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Perfect Picture Book Friday! Swatch by Julia Denos

23 Jul

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 visually stunning.

swatchSwatch; The Girl Who Loved Color
By Julia Denos
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by Balzer + Bray on March 15, 2016

Theme/Topic- Art/Creativity

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “In a place where colors ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still.

Her name was Swatch, and she was a color tamer.”

Publisher’s Synopsis: “In a place where color ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still. Her name was Swatch, and color was her passion. From brave green to in-between gray to rumble-tumble pink . . . Swatch wanted to collect them all. But colors don’t always like to be tamed. . . “

What I Thought- The art in this book is phenomenal! It really does seem as if the colors are alive! It is a very unique idea, and I think one that has several subtle, underlying messages as well, such as it not being right to cage wild animals. Ms. Denos has a great writing style, reminding me of a fairytale. I enjoyed this book very much, and hope to read more by Ms. Denos!


Activities and Resources- has a great activity on ways to finger paint with children HERE. I think the activity will go great with the book!

For a full preview of the book, visit the HarperCollins website HERE.

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

Review! Slinky Steps Out by Meg Welch Dendler

12 Jul

slinkySlinky Steps Out
Series: Cats in the Mirror #4 (#1, #2, #3, Companion Book #1)
By Meg Welch Dendler
122 pages – ages 8+
Published by Serenity Mountain Publishing on March 22, 2016

Summary- In our world, all is not what it seems, especially when it comes to kitties! Did you know cats are actually space aliens living among us? Some realize their origin, while others just want ears scratched and tuna treats. Little do we humans realize there is a kitty command ship orbiting Earth watching some of the inhabitants…

Every family that has cats has always, at least once, had that one cat who would hide under the bed, and only come out for one person. Slinky is that type of cat. She is also one of those cats that know they are aliens. When her owner is leaving home for college, and decides to bring Slinky to the apartment that she’s renting. This will be a perfect opportunity to learn about this style of human living! That is, until a repairman comes while Slinky’s owner is away at school, and accidentally leaves the door open. Slinky gets scared and bolts outside… and it’s up to Kimba and the space cats to find and rescue her!

What I like about it- This was a good book. The book has a good deal of suspense and thrill. The writing is spot on for Dendler’s audience. I liked that it kept you reading and wondering what was going to happen next. The characters were believable, perhaps because the book is roughly based on real-life events in the author’s life (minus the alien cats… or not?). I think kids will like the books because they have probably noticed that cats act weird, and this book tells them why!😉 I found that in this story, the plot was a lot simpler than her other books and although I enjoyed the writing and action, I felt it needed a little more “meat” to the plot. Kids will also probably like looking at the real photos in the book of the cats in the book. Overall – a nice addition to this series! I really like the series and cannot wait to read more from Ms. Dendler!

I give this book four out of five bookworms.fourbooks

Creative Kid Thursday! Monster Realm Stories by Nara Duffie

7 Jul

Hello Readers! Today Creative Kid Thursday is featuring Nara Duffie, a 13-year-old who wrote her first book when she was 10, and her second book when she was 12. Here are my reviews!

nara1The Monster Realm

Series: Monster Realm Stories Book 1

Written by Nara Duffie

Illustrated by Elisabeth Alba

272 pages – ages 8+

Published by Roam & Ramble by April 2, 2014

Synopsis from Amazon – “Medusa aimed her poisoned arrow right at Lillian …

Lillian always loved stories about myths and monsters–until she found herself inside one, fighting for her life!

Joined by her best friends, Katy and Maisy, Lillian must cross a sea guarded by Krakens and sirens, race through a dark forest haunted by elves and chimeras, and cross mountains ruled by griffins and rocs.

Where in this world is Lillian’s sister? Who is the mysterious boy with the stone medallion? Why do the monsters hold an ancient grudge against humanity? And what is the secret hiding at the heart of it all?”

