a tutor. Each one shares a reason for making money.

The kids talk about how much money they think they will earn, as well as what they are planning on doing with their riches. Each child represents different ways of thinking about money. Sandy is going to save toward a new bike. Stephanie plans on blowing it all immediately. Isiah wants to save for college. Dennis wants to donate to hurricane victims.

Following the garage sale, Sandy's mom arrives to take them to the mall. But before they leave, she tells them how there are always four choices they can make with their money: save, spend, donate, invest. They quickly learn the consequences of spending money as soon as it hits their hands, as well as the value of saving and donating.

This book demonstrates the four choices children can make with their money. I also like how they include adults making the same decisions with their money. I think it is best geared toward children in elementary school, though the concepts could be introduced to younger children. I also think it would be important to read all four books in the series for a well-rounded picture, though this one can definitely stand on its own. Then it is necessary to follow-up with a lot of discussion and activities that teach the value of money.

Purchase The Millionaire Kids Club - Garage Sale Riches

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing on my blog.

Clean-Up Time, a Toddler Tools Book

Clean-Up Time
is a part of the Toddler Tools books written by Elizabeth Verdick and illustrated by Marieka Heinlen. This one gives young children the tools needed to successfully clean up a playroom or classroom at the end of the day. The teacher quickly distracts the children from whining and complaining and turns clean-up time into fun. It even uses fun rhyme to encourage them to look around very carefully with their eyes to make sure everything is cleaned up. Children often don't see all of the bits of paper or crayons left behind on the floor and need gentle reminders to clean them up. And it reminds them that once clean-up of this fun time has ended, it is possible to move on to more fun time!

Though this book takes place in a classroom, parents can also use it at home to remind children that they need to clean up there, also. Parents can help their young ones clean up, as the children help each other clean up in this book. One picture has the teacher holding a large basket, into which the children are placing the cars. Children will need help learning how to break down their cleaning tasks, in order to be successful. Cooperation and collaboration, whether at home or at school, are key.

As always, as the end of the book are tips for parents and caregivers to help children be more successful in their clean-up time efforts.

Again, this book is another beneficial addition to any bookshelf used by preschoolers and toddlers.

Purchase Clean-Up Time (Toddler Tools)

I received a copy of this book for reviewing from the publisher, Free Spirit Publishing.

Listening Time, a Toddler Tools book

Listening Time
is one of the board books in the Toddler Tools series written by Elizabeth Verdick and illustrated by Marieka Heinlen. It teaches children how to be respectful when in a situation that requires listening, such as circle time at school. I like that it both tells and shows children how to be good listeners. To simply tell a child to be a good listener does no good if the child doesn't understand how to do it.

Verdick tells children to sit criss-cross applesauce. I use the phrase, "My eyes are open and my mouth is closed so that my ears can hear." Her words are quite similar. One set of pages says, "Good listening looks like this." and shows the children sitting respectfully with short legs and hands in their laps. That visual reminder is so important to young children. Then, when the teachers asks who is reading to listen, she shows the children still sitting respectfully, but thinking "Me!" instead of shouting it out.

As always, there is a section for parents and caregivers in the back. The most important thing is to demonstrate how to be a good listener and how to use an "indoor voice". She also provides other tips for teachers at circle time.

Again, this is a great book to use at the beginning of the school year when establishing classroom rules. It's also a great one to which teachers should periodically return to remind children of the listening rules of the classroom.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Free Spirit Publishing.

Purchase Listening Time (Toddler Tools)

I Just Am: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance

I Just Am: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance
is written by a Bryan Lambke, a young man with Down Syndrome. He uses real photographs from his life, with captions, to illustrate that he actually is quite capable of performing certain activities that are perceived to be "normal". But what is normal? And who is really perfect?

Also included in the book is a short interview with Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Her sister also was born with Down Syndrome. Tom Lambke asks her some very poignant questions about their experience back in the 1950s.

Other resources provide statistics, facts, and guidelines for interacting with those with Down Syndrome, at the back of the book. Numerous others have already endorsed this book.

The language comes straight from Bryan's heart, and the pictures speak volumes. It's nice to see a book written by a person with Down Syndrome who can actually work toward dispelling some of the associated myths and stereotypes. It's the kind of book that needs to be in every library and taught in every classroom, to help children learn to be more tolerant of the world around them.

I was honored to receive a copy of this book to review, and to be able to interview Tom and Bryan (stay tuned for that piece).

Purchase I Just Am

Sharing Time

Sharing Time
is one of the board books in the Toddler Tools series by Elizabeth Verdick. This book introduces the concept of sharing, which is exceptionally hard at this age. Toddlers are in the "egocentric stage". This doesn't mean that they think they are the greatest thing in the world, as the adult version of being "egocentric" implies. Instead, it means that they literally think they are the center of the universe, and have difficulty understanding the needs of others. Everything they see belongs to them.

