Laura’s Book Reviews: Catalina and the King’s Wall AND Mela and the Elephant

Please welcome author and teacher (and Frog on a Blog follower) Laura Roettiger! Laura is the author of the forthcoming picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon. She’s also a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school in Colorado. She likes to use books in pairs or threes to encourage her students to make connections by comparing and contrasting them.

Today, Laura shares two books that celebrate kindness in very different ways.

I love the idea of reviewing two or more books on the same theme together. And books on kindness are some of my favorites. But what makes Laura’s reviews really special is that she’s shared the books with her students and has based her reviews, partially, on their responses to the books. As she says, “It’s an authentic way to talk about the books.” I’m thrilled to have Laura as a reviewer on Frog on a Blog!


As a teacher and curriculum developer, I don’t think of books in isolation. We always ask our students to “make connections.” In the younger grades, we ask students to make text to text, text to self, and text to world connections.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying picture books this year. Many, I’ve discovered on this blog (Frog on a Blog)! I like to think of how books relate to each other or something happening in the classroom or larger world.

Two books I really enjoyed this year are Catalina and the King’s Wall (Eifrig Publishing, 2018) by Patty Costello (ill. by Diane Cojocaru), and Mela and the Elephant (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) by Dow Phumiruk Ng (ill. by Ziyue Chen). On the surface, they are very different books; one is like a many layered cake, while the other is beautifully simple. I like sharing two seemingly different books and asking my students to find similarities.

Catalina, a baker, needs to outsmart the king who wants to build a wall to keep out foreigners. (Yes, there is a political undertone, and according to the author, this was the inspiration for her book.) Lucky for Catalina, the King has a sweet tooth and she is able to use this weakness to her advantage. The illustrations are vibrant and children will be charmed by the abundance of colors, baked goods, and a tiny mouse who can be found on each page. The lessons of inclusion and acceptance are woven throughout, but the overarching theme of kindness is what my second and third graders took note of.

Mela is a little girl who wants to go on an adventure down the river without her little brother. A simple, negative exchange between them at the beginning allows the reader to anticipate what will happen when Mela gets lost and needs help. This Thai folktale is a more obvious story of kindness, but is in no way preachy, and the students were easily able to relate to Mela. The illustrations are also charming, but simpler, to match the story.

Personally, I give each of these books 5 stars because they both work as a good combination of text and illustration, telling compelling stories that work for a variety of ages.

Laura RLaura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

Keep an eye out for Aliana Reaches for the Moon, available February 19, 2019! 

My View Book Review: Hedge Hog!

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Title: Hedge Hog! (or Hedgehog!)

Author/Illustrator: Ashlyn Anstee

Publisher/Year: Tundra Books/2018

Back Cover Blurb: It’s Hedgehog’s hedge and he isn’t sharing.

*Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Canada


All of the animals in the garden are preparing for winter. Finding a cozy place to call home for the season, like a burrow, hive, or nest, is at the top of everyone’s list. The animals need shelter in order to survive the coming cold. 

The bees, foxes, birds, and groundhogs happily share their homes with the other animals. Grasshopper, who dwells under the hedge, does too, especially after Hedgehog–who lives in the hedge, all by himself, and likes it that way–turns the other animals away.

As more and more animals show up on his doorstep looking for a place to stay, Hedgehog becomes increasingly agitated and he puts up signs and builds a fence to keep them out. But when Grasshopper accuses him of being a hedge hog, he goes inside and slams the door, with disastrous results. How will the others react now that Hedgehog is the one in need?

Though overflowing with cute, expressive characters, and featuring an unusual setting and fun text, the book offers readers something more–a message about helping others, sharing what we have, and being gracious.

Taken literally, opening our doors and allowing strangers to move into our homes is unrealistic and potentially dangerous. But opening our hearts to help those in need is something each one of us can do in our own way. Whether you donate to a worthy cause, volunteer your time, assist a neighbor, or simply show thoughtfulness by holding a door for someone, you can make the world a better place. We all can. Let’s start today. 🙂

All I Want For Christmas Is… Forgiveness For My Shameless Self Promotion

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I very rarely ask folks (because I feel funny about it) to review my book on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. But it’s come to my attention recently that having 50 or more reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility in Amazon’s search engines (who knew!).

It makes sense that reviews help promote the sales of a book, and certainly, the more reviews the better. So this holiday season, I’m asking you, my friends, fans, and blog followers, if you have a free moment or two, to please leave an honest review for my book The Peddler’s Bed on Amazon. I would greatly appreciate the support.

Please only leave a review if you have actually read the book. And you do not have to have purchased the book from Amazon to review it there. Thanks so much in advance! And thank you to everyone who has already left a review! You have my eternal gratitude.

🙂 Happy Holidays! 🙂

Wishing you peace, health, and joy in the New Year!

