My View Book Review: RANDOLPH THE REINDEER by Sean Patrick O’Reilly

Title: Randolph the Reindeer

Author: Sean Patrick O’Reilly

Illustrator: David Alvarez

Publisher/Year: Arcana/2020

There’s a lot going on right now. A lot. And your head is probably swirling. And maybe you haven’t been thinking about Christmas just yet.

But I think we could all use a little cheer, don’t you? With that in mind, I’m happy to share a new Christmas picture book that recently received the Mom’s Choice Award.

Combine one arrogant reindeer in training, one friendly Krampus, and one skeptical elf. Add a broken camera and a disappointed boy. Mix in a terrible blizzard on Christmas Eve and a sleighful of determination. And what do you get? A recipe for merriment, Randolph the Reindeer, a Christmas tale like no other.

Randolph dreams of pulling Santa’s sleigh. But when he fails miserably and is humiliated during tryouts, despite bragging that he’s the fastest reindeer and is sure to be chosen to pull Santa’s sleigh that very night, Christmas Eve, he decides to leave town.

In North Pole, Alaska, Randolph makes a new friend, a boy named Jamie. Jamie says Randolph can pull his sleigh. Randolph wants to show Jamie just how fast he can go, but Jamie just wants to take pictures. Randolph doesn’t listen, however, and crashes the sleigh, breaking Jamie’s special camera.

Jamie is heartbroken and Randolph feels terrible. He sets off through a blizzard to make things right. And with a little help from Nikita Von Krampus, Mrs. Clause, and Jeremy the elf, Randolph saves Christmas for Jamie just in the (Saint) nick of time. 😉

With a fun, engaging story by Arcana Studio founder Sean Patrick O’Reilly, and bright, cheerful illustrations by Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, and Nickelodeon artist David Alvarez, you and your children will delight in reading Randolph the Reindeer together this holiday season. And it may just take your mind off of other things for a bit. Happy Holidays!

My View Book Review: EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE!* by Andrea Denish


Author: Andrea Denish

Illustrator: Guilherme Franco

Publisher/Year: Boyds Mills Press/2020

I haven’t done a book review in a while, but with the sun shining, birds singing, kids playing outside, and the scent of spring in the air, I feel like celebrating. What better way to celebrate than to share a picture book that’s all about parades! Parades really are the epitome of celebrations, after all.

Author Andrea Denish’s brand new picture book EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE!*, officially due out on April 28, features nine of America’s most popular parades, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Andrea’s fun rhyming text, combined with illustrator Guilherme Franco’s expressive and colorful art, makes this book a joy to read and share with the little parade enthusiasts in your household. Back matter offers more information about each parade featured, such as the fact that St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Boston and New York are the oldest parades in America, dating back to the 1700s, and that Chicago held the first official Pride Parade in 1970.

Reading about parades takes me back to my childhood home in Canastota, NY. Every year, my little hometown holds a Memorial Day Parade. My house happened to be on the parade route, which was the main street through town. We used to sit on our front porch, ready to watch the parade go by. But, the parade was so small that if you happened to run inside for a minute, you were likely to miss it.

There’s another parade that takes place in Canastota every summer, and that’s the Boxing Hall of Fame Parade or Parade of Champions, which is part of a days-long celebration of boxing (Canastota was the home of professional boxer Carmen Basilio), and ends with an induction ceremony on the last day. The festivities usually attract several boxing celebrities.

No conversation about books and parades would be complete without mentioning the Oz-Stravaganza! Parade, held in another little town (just 6 miles west of Canastota), Chittenango, NY. This town holds a weekend-long celebration every year, including the parade, to celebrate Oz creator L. Frank Baum, who was born there.

If you like parades and picture books, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy of EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE!* It is, in itself, a celebration of one of the most perfect examples of celebrations, the parade! 🙂

P.S. Did you notice the little asterisk at the end of the title? What could it mean? Read the book to find out. 😉

F&G provided by publisher


42421655. sx318

Title: Aliana Reaches for the Moon

Author: Laura Roettiger

Illustrator: Ariel Boroff

Publisher/Year: Eifrig Publishing/2019

On the cover: A STEAM book for aspiring scientists!

On today’s date in 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth after their historic trip to the moon. What better way to commemorate than to share a picture book that uses the light of the moon to celebrate a birthday!

