Four Perfect Picture books to read on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing!

It's been fifty years since we landed on the moon!  To celebrate this day, we read KITE FOR MOON, PENGUINAUT, TINY LITTLE ROCKET, and SUN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL.  

"Down below, a very small boy flying his kite on a beach near his house, looked up at the moon. 'Moon!" He called up to her. 'Don't be sad!'"

KITE FOR MOON iKITE FOR MOON, by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, and Matt Phelan is a lovely, lyrical story of a boy and his friendship with the moon. The story evokes discussion about space exploration, astronauts and the beauty of relationships and adventure. The gorgeous illustrations enhance the text and make this an excellent read aloud.

"And with a shake, shake, shake of a half-filled soda bottle, the ship was ready for liftoff. 
 It was perfect. And perfectly penguin-sized."

PENGUINAUT by, Marcie Colleen and Emma Yarlett is an imaginative journey of friendship and adventure.  When Penguin feels small, his creativity leads him on a journey that teaches him that he's not alone, and there will always be friends who want to join him on his adventures.  A clever and gentle read aloud with perfect word choice and pacing, and delightful illustrations!

"There's a tiny little rocket
that will take you to the stars. 

It only flied there once a year, 
but zips you out past Mars."

TINY LITTLE ROCKET by Richard Collingridge takes the reader for an out of this world ride through space.  Written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, this book will take you on an adventure you'll never forget. 

"Once in a while, it gets dark in the daytime because the moon gets in the Sun's way.  That's called a solar eclipse, and it only lasts for a little while.
Moon covering the sun: Look what I can do!
Sun: Yes, yes. We are very impressed.  Now keep moving."

Filled with humor and engaging information, THE SUN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL by Nick Seluk is the kind of book that kids will read over and over again. Although the sun is the main character in this book, the moon is also featured and discussed. The illustrations are fun and the informational text is written in a way that kids will understand and seek out. 

What books are you reading as you celebrate the 50th anniversary of our moon landing? 

The Broken Bees' Nest, by Lydia Ludikis and André Ceolin

“'BEES!' Keya cried. 'Run for your life!'
Arun grabbed her hand. “They won’t hurt you
if you don’t bother them. Bees are totally amazing."

THE BROKEN BEE'S NEST, by Lydia Lukidis, is a great way to introduce bee facts to any child. The engaging fictional story is interspersed with fun facts about bees, and there's additional backmatter too that helps kids understand how to be friends to bees. Whimsical illustrations by Andre Ceolin pair with well chosen words that encourage kids to respect living things, make things with their hands, and create. This story is part of the MAKERS MAKE IT WORK STEAM series, one of many books that empowers young readers to explore ideas and use their creativity.

The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad

"They are like puzzle pieces, straining toward each other, trying to form a whole, but being kept from unification by viscous matter than to Fatima Ghazala's eyes looks very much like grief made tangible."

Nafazia Azad's debut novel is lovely, lyrical and filled with diverse characters.  The book is about belonging and family and powerful women.  The world building is extensive and immersive and I found the premise intriguing and the plot fast paced.  This story will evoke discussion of grief, loss, discrimination, war, differences, friendship, loyalty, family and love.

The cover and entire book are dazzling, yet I found it hard to connect with at first.  There were so many words that I didn't understand that it pulled me out of the story as I tried to use context clues to discern the meaning. I didn't realize until the end of the book, that there was a thesaurus which I definitely needed!  Overall, well-worth the read!

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Two Terrific New Picture Books!


"Dinosaurs love company. Why not encourage you pet to meet new people and make friends? This can also be a good opportunity to teach your dinosaur about...sharing"

How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by  Jason Cockcroft, is delightfully fun to read. The illustrations enhance the already entertaining story with comical and expressive characters. The story follows a routine that will mirror most kids daily routines in a way that is both predictable and surprising. This is a great bedtime book for any dinosaur or pet lover.

"I'm waiting for Chicken Smith.  He won't be long now."

Waiting for Chicken Smith, by David Mackintosh, is a quirky, child-like story about a kid who is waiting for his summer friend to show up.  As his younger sister repeatedly tries to get his attention, he ignores her and explains that he can't attend to her because he is waiting for Chicken Smith.  Finally the main character listens to his sister and is rewarded with a delightful surprise.  Perhaps sisters can be just as much fun as friends?  The whimsical illustrations add to the well chosen text and help young readers understand loss and appreciate the relationships that they have.

Finding Orion plus GIVEAWAY!!!!

"It's hard, sometimes, reconciling the difference between what you really feel about something and what you know you're supposed to feel."

