Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kid Lit: Cinderstella

I received this book for free from the publisher. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes by Brenda S. Miles & Susan D. Sweet

Published on October 17, 2016.

Amazon Summary:
Cinderstella has plans for her own happily ever after. A future princess she is not. Her calculations and equations are simple enough—she'd rather be an astronaut!

Read along in this modern retelling of a beloved fairy tale, as Cinderstella challenges what is expected of her to pursue her true passion and find a universe of opportunity in planets and stars. Includes a "Note to Readers" that provides suggestions for parents, caregivers, and educators to spark children's interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and related careers despite lingering gender stereotypes and biases that exist.

My Thoughts:
What a great book! Cinderstella takes the Cinderella story and turns it on its head. During the day, Cinderella helps her stepsisters get ready for the princes ball, but at night she makes her own plans. She looks at the stars and dreams of being an astronaut. When her fairy godmother arrives to get her ready for the ball, Cinderstella tells her she has other plans. The fairy godmother instead gives her a spacesuit and a rocket ship. And the stepsisters decide they have other dreams as well, and the three sisters go into space together.

I love this story. It's so important to tell our girls stories that aren't tales of princes and princesses living happily ever after. It's important for them to dream of careers, especially those in the STEM fields. This book is not preachy, but it does contain some additional resources for parents at the end on how to encourage girls into STEM pursuits, or at least how not to discourage it. This book is a truly a Cinderella story for the next generation. Cinderstella is a girl after my own heart.

My Rating: 5 Stars

On the blog last year...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cybils Fiction Picture Books - Batch 9

I don't know if I can take another rhyming stanze picture book...

...yet here we go.

There's a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins (ages 3-6)

This book is silly. A bear sits in a mouse's chair, and he does not like it. Told completely in rhymes, he expresses his dissatisfaction to the readers, but never to the bear. Finally he cannot take it. He leaves and goes somewhere else - the bear's house. When the bear finds him, he is quite surprised.

4 stars

The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (ages 6-10)

A great gift book for older children (even college bound), this book reminds children to admire the world, to trust their feelings, and to explore the unknown paths. The message of being true to one's self and always look up to the stars or the sky is timeless.

4 stars

Stripes the Tiger by Jean Leroy (ages 3-6)

What a cute story. Stripes the cat wants to be a tiger. He imagines and pretends by roaring and sharpening his claws on the couch. One day his owner gets sick of it all and takes Stripes to the zoo to see a real tiger. The tiger longs to be a house cat, so the two switch places. They both get what they want, and they're happy.

4 stars

More-igami by Dori Kleber (ages 5-8)

Great book about persistence and determination! Joey loves things that fold, so when his classmate's mother comes and shows them origami, Joey asks if she can teach him. She does, but she says he'll need to practice a lot to become a master. He uses all the paper in the house, and his family does not like it. His friend at a restaurant lets him fold napkins there every day until he masters the crane.

5 stars

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies (ages 3-8)

This book can be read two ways. For younger children it may just be an adventure that a boy and his grandfather take together to a desserted island. But older kids may see it for what it is, a metaphor for death. Syd's grandfather decides to stay on the island and so he is apart from Syd, but never truly gone.

4 stars

Motor Miles by John Burmingham (ages 3-6)

Miles is a difficult dog. He doesn't obey, but he loves driving in the car. His owner decides she cannot drive him around all the time, so her neighbor builds him his own car and teaches him to drive. Miles and his master Norman go driving all over the place until Norman is too big to fit in the car, and over time Miles becomes an easier dog. It's silly and fun.

3 stars

Herbie's Big Adventure by Jennie Poh (ages 4-6)

Herbie the hedgehog is growing fast, and his mother says it's time for him to go on a foraging adventure. Herbie is nervous at first, but his confidence grows as he begins to explore the world. He stays away just long enough to be happy when he comes back home again, and his mother is happy as well. I enjoyed this story, but it kind of feel flat at the end.

3 stars

Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies by Carmen Oliver (ages 4-8)

This book outlines all of the reasons that bears make the best reading buddies. It will encourage young readers and help parents learn to be more patient with their children who are just learning how to read. The pictures that accompany the words and really adorable. This book would be a perfect gift for a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher. I may just buy it for my son's teacher.

4 stars

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers by Melanie Walsh (ages 5-10)

Isaac has Asperger's, and other people don't always understand him. In this book he explains his "superpowers" so that kids can understand what it means to have Asperger's. He says things when they pop into his head, he doesn't always get jokes, high pitch noises hurt his ears, he doesn't like to make eye contact, etc. It's a great book to help explain this condition.

