Halloween Picks!

24 Oct


With Halloween sneaking up on us, I thought I’d tell you about some great Halloween books I’ve come across.


whoswhoWho’s Who in the Woods?

Written by Eryl Norris

Illustrated by Andy Mansfield

18 pages – ages 1-5
Published by Little Bee Books on October 6, 2015

Synopsis from Publisher- “Find out which pair of eyes belong to which woodland animal in this engaging novelty book with pop-ups on every page!

It’s nighttime in the woods and there are eyes peeping out from the darkness—but who do they belong to? Pop-ups on each page reveal different woodland animals, including an owl, a bear, a wolf, and more.”

What I Thought- This is a cute pop-up book. i like it that the pages are very sturdy.  I don’t like it when pop-up books get caught up or bent easily. The book is illustrated in white and shades of gray with big yellow eyes for kids to figure out who they belong to.


The illustrations have just a little bit of spookiness about them – just right for young kids. The story has the reader trying to figure out who a “terrible creature” in the woods is. After examining all sorts of glowing eyes in the woods, the creature turns out to be a little mouse. This will make a great read aloud for Halloween night!

turkeyTurkey Trick or Treat Hardcover

by Wendi Silvano

Illustrated by Lee Harper

40 pages -ages 3 – 7
Published by by Two Lions on August 11, 2015

Synopsis from publisher- “Everyone loves Halloween candy—even Turkey. But how can he and his barnyard friends get any when the farmers give it out only to children? With a costume, of course! As his pals look on, Turkey comes up with one clever costume after the next. Each trick gets better and better…but will Turkey and his friends end up with any treats? This hilarious companion to Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus is filled to the brim with holiday fun.”

What I Thought- This is a funny story that kids of all ages will like. Silvano’s story has Turkey wanting to get some Halloween candy but can’t fool the farmer into giving him any (candy is only for kids not farm animals!). The story shows great teamwork as the farm animals help turkey come up with solutions. After each failed attempt – the farm animals show perseverance and don’t give up. In the end, their solution is ingenious (won’t give it away😉 )! Harper’s illustrations add an incredible amount of detail and humor to Silvano’s fun story.
hideousHideous History: Trials and Trickery Hardcover
by Sandra Lawrence

Series: Hideous History
64 pages – ages 10+
Published by Little Bee Books on July 5, 2016

Synopsis from publisher- “All the grim, gruesome and gory bits of history they never teach you in school!

From the betrayal and murder of Julius Caesar by Marcus Brutus to the gunpowder plot to overthrow the English government of Guy Fawkes to the outlandish trials of witches, this book is packed with men, women, and historical events that involve unfair trials and unspeakable treachery. Others included are: La Malinche, the Spanish Inquisition, the trial and execution of Charles I, the betrayal of Jesse James by Robert Ford, and trial and execution methods, among others. Kids will love the scrapbook style and all the illustrations and charts!”

What I Thought- This was an interesting book. Warning that it is a little gory. It describes deaths, beheadings, and other grisly things – not in extreme details but enough to get the idea.  The pages are laid out in a neat way, with text boxes, illustrations, and pictures. It makes it visually appealing to the reader. Kids get to learn a bit of history too.

hideous2It is a really neat nonfiction read, and kids will like reading about the things they don’t really hear about in school. It is an interesting book that will appeal to reluctant readers too!

missperigineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

382 pages – ages 14+
Published by Quirk Books on June 4, 2013

Synopsis from publisher- “A mysterious island.

 An abandoned orphanage.

 A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.”

What I Thought- Okay – so I haven’t read this book yet but it is sitting next in line on my to be read list after seeing the movie. I am one who never sees a movie first, but my mom wanted to go see this (she read the book) and took me along. Mom said the movie does the book justice (she had a few minor complaints). Well, I loved the movie and am expecting the book to be even better. I think this creepy paranormal story will be great for teens this time of year!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Wonderfall by Michael Hall

21 Oct

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 just a wonderfulfall book!

By Michael Hall
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by Greenwillow on September 6, 2016

Theme/Topic- Beauty in life / Environment

Genre-  Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening:Peacefall. A gentle breeze is jiggling me.”