John David Anderson's books never fail to engage and amaze.  FINDING ORION is a story of grief, belonging, and finding your place in the world.  Orion Kwerk is the only ordinary person in his family of brilliant and quirky characters. A life full of strangely flavored jelly beans, constellations, dictionaries and show tunes is interrupted  when Orion's grandfather's death is announced by a singing clown.  Papa Kwirk's death leads Orion and his family to a journey full of mayhem, mystery, ice cream, understanding, and forgiveness.  

To win a copy of this book, comment on this post. If you share on facebook or twitter, you get another entry. Giveaway closes in one week.

Sometimes you need to lose something in order to find yourself.
Beloved author John David Anderson returns with a heartwarming, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of the true power and limits of family.
    Ron Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.
    He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.
    Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but fell that that’s not the end of the story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.
    He doesn’t know how right he is.

John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s never eaten seven scoops of ice cream in a single sitting, but he thinks it sounds like a terrific idea. You can visit him online at

Blog Tour May 6-14 2019
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"'I'm falling in love with you, too.'

I hear nothing else.  the sound those words carry is far greater, so much more exceptional, than any piece of music I could ever make."

ALL OUR BROKEN PIECES by L. D. Crichton took my breath away. The story is compelling and the characters realistic and complex. I found the book so engaging and thought provoking that I read past midnight, and then couldn't stop myself from percolating on what would happen next in this story of star-crossed teens. 

This stunning debut YA mirrors the teens' English project on Romeo and Juliet, but they are determined for a happy ending. Pairing a girl with OCD and a boy with serious external scars was brilliant and I love that two broken people come together to help each other heal.  As a marriage and family therapist, appreciate how Kyler accepts Lennon as she is, expressing curiosity about her quirks and how this helps Lennon accept her own quirks, leading to fewer compulsions.  And Lennon accepts Kyler for he is, helping him to understand that he doesn't need to hide his scars in order to live the life he wants to live.  The song lyrics in this book powerfully express Kyler's angst, the texts and letters between the MC's also made for an interesting, and well written book.  Still in a residual book haze after reading this one!

Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna M. Holyoak

"I held the tissue to my eyes because, for the first time in my life, I was getting a lecture I didn't deserve. The skin on my cheeks prickled and it felt like goose bumps blossomed on my scalp."

Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers is filled with interesting characters whose curiosity and sleuthing create delightful mayhem and a compelling read. Kazu is a strong, independant, clever 11 year old who is determined to find and return all the dogs that have gone missing in the town. Her rag tag group of friends are realistic and interesting, the plot is fast paced, and the mystery is fun to decipher as a reader.

Happy Book Birthday, Kazu!  I can't wait to read more of your adventures!

Happy Book Birthday to TWINCHANTMENT, by Elise Allen!

'"Let's not wait until a better way comes along--let's make a better way come along. Our Ascension Ceremony's next week, right?  Once it's over, and we're officially in line for the throne, let's just tell the truth!" 

"The truth?"  Flissa echoed.  "About us?"'

This magical adventure features princess twins who must pretend that they are one person.  What an incredible hook!  I found this story engaging, fast-paced, intriguing and filled with mystery.  The sisters perfectly balance each other out in a way that's heartwarming and hilarious.  Themes of loss, loyalty, friendship, teamwork, trust, illness, death, and grief will get readers thinking and talking.  I can't wait to find out what happens as the story continues in book two! 

Three Perfect Picture Books

"Nothing like a frosty cold drink," said the bear. '"So much better than 
the forest-temperature drinks at home."

THE GREAT INDOORS, by Julie Falatko and Ruth Chan is a clever and witty, as usual. Julie Falatko creates a whimsical world where animals take their vacation in someone's house. Filled with the hulla-baloo of animals in a house, the adventures don't stop until the very last page when you discover....well, I won't ruin the surprise. Such a fun read aloud, and good book for laughs.

Bare bear... "Stop right there!  You should be wearing underwear!!!"

Happy Book Birthday to UNDEREWEAR! Jenn Harney's rhyming text and expressive illustrations make this the kind of story that readers will want to read aloud over and over again. It starts with a bang and continues to make readers laugh with hilarious illustrations and clever text. 

Once again, the tree branches 
gracefully swayed back and forth
and leaves floated down.

Lawrence studied the leaves as he gathered them--the 
yellow one with rounded edges.

LAWRENCE IN THE FALL, by  Matthew Farin and Doug Salati is a beautiful story about a little fox who needs to show his collection at school. But, he doesn't have a collection! Little Fox forages the forest with Papa, eventually finding a beautiful collection of his own. Expressive illustrations combine with lyrical text to create the kind of story that will evoke discussion about nature, trees, collections, getting lost, and show and tell. 

Why you should read BAT and the End of Everything, by Elana K. Arnold

"I thought she was getting a ride home with Ezra," Bat said. He knew his voice sounded whiny, but he couldn't make it sound different.

