Perfect Picture Book Friday! Red: A Crayon’s Story

13 Feb

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it really shows how we need to look inside of a person, and not judge by appearance or expect them to be a certain way.

redRed:A Crayon’s Story

Written and Illustrated by Michael Hall

Hardcover: 40 pages ages 4+
Published by Greenwillow Books on February 3, 2015

Theme/Topic- Being yourself

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening – “He was red.

Synopsis (from publisher) – “Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone!”

Why I liked this book- This seems the ultimate “be yourself” book. It shows that if you just judge by appearance, you can get an entirely different outlook than on what’s inside the “wrapper”. The illustrations are quirky and fun to look at. I like how the white page is really “paper” for the crayons to draw on. That was pretty cool. This is a wonderful book, and I was happy to review it. “Red” is a nice crayon who you care for. There is some humor in the story, because the reader instantly knows that Red is blue. This is a nice book for diversity teaching.

Activities and Resources-

There is a printable activity and teacher’s guise to go along with the books at the publisher’s website. Click HERE to get them.

Get some crayons and make an adventure for them! Or, have the crayons DRAW the adventure for them!

Or how about getting coloring pages and have kids color the pages colors that aren’t the “normal” colors for the picture – like this one – I think the woolly mammoth wants to be pink with a little brown. ;)


To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!

Review! X: A Novel by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz

12 Feb

xX: A Novel

By Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz (the daughter of Malcolm X)

384 pages – ages 15+
Published by Candlewick on January 6, 2015

Synopsis- Malcolm Little was 6 when his father “fell” onto the tracks and died. He was 12 when he was separated from his mother and siblings, and forced to live in a foster home. His family who always told him he could be anything he wants is gone. At 15, he left for Boston to find a new life, and he does. He gets going with the neighborhood kids, and becomes known as Red. He starts in on “reefer”. Then he catches a train to Harlem, and becomes known as Detroit Red (he was from Michigan). Now Malcolm is learning how to run the “numbers” as a hustler. He was doing pretty good, but soon enough, everything spins out of control.

What I Though- Wow. Just wow. This was an amazing fictionalized novel. I really didn’t know about Malcolm X before reading this book. This book covers his life from early childhood up to his early 20s. The writing is compelling. It really captures the feeling of the time period. I like how it shows the way the Malcolm saw things and how he handled them. While the book is definitely a young adult (cussing, and Malcolm drinks and does drugs (smokes marijuana), etc.), it is still a very well-done story, and is appropriate for a mature 13-14 year old, or just 15+ for reading level. I like the parts where it shows how Malcolm Little “turned into” Malcolm X. It was a very inspiring story about a person overcoming adversity. It was pretty cool that Ms. Shabazz is Malcolm X’s daughter, and she got information about the book by asking her father’s relatives and friends from the time “before the X”. Realizing the book is a work of fiction, it made me want to find out more about Mr. X and his life so I read some books suggested by my history and English teachers. While I found many of his adult teachings and views are controversial, I think any book like this one, that gets a kid to read more about the subject is great. The overall story in this book is one of a young man trying and failing over and over, but still pulling himself together in the end. Ms. Shabazz captures the story of a young Malcolm X in a riveting story. Bonus points for the cover art too!

I give “X: A Novel” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Some fun picture books for Valentine’s Day!

11 Feb


With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d tell you about a couple of very cute picture books that celebrate love! :)


Clark the Shark Takes Heart

Series: Clark the Shark

By Bruce Hale

Illustrated by Guy Francis

4 – 8 years
32 pages – ages 6+

Published by HarperCollins on December 30, 2014

Synopsis- (From publisher) “It’s Anna Angelfish’s birthday, and Clark wants to find the perfect present for her to show her how he feels. But when he tries to make a big impression with his usual zip, bang, and BOOM, things don’t go quite as planned. With help from his best friend, Joey Mackerel, our favorite boisterous shark learns that when it comes to showing that you care, something thoughtful and small could be the best of all.”

What I Thought- This was a nice picture book. It isn’t really a Valentine’s story, but can be read as one. Clark wants to show a classmate he likes (Anna Angelfish) how he feels for her birthday. With a little help from his friends, Clark finally figures out that it’s the little things mean the most. That’s a nice message. The illustrations are fun and cartoony. They make you want to laugh out loud. Clark is a shark, but he isn’t mean. At all. He may be accident-prone, but he’s actually pretty nice.

lovebugThe Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Love Bug

By Mike Berenstain

4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Series: Berenstain Bears
24 pages – ages 6+

Published by HarperFestival on November 25, 2014

Synopsis- (From publisher) “When Sister Bear is asked to be the flower girl at a Valentine’s Day wedding, she is over the moon with joy. But when she gets carried away with the dresses, flowers, and cake, things begin to go awry. Young readers will feel the excitement—and the love—with this brand new storybook complete with a special poster, fun stickers, and Valentine’s Day cards.”