4 stars

One Big Family by Marc Harshman (ages 3-6)

A multi-generational family gathers at the grandparents summer house, and they do all kinds of fun things together - swim, fish, eat, take a family photo. The drawings were wonderful, but the writing style was strange. Each page ended with a word being said, no rhymes, instead of telling an actual story.

3 stars

When Penny Met POTUS by Rachel Ruiz (ages 5-8)

Penny's mom works at a big white house and her boss' name is POTUS. Today Penny is going to work with her mom, and she imagines what POTUS will be like. Her imagination is far from the reality, since POTUS stands for President of the United States. This book is a nice introduction to the white house, secret service, and the president (in this case a woman).

4 stars

The Whale by Ethan and Vita Murrow (ages 5-9)

In this wordless picture book, two kids set out to prove the existance of a giant spotter whale. When their boats crash, they have to work together to get the proof. It's a tale of adventure and excitement, but it may take a parents' explanation for younger kids because the pictures are dark and a bit confusing.

3 stars

What's your favorite picture book of 2016? 

On the blog last year...

Book Review: A Step Toward Falling (YA)

A to Z Bookish Survey

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cybils Fiction Picture Books - Batch 8

I now have 18 books on my shortlist. Yikes! We're only allowed to have 5-7 by the end of round 1. This is going to be so hard!

Are you ready for more mini-reviews? Here we go!

Midnight Madness at the Zoo by Sherryn Craig (ages 3-5)

This book is cute. The animals at the zoo play basketball late at night when everyone has left the zoo. It's a counting to 10 books, but it also includes a lot of basketball vocabulary. There's a dictionary at the end as well as some STEM activities. The rhyming stanzas in this book were very awkward at times. I had difficulty reading it. Sometimes there were too many syllables, sometimes not enough.

3 star

Norbert's Big Dream by Lori Degman (ages 4-6)

Norbert the pig dreams about swimming across the English Channel, so he trains hard everyday. When he's finally ready, he cannot find it, so his friends help by labeling a stream "Norbert's Channel." They hide and watch him swim. He feels like a champion, but instead of going back to being a normal pig, he dreams a new dream. This book is cute and inspiring.

4 stars

The Messy Book by Maudie Powell-Tuck (ages 3-6)

When Cat makes a mess, she tries everything she can to get rid of it without actually cleaning it up. Finally Dog gets her to clean up. Honestly, this book kind of stressed me out. I don't like messes. Kids will probably find it amusing, but it was a little confusing and too chaotic for me.

3 stars

King Baby by Kate Beaton (ages 2-5)

This book is clever. It's written from the perspective of a baby. He's the king. He brings people joy and they serve him. When he gets frustrated that his "subjects" don't bring him what he wants, he learns to crawl, then walk and talk and run. Soon he is a big boy, and he isn't the king anymore. When Queen Baby comes along, she is the new ruler. With simple text and great illustrations, many families will relate to this book.

3 stars

Your Alien Returns by Tammi Sauer (ages 3-6)

The little boy in this story has a friend alien who comes to take him on an amazing adventure. The day is filled with fun things for friends to do together, and when something goes wrong, the alien shows compassion and helps the boy move on. It's a sweet friendship story with some fun alien things thrown into the mix.

4 stars

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright (ages 4-8)

This book didn't follow the path I was hoping it would. A little mouse wants to be more like the loud, outgoing lion. He decides to ask the lion to teach him to roar. I love the line that says, "But if you want things to change, you first have to change you." So true. Sadly, the lion doesn't teach him to roar. Instead the lion is afraid of mice and shows he has some "mouse" inside. They become friends, but the resolution feel short for me.

3 stars

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark (ages 3-8)

This book is almost like a song. The text changes on the "refrain" pages when it shifts from talking about different animals and where they belong to addressing the listening (the child) as it describes how he/she belongs with the parent. I could see this also being a book that parents might buy as a gift for their child when he/she graduates from high school.

4 stars

How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide (ages 5-8)

Gideon wants to be a hero. He contemplates the heroes from the stories he loves and realizes that they didn't really do anything. They were just in the right place at the right time. He gets to be a hero at the end, but it's not for any reason you'd expect, and there's someone else who is the true hero who is unrecognized. It's an odd ending, but it could spark good discussion with children.

3 stars

Baby Wren and the Great Gift by Sally Lloyd-Jones (ages 4-6)

A baby wren watches the other animals with their amazing gifts - flying, swimming, swinging by their tails, and she wonders what she can do that's wonderful. And then she composes and sings a song about the beauty of the world, and she finds her voice and her gift. It's a sweet story.