This book demonstrates words that can be used when a child wants to share something another child is using. "May I use that?" "Can I have a turn?" are important phrases for children to understand and to use. Ideally, the other person will say yes, but sometimes the other child is going to say no. Strategies are given for the child who has been denied: take a deep breath, ask for help, etc.

It's important for children to understand that they can't take something away from another person without permission. It's important for them to understand that they have the right to say no when asked to share, but can offer up some sort of a compromise for later. This book is a great way to lay that foundation.

In my classroom, we also utilize a Peace Table to help children use these words and to compromise on sharing materials and friends.

Purchase Sharing Time (Toddler Tools)

I received a review copy of this title from the publisher, Free Spirit Publishing.

Bye-Bye Time Board Book

Bye-Bye Time is one of the board books in Elizabeth Verdick's Toddler Tools series. This one addresses the tough issue of separating from the parent when arriving at daycare, school, or even a babysitter.

The book clearly acknowledges the conflicting feelings of the child, who is scared to leave her parent, though happy about the activities in which she can now participate. It provides a sample "bye-bye" routine that parents and children can follow. Routine is very important to young children, as it helps them feel secure in knowing what comes next. It shows the child some options for self-calming, such as breathing deeply, crying, and going to a quiet corner. My favorite illustration is the one of the other children trying to console the sad child, including offering a tissue, as we encourage our children to do this in my classroom.

As always, at the end of the book are strategies and tips for parents to follow. It's nice to see the words that come out of my mouth to parents being echoed in a book. Prepare the child for saying goodbye. Have a goodbye routine. Don't sneak out, as the child will become more nervous and agitated upon realizing you're gone. But go ahead and go, as the child usually does calm down within a few minutes.

This is a book that I am going to recommend to all of my new parents, and to those whose children are still having difficulty with goodbyes.

Purchase Bye-Bye Time (Toddler Tools)

I received a review copy of this title from the publisher, Free Spirit Publishing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Manners Time

Manners Time
is one of the books in Elizabeth Verdick's Toddler Tools series. This board book teaches young children how to be polite. They learn how to say "Hello" and "Goodbye" with a wave and a smile. They practice using "Please," "Thank you," "You're welcome," and "Excuse me". They learn appropriate times to say, "I'm sorry," as well as "I forgive you".

Just as in her other books, Elizabeth Verdick uses age-appropriate language and situations to illustrate the social courtesies contained within. She also follows up with a guide for parents and caregivers to use to reinforce these manners. I particularly like how she points out that children also learn by example, so adults need to demonstrate respect in their daily activities. She also points out that the skills in this book simply lay the foundation for future social interactions. The teaching must continue throughout the child's life.

I have used this book in my classroom of 3-6 year-olds to remind them of those basic courtesies that need to be extended to everyone. They need daily reminders and examples to really internalize them. This book would be great for parents to read on a daily basis with their young ones.

Purchase Manners Time (Toddler Tools)

I received a review copy of this book from the publishers, Free Spirit publishing.

Dear Children of the Earth: A letter from Home

Dear Children of the Earth: A letter from Home is the first book created by world-renowned artist Schim Schimmel. In it, Mother Earth is writing a letter to her children, the humans, asking them to please remember to take care of her. She has provided so much for her children and takes care of them. She points out that when we look into the mirror, we only see ourselves. But when she looks into the mirror, she sees all of the animals who live on her. And she reminds us that we are all one big family.

Mother Earth points out how humans have been destructing her gifts as they carelessly cut down trees in forests, thus taking away so many animal homes. They are dumping garbage into the rivers and oceans, polluting the waters that sustain so many. They don't realize how strong the impact of one person actually is, whether it be positive or negative. She hopes that her children will strive for the positive impacts.

Mother Earth simply has one request: Love her. By loving her, and showing her how you love her, you can show the others in our family to love and care for her, as well.

Her message is important, for both the young and the old. We always need to be aware of our actions, as the impact is often more far-reaching than we can ever imagine.

The paintings that illustrate this book are those for which Mr. Schimmel is most famous. He paints the masterful creatures of the wild in majestic scenes that encompass their natural environment and the beauty of the Earth, all rolled into one. They are awe-inspiring when one looks at the detail and realizes that these were created with acrylic paints. A picture is worth a thousand words - this book speaks volumes.

Purchase Dear Children Of The Earth

I received a copy of this book from the author as a part of my association with

Children of the Earth...Remember

Children of the Earth...Remember
is the second book created by artist Schim Schimmel. It tells the story of Mother Earth coming to be in the Universe, first inhabited by animals who loved her. And then, the humans came. The idea was for humans and animals to live together in harmony. But the humans do not have the same affinity for their Mother as the animals do. As their numbers have increased over the centuries, they have started to forget how to live in harmony with their animal family, and their dear Mother is losing her beauty as she is being abused.

But the animals remember. They remember their Mother's lushness and beauty that existed long before the humans came. They remember what it was like to live in harmony. And they strive to remind the humans of these things. Humans need to reconnect with their animal family to remember how to take care of their Mother Earth, who is their home.