Synopsis from Publisher: “Wonderfall follows a single tree through the changing of the seasons. People, animals, and vehicles pass in front of the tree, celebrating holidays, playing in its leaves, and getting ready for winter. Fifteen combined words (thankful + fall = thankFALL, plentiful + fall = plentiFALL) underscore the themes and concepts of the season, while the main attraction—the beautiful tree—drops acorns, loses leaves, and provides food and a home for a pair of scurrying squirrels. Two full spreads at the back of the book offer additional information about the animals featured in the book, as well as the science behind squirrels, acorns, and saplings.”

What I Thought- This is a really neat poetry book. It shows the coming and passing of fall from a tree’s point of view. The poems are mostly free verse, with the occasional rhyming word (probably just coincidence). The illustrations are really neat, as you can see the subtle changes as fall progresses.


I also really like the collage illustrations. The colors are bold and contrast well. There is also a lot going on in the illustrations. The reader can pick out new details when re-reading the book. The text is easy enough for early readers to read and the book also makes a great read aloud.  I really enjoyed this book.

Activities and Resources- 

I love it when books have their own resources built in! This book has a great end-section with notes on  wildlife and how they get ready for winter.  There is also a description of what happens to trees during the winter. A great addition to the book!

There are some great tree related activities at Fantasticfunandlearning.com HERE.

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

Review! The Bowl and the Stone by Bish Denham

20 Oct

bowlThe Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands

By Bish Denham

109 pages – ages 8+

Published by Bound Post Publishing on October 3, 2016

Synopsis- from the author –
It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them?

Their carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, and Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

What I Thought- This was a really good book with a solid story-line. I really love the setting and Denham’s description of the Caribbean. The story also teaches you about the culture in the Virgin Islands. The friendship between Sam and Nick (and Trumps) is a highlight of the story. It rings true to the reader and is enjoyable to read about. The story is an intriguing ghost story and mystery that is written well for Denham’s young audience.   The story is slightly scary, with the right amount of tension for a young person’s mystery. This is a good clean read.


I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Who is Bish Denham?


Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts, at www.http:/bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.com.

She can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BishDenham/Author

Twitter @BishDenham

And Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6439315.Bish_Denham

Review! Putting Bungee to Bed by Sasha Carr

18 Oct

bungeePutting Bungee to Bed

Written by Sasha Carr

Illustrated by Linda Neptune

40 pages – ages 4+

Published by Off to Dreamland on June 1, 2016

Synopsis- Ben and Bungee are best friends, but when they stay up all night bouncing and talking, they start getting more and more tired. When they start getting angry at each other and realize it is because they are exhausted, Ben decides to take matters into his own hands. He makes a list of bedtime rules, and he and Bungee try to follow them.

What I Thought- This was a neat concept for a book on bedtimes. Dr. Carr is a psychologist and family sleep expert and has great insights on how to get your toddler to go to bed and stay in bed. It is a unique story.  The message of the book is more of a lesson for parents to lay down some rules for bedtime. Kids can easily relate to the characters and I like that Bungee is a monkey. The illustrations are funny and make the story feel less like a “lesson” and more like a bedtime book.



This is a great debut picture book, and I will be looking for more from Dr. Carr.

I give this book five out of five bookworms.fivebooks

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Enzo’s Very Scary Halloween by Garth Stein

14 Oct

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 nice not too spooky book for Halloween.

enzoEnzo’s Very Scary Halloween 
Written by Garth Stein
Illustrated by R.W. Alley
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by HarperCollins on July 26, 2016

Theme/Topic- Halloween

Genre- Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “‘Tell us about Halloween, Daddy,’ Zoë says one fall evening. ‘But tell it the scary way!'”

Synopsis from publisher: “When Halloween comes around, Enzo doesn’t know what to expect. Jack-o’-lanterns light up the streets, giant spiders weave webs on porches, and ordinary lawns become creepy graveyards while every child and dog transforms into a creature of some kind—including Enzo!