3 stars

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton (ages 4-8)

Errol plays with his teddy bear, Thomas, everyday. But one day Thomas is sad. He doesn't want to go to the park to play and nothing cheers him up. He finally tells Errol that he wants to be a girl teddy named Tilly. Errol accepts this without questions as does Errol's friend, Ava. It's a great book to start talking to kids about transgender people.

4 stars

Feathers for Peacock by Jacqueline Jules (ages 4-6)

This book is an original tale about how birds, and especially peacocks, got their feathers. It's a cute story about generosity. It's not very scientific - it talks about hiberating birds and featherless birds, but it's color and fun. I enjoyed the message and the style of writing.

3 stars

The Bear Who Wasn't There by Oren Lavie (ages 5-9)

This book is so strange. And really long. It starts with an itch that scratches itself against a tree and grows bigger and bigger until it becomes a bear. The bear doesn't know who he is, but he finds a note in his pocket with 3 clues. He sets off to discover if he is really himself. I don't even know what else to say. It was too weird for me. I didn't really understand what was supposed to be happening, and there were SO. MANY. WORDS. This book was not for me.

2 stars

Have you read any of these books? Which would you like to read first?

On the blog last year...

Friday Fiction #6: Fear

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kid Lit: Good Morning, Chickalina

I received this book for free from the author. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Good Morning, Chickalina! by Sonal Panse

Published on September 27, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
This charming, illustrated book introduces beginner readers to Chickalina, a good little chick who likes to help her parents, Papa Rooster and Mama Hen, whenever possible. In this story, Papa Rooster has a bad cold and something must be done so that he won't miss the Kuk Kudu Ku when the sun rises.

This is the first of a series of Chickalina picture books, featuring Chickalina's family and their various animal and human friends. Wild animals, domestic animals, farm animals (none of whom are ever, ever, ever, eaten!) and civilized human beings predominate in these wonderful children's books.

Children and grown-ups will love the beautiful, full-color picture book illustrations by author and illustrator, Sonal Panse.

My Thoughts:
In this story, little chick runs all around the farm trying to find some ginger for rooster's tea. He has a cold, but he needs to crow to watch up the farmer. In a similar style to Are You My Mother? the book introduces many different animals and herbs using a repetitive exchange between the chick and the other animal. That repetition will make it more engaging for younger children (but also a bit tedious for adults to read aloud).

This book is perfect for ages 3-5. The illustrations are cheery, and while the text is a bit long, the repetition makes it a quick-ish read. The resolution is a little unexpected but fun. I enjoyed this book.

My Rating: 3 stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

On the blog last year...


Friday, November 25, 2016

Cybils Board Books - Batch 2

My library only had 22 of the 41 nominated board books. Percentage-wise that's significantly less than the nominated fiction picture books. I wonder why.

Here are 10 more board book nominations for Cybils.

Big Chickie, Little Chickie: A Book of Opposites by Janee Trasler

This book is lyrical and silly, but as far as a book of opposites, it's not the greatest. It has some opposites included in the story, but it's not a clear and concise list of opposites. I'd recommend it for older toddlers (ages 2-4) versus the typical board book ages of 0-3. The chickies in the story are getting ready to have their pictures taken, and some craziness ensues.

3 stars

Two Long Ears by Jacob A. Boehne

This book counts from 1 to 10 using different types of "body art." I have to say the picture on the cover is a little creepy to me. All of the pictures in the book relate to piercings, tattoos, and platted earlobes. Call me judgemental, but it wasn't really for me. I guess it could be good for helping kids understand diversity.

2 stars

Shhh! I'm Sleeping by Dorothee de Monfried

This story is cute and funny. There are two 4-bed bunk beds in a room, and no one can sleep except Popov, who is snoring away. The other animals ask each other for help and move around as they whisper in the dark. When Popov wakes up well rested in the morning, he wonders where everyone is. He finds them all asleep in one of the top most bunks where Misha has read them all a story. This book introduces the concept of speech bubbles, and kids will enjoy tracking the animals' movements around the room.

4 stars

Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn

This book isn't a true board book. It has card stock pages, so it's best for ages 2-4. Leo loves to swim, and his daddy is taking him to swim lessons. This book walks through all of the activities in a parent and child swim lesson. It's a perfect read for before taking your own child to swim lessons. The illustrations were fun and the text was simple, and it will help kids know what to expect.

4 stars

Dinosaur Dance! by Sandra Boynton

This book is classic Sandra Boynton. It's full of fun noises and rhyming phrases. The dinosaurs all do their own dances until everyone wants to try the tiny, nameless dino's cha cha cha. It's really fun and quick and short. Kids will love this one, and parents won't mind reading it again and again.