Again, I am mesmerized by the surrealist artwork contained within this book. When reading it to my students, ages 3-6, they question again and again if these paintings are real or painted. They evoke emotion through their vivid beauty and intricate detail. You become inspired to get motivated to help.

The message of the book is a recurrent theme in Mr. Schimmel's works: The Earth is ours, but we share it with the animals, as well. It is up to us to protect it for all life found on her. We need to remember how she used to be and strive to bring her back to her former glory.

This book is a great way to start even the youngest child on the right path of caring and helping.

Purchase Children of the Earth... Remember

I received this book from Mr. Schimmel as part of my association with

The Family of Earth

The Family of Earth
by Schim Schimmel is another one of the artist's stories containing his self-proclaimed Environmental Visionary Surrealism masterpieces.

The message of this book is quite simple: though we all basically live in our own little worlds, the truth of the matter is that we share one world. Though the dolphins in the sea have never witnessed the majesty of the desert, it is still the same world. Though leopards have never shared space with the penguins, they are still part of the same world. The fact that we all inhabit the same world makes us one big family.

The same message could be applied to all of the human races on earth.

Schim Schimmel's amazing works of art reflect his words, but are even more powerful. I particularly like the painting of a school of dolphins swimming in an ocean below a canyon. The words on the page read, "We share the canyons and the oceans." Those words cannot be made clearer than the painting below them.

All of the paintings are breathtaking, in true Schimmel style. This is a book that should be read by old and young, alike, to remind them of the gifts given to us on this Earth. We only have one, and we need to take care of her!

Purchase The Family of Earth

I received a copy of this book from the author, Mr. Schim Schimmel.

Naptime Board Book

is one of the titles in Elizabeth Verdick's Toddler Tools board book series. In this one, Mommy tells the child it is time for bed. At first he wants to resist, but then she reminds him that napping is important to help him feel good throughout the day. He has a little routine that he follows to help him settle down for naptime, then....zzzzzzzzzz.........

The rhyming story is one that toddlers are going to enjoy and easily pick up as a part of their routine catch phrases throughout the day, for which Verdick is famous. The pictures portray an adorable young boy telling his story and will be appealing to young children. Even though they cannot read the story, the pictures clearly tell what is happening. The board book format is extremely sturdy, which will allow for repeated readings.

At the end of the book is a resource area for parents and caregivers. It explains the importance of getting enough sleep, and makes suggestions as to how to make naptime be a success. It is definitely a book that will become a favorite in a house with toddlers, and can even be used before naptime at school or daycare.

Purchase Naptime (Toddler Tools)

I received a review copy of this book from Free Spirit Publishers.


Genies is a book written for tweens that strongly resembles the Harry Potter series. In this book, Orchid Bloom is a young girl who, after being orphaned, is sent to live with her Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom. Naturally, they absolutely despise her and can't wait to send her away.

One day when out shopping, Orchid comes across a beautiful bottle that she thinks will perfectly match her aunt's collection. She purchases it for her, hoping that it will win her residency for a longer term at their house. Instead, she discovers that when she opens it, Stardust comes out of it, causing her to sneeze. And with the Stardust is a Genie.

The Genie is named Willow. Willow informs Orchid that she, too, is a genie, and helps her get all of the belongings that she requires for that first day of school on.....September which she arrives via.....train.

Of course, Orchid meets her new best friends on the train, as well as running into her arch-nemesis, a blond-haired genie named Storm.

The tweens have to take several magical classes at school as well as preparing for a magical sport, called Yowstick. Orchid is, of course, a natural.

While balancing all of this, Orchid and her friends also find out about a diabolical plan by the evil Jinn to steal a magical stone that will allow him to wish for anything in the world forever.

Despite the glaring similarities to the Harry Potter franchise, the book is an easy read and should delight tween readers, particularly girls. I did find it somewhat enjoyable and read it quite quickly. At that age I would have been grateful to have something else in the genre to read, especially now that Harry Potter is over.

Also fun in this book are numerous puns and plays on words. For example, upon arriving at the school, Orchid is informed that she is going to be read the "Riot Act," which is a list of school rules. Anything that the genie girls say, actually happens. When they say that they have seen things that would make your hair curl, their hair curls, then straightens again. The puns are great for a grin interspersed throughout the text. They could also be used in an English class.

The copy that I received from the author unfortunately has some typos and formatting errors that were very noticeable to my eye. I am hoping that the copies available for purchase have been corrected!

Stay tuned for an interview with Olivia C. Grosser.

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Jingles the Elf

Jingles the Elf by Krissy Smith is Elf on the Shelf amplified. He comes in a special box containing the book and a little elf, but then so much more.

The story of Jingles is similar to that of Shelf, as it's about Santa's little helper who comes to watch over children in the days leading up to Christmas, to report all naughty and nice behaviors to the man in charge up North. He plays hide and seek with the children, hiding when they are sleeping, so that they can find him when they are awake. But he also does even more.