Today’s featured book was written by kidlit friend Laura Roettiger, a regular reviewer here on Frog on a Blog. I’m excited to share her debut picture book with all of you!

In Aliana Reaches for the Moon, a clever young girl, who loves to explore, read, and create, has a special birthday surprise planned for her little brother Gus. Aliana and Gus live with their parents in the Rocky Mountains, and Aliana likes to look up at the moon and stars in the wide-open sky at night.

It’s the moon that inspires Aliana’s super secret birthday surprise. In the two weeks leading up to the big day, Aliana spends a lot of time researching, experimenting, and gathering the perfect materials. The night before Gus’s birthday, the surprise is almost ready. All that remains is the “icing on the cake”, the ultimate ingredient, the moon.

Colorful, full-page, cartoon-style illustrations fill up this cheerful book that salutes science, the moon, and family relationships. I like the inclusion of a diverse family, and the sweet relationship between older sister and younger brother. Aliana’s a wonderful role model for Gus. And Aliana Reaches for the Moon is a superb choice for fans of the moon, those who like to make and create, and for budding young scientists everywhere.

Book Review: ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME: A teacher and writer’s perspective by Laura Roettiger


I spent most of my teaching career at a school with a population of over 90% Latinx. When I heard about Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal, it was especially interesting to me because I miss my Chicago students and imagined them hearing the book. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful group of students here in Colorado to read to, coming from a variety of ethnicities.

The basic premise of Alma, is she thinks her name is too long, until her father explains to her how she got the name Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. It’s a lovely story celebrating family, tradition, and being proud of who you are.

I can turn any book into a lesson and an activity after years of teaching. With Alma, the teaching extension wrote itself. When I first told them there would be homework, they protested, but when I explained what it would be, the energy in the room shifted to enthusiasm. The children were given a graphic organizer and sent home with the task of asking their parents about the origin story of their names.

story of your name graphic

As the children returned with their homework, I learned one of them is named after a WWE wrestler that his father likes and another is named for an NFL player. One is named for a Disney character, and another is named for a character in a movie her mom liked. The stories of aunts, uncles, grandparents were also shared on the page and in class. Many of them didn’t know these stories before the assignment and that is a tribute to Juana Martinez-Neal and her inspiring story.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying different aspects of craft and I believe this book is a perfect example of heart. Julie Hedlund, founder of the picture book challenge 12×12, talks about how heart is so important in picture books. I find it hard to define heart, but easy to find examples. The illustrations, also the work of Juana Martinez-Neal, are unique and match the story perfectly, complete with sepia toned drawings that look like old photographs.

This book earns 5 stars from me because its simple message is full of heart and it created a wonderful family project for my students. I’m sure many families would find this to be inspirational.

Laura R

Laura 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

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

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

My View Book Review: Hedge Hog!


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

Final Final Cover

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!



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

reading-tubFinal Final Cover







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


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!


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


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.


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:

The Boy Who Couldn’t Cry Wolf By Caldric Blackwell


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.  

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas By Jay Dee (Plus a Giveaway!)


Title: The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Author: Jay Dee

Illustrator: Darren Geers

Publisher/Year: Kraine Kreative/2014

Summary: At Santa’s workshop, the night before the night before Christmas is hardy a time to rest. The elves work tirelessly to get the final toys made before Christmas Eve, but Elfie just can’t keep pace. He spends too much time making his toys perfect, and when Santa comes to check on production, everyone is surprised by his reaction.

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas is a beautifully illustrated, timeless tale with a twist. It is the night before Christmas Eve and all of Santa’s elves are at work making the final toys for Santa to deliver to all the good girls and boys the very next night. Main character Elfie is a likable little fellow who takes pride in his work. And he wants the toys he makes to be perfect. His perfectionism is something many of us can relate to; I sure can. But unfortunately for Elfie, this is no time to be perfect. Or is it?

My favorite part of the story, besides the spectacular full-page illustrations, is that Santa himself knows the reason for the season, or put another way, Santa knows the true meaning of Christmas and who and what it is that makes Christmas special. You have to be open to what I call a “time paradox” (the twist) at the end of the story, if you are, I’m confident that you and your children will embrace the feel-good message presented here. Overall, The Night Before The Night Before Christmas is a sweet story about a very special Christmas gift.