 

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https://amazon.com/Peddlers-Bed-Lauri-Fortino/dp/0991386639

My View Book Review: Sayni and the Windowjet Brothers by Garth Laidlaw

Title: Sayni and the Windowjet Brothers

Author/Illustrator: Garth Laidlaw

Publisher/Year: Friesen Press/2016

Back Cover Blurb: Every child’s compass must be made very precisely, and each one is unique.


When children reached the age of ten in the town of Candleton, they began to build their compasses. The compasses were very important, as they helped guide their makers throughout their lives. So when Sayni turned ten, she began to build her compass from bits and pieces she had collected. Sometimes, though, she’d look at the unfinished object and feel as if she’s wasting her time. Yet she knew that working on her compass was the right thing to do, so she continued to collect and to construct.

One day, she found herself in a dark and unfamiliar part of town, surrounded by factories, and pushy factory workers who tried to sell her generic, ready-made compasses. Sayni was tempted to buy a finished compass, but she resisted. She wanted to build her compass herself. But it wasn’t until she met the mysterious and magical Windowjet brothers that she learned how important is was for every child to build his or her own compass. Sayni decided from then on that she’d teach the children of Candleton how to create compasses that were unique to each of them.

As I read this book, it became clear to me that building the compass was like writing a story, a life story. So every life experience, every memory, every feeling, everything you learn throughout your life, from the moment you’re born to the moment you leave this Earth, is part of your life story. Each person’s life story is special, unique just to him or her. Each person’s path is different too. But where we’ve been can help determine where we’re going, much like a compass can help guide us in the right direction.

Sayni and the Windowjet Brothers is a lovely, beautifully illustrated story about embracing life, living it to the fullest (to fill up that compass), and following our own paths.

My View Book Review: The Santa Corner by Jakie Rodriguez + Supporting Worthy Causes

Title: The Santa Corner

Author: Jakie Rodriguez

Illustrator: Bee L. Hannah

Publisher/Year: Mascot Books/2016

Back Cover Blurb: Santa is afraid he will not have enough presents to deliver to all the boys and girls, so he is asking for help. He is sending out letters asking children to collect toys they no longer play with. Gracie and Meghyn are ready to help, are you?

When Meghyn visits her friend Gracie’s house, she wonders why there’s a pile of toys in the corner and why she can’t play with them. Gracie tells her that the toys are in the Santa corner. Toys in the Santa corner are toys that kids no longer play with. Santa sends his helpers to pick them up in the middle of the night. They take the toys back to the North Pole, and they repair them too, if necessary. On Christmas Eve, Santa delivers the toys to children all over the world. Meghyn is excited to go home and start a Santa corner of her own.

I know it’s not Christmas, but what’s special about The Santa Corner is that it teaches kids, through a delightful story and sweet illustrations, to be generous and giving–qualities that can be encouraged anytime. And what young child wouldn’t want to help Santa if given the chance? Parents who want to cultivate a giving nature in their children, while at the same time, clear away the clutter of too many toys, will find the message of this book to be just what they need to succeed. Though not expressly stated in the text, parents might want to discuss with their kids how putting their toys in the Santa corner helps not only Santa, but also children who are less fortunate than they are. Creating a Santa corner is an excellent way to help others, and it can be started now.

I like to help others too. I often donate money or clothing to the Syracuse Rescue Mission, a local organization that’s working hard to end hunger and homelessness in our community. I donate to animal welfare organizations as well. And I’ve donated copies of my book The Peddler’s Bed to libraries and literacy organizations. There are MANY wonderful causes out there. I’m sure, just like Meghyn and Gracie in The Santa Corner, kids everywhere want to help others. Find a great cause that you and your children can support together.

A Tub, A Bed, And A Book Review

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Thank you Terry Doherty at The Reading Tub for the lovely review of The Peddler’s Bed!

Click HERE to read the review. 

To all of my friends, fans, and blog followers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a New Year filled with an abundance of joy. May your dreams come true in 2017! 🙂

My View Book Review: Imagine by Karen Kilpatrick

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Title: Imagine

Author: Karen Kilpatrick

Illustrator: Tara Louise Campbell and Matthew Wilson

Publisher/Year: Nina Charles Publishing/2015

Series: Pumpkinheads

Back Cover Blurb: Slide down rainbows and swing from stars! Bounce on clouds and drive fast cars! Join the Pumpkinheads as they switch the world around in a silly adventure that explores the power of imagination and the differences that make the world beautiful.


Imagine you could fly like a super hero. Imagine you’re a shark in the ocean deep. Imagine you could change the world around you with the swish of a magic wand. These are just some of the fun things the super cute children do in Karen Kilpatrick’s latest book from her Pumpkinheads series Imagine.