A BOY CALLED BAT and BAT AND THE WAITING GAME, are two of my favorite recent chapter books. BAT AND THE END OF EVERYTHING is the perfect end to the trilogy. It masterfully shows the inner life of an autistic boy. Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book is fun to read and will resonate with kids and adults alike. The friend and family relationships and portrayal of autism and it's challenges are authentic and compelling.

BAT is quirky, likable and genuine. His reactions to the world and to other people show how he misunderstands people's cues, yet it is obvious that his intentions are always good. Throughout the book, people misunderstand BAT'S good intentions, particularly when he speaks very literally without realizing how it will make others feel. 

In this third book, BAT has a better understanding of how other people might misunderstand him and keeps some of his thoughts to himself in a way he wouldn't have earlier. His sibling relationship has changed also. Janie, his older sister seems to understand BAT better and voluntarily spends time with him. She also has hard days in this book which helps BAT realize that he's not the only one who struggles. 

I love how well BAT cares for Thor, his skunk, how much he worries about releasing Thor into the wild, and how both Thor and BAT calm down when they are together. The book covers themes of loss, autism, divorce, diversity, pet care, parents dating new people, friendship, siblings, and connection.

I highly recommend all three books! Both my 8 year old son and I found each one compelling and thought provoking.

By Elana K. Arnold
Published by Walden Pond Press, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780062798442

About the Book
Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) ahs been the caretaker for Thor, the best skunk kit in the world…but the last day of third grade is quickly approaching, and Thor is almost ready to be released into the wild. The end of school also means that Bat has to say good-bye to his favorite teacher, and he worries about the summer care of Babycakes, their adorable class pet. Not only that, but his best friend is leaving for a long vacation in Canada.
Summer promises good things, too, like working with his mom at the vet clinic and hanging out with his sister, Janie, but Bat can’t help but feel that everything is coming to an end.
National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold returns with the third story starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.

Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including Damsel a Michael Prinz Honor Book, and What Girls are Made of, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at

March 26             Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 27             Kirsti Call @kirsticall
March 30             Read Now Sleep Later @frootjoos
April 1                  BluestockingThinking @bluesockgirl
April 2                  The BoookMonsters @thebookmonster
April 3                  Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @melissaguerrette
April 4                  Librarian’s Quest @loveofxena
April 5                  Novel Novice  @novelnovice
April 6                  Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders
April 7                   Lit Coach Lou @litcoachlou

Must Read March Releases!

The universe poured into me.
My brain was overloaded.
It smoke and glowed red-hot. And then
it actually exploded.

My 8 year old son and I read THE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD  in one sitting. We both loved the playful language, humor, and interesting facts embedded in each poem. Anyone interested in astronomy will find this a delightful read. Whimsical illustrations enhance the well chosen words to create a true work of art.

Birds are like thoughts. They come, stay awhile...and then fly away. They fly where their hearts call them. Birds are free. They make our imaginations soar.
I adore bird books! BIRDS's lovely lyrical text combines with whimsical illustrations to produce the perfect read-aloud. I love how it starts with different types of birds and what they do and then ends with how birds are metaphors for life! Kids will enjoy the colorful illustrations and the variety of birds on each page. This book is truly a work of art.

It all started yesterday when my roommate, Barbra, got out her new recorder. She only knows this one terrible song and keeps playing it over and over again. I hate the recorder! And you're not even allowed to use the word hate. But I just did, so there.

Reminiscent of THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, this hilarious and interactive book will joke your child right out of a bad mood. The idea of an angry cookie is comical and Cookie's strong personality shows kids that feelings aren't permanent and it's okay to feel mad sometimes. This is a great book to evoke discussion around how thoughts leads to feelings and how to deal frustration. ANGRY COOKIE is a super fun read aloud!

Circle closed her eyes. "I wonder," Circle said. "What kind of shape was it?"

CIRCLE is an interesting book about friendship, overcoming fears and imagination. I love all the Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen books--the illustrations perfectly compliment the sparse text. Although I found the ending intriguing, I felt I was left hanging in the end. Perhaps this is another thing we can learn from this book--not all mysteries will be unshrouded!

What new releases have you read recently?

The Fairest Kind of Love, by Crystal Cestari

"Out of wishes, and out of time, I decide to make what I'm sure will be an Amber Sand Top Five Worst Choice Ever..."

Happy Book Birthday to THE FAIREST KIND OF LOVE, by Crystal Cestari!

Although I never read the first two books, in this series, I ADORED this book. This story is filled with mystery, complex characters and magical teens who never do what their parents want them to do. I love Crystal Cestari's story voice and can't wait to read the first two books in the series.

This is the perfect entertaining romance--all about a matchmaker whose skills are on the fritz, who only wants to see matches again and help people find their true loves. So. Much. Fun. 