I am giving away a copy of The Night Before The Night Before Christmas, generously donated by the author, to one lucky person. To qualify for the giveaway, you must 1) follow this blog and 2) comment on this post. I will choose a winner at random, who I will contact via e-mail for a mailing address. Sorry, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You have until December 7, 2014 to qualify.

Please share this review and giveaway on social media. Thank you!

Update (12/8/2014): Congratulations to Linda Kautzman, the winner of The Night Before The Night Before Christmas! Thank you to everyone who entered and commented on this post. Look for more chances to win picture books in the future!

The North Pole Penguin by Christopher Payne

The North Pole Penguin

Title: The North Pole Penguin

Author: Christopher Payne

Illustrator: Lorena Soriano

Publisher/Year: CreateSpace/2014

Now that Halloween is over, my thoughts have turned to Christmas. It’s less than two months away after all. I’m already thinking about the decorating, shopping, and visiting that make up part of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. You may be too. But are you also thinking about Christmas books? If not, I have the perfect one to get you started: The North Pole Penguin. 

This book has the potential to be a Christmastime classic. With its clever rhyme and bright, put-you-in-the-spirit illustrations, The North Pole Penguin begs to be read over and over again. The story is about Parker Preston, a penguin from the South Pole, who loves Christmas and longs to thank Santa Claus in person for stopping at his igloo every year. So he sets off for the North Pole with a gift for Santa and meets new animal friends along the way who also want to give gifts to Santa. Some even accompany him on his journey. Here’s a sample from the book:

Upon some thinking long and hard, he knew his Christmas cause

To cross the globe and go and see the man called Santa Claus.

He’d bring him gifts and change the roles before the winter’s thaws

To give back to the special man whose kindness had no flaws.

If you’re searching for a sweet Christmas story with amazing illustrations and the strong possibility of becoming a holiday tradition, The North Pole Penguin is a perfect choice.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie


Title: Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Author: Phyllis Root

Illustrator: Betsy Bowen

Publisher/Year: University of Minnesota Press/2014


Hurrah for nonfiction picture books! If authors and illustrators of nonfiction picture books accomplish their goals to create top-notch books on subjects they are passionate about, then children will learn about captivating people, places, and things in a fun and engaging way. Nonfiction picture books must, just like fictional stories, grab and keep the attention of young readers. Often this is done through story-like text and eye-catching illustrations.

In Plant a Pocket of Prairie, author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen introduce us to an endangered ecosystem, the native prairie of the United States, and many of the plants and animals that can be found there. Through sparse, flowing text that connects each page to the next and large, beautiful pictures, Root and Bowen succeed in capturing prairie life and conveying to readers the importance of not only cherishing it but helping it continue on. Plant a Pocket of Prairie is a fascinating look at native species that may be in our own backyards and yet we take them for granted.

Did you know that native prairie once covered almost forty percent of the U.S.? But now less than one percent remains! Due to the encroachment of people (farming, grazing, building, etc.), prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. And unfortunately, as it says in the back of the book, “We can’t bring back the prairie as it once was.” But there is hope for at least some of the native prairie plants and animals. All you have to do is “plant a pocket of prairie”.

Planting prairie plants and attracting prairie animals, especially various species of birds and butterflies, as suggested by this book, would be a perfect outdoor project for parents or teachers to work on with their kids or students.



Title: Gordon (A tale of a baby American bison)

Author/Illustrator: Martha Mans

Publisher/Year: WinterBird Press/2014


Children’s picture books are works of art. Gordon, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Martha Mans, is proof. Hold it in your hands. Look at the front cover. Turn is over and look at the back cover. Open it up and flip through the pages. Let your eyes take in all the majestic beauty of life on a Colorado ranch.

Then start at the beginning and read about Gordon, a young American bison, and his animal friends. Follow along as he is rescued from a creek, meets new friends, and finally discovers what he is and where he belongs. Gordon is an endearing story based on true events and it really brings to life, especially through Martha Mans’ amazing watercolor paintings, a part of America that many people may not be familiar with.

I really like how this story introduces readers, young and old, to the animals and wildlife that can be found in the gorgeous state of Colorado, particularly the bison. Did you know that back in the 1800’s, bison were on the brink of extinction? But thanks to the efforts of many, bison are no longer in danger of disappearing, at least for now. And thanks to Martha Mans and Gordon, the majestic bison will not soon be forgotten.   