Krissy Smith's book contains two versions of the story of Jingles. One is written in prose, to tell how his game works. The second is written in rhyme and tells the history of how the game came to be. It is followed by a hot cocoa recipe, for families to share. The other recipe is for sweet-smelling homemade ornaments made out of dough. Jingles also provides an activity to help families build literacy over the holiday season.

Most touching and unique in this book package is ways for families to help others in need. Jingles shares how he and his friends decorate "The Giving Tree" that helps to feed wildlife. There are also links to numerous websites that tell how families can give around the world, or to their own local communities.

The book is very sweet, and the stuffed elf toy that accompanies it is actually cute. This is a great memory-building activity that will stay with families for years to come.

Purchase Jingles softcover from Amazon.

To purchase the entire set that includes a hardcover copy of the book, with a little Jingles plush toy, visit Krissy's website at From now until the end of December 2009, enter the coupon code SAVEFIVE to save $5 off the retail purchase price of $24.95.

I received a copy of this book to review via my association with

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Can't Want To

I Can’t Want To by Michelle Shillings is the story of a young boy whose parents are divorced. The book starts when Mommy picks him up from Daddy’s house. He is happy to see her, but sad to leave Daddy, and that makes him mad. He is conflicted in his feelings, no matter what happens. The confusion is very frustrating, so he lashes out in anger.

Mommy finally pulls him aside and explains to him that it is okay to miss Mommy when he is at Daddy’s house, and to miss Daddy when he is at Mommy’s house. It is okay to feel angry that his family is broken up. The situation they are in is a sad one and he is going to have a lot of hurt feelings. It’s important to let them out.

This book is one that is meant for children whose parents are going through a separation or a divorce. Ms. Shillings wrote the book because her son, Roman, was having all of these confusing emotions during her divorce from his dad. She was looking for a way to explain his feelings to him, while letting him know that these feelings were okay. It is her hope that these words can help another child going through a similar situation.

The story is told from Roman’s point-of-view, which should echo the thoughts of other children. The illustrations by Brenda Lovejoy perfectly capture the emotion being expressed in Ms. Shilling’s words. I like how she uses a mix of pictures of Roman’s face, as well as the physical representation of his anger in his discarded belongings.

Parents should read this book with their children, whether they are the father or the mother. They also need to talk about the book with their children, asking how he feels, or if he feels the same as Roman. They need to remember that the children are being impacted by their decisions and their fighting. Also, if the children are acting out, it could be because they are unaware of how to properly express their conflicted emotions.

Purchase I Can't Want To

I was sent a review copy of this book for the purposes of an honest review.

Our Orphaned Owls

Our Orphaned Owls is one of the True Stories About Saving Animals series by Samuel Lopez. He and his wife Cheri live on a one hundred year-old farm known as the Compassionate Pet Sanctuary. It is their mission to rescue lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Those who cannot find a new permanent home are always guaranteed a home on the farm.

Our Orphaned Owls is the story of a couple of owls who were nesting on their farm for several years. Finally, in their sixth year, Mr. and Mrs. Owl hatched two baby owlets. A few days later, a terrible storm comes in, with raging winds and a cold rain.

Cheri is very worried about the owlets. When the storm subsides, she goes to check on them. She finds that Mr. Owl has left some food for them. But the next day, there is no sign of either parent. The larger owlet is frantically trying to fly out of the nest, while the smaller one lies motionless on the bottom of the nest.

Cheri brings them both back to the farmhouse, to warm them up. She and Farmer Samuel decide they are going to raise the owlets themselves, because Mr. Owl will be unable to do so by himself.

They feed them homemade, healthy food to help them grow big and strong. As the owlets grow bigger, Samuel and Cheri create a safe environment for them to learn how to fly and to develop the skills they would require to live in the wild.

Eventually, the time comes when the compassionate couple needs to say goodbye to their beloved birds. They set them free and say goodbye. But the owls return year after year to sit in the tree and to sing to their beloved surrogate parents.

A few illustrations grace the pages of this book, followed by numerous photographs that document the growth of the birds from owlets to juvenile owls to full-grown adults. My personal favorite is one in which it appears the two owls are hugging each other.

This is another book that is great for teaching children how to be compassionate toward animals. They learn how to care for birds, as well as a glimpse into the life cycle of the owl. It will make a good addition to any scientific study about birds in general, or specifically owls.

Purchase Our Orphaned Owls (True Stories about Saving Animals)

I received a copy of this book through my association with

Stinky Little Scroungy

Stinky Little Scroungy is one of the True Stories About Saving Animals series by Samuel Lopez. He and his wife Cheri live on a one hundred year-old farm known as the Compassionate Pet Sanctuary. It is their mission to rescue lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Those who cannot find a new permanent home are always guaranteed a home on the farm.