Enzo the dragon is determined to protect fairy princess Zoë from the monsters and goblins in their neighborhood, but when things get a little too scary, his family is there to reassure him that everything is make-believe and only meant to be fun—just like the wonderful trick-or-treat parade that ends this spook-tastic night! R. W. Alley’s fantastic illustrations bring Enzo to life as he discovers the frightful fun of Halloween. “

What I Thought- I really like the Enzo books and this one is a nice addition. They are nice stories that have the innocence of a young puppy learning about a holiday. Young kids will like how Enzo misinterprets the idea of Halloween, and is very frightened because of it. The illustrations are perfect for the story, with a sweet almost-cartoon feel. Stein’s writing style is nice for read-alouds, and teachers could use this book to talk with kindergartners or preschoolers. I’ve enjoyed Stein’s middle-grade books and am finding I enjoy is picture books just as much.

Activities and Resources- Activityvillage.co.uk has a good list of Halloween activities and resources HERE.

FamilyEducation.com has a list of Not-Too-Spooky Halloween activities for kids – click HERE.

Read a sample from the book at the publisher’s website HERE.

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

Review! Write Back Soon! by Karen Benke

12 Oct

writebacksoonWrite Back Soon!: Adventures in Letter Writing

By Karen Benke

208 pages – ages 8+

Published by Roost Books on September 22, 2015

Synopsis- Have you ever had the joy of receiving a letter from a close friend? Followed closely by the comfort of writing a letter in reply? When was the last time that happened? Karen Benke has written a comprehensive guide to letter-writing. She includes prompts, with room on the paper for you to write in. There are also letters from authors providing advice, and little facts and inspirations are also scattered throughout the book.

What I Thought- Ms. Benke has written more than just a book about writing letters, and the reader leaves the book a better communicator. One of the things I really like is that Benke encourages the reader to write letters to themselves and reflect on their thoughts and writing. It makes the reader analyze what they wrote, and also things going on in their lives. The prompts are realistic, and thought-provoking. There is a lot of great advice from the author and guest authors that really help the reader. There are lists and other facts in the book, such as a list of most of the countries in the world, and the US state abbreviations. It also talks a little about the James Farley Post Office, which has a really neat pneumatic air delivery system. (That’s really cool!) I really enjoyed this book, and think it is great for kids and adults as well. Letter writing is becoming a lost art form and this book will encourage a new generation to “write back!”

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up By Bianca Schulze Blog Tour! AND GIVEAWAY!!!

12 Oct


101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up

Series: 101 series for Kids

By Bianca Schulze

Published by Walter Foster Jr on October 1, 2016

144 pages / ages 8-12

Synopsis from the publisher: 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up provides a comprehensive list of kid-friendly books for children to read before they grow up. This must-read review list acts as an interactive journal where kids can document the books they read, why they like them, and how they rate them. Divided into sections by subject, from fairy tales and fantasy to sports and nonfiction, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up celebrates the importance of reading and encourages family participation to develop lifelong readers. The perfect reference guide for book lovers of all ages, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up helps both kids and parents decide which books to read next!

What I thought: This is a nice addition to the 101 Series for Kids. When I first saw the title of this – 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up – I immediately thought – come on, how can you possibly come up with this list? There are SO MANY books you should read before you grow up! Then I read the following author’s note –

“There are so many amazing books to be discovered and read—and far too many to list in one fun book. The 101 awesome books contained in these pages have one collective message: Be kind, be brave, and make good choices. Remember the struggles of those that came before you and those who will come after you. Be true to yourself, and with every page you turn, live your life like an epic adventure.”

Makes sense.

Plus, Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review so she knows what she is talking about. Scanning through the table of contents, yes I did see some books I think should have been listed, but I can’t argue against any of the books Schulze lists (well maybe one). And, she only got to name 101 (although in the “What to Read Next?” section following each book description Schulze got to list a few more).


As with all the books in the 101 Series for Kids, the pages are well-organized and colorful. Schulze gives a brief synopsis of each book and some comments as to why the book belongs on the list. There is also a section below each book named for kids to record that they read it and write what they thought of it. The variety of books Schulze suggests is wonderful – ranging from classics to adventure, humor to historical fiction. Schulze even gives a nod to graphic novels. There is a nice selection of culturally diverse books and I was happy with the mix of classic and more modern titles represented.



Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review, a resource devoted to children’s literature and recognized by the American Library Association as a “Great Website for Kids.” She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children’s book lover. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s bookseller, Bianca’s goal is to share her passion to help grow readers.