The Toothless Tooth Fairy


Title: The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Author: Shanelle Hicks

Illustrator: Anca Delia Budeanu

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2014


Author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have created a dazzling fairy story, in their picture book The Toothless Tooth Fairy, that could easily rival any fairy book on the market today. Their book is filled with brilliant illustrations that depict seven lovely and ethnically diverse young tooth fairies who have come together to take part in the Miss Tooth Fairy Smile Contest. For fairies who place much importance on teeth, a smile contest certainly seems fitting.

One tooth fairy in particular, Bella, was known for her beauty and her kindness. All of the other fairies thought for sure that she would win. But one jealous fairy, Zelda, maliciously causes Bella to lose a tooth. With a missing tooth, Bella no longer feels beautiful, so she sets off to find a tooth. Her three attempts to borrow a child’s tooth fail and Bella returns to Cloud Nine defeated and depressed where she meets Zelda who brags about what she’s done and how she will win the contest. But instead of being angry or being upset that she won’t win the contest, Bella feels sad for Zelda and because she is a kind fairy, gives Zelda a hug. Her magical hug transforms Zelda’s heart and she becomes beautiful too, on the inside and the outside.

What I like best about The Toothless Tooth Fairy is the message that true beauty comes from a kind heart. The message is not preached, but rather it is woven into a sweet and entertaining story that kids (especially young girls) will enjoy.

Alphabet Wildlife A To Z


Title: Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

Author/Illustrator: Nata Romeo

Year: 2014

Nata Romeo’s stunning children’s concept book, Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, introduces young readers to the 26 letters of the alphabet accompanied by corresponding animals.

I’m truly impressed by Nata’s watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, which are visual feasts for the eye. Some are bursting with color while others are wholly black and white. Most are a mix of both color and black and white, but all of them are unique, lively, and beautiful to look at. My favorites include the bird on the “B is for Bird” page and the cat that sneaks its way in at the very end of the book. Nata’s choice to use the image of the lion for the front cover was a good one. It’s attention grabbing and gorgeous.

While Alphabet Wildlife A To Z will help children learn the alphabet, I believe the book will stimulate artistic creativity in children as well. Kids are going to want to draw their own animals surrounded by fun and dramatic backgrounds, just as Nata has done, and I think that’s awesome!

The Gentleman Bat


Title: The Gentleman Bat

Author: Abraham Schroeder

Illustrator: Piotr Parda

Publisher/Year: Ripple Grove Press/2014


The Gentleman Bat is a spectacular debut for picture book publisher Ripple Grove Press. From the amazing front cover all the way to the satisfying conclusion, I was completely mesmerized and drawn into a bygone era filled not with people, but with gentleman and lady bats. The text is fluid, fun, and fantastic to read, and is complemented by beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. 

Join the gentleman bat as he takes a stroll along cobblestone streets dressed in his finest attire and ready for a night on the town.

The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane,

went out for a walk one night in the rain.

He meets his lady friend and the two head to the town square where a band is playing. She accepts his offer to dance.

He spun her around and dipped her down low;

she giggled and laughed and kicked up her toe.

Could there be a romance brewing?

Their hearts fluttered wistfully as he departed,

and made his way back to his house where he started.

The Gentleman Bat is a lovely story that will entrance both children and adults. And if you are not a fan of bats, this picture book just may change the way you feel about the oft-misunderstood creature of the night. The Gentleman Bat is available for pre-order now and is due out October 1. Congratulations Ripple Grove Press!

The Change Your Name Store


Title: The Change Your Name Store

Author: Leanne Shirtliffe

Illustrator: Tina Kugler

Publisher/Year: Sky Pony Press/2014

Summary: Wilma Lee Wu doesn’t like her name anymore, so she decides to try on some new names at the Change Your Name Store and is transported all over the world to new cultures.

The Change Your Name Store is a fantastic first introduction to new cultures for the youngest armchair travelers. It’s super fun to read aloud, which is good because you may be reading it over and over again. Its rhyming text not only rolls off the tongue, but also presents some rather unusual names  from around the world that kids will find fascinating. 

The energetic illustrations perfectly depict a precocious little girl, Wilma Lee Wu, as she imagines herself with a new name and experiences life in new cultures. I especially like how her dog accompanies her to all the new places and even becomes a poodle when they arrive in Paris. I also like the wraparound cover with the beautifully detailed buildings. There’s a library on the back!