Karen’s books always feature a racially diverse cast of characters, and Imagine is no different. When children open up this book, they will see kids who look like them. They will see kids who look different from them. And most importantly, they will see all of the kids playing together, pretending together, and having fun together. 

I like how this story of friendship and imagination, aptly illustrated in bold, bright hues, emphasizes that “colors make the world beautiful, just like me and you”! In this way, all children can see themselves as beautiful. And they can learn to appreciate the unique beauty every person possesses, inside and out.

Final thoughts: Karen Kilpatrick’s Pumpkinheads series could easily be adapted for television. Children would love to see illustrators Tara Louise Campbell and Matthew Wilson’s adorable kid characters and dazzling backdrops brought to life on the screen.

My View Book Review: How To Be A Good Baby by Chris Seps

Title: How To Be A Good Baby: Tips from the Dog

Author(s): Chris Seps and Toby

Photographs: Chris Seps

Year: 2015

Warning: Contains Copious Quantities Of Cuteness!

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My weakness has been discovered–cute dog books! The reason is, of course, because they often remind me of my dog Java, who means the world to me. And this is certainly true of author Chris Sep’s book How To Be A Good Baby: Tips from the Dog.

Toby, the adorable little Pekingese, is the star of the book. He’s always been the baby of his family. But now, he has a new baby brother (the human kind). Toby’s not jealous, he’s excited, because now he has someone to share food, toys, and tips with. Toby’s learned a lot in his five years of life and he’s ready to pass along his knowledge.

Toby decided the best way to do that was to record his best ten tips on how to be a good baby, in a book. That way, babies all over the world can benefit from his wisdom. Text on each page is accompanied by photos of Toby demonstrating each tip. Babies will find tips on the importance of eating all of your food, the best time to poop, and how often you should sleep. My favorite tip is number 7: Snuggle. Toby recommends snuggling with Mom when you are tired or sick and snuggling with him when you feel sad. Most of all, he wants everyone to snuggle together.

How To Be A Good Baby is filled with good advice (for babies and parents) from a very sweet dog. Good boy, Toby!

Toby, star of How to be a Good Baby: Tips from the Dog and Chris Seps’ fur baby

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My dog Java

 

My View Book Review: Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything by Darla Woodley

Title: Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything

Author: Darla Woodley

Illustrator: Evan Munday

Year: 2015

Back Cover Blurb: Sometimes it is hard to find exactly the right words to show that you are sharing your encouragement and support. This uplifting story demonstrates that a simple pair of red socks can give someone special a boost when they are feeling down or out of their comfort zone.

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In Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything, we follow a boy through the trials and milestones of his life. We’re there on his first day of school. We’re there when he heads off on his first camping trip away from home. We’re there as he learns to ride his bike. Every page features a new marker on the road of life. Soon we see him learning to drive a car, and then we see him prepare for his first job interview, graduate from college, get married, and have a family of his own. Each step of the way, his mother is there, supporting him, encouraging him, and calming his fears. She does so with her words, her smiles, and her comforting touch, but also with her red socks-cozy, bright red socks, which bring the boy, turned man, the most comfort of all.

Sometimes we can’t find the right words. Sometimes smiles and hugs aren’t enough. But what if a family tradition, like wearing red socks, was just what was needed to make a person say, “I feel strong. I am ready. I can do anything.”? This book, with engaging black and white illustrations and just a pop of red, would make a great gift for all ages and may spark an idea for a tradition in your family. The main message here is how simple it is just to show someone you care. And really, don’t we all need to know, from time to time, that someone cares?

Note: For every copy of Red Socks Go With Absolutely Anything purchased, an additional copy of the book will be printed and donated to a school, local charity and/or organization that may benefit from the message of how red socks go with absolutely anything. (The author’s site: http://www.redsockswithanything.com)

The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry Wolf By Caldric Blackwell

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Title: The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry Wolf

Author: Caldric Blackwell

Illustrator: Emma Phillips

Publisher/Year: Icasm Press/2014

Summary: Six-year-old Byron Woodward is a werewolf who can’t howl. Determined not to embarrass himself after being chosen to lead a full-moon ceremony, he embarks on a mission to learn how to howl. He learns a lot about howling during his journey, but more importantly, he learns a valuable lesson about believing in himself.

Despite being a story about a werewolf, The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry Wolf is not at all scary, and it’s not meant to be. It’s about a young boy named Byron who happens to be a werewolf and who lives with his werewolf parents in a village full of werewolves. The only fear present in the book is felt by Byron when he is selected to lead the full-moon ceremony, but since he cannot howl, he is afraid he will embarrass himself in front of everyone.

Well written and charmingly illustrated, The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry Wolf succeeds in helping children see that fear and worry about what others think of us will keep us from being ourselves. And if we stop worrying, we are free to enjoy life. Sounds good for adults too, don’t you think? Overall, it’s a cute story with positive themes: courage, determination, and self-acceptance.