Stinky Little Scroungy is the story of a puppy who is found abandoned in a cardboard box filled with rags by the side of the road near the farm. She is young and tiny, missing all of her fur. Instead, she is covered with a red rash.

Mossy, the little boy who discovers the box, rushes her to his aunt and uncle’s farm, where he knows she’ll be given good care. Cheri isn’t sure they will be able to do anything to save the puppy, but says she will try.

After a few weeks, the puppy’s rash goes away, and her fur starts to come back. Mossy names her “Stinky Little Scroungy”. Even though she isn’t the cutest little puppy, her loyalty to the family who saved her and desire to play with all of the other animals has made her a permanent part of the family at the Compassionate Pet Sanctuary.

Most of the accompanying illustrations in this book are real photographs of the animals who live on the farm. Just a few of Samuel Lopez’s signature illustrations are in there. But these photographs bring a strong sense of truth and reality to the story.

The story demonstrates the kind of cruelty to animals that exists in this world, and shows how love and compassion can bring about miracles. It’s a great learning tool for children.

Purchase Stinky Little Scroungy

I received a copy of this book through my associated with

The Three-Legged Kitten

The Three-Legged Kitten is one of the True Stories About Saving Animals series by Samuel Lopez. He and his wife Cheri live on a one hundred year-old farm known as the Compassionate Pet Sanctuary. It is their mission to rescue lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Those who cannot find a new permanent home are always guaranteed a home on the farm.

The Three-Legged Kitten is the story of a kitten who is thrown out of a speeding car and crashes into a bunch of automobiles in the Ontiveros Junkyard. The impact breaks one of her legs, and she must resort to hobbling around on the remaining three.

After a couple of days, she finds her way to the owner of the junkyard, and meows to get his attention. That same day, Farmer Samuel and his nephews stop by and notice the poor kitten. They ask to take her back to the farm, to care for her.

Unfortunately, the leg has been so badly damaged that the veterinarian is unable to save it. But the kitten is able to heal in no time, running around the farm and climbing up the trees. The boys decide to name her Tri-Ike.

When they call Miss Paula, the pet shop owner in town, to see if anyone may be interested in adopting her, she tells them that it is unlikely anyone will want a three-legged kitten. But she comes out to the farm to meet Tri-Ike, anyway, and ends up falling in love with her. Tri-Ike now resides at Miss Paula’s pet shop, amazing people with her speed and dexterity, despite missing one leg.

This book is a great example of the mission of the Little Five Star division of the Five Star Publication company. Their goal is to teach children to be tolerant of diversity and differences, as well as to learn the consequences of their decisions.

Children can see how even a perceived disability does not necessarily mean that one is limited. Though Tri-Ike is missing a leg, she is still able to run and frolic like any other cat. This can lead to a conversation about disabilities in humans, as well.

The story also teaches how to care for animals, no matter what, and to love them.

Again, Samuel Lopez provides colorful illustrations that will appeal to children. The end of the book is filled with real photographs of the real-life Tri-Ike, playing and having fun. You can’t help but fall in love with her spunk and vitality.

Purchase The Three-Legged Kitten

I received a copy of this book through my association with

The Miracle of the Little Kitten

The Miracle of the Little Kitten is one of the True Stories About Saving Animals series by Samuel Lopez. He and his wife Cheri live on a one hundred year-old farm known as the Compassionate Pet Sanctuary. It is their mission to rescue lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Those who cannot find a new permanent home are always guaranteed a home on the farm.

The Miracle of the Little Kitten is the story of one particular kitten that came to Farmer Samuel’s farm. For four days, Farmer Samuel could hear the cries of the kitten, but was unable to locate him. Finally, their dog found him and brought him to the house to be cared for. He was very young and tiny, requiring bottle feeding with kitten formula. They named him “Miracle”.

Caring for Miracle for over a month, Samuel and Cheri helped him grow big and strong, until he was ready to be adopted. They take him to town where he can find a good, loving home.

The story uses a mix of child-like illustrations, interspersed with real photographs of Miracle. I think children will enjoy the illustrations and go crazy for the adorable pictures of the baby kitten.

The book can be used to teach children to be compassionate toward animals. It can also be a springboard for discussion about care of kittens.

Purchase The Miracle of the Little Kitten

I received a copy of this book through my association with

Mrs. Nosy: A Composting Story

Everyone has had that nosy neighbor always interfering in their business. In Mrs. Nosy: A Composting Story by Lily A. Goldman, Sooz and her mother get to play a little trick on the inquisitive observer over the fence.

Mrs. Nosy is amazed at how beautiful Mrs. Laura’s garden is. When she asks her for the secret, they tell her that a fairy comes at night to sprinkle gold dust on everything to help it grow. Mrs. Nosy decides to try to stay up every night, waiting for the fairy to come, because she wants her garden to be as beautiful. But alas, every night, she falls asleep, instead.