I can relate a bit to Wilma. When I was growing up, I didn’t like my name either. I even approached my mother once about changing it to Lorraine or Lorena (I know, they’re not that much different from my name, silly me.). It was, of course, a phase I was going through, and it didn’t take long for me to appreciate and embrace my name, just as Wilma does.

Arthur and the Elephant


Title: Arthur and the Elephant

Author: Fiona Campbell

Illustrator: Laura Vann

Publisher/Year: Purple Poodle Press/2014

I am a big fan of elephant stories. Elephants are amazing creatures. With their huge size, large ears, long trunks, and wrinkly skin, it’s no wonder that kids are fascinated by them. So it just makes sense that kids would like stories about elephants too. And I know they will love Arthur and the Elephant. 

Author Fiona Campbell tells us the amusing story of a boy named Arthur who discovers an elephant sitting on his bed. His mother has rented out his room. She doesn’t know that Mr. Grey is an elephant, but Arthur does. He just needs to prove it. The rest of the story follows Arthur as he tries everything he can think of to expose the elephant beneath the bowler hat and funny glasses. 

I like artist Laura Vann’s large, full-page illustrations. They are both sweet and humorous and pair nicely with the text. I’m especially fond of the background images and textures she’s used to depict the walls in Arthur’s house. Very nice!  

Overall, Arthur and the Elephant is a fun, clever, endearing story with lovely illustrations and a satisfying ending. Share a copy of this book with your kids today!

Children’s Classics on DVD



Not too long ago, while at the library, I came across the DVD Guess How Much I Love You (The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare): Friendship Adventures (2011).

I instantly thought that I should watch it and see how it compares to the classic book written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram.

So I checked out the DVD along with the book Guess How Much I Love You (1994) and another, more recent title, The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare (2012). I needed to refamiliarize myself with the story and the characters.

The DVD does a nice job bringing the beloved Little Nutbrown Hare, his father Big Nutbrown Hare, and his animal friends to life, in seven short chapters. It’s skillfully animated and beaming with beautiful color. I love the flowers that are all over the meadow and the sweetness of the characters.

The stories are about friendship, sharing, caring, honesty, feelings, promises, forgiveness, and doing what’s right. It’s perfect for the littlest viewers, just like the books are perfect for the youngest readers. Recently, I discovered that there are other books and other DVDs starring Little Nutbrown Hare and his friends. So if you are looking for a good, sweet series for your young child, I highly recommend this one!

This comparison got me thinking about other classic children’s stories that have appeared on DVD, or have been made into movies or TV series. I’m sure there are quite a few. If you know of any, especially those of you who have kids, please share!



Here Comes the Easter Cat

Here Comes the Easter Cat











Title: Here Comes the Easter Cat

Author: Deborah Underwood

Illustrator: Claudia Rueda

Publisher/Year: Dial Books/2014

Summary: When Cat tries to replace the Easter Bunny, he soon learns that the job is much harder than he expected-and does not allow time for naps.


I am getting my review of Here Comes the Easter Cat in just in time, since Easter is right around the corner. If you’re looking for an Easter picture book that’s clever, unique, and elicits smiles with every new page, then this is the book for you.

Author Deborah Underwood manages, in her delightful story, to create an interactivity between the reader and the starring character Cat, all without buttons to push, or moving parts, or batteries. Of course, all books should trigger this kind of connection for the reader, but Deborah takes this concept one step further.

Cat and Reader speak directly to one another. The first line reads, “What’s wrong, Cat? You look grumpy.” In response, Cat holds up a picture of the Easter Bunny. Then the reader says, “The Easter Bunny? What about him?” Then Cat holds up a picture of hearts and makes an “I don’t get why everyone loves him so much” kind of face. So we get a back and forth between Cat and Reader, a conversation really. The best parts are the expressions on Cat’s face, a new one on every page. Illustrator Claudia Rueda does an excellent job portraying Cat’s thoughts, emotions, and moods through his expressions. Kids will love it!

The book is also unusual in that the cover is smaller than the typical picture book and there are more pages than in the typical 32-page picture book. Here Comes the Easter Cat would make a great gift for a child.  It would fit perfectly into an Easter basket. Aha!