What I Thought- This is a great addition to the Berenstain Bears series! I like how it covers a wedding and Valentine’s Day in one shot. The series is a nice familiar one that parents can read with their kids. This story provides a good lesson for young kids. The art in this story is, like all of the books in the series, well-done and have that warm feel to them. All of the details in the illustrations are fun to look at and pick out.

didyouknowDid You Know That I Love You?

By Christa Pierce

4 – 8 years
32 pages – ages 2+

Published by HarperCollins on December 23, 2014

Synopsis- (From publisher) “Did you know that I love you? Could you feel it in my hugs? From her soft kisses and soothing hugs to her tasty tea and warming mug, Bird sweetly expresses her love to Fox so he knows that no matter how big he gets or where he goes, her love is always with him.”

What I Thought- This is a very sweet picture book about loving one another – not necessarily about Valentine’s Day but it is a great book about feeling loved.  The art in the book is very nicely done and makes you just want to smile, just like the book will. I like how there is the detail of how Fox has “freckles” on his face, making him look youthful. The book is marvelous and would make a great bedtime story.

Review! Night Buddies Go Sky High by Sands Hetherington

9 Feb

nightbud3Night Buddies Go Sky High

By Sands Hetherington

145 pages – ages 7+

Published by Dune Buggy Press on

Synopsis- John Degraffenreidt and his Night Buddy, Crosley (of Night Buddies Amalgamated) are back from their last adventure! After getting almost-attacked by the escaped Iguana Gang member from book 2, John and Crosley are hungry. Hungry for some pineapple cheesecakes. But when they get to the pineapple cheesecake factory, they find Big Foot Mae (the owner and runner of the factory) lying on the floor looking up at her star-puzzle (it shows all of the stars and their current positions) on the ceiling. There is a strange white dot in the sky, and it’s moving from the Corkscrew Constellation to the Houndog Stars. The Night Buddies team need to investigate it, and pronto. After all, what if the mysterious dot is hostile? They go get into a borrowed racing blimp and go high – sky high!

What I Thought- This is the third book in the Night Buddies series (see my reviews of book 1 HERE and book 2 THERE). John and Crosley are a great team and it shows that nice relationship in the book. The idea of the Night Buddies and the “programs” (A.K.A. adventures) they go on is cool and very kid-friendly. The black-and-white pencil-sketch illustrations spread throughout the book are a nice touch. The story line was good. I like how John and Crosley solve their problems. Like all the Night Buddies books, the different fonts of the typed words leap off of the page adding to the fun of the story. The plot moves along and will keep kids interested in the story. This story takes place directly after book 2, but at first I didn’t realize that, until a bit later in the book. I didn’t really care for how the story ended because it left a few too many loose ends hanging (I know a book should leave something for the next book, but I like to have a bit more ending than what was here).  Mr. Hetherington has written a good story that carries on this very enjoyable series.

I give this book four out of five bookworms.fourbooks

Review! The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

8 Feb

lunchwitchThe Lunch Witch #1

By Deb Lucke

Series: The Lunch Witch (Book 1)

180 pages – ages 7+

Will be published by Papercutz on March 17, 2015

Synopsis- Grunhilda the Black Heart is a witch. She is a mean witch, too. But no one really believes in magic anymore, so she needs to find a job. After her job as a fake witch failed (she turned the boss into poop), she needed to find a new job. Grunhilda finds an ad looking for a school lunch lady and decided to try it out. And she loves it. The kids hate it. All was well. Well, until a girl who was going to fail the grade figures out that she’s a witch and tries to blackmail Grunhilda into using her witchcraft make her smart. Grunhilda says no. A couple of days later Grunhilda is serving lunch and sees the girl who’s been held back, standing in line. When the girl says that she’ll always be stupid, something resonates within Grunhilda from when she was in witch training. Can a witch have a change of heart?