4 stars

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro

This book breaks down the science of flight and space travel to its very basic elements and explains how birds fly, how airplanes fly, and how rockets can blast off into space. I love how simplified things are so that even the tiniest children can begin to understand. I love how this series makes science accessible to small children. I wish I'd had this series when my son was younger.

5 stars

Black Cat & White Cat by Claire Garralon

I like the illustrations in this book. They really make the story. Black cats only live in white houses, and white cats only live in black houses, so when Black Cat visits White Cat, he disappears. They need to find somewhere else to meet, so they can find each other to play. They end up in a colorful place. It's strange, but cute, and visually fun.

3 stars

This Little Explorer: A Pioneer Primer by Joan Holub

This book has cute little rhymes about many of the famous explorers from Christopher Columbus to Amelia Earhart to Neil Armstrong. There is also additional information about each person that can be read as children get older. Many additional explorers are listed at the back of the book as well. It's a great resource for adventurous little ones.

4 stars

Everyone is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch

This cardstock book with lifting flaps shows everyone yawning from the pig to the hippo to the little child. Everyone is showing how sleepy they are by their big yawns. In the end, everyone goes to sleep. This is a great bedtime book for kids ages 2-4.

4 stars

I'm Grumpy by Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm

Rain cloud is grumpy because he's dropped his ice cream off the cone. Sunny the sun tries to cheer him up, but it only makes him grumpy. But when he goes, "Kaboom," and scares Sunny away, he feels even worse. He gives her a flower to say he's sorry, and then they both feel better. Written as a comic book, this book is a cute introduction to that style of writing.

3 stars

What's the last board book you read?

On the blog last year...

Where I read

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I am thankful for...

Happy Thanksgiving! You may remember from last year that my family has a tradition of painting our handprints on the table cloth each year and writing 5 things we're thankful for. I don't have a picture of my handprint yet because I'm writing this post in advance, but here is my list.

5 Things I'm Thankful for 

My New Job

I started working at Trusted Media Brands in the Publishing Technologies department in July. I got into the company using my IT background, and now in addition to my technology projects, I am writing the Book Club column for Country Woman magazine. The environment is very creative, and the people are all so positive and great to work with. Seriously, I've never worked anywhere where no one complained about the company. I haven't heard anything negative about leadership in the 5 months I've been working there.

Christopher's Teacher

1st grade has been a completely different experience than kindergarten. Christopher has only gotten in trouble a handful of times. I am SO thankful not to be struggling as much as we were for the last 2 years. Jim and I both know that it's 100% because of the teacher Christopher has this year. She sees all of the good in him. She appreciates his intelligence and his questions and his leadership capabilities. She gives him a lot of positive feedback and coaching, and he's receptive to it because he respects her and because she is nice to him. It's been so wonderful.

Bernie Sanders

The last few weeks have been hard. The election did not turn out the way I was hoping, and I am very fearful for where our country is heading. But...I am very thankful that Bernie Sanders has not given up hope. I am following him closely on Twitter and Facebook and trying to understand what we can do to prevent Trump from doing too much harm. You all know how much I wanted Bernie Sanders to be our president, but I am glad he hasn't faded into the background and that he is continuing to spread his message of revolution and inspire people to work for change.

Southwest Companion Pass

By some fluke (I swear we didn't meet the requirements to earn it) Jim ended up with a Southwest companion pass for 2016, and it has been amazing. We have seen my family a lot more this year because either Christopher or I was able to fly for free anytime Jim flew somewhere on Southwest. We'll be taking our last trip with the companion pass over Christmas break, and I'm so happy we were able to squeeze one my trip in before it runs out at the end of the year.


After the many doors that have been opened to me this year because of my love of reading, I am thankful for books. They are the perfect escape, the perfect rest for my stressed and weary mind, the perfect way for me to relax when I just need a little time to myself. Reading is truly my favorite pastime, and I am always thankful that there are so many books available for me to read.

Note: This year I decided to go for some non-traditional things for my list, but it goes without saying that I am thankful for my family, friends, food, shelter, and all of the other necessities that I am fortunate enough to have in my life.

My handprint and thankful list from 2015.

What are you thankful for?

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Preschooled

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kid Lit: Animal Planet: Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Animal Planet: Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Animal Planet

Published on October 11, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Animal Planet presents the ickiest, stickiest, blobbiest, and oddest animals in the world!

Did you know that an archerfish can spit water up to 16 feet? Or that the giant weta is the world's largest and heaviest insect? Animal Planet's fascinating exploration of animal oddities introduces young animal lovers to some of the most astonishing, gorgeous, and obscure animals in the world-including some brand new discoveries! Packed with more than 200 vibrant photographs and fun facts about animals with unusual behaviors, strange appearances, and remarkable stats, this deluxe gift book is perfect for reluctant readers or anyone who loves totally gross and amazing animals. 