While she sleeps, Sooz and her mom are creating their own “fairy dust” by taking out their kitchen scraps to their compost bin. As the worms and bugs help break down the organic waste, they leave behind a rich organic fertilizer that makes everything grow more lush and beautiful than before.

After a few days of teasing Mrs. Nosy, Sooz and Mrs. Laura take pity on the prying lady next door and decide to share their secret with her. At first she is skeptical that nasty things such as bugs and worms can help create such beauty. But after a few days of applying the “fairy dust,” she begins to see the benefits and embraces the idea.

Mrs. Nosy is appealing to young children with the idea of a fairy dusting gardens at night. The brief explanation of how composting works suffices for a younger audience. Mrs. Goldman also accompanies her words with colorful and dreamy watercolor illustrations.

In this day of “Going Green,” parents and educators can use this book as an introduction to composting. For further study, they can rely on the resources listed in the back.

I received a copy of this book through my association with

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nana, What's Cancer?

When eight year-old Tessa Mae Hamermesh came to her grandmother, Beverlye Hyman Fead with questions about her cancer, they realized that there was little information available for children to help them understand it. They decided to work together to create a book that families can share with their children to promote conversation and understanding about this disease that affects the entire family.

Tessa asks her grandmother 12 questions about cancer, that children typically have. These include questions about what cancer is and how you get it, who can get cancer, and what to do if someone you love has cancer. Nana took time to candidly, yet carefully answer each one of Tessa's questions. Her responses include both personal experience, as well as a wealth of research. Included throughout are bold-faced terms that are clearly defined in a glossary in the back. Also included is a list of resources used, to which readers can turn for more information.

Shennen Bersanti has captured the essence of the bond between grandmother and granddaughter through her realistic illustrations of the two that are interspersed throughout the book. They add to the message of faith, love, and support in which families must share as they ride the cancer roller coaster.

The book is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, because it is so thorough and honest. I would recommend it to any family going through a cancer battle. Parents should preview it and think about their own answers to the questions contained within. Children will learn a lot by reading the book, but then will want to expand upon the information to better fit their own situations.

I would say it is geared more toward children who are a little bit older, as opposed to children under the age of 7. Even teenagers and adults can learn from it, though.

Purchase Nana, What's Cancer?

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. I have given my honest opinions of it.

Lil Glimmer

Lil Glimmer by Angela Muse is a charming story of a little star of the same name. He desperately wants to run around the sky to play, and is very frustrated when his mommy tells him he has to wait his turn. Right now, the sun is out shining and playing. Lil Glimmer has to wait until night comes for his turn.

Mom talks to him about taking turns and being patient. He tucks into a cloud to go to sleep until Mom wakes him up at nightfall. She reiterates the concept of sharing with Mr. Sun, then sends Lil Glimmer off into the night.

He plays hard, swinging on the moon, riding comets, and having a lot of fun. When daytime begins to break, he realizes that Mr. Sun is back up, and it is time to let him have his turn.

The story is absolutely adorable. It teaches the values of patience and sharing in a way that speaks clearly to young children. The vibrantly colored illustrations exhibit the bright glow of the sun and the stars. The characters are cute and relatable to children, as they have all had to take turns and share with others.

This is a book that parents can share with their children and refer to during discussions that emphasize the values of patience and sharing. It's a delightful story that will entertain young ones during story times both at school and at libraries. It could also easily segue into a science unit on the solar system, as there are stars, the sun, the moon, a comet, and pictures of planets.

This is the first collaboration between author Angela Muse, and her illustrator brother James McCullough. I look forward to seeing their future projects come to life!

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for, and received a copy of this book through that venue.

Purchase a copy of Lil Glimmer

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Wish All Your Wishes and Mine

I Wish All Your Wishes and Mine is a delightful story by an author/illustrator named Vaeta Zitman. Her illustrations include intricate patterns within the landscape that bring about swirling, dreamlike thoughts as the children share their wishes with each other. The text is airy and simple, with relatively general wishes being expressed. However, children can relate to these general ideas and adapt them to reflect their own wishes and dreams.

I shared this book with my class of 3-6 year-olds. They laughed as I turned each page, but it wasn't a laugh of contempt. They gave the delighted giggles so common to entertained young children. After I read the book, we went around the group and they shared some of their own dreams and wishes.

It really is a beautiful book that will delight young children and can even serve as a segue into dreamy writing assignments for older children. Art lessons derived from this book could include using different kinds of material to recreate the patterns and textures found within.

Purchase I Wish All Your Wishes and Mine

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tic Talk: Living with Tourette Syndrome

Tic Talk: Living with Tourette Syndrome: A 9-year-old boy's story in his own words was written by Dylan Peters. At the age of 4, he developed tics, in which his head would would violently jerk. After a myriad of tests and observation, Dylan was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.

In addition to the head jerking, Dylan's other tics include clearing his throat, making a gurgling sound, and double-blinking his eyes. Medication helps relieve the tics, but he will never be able to be fully rid of the disease.