What I Liked- The overall tone of the story is very serious (language and pictures), but there is some great humor in this one. The humor and illustrations have an edge to them. The story is packed with “dry” humor (like the school lunch lady ad says “Good cooks need not apply”). The illustrations have a dark-creepy feel to them. I like how the book shows the gradual change in Grunhilda from a mean witch to a nice(ish) lady. The pages had an interesting look to them, like a kind of old-time wearing. I like how Grunhilda and the girl change each other over the course of the story. I also like how the ending has you wondering if Grunhilda really did have a change of  heart. At 180 pages, this graphic novel has enough room to pack a great story into its pages. It looks like this will be an interesting series.

I give this book four out of five bookworms.fourbooks

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Me and My Big Mouse by Ethan Long

6 Feb

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it is a funny book with a great message.

meandmyMe and My Big Mouse
By Ethan Long
32 pages – ages 3+
Published by Two Lions on June 17, 2014

Theme/Topic- Friendship / Relationships

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening – “This is me, Michael. And this is my big mouse.

Synopsis – Michael likes his big mouse, Bo, but sometimes, Bo is a big problem. He hates to be left alone, so Bo follows Michael around. Everywhere. So, how can Michael get some free time without hurting his big mouse’s feelings?

Why I liked this book- Michael is a great kid, and he doesn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings. Bo (the mouse) while nice, can get annoying sometimes and Michael needs a little time without Bo. I like that Bo means well, but he sometimes comes out as over-loving. This book teaches that while you can be friends with someone, sometimes you just need some alone time, too. And even though friends need some alone time, they can still be friends. The illustrations are eye-pleasing and make you laugh out loud. The book is a fun one that I think that kids will really like! I like how Bo is gigantic, not simply “big”.

Activities and Resources-

When I was researching activities for this book I found a bunch of articles saying how important it was for kids to learn its okay to play alone or to be able to play with different groups of friends.

HERE is an article from about teaching toddlers to play alone.

I think a good activity would be to have kids try to have play dates with different kids and if one friend is a little too clingy try to have the friend over while other friends are there so the clingy friend can make more friends.

It’s nice in school when teachers pair up different kids to be partners. I know I got to talk to and get to know some kids in my class that way.

Want to learn more? Check out Ethan Long’s website HERE!

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!




February 2015 UBFP Column – Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff

5 Feb

I write for the UBFP Newspaper!

I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the February 2015 issue! The street and online version was published a couple of days ago. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (see page 9).

I hope you like the article!

Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff!

By Erik Weibel

Kit Grindstaff’s bio says she was born near London, and grew up surrounded by rolling hills, old English villages. After a brush with pop stardom, she moved to New York and became a successful song writer. She now lives with her husband in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Her award-winning debut novel, The Flame In The Mist, is a spooky, magical mystery-adventure for fantasy lovers, ages 9 to 90. It takes place in a fantasy world of Anglavia. Anglavia is ruled by the tyrannical Agromond family. The main character Jemma Agromond, realizes how evil they really are, she runs away only to be confronted with her true destiny. Only she can bring peace to Anglavia, but at what price?




Erik: What steps do you take when writing a book?

Ms. Grindstaff: As soon as I conceive of a story, I have a rough idea of beginning, middle and end. The details fill in as I write. Before I begin writing, though, I explore the main characters, making lists of traits, and creating back stories to dig for conflicts, motivations, and possible plot and character arcs.

Then, I always outline; but I like to write freely within that structure. That way, the characters can take on a life of their own, and often move the story in ways that surprise me – and hopefully the reader as well! I always keep the end in mind, though, and if those characters get too unruly I’ll take back the reins and steer the story where it needs to go. Ultimately you have to remember who’s the author!

Erik: Where did the idea for the Rattusses (Jemma’s telepathc pet rats) come from?

Ms. Grindstaff: Jemma’s life at Agromond Castle being pretty bleak, I wanted to give her some light relief, and more constant companionship than her limited time with Marsh and Digby. So who – or what – could offer her that in a moldering old castle? Rats! (Magical ones, of course.)

As for being telepathic, they just happened that way. From word go, Noodle and Pie knew when Jemma needed help or comfort, and Jemma understood each twitch of whisker and tail. The specifics of their communication, though, developed over several drafts.

Incidentally, they were common-or-castle brown rats until a very late draft. Their golden fur was a “Eureka!” moment—obvious, right? After all, they are emissaries of Light!

Erik: Anagrams play a big part in the story. What was the inspiration behind them? Are you really good at them, like Jemma?

Ms. Grindstaff: At the outset, I wrote down a list of Jemma’s traits: some like me, some not. For example her flame-red hair and sea-green eyes (not like me), and her love of food (like me, though I’m not a fan of entrails). I’ve always loved word play and anagrams, and that popped onto the list too, though I had no idea at first how important they’d become to the plot! I don’t think I’m as good at them as Jemma is. I can only decipher them because I made them up.