My Thoughts:
This book is broken into 4 parts - strange, unusual, gross, and cool animals. Each section features about 30 pages of animals with interesting facts about them. Did you know that when koalas are first weened off of their mother's milk, they eat a modified form of feces? Pretty gross, right? Were you aware that some frogs have star-shaped pupils? Pretty cool, huh?

This oversized book features stunning photographs of the animals being discussed. Each animal has a sentence or a paragraph describing it, so it will definitely get kids interested and asking more questions. This book is perfect for children ages 5-10 who are interested in exploring the more unique animals living on our planet. The end of the book features a dictionary and glossary to aid in learning.

My Rating: 4 Stars

On the blog last year...

Inside & Out over on Bookmark Lit

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cybils Fiction Picture Books - Batch 7

I had a little "helper" for this round, so it was rather slow going. :)

More nominees...

Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez (ages 5-8)

This fun retelling of Hansel and Gretel is full of ninja moves and smart chickens. The rhyming stanzas are done well and the book flows very well. I enjoyed that the parents were alive and needing rescuing. I need to check out the other books in the series.

4 stars

The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg (ages 6-8)

In this story, a young boy visits Coney Island with his parents, who are both deaf. He father asks him to describe the sound of everything, but it's very difficult because he doesn't know enough words. He gets a book of poetry from the library to help him. I enjoyed this tale. It explains deafness and compassion.

5 stars

Henry Wants More! by Linda Ashman (ages 3-6)

Little Henry wants more of everything. His family is exhuasted from throwing him up in the air over and over, playing the same song on the piano, pulling him in the wagon up and down the street, etc. It's really cute and so accurate. Toddlers have so much energy! This is a fun read for older siblings and parents.

4 stars

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty (ages 3-8)

If you read this book without the pictures, it's a very different story. It affirms all of the stereotypes about girls needing to be beautiful and wear makeup and look perfect. But with the pictures, we see a different way to define beautiful. Girls having fun, being smart, and playing sports. This book is wonderful.

5 stars

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin (ages 3-6)

This retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is pretty gruesome. I think the grandmother is actually eaten, but Little Red outsmarts the wolf and he gets it in the end. The illustrations are fun with only little red being in color (red of course).

4 stars

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk (ages 4-8)

This book is so cute. A little boy and a dragon are assigned as penpals in school, but they don't know what creature the other is. They write letters back and forth, and you can see what the reader is imagining and what the writer meant. It's really funny. There's a picnic at the end, and when they finally meet they are confused but happy. It's a good read.

4 stars

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon (ages 3-6)

Dennis is a mime. He doesn't say anything; he just acts things out. His miming puts Dennis on the outside of a wall with his classmates. One day he finds a friend who is happy to play along with his imaginary games.

4 stars

Let's Play by Herve Tullet (ages 2-4)

This fully interactive book will have little ones giggly for sure. They have to tap, press, following the line, and do a lot of other fun things to make the yellow ball move while reading this book. It's very creative and really fun. I kind of wish my son was young enough to still enjoy a book like this one.

5 stars

I'm a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail (ages 3-6)

In this story the little girl is not sweet and nice, she's not quiet or clean. She's messy and fast and likes to have fun being herself. When people mistake her for a boy, she's not afraid to yell, "I'm a girl!" It's a good message I guess, but I found it a little confusing. Some of the statements about boys were rather stereotypical and a little mean.

3 stars

Little One by Jo Weaver (ages 3-5)

In this story a mother bear shows her cub (Little One) all about the world in the forest when they emerge from their den after the winter. It's a cute mother-child story. I could see it being given as a gift to parents of any age. At the end, they have to go back into their den for winter again. It's short and sweet.

3 stars

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers (ages 3-6)

A little girl helps illustrate the wonders of the imagination and the importance of books and stories. The words of classic literature help to make up the pictures on each of the pages, and they books tied in with the text on that page. It's a great concept and was very well executed.

4 stars

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer (ages 4-6)

A twist on Mary Had a Little Lamb, this Mary brings glamour to her school. She loves to accessorize and helps her new classmates, teachers, etc. learn to do the same. But when recess comes, how will they play with all of those extra items? Not to worry, they shed their unnecessary items and learn that sometimes less is more. I didn't love this one. I'm a minimalist, but I'm sure a lot of young girls will love this story.

3 stars

Which of these books have you read?

On the blog last year...

Life Milestone: Losing the first tooth