To enter the giveaway to win this book, all you need to do is comment telling us what book you think everyone should read!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Mervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable AND Giveaway Winner!!!

8 Oct

It’s PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY *err* – SATURDAY!!! I know I am late, but I had a busy week which I will tell you about later…

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 fun story celebrating friendship.

mervinMervin the Sloth is About to do the Best Thing in the World
Written by Colleen AF Venable
Illustrated by Ruth Chan
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by Greenwillow Books on September 13, 2016

Theme/Topic- Friendship

Genre-  Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “‘There you are, Mervin!

What are you…’

[falling letters from the sky] Mervin the Sloth is about to do the best thing in the world”

Synopsis from Publisher: “Mervin the Sloth is just standing there quietly when giant letters drop onto the page: “Mervin the Sloth is about to do the best thing in the world.” But what is the best thing in the world? What is Mervin about to do? 

It doesn’t take long for all of Mervin’s exuberant animal friends to barge in with their own ideas. Flying! Digging! Gazelling! Wait, gazelling? Is that even a word?

If only sloths weren’t so slow! Because maybe it’s something even better. But only Amy the red panda sticks around to see it.”

What I Thought- This book is a very sweet book about friendship. Mervin never says anything throughout the course of the book, but an observant reader will notice that the illustrations in the book breathing life into the character. The illustrations are very funny and cute and remind me of a comic strip. The writing is simple but effective, with most of the words in dialogue between the characters, and the two sets of falling-letter sentences. The book is quite wonderfully simplistic but the text and illustrations tell a full story. Kids will love flipping through, looking at the animals and reading what they are saying. There is a humor to the book that lends itself to making a great read-aloud.

Activities and Resources- Healthline.com has a good list of friendship activities for kids of all ages HERE.

There is a very in depth list at Kidssoup.com with friendship crafts, games and other things HERE.

Check out the book’s trailer!

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

WAIT!!!!!! Don’t leave yet!!!

Do you guys remember the Groovy Joe book I reviewed, and how I said I would announce the winner on the 5. As you can see, I am a bit late, but the winner is:


Groovy! I’ll be emailing you soon!

Review! Bioengineering by Christine Burillo-Kirch

5 Oct

bioengineerBioengineering: Discover How Nature Inspires Human Designs

Series: Build It Yourself

Written by Christine Burillo-Kirch

Illustrated by Alexis Cornell

128 pages – ages 7+

Published by Nomad Press on August 9, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “In Bioengineering: Discover How Nature Inspires Human Designs, young readers explore designs and innovations that come from nature. Leonardo da Vinci studied birds’ wings to draw his design of a man-made flying machine and engineers still look to birds when attempting to make planes more aerodynamic. And a burr on your shirt from walking through a field sticks like Velcro, doesn’t it? The plant and animal world provides engineers and scientists with a host of ideas to apply to the human world to make it a better place to live.

Bioengineering explores different fields, including communication, transportation, and construction, and follows the process of engineering from the raw material of the natural world to the products we use in the human world every day. Activities such as building cantilevers and inventing a new fabric that mimics pinecone behavior require kids to think critically about their own needs and find creative ideas to fulfill those needs using designs from nature. Essential questions and links to digital and primary resources make this book an engaging and illuminating experience.”

What I Thought- This is a really neat nonfiction book. It explains the core concepts of bioengineering in terms that kids can understand. I really enjoyed how it simplified the theories, which I’m sure are actually quite complex, and also included projects to help the reader understand the topics even more. The projects are simple, and use everyday objects that would cost little to nothing to make. There are neat illustrations that help teach the topics and break up the text in an enjoyable way. This is a really nice introduction to bioengineering and its major ideas. The text is not overly complicated which is amazing because of the complex topics it is covering. This is a very well thought out and written book! The binding of the book reminds me of a school workbook, but the colorful illustrations, projects and engaging text makes it so much better than a textbook! Kids and teachers will like reading this book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

My Latest Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Article: The White House Celebrates Advances in STEM

5 Oct


I recently went to Washington, D.C. to cover a White House conference showcasing efforts to make STEM education more engaging in high schools. Read my interview with Secretary of Education John King, and Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Click HERE to read the whole story on the Kids Press Corps Notebook blog!


Secretary of Education John King and me

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