Erik: The twists in the book not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but also really surprised me. Your writing style really fits with the plot and setting of The Erik: When did you start writing, and how have your surroundings influenced you?

Ms. Grindstaff: I’ve always loved writing. As a kid: short stories. In my teens: anguished poems, then pop songs – the writing of which is still my long-time profession.

I had a growing hankering, though, to write fiction. Eventually I took a couple of writing courses, and The Flame in the Mist was born. Growing up English, in the land of spooky old churches, graveyards and castles, and misty winters, was hugely influential! I’d include literature as ‘Surroundings’ too: I loved adventures, mysteries, classics like Dickens and The Woman in White (lots of fog and ghosts), and mystery paranormals like The Turn of the Screw. Anything steeped in atmosphere.

Erik: The Agromonds are a treacherous family. What helped in “shaping” them?

Ms. Grindstaff: The Agromonds’ personalities are exaggerated versions of people I’ve known, combined with British archetypes: The snob for Nocturna; the conflicted Lord of the Manor for Nox; the typical spiteful girl for Shade, and Feo…poor Feo! Sprinkle in a dark lust for power (look no further than any empire as a model), et voila! the Agromonds.

I’m also fascinated by the “shadow” side of personality: things people don’t want others to know about them, or even hide from themselves; their secrets and lies (a big theme in the book, as you know). Those hidden things (kept in the dark) are often what twists people and manifest as evil. So I played with that idea in creating the Agromonds. It also influenced the dark-light theme: by becoming aware of those secrets (bringing them to the light) and uncovering the truth, Jemma is able to escape the darkness and find the life she’s always longed for.

Erik: Thank you Ms. Grindstaff!

Ms. Grindstaff: Thanks so much, Erik, for your awesome questions! They were fun to answer.

For more about Kit Grindstaff, please visit!

For more on books visit!



I was fortunate to meet Ms. Grindstaff at the Lititz Teen and Kids Literature Festival last year. That’s how I found out about her great book (and was able to bug get her to agree to an interview). I’d like to tell you a bit more about her debut novel The Flame in the Mist!



The Flame in the Mist

By Kit Grindstaff

464 pages – ages 9+

Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 9, 2013

Summary (from GoodReads) – “Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia. “

 What I Thought: I loved the setting in this book – a world with no sun ruled by magical tyrants. That is my kind of book. The characters in the story are good. Jemma is a good – approaching great – main character. She is smart and spunky. Her character develops through the story and I found myself being drawn into her story. Her telepathic rat side-kicks (Noodle and Pie) are characters that readers will immediately love.  The evil Agromond Family is VERY evil and they are the perfect bad guys. The book is written so that is totally appropriate for MG readers, but the length and reading level is something an older reader will like also.  I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy!

I give this 5 out of 5 bookworms!fivebooks

Review! Tommy Black and the Staff of Light by Jake Kerr

4 Feb

tommyblackTommy Black and the Staff of Light
By Jake Kerr
400 pages – ages 11+
Published by Currents & Tangents Press on November 3, 2014

Synopsis: 14-year-old Tommy Black was living a good life, until he and his guardian (his kind, but boring, grandfather) are attacked by shadows. Apparently his grandfather is a powerful magician that holds a powerful magic staff (who knew?). Whoever has held the staff is called an Archmage, and it is passed on through Tommy’s family. Tommy will be the next Archmage. All of this is quite a surprise to Tommy. Things get even more complicated when Tommy finds out that the magic is dying, and the Shadows (the evil monsters) want the Staff and they are willing to do anything to get it. Now Tommy isn’t sure if his grandfather is dead or alive and Tommy must join forces with a young granddaughter of a powerful Waymaster (a magician who commands a Waystation (which is a magical train station)). It helps that the young girl is an immensely powerful sorceress. It doesn’t help that she is a cynic. But will that be enough to stop the Shadows and find Tommy’s grandfather? And did I mention that Tommy has NO idea how to use the staff? All he can do is make light! Things are about to get very interesting.