"Sharp wit makes [Cestari's heroine, Amber Sand] an authentic and relatable narrator as she's forced to learn how to see the magic in everyday."--Publishers Weekly

"This cute take on paranormal romance is stuffed full of entertaining supernatural creatures: a nightclub-owning vampire, a high school siren, a gold-digging leprechaun...more adventures to come."--Booklist

More about the book: 

Amber Sand has spent half her life solidifying other people's happily-ever-afters. As a matchmaker, she has the ability to look into anyone's eyes and see their perfect match. But lately, her powers have been on the fritz, and not only is she totally unsure whether her matches are true, she can't see anyone in the eyes of her boyfriend Charlie Blitzman. With Amber and her friends graduating high school and about to take off for various colleges, Amber is hoping to have one last carefree summer-but she's also dying to find a way to fix her powers, and learn, for better or worse, if she and Charlie are truly meant to be.

So when an online matchmaker named Madame Lamour comes to Chicago, Amber sets out to talk to her and find out who her match is once and for all. Of course, when it comes to the magical community, nothing's ever that easy, and Amber soon finds herself caught up in a breathless showdown that involves a fairy family feud and a magical-creature auction--and requires teaming up with a certain siren nemesis. Can Amber and her friends save the day one more time before setting off for their new lives? And will Amber ever learn whether Charlie is her one true love?

With tons of laugh-out-loud moments, appearances by all your favorite characters, and one totally tearful reveal, you won't want to miss a single swoony moment of this romantic conclusion to the Windy City Magic trilogy.

More about the author:  

Crystal Cestari lives just outside Chicago with her daughter.  Her hobbies include avoiding broccoli and wanders the aisles at Target.  She holds a master's degree in mass communications, and writes all her stories longhand.  She is also the author of the first two books in the Windy City Magic series, THE BEST KIND OF MAGIC and THE SWEETEST KIND OF FATE.  Visit Crystal at and on Twitter @crystalcestari

Jed and the Junkyard Rebellion, by Steven Bohls

"Who Am I?

He tried to think.  The image of a burning heat melting his mind surfaced.  He shook his head.  Memories felt buried and looked blurry--dreams he could not remember.

What am I?"

Happy happy book birthday to JED AND THE JUNKYARD REBELLION, the perfect companion to JED AND THE JUNKYARD WAR!  Quirky, magical, steampunk with genuine surprises combined with a fast plot and wacky world building make this a must read.  The book reminded me of Serenity and Cinder; filled with danger and humor at the same time.  Themes of friendship, loyalty, temptation, choices, heroism, love, adoption and family will evoke discussion and thought.  As Jed discovers his true potential, the reader is swept up in his journey and how he transforms from scrawny inept boy into a self assured, powerful, literal golden boy. 

The Simple Art of Flying, by Corey Leonardo

Happy happy book birthday to THE SIMPLE ART OF FLYING by Corey Leonardo--a breathtakingly beautiful book. The stunning cover, lyrical writing, and 3 points of view makes this a phenomenal debut novel. Since the story is told through poetry, prose, letters and a medical log, each character is distinct, complex and relatable.

I love Alistair, the African Grey Parrot whose intellect and determination to escape to be with his sister drive almost all of his actions. He writes the most beautiful poetry. One of his poems is written after Bertie (POV #2-- a grieving old woman who writes letters to her dead husband), attempts to teach him his colors:
"That ribbon is not BLUE--
It's ghost-whale ocean-dust.
That couch-it's not pink--
It's pearl-berry petal-wisp..."

Fritz is the 12 year old aspiring doctor whose differences make it hard for him to make friends. His medical logs and interactions with other characters in the story help us understand his fears, his longing to connect with his father, and the price he's willing to pay for friendship. The book covers themes of grief, loyalty, hard work, friendship, family love, pet/owner relationships, freedom, depression, anxiety, and discovering that you've always had what you needed all along. 


"Thoughts fluttered frantically around Lark's head, looking for somewhere to roost. Iris was keeping things from her. Iris was sad. Iris was crying in camp. Iris was skipping camp. Iris had been wound up so tightly, and now she was unwinding everywhere. 'Something's wrong, Lark said quietly. 'really wrong.'"

I read this stunning story about identical twin girls in one day. This magical book captivates with beautiful writing, complex characters, and realistic relationships. Anne Ursu does an incredible job of putting you inside the head of 5th grade girls. She interweaves a plot filled with mystery, emotion and humor. The book encompasses themes of doubt, fear, loyalty, love, family, friendship, monsters (literal and figurative), feeling different, and being ok with being different. 

To win a copy of this book, comment on this post. If you share on facebook or twitter, you get another entry. Giveaway closes in one week. 

Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different.
    When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story  starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive,  dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each  other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.
    When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different  classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself  as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city  around them: things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand  that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.


“The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island

“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts

“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)

Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
MONDAY FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club