By the end of second grade, Dylan's friend began to notice his tics, and began to ask him about them. When he entered the third grade, Dylan and his mother went in to talk to his teacher, Mrs. Sudhalter, about discussing Tourette Syndrome with his classmates. That first week of school, Dylan's mother came in to help him share about his condition, and to answer any questions the other children may have. Soon after, Dylan created this book, which shares these experiences, in his own words.

Included in the book are illustrations done by Dylan's friend Zachary Wendland, a very talented young man. The foreward was written by Jim Eisenreich, who is a former Major League Baseball Player, an active member of the national Tourette Syndrome Association, and founder of the Jim Eisenreich Foundation for Children with Tourette Syndrome. He, too, has Tourette Syndrome.

At the end of the book is a guide to "10 Successful Strategies for working with children with Tourette Syndrome", written by Brad Cohen, author of Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had." A list of other resources is also included.

Though it seems unlikely that we will encounter someone with Tourette Syndrome, this book is still very important. Few resources exist for children with TS, and this book allows them someone to whom they can relate, who is closer to their age. The resources and information contained and linked to within are beneficial for any educators or workplace managers who many encounter someone with Tourette Syndrome. It should also be shared with children, simply to make them aware that even though some children may be different, they really are fundamentally the same.

Stay tuned for an interview with Dylan Peters.

Purchase Tic Talk: Living with Tourette Syndrome: A 9-Year-Old Boy's Story in His Own Words

When Life Throws You a Curve

When Life Throws You a Curve: One Girl's Triumph Over Scoliosis by Elizabeth Golden is a memoir about her experience with the diagnosis of scoliosis at the young age of 13. Scoliosis ran in her family, as both her Aunt Joanne and her Grammy had also suffered from it.

Scoliosis means curvature of the spine. It is more common in girls than boys, and is usually diagnosed in the adolescent years.

Elizabeth spent a lot of time researching and talking with family members about their experiences. It was determined that surgery would be the best course of action. She would have two rods with hooks placed on either side of her spine, that would be cranked until her spine straightened back out.

This was not her first choice, and she tried alternative treatments, but to no avail. In the end, it was the best choice.

When Life Throws You a Curve is not only a story about dealing with scoliosis, but also a story of a girl finding courage within. She has to make some difficult choices that will affect her for her entire life. She has to be strong for her worried family and friends. And she has to be strong for the inevitable pain and suffering that is going to come during the healing process.

When I was a girl, the only book that was available on the subject was Deenie by Judy Blume. It was one of our favorites, and we read it time and time again. But at the same time, the thought of wearing a brace was terrifying. Lots of movies either from the 80s or taking place in the 80s have the stereotypical girl with the brace, moving around like a robot. I think of Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles(?).

I am grateful for teenagers today that Elizabeth has written her book. It is more reassuring to hear a true story from someone who has gone through it first-hand, no matter how good the fictional version is.

Purchase When Life Throws You a Curve: One Girl's Triumph Over Scoliosis

Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik

Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik is a brilliantly simple multicultural book that says so much.

Violet is a young girl who is violet-colored. Most of the children at her new school are either red, blue, or yellow. When her blue father comes to pick her up, the other children are confused and question her about it. She had never thought about her father being blue and her mother being red before, and the questions of the other children bother her.

She realizes that most of her friends are the same color as both of their parents. Yet Violet matches neither one of hers. When she gets home and her mother asks her how the first day at her new school was, Violet bursts into tears and asks why she isn't blue.

Her mother points out that Mom is red, Dad is blue, and Violet is a little bit of both. She demonstrates how red and blue paint make purple paint. While there may not be any other purple children in her class, there are other purple people in the world, and Violet should be proud of who she is.

Violet ponders this information, and is put to the test the next day when Mom comes to pick her up from school. Another child from her class questions why her mother is red, when she is purple. She replies that her mom is red, her dad is blue, and she is Violet.

Stehlik's demonstration of the beauty of being biracial is so simple and smart, it's a wonder that no one else has written a book on it, yet! It opens the door for so many educational follow-up activities in both cultural and art curricula. And the illustrations are very pretty. They almost remind me of the old Nickelodeon cartoon Doug.

I recommend this book for use by teachers in preschool all the way through elementary school. Parents should also read it to their children, even if their children are not biracial. A simple story such as this one can teach such a valuable lesson about accepting others for who they are, instead of focusing solely on their outward appearance.

Purchase Violet

A Glove of Their Own

A Glove of Their Own is a special project that was written by Debbie Moldvan, Keri Conkling, and Lisa Funari-Willever, and illustrated by Lauren Lambiase. It is a nostalgic look at the original American pasttime of baseball.

A group of kids gets together almost every day to play in on old field. Many days that they're out, an elderly man watches from the fence, cheering the kids on as they imagine they are playing at a sold-out stadium. They have old, ratty equipment, no bleachers, no benches, and no scoreboard, just a will and a dream.