What I Thought: I read a lot and I read a lot of magic stories. It is very cool when I come across something very different. This is an amazing book. I was really blown away by the story. Mr. Kerr has created a unique world of magic that can take place anywhere on Earth. It wasn’t until about half-way through the book that I realized that the book takes place right before World War II (one conversation is between 2 experienced magicians wondering if Hitler is some magician of the voice, or just a guy good at speaking (because he rallied so many people)) . Then I had an AH HA! moment. It isn’t that the setting isn’t described well – Mr. Kerr’s writing is top-notch (it’s just that all of the details clicked. Like I realized that the “theater” mentioned was an acting theater, not a movie theater.). The plot line is solid and the story totally entertaining. Tommy is a great character, and while the protagonist is 14, the book could easily be early Young Adult or late Middle Grade because of the length and reading level of the book. It’s the kind of story you can really get lost in.  Tommy has confidence and knowledge that he doesn’t know he has. You cheer him on throughout the book. There is no graphic violence in the book (people get attacked by magical creatures, a person dies, people get shot at, etc., but none of it is gory or graphic).

This book’s recipe:

a good-sized handful of magic,

2 boatloads of adventure and excitement,

1 cup of monsters, finely minced,

& 1 dash of history,

I can’t wait for Book 2! – Could you tell I REALLY liked this one? ;)

I give “Tommy Black and The Staff of Light” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Punxsutawney Phyllis’ 10th Anniversary Birthday Bonanza!!! WOOOO!!!!

2 Feb


(Well – other than having a snow day off of school) ;)

Today is Punxsutawney Phyllis’ tenth Birthday! WOO! Punxsutawney Phyllis is the wonderful character created by the awesome author and hare-brained scheme thinker upper – Susanna Leonard Hill!



Well, Phyllis is an over-eager a nice young groundhog with a funky spirit, so I decided that she needed something with a nice funky tune.


The rules for this contest are (copied from Ms. Hill’s blog):

“Phyllis and I are looking forward with GREAT anticipation to reading YOUR poems for Phyllis [about Phyllis], and hopefully seeing some videos too…!

If you wrote a poem for Phyllis, and/or have photographs, drawings, videos, or other fun feature accompaniments, please add your post-specific blog link to the list below, or post your poem etc in the comments, or Email it to me and I’ll post it for you so that we can all enjoy everyone’s creativity!”

Because I’ve been nagging asking Ms. Hill consistently politely and patiently for a video contest for (at least) a year now, I can’t really not do a video.

So, here it is! The lyrics (written by me) are below the video.

Viva Las Phyllis!


Oh Phyllis you are the finest

They should give you a crown and call you her royal highness

As many times as I’ve read your books

People stare and they give me looks

Well – it just isn’t enough – no – it just isn’t enough

Phyllis It’s your special day

And we just want to say




Oh Phylllis, you are the best

Weather predictions better than the rest.

I watch the six o’clock news

and they get me all confused

I just need to ask you

You tell it to me straight

Forget that news at eight

Al Roker says it’s gonna snow

And you say “I don’t think so”




Happy Birthday Phyllis

Happy tenth birthday!


(and yes, my voice is that deep. :) )


Review! Iggy Loomis: A Hagfish called Shirley By Jennifer Allison

1 Feb

hagfishIggy Loomis: A Hagfish called Shirley
By Jennifer Allison
Illustrated by  Michael Moran
Hardcover: 202 pages – ages 7+
Published by Dial on October 9, 2014

Synopsis: My favorite preschooler-superhero, Iggy Loomis, is back! Along with his older, more responsible brother Daniel, and Daniel’s alien friend Alistair. Daniel is often looking after Iggy and his twin sister Dottie. When Iggy accidently flushes Alistair’s pet hagfish down the toilet, they need to get it back, or else Alistair will be sent back to Planet Blaron. But after the fiasco that happened in Book 1, Alistair’s parents took away his super-cool watch that can do almost anything. Will Daniel (and Iggy) be able to help Alistair before it’s too late? And now Dottie knows about Iggy’s bug superpowers! Can she keep it a secret?

What I Liked: This is a fun series. And who doesn’t love that title -“A Hagfish Called Shirley”?? Iggy was turned into a buggy “superhero” after eating some science experiments. Now he turns into some bug-mutant (random bug parts pop out of his body (wings from his back, antennae from his head, stinger from his bottom)) whenever he gets angry or excited – kind of like the Hulk, but only in preschool form ;) . The bad news is that, for a preschooler, those are the majority of his emotions. Daniel and Alistair really have their hands full with Iggy. The plot, while seemingly simple, really takes a twist for the worst in the book, in a funny way, of course. There are comic-like illustrations that pop around the story, with speech bubbles, and descriptive boxes. Those are pretty cool. Ms. Allison has written a wonderful book! I love this series!

I give “A Hagfish Called Shirley” five out of five bookworms !fivebooks


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