One day, the man stops by, hauling bags filled with gently used mitts, bats, chirts, balls, hats, and cleats that were left over from the days when he was a coach and his children were young dreamers playing on that field. He leaves, telling them to remember that the game is more than just a score.

The children agree to treasure these gifts, and vow to one day pass them on to another group of dreamers, just like themselves.

The story alone is touching. It brings about nostalgic memories of when baseball was steroid and drama-free, played by real heroes. It demonstrates the innocence and limitless imagination of young players.

Even more moving are the illustrations. They are so realistic, you feel like you could reach out and grab the old baseball mitt, or tie the old shoes. The characters' faces are familiar, as if they are your own or those of someone you knew once upon a time.

The book has won several awards, including winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Children's Books, Finalist Foreward Magazine Book of the Year, and Finalist Eric Hoffer Book Award.

A Glove of Their Own was published by Franklin Mason Press. Unique to this company is that they reserve two pages at the back of each of their books for guest young authors and illustrators. The guests are ages 6-9 years of age. Nonfiction and fiction stories, between 75-200 words, as well as any word-free illustration is welcomed. Winners receive a small financial prize, framed award, and a complimentary book, as well as being published in an upcoming book. Get full rules at their website at

A portion of each sale of A Glove of Their Own is donated to one of numerous organizations that are dedicated to ensuring children are given a chance to have a glove of their own. These include Good Sports, Sports Gift, and Pitch In For Baseball.

Stay tuned for interviews with the authors and illustrator.

Purchase A Glove of Their Own

Why Am I Special? by Sharmen Lane

Why Am I Special? by Sharmen Lane is a book designed to empower young children to discover their own unique gifts that make them special. It is a great read-aloud book, as it flows smoothly in its verse and I think the message is easily delivered. Children will enjoy hearing it and even trying to read along.

The print is in that fun script with a bunch of curliques that looks good on the page, but young children may have difficulty discerning the letters. The illustrations are vibrant, but look like they were inserted via a clip art program. Nevertheless, they do add a feeling of cheer to the positive message.

I think parents and teachers could have fun with this book by trying to recreate their own version on their own word processing program, asking the child to contribute his or her own reasons why (s)he is special.

$14.95 seems a little steep for a small paperback book, but if I understand correctly, Sharmen Lane donates a portion of the proceeds to various children's charities with which she is involved. She is also a motivational speaker, as well as a writer for, as am I.

Visit her website at

Purchase Why Am I Special

Fish Sticks, Books and Blue Jeans!

Fish Sticks, Books and Blue Jeans!: Teaching kids to be thankful for everything (yes, even Fish Sticks) everyday! is the brain child of a child, herself. Sami Fitzgerald was just six years old when she approached her mother, Caryn, about making a book to help children be thankful for everything they have.

The book is designed to have adults and children interact with each other to discuss the wonderful things in life, whether material or more emotional or spiritual. Topics include love, caring, sharing, believe, smile, happiness, proud, success, friends, health, food, family, reading, exercise, laughter, acts of kindness, and anything else!

Each topic starts with an affirmation. Read the affirmation together, then discuss how it applies to your life. Suggestions and leading words help inspire the conversation. Adults and children can then write together a list to accompany each topic, then draw a picture on the next page to illustrate thoughts.

The book does not have to be done in order. Choose topics that are of particular interest for the day or week. The important thing is to remember to be grateful for what you have in your life, and to share meaningful time together.

To find out more about Sami Fitzgerald, visit her website at

Purchase Fish Sticks, Books and Blue Jeans

Stay tuned for an interview with Sami and her mom, Caryn.

Pencil Play Pals Pencil Games and Press-outs

Pencil Play Pals Pencil Games is a series of fun games collected by Norman Childes. Each one is creative, uses items from around the house (most notably pencils, of course!), and most importantly does not require the use of electronics! Each game comes complete with instructions on how to make it, as well as how to play it. The characters involved are the cute stars of the Pencil Play Pals series of stories.

They range in difficulty to engage children of all ages. For example, Harry Stomp's Pencil Ring Toss simply requires sticking a pencil into a potato, and throwing rubber bands over it. More difficult is Lori Longneck's Fun Fruit'n Veggies, which requires children to draw their own game board of fruits and veggies. Some of the games, such as Humphrey Hump's Cover Your Eyes and Will Wool's Whacky Golf, have premade designs in the back of the book.

The game book continues to reinforce the purpose of the Pencil Play Pals series. Norman Childes created this series to inspire children to write and to draw. Children are encouraged to design the games within, and will probably be inspired to make up their own variations. In a time of video games, tv, and texting, kids are using their imaginations less and less. I find these games to be a breath of fresh air!

Accompanying the stories and the game book is a book of Press-out Pencil Play Pals. Children can press out the characters from the Pencil Play Pals books to put on their pencils. They can also find out more about their favorite characters from the series of books.

Purchase Pencil Play Pals Pencil Games and Press-out Pencil Play Pals (Series 1)