What I Thought- This was really good! Nara has written a great debut book that kids will enjoy reading! The story did seem a little abrupt at times, as in the flow was a little choppy. Honestly, that didn’t really bother me so much, mostly because it was only a small thing on a wonderful first book. The setting she creates is perfect for the plot, and really brings the story to life. Lillian is a good main character, who must come to terms with what her sister is doing. Her two friends bring comic relief, while you also feel empathy for what they’re going through. The descriptions throughout the book really paint the picture for the adventure, just as well as Ms. Alba’s illustrated map in the beginning.

nara2The Three Worlds

Series: Monster Realm Stories Book 2

Written by Nara Duffie

Illustrated by Elisabeth Alba

382 pages – ages 8+

Published by Roam & Ramble by March 16, 2016

Synopsis from Amazon- “Lillian and her best friends, Katy and Maisy, barely survived their first adventure in the Monster Realm. Now they have only days to stop a war between the worlds, a war in which the mythical creatures of Lanodeka plan to reclaim the earth as their own.

But this time, the girls have to face more than dragons and griffins, sirens and elves, rocs and harpies. They discover the real power behind the war, a power that is using the Creation Stone to build an army unlike anything they could have imagined. Worlds are about to change.”

What I Thought- This book was even better than book one! You could see the growth as Nara as a writer from the first to the second. The characters are well-rounded and thought-out by this point, and we see them change in their mentality as the story goes on, most notable in Katy, who has become less of a girly-girl (although she’s still not a tomboy). Ms. Alba’s map is extended in this book, now taking up two pages – it looks pretty cool, and puts things into perspective. Nara has written an enjoyable conclusion to the Monster Realm series, leaving you feeling content and happy.

I give both of these books five out of five bookworms!


To learn more about the books and Nara, go HERE!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller

1 Jul

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 sometimes it takes a bit of work to grow a friend.

squash2Sophie’s Squash Go to School
Written by Pat Zietlow Miller
Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by Schwartz & Wade on June 28, 2016

Theme/Topic- Making friends

Genre- Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “On the first day of school, Sophie peeked into her classroom.”

Synopsis from publisher: “This charming sequel to the beloved Sophie’s Squash is the perfect antidote to the back-to-school jitters. Sophie goes to school for the first time and has no interest in making friends that aren’t squash. Here’s a gently humorous read-aloud that proves that making friends, just like growing squash, takes time.

On Sophie’s first day of school, nobody appreciates her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter, baby squash that she grew in her garden. Even worse, one classmate, Steven Green, won’t leave Sophie alone. He sits by her at circle time. He plays near her during recess. And he breathes on her while she paints. Steven just wants to be friends, but Sophie isn’t interested. Still, Sophie knows that her squash friends won’t last forever. Maybe it would be nice to have some human friends after all. . . .”

What I Thought- Ms. Miller did a fabulous job with this sequel to Sophie’s Squash! I enjoyed the way it dealt with making new friends, showing the Sophie was perfectly fine without human friends (or so she thought), but when Bonnie and Baxter need to get planted in the ground, she gets lonely. I thought that that was a marvelous idea. Ms. Wilsdorf’s illustrations are perfect for the book, with a soft glow created from the watercolors. This is a great picture book about friendship!

Activities and Resources- You can visit to read an article about helping your kids make friends HERE.

You can visit to read an article about growing your own butternut squash HERE!

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

Review and Author interview! Green Changes You Can Make Around Your Home by Carol Parenzan Smalley

30 Jun

changesmakeGreen Changes You Can Make Around Your Home

By Carol Parenzan Smalley

48 pages – ages 8+

Published by Mitchell Lane Publishers on September 22, 2009

Synopsis- Have you ever thought about helping the environment, but didn’t know what to do? Do you even know what you need to fix? If you are feeling unsure, and are in need of ideas, this book will help you get on your way to being environmentally friendly.

What I Thought- This was a good nonfiction book. Although the book was written in 2009, the environmental message remains the same – we need to start taking care of our resources, and here is how you can help. The book offers positive things we can do to help make changes. There are real-life examples of people doing things to help their environment, and ideas for how you can save water, keep gas levels down (oddly enough, eating beans is actually encouraged!), and recycle. It’s a good book for families to read.


I was given the chance to interview the author, Ms. Parenzan, about the work she did on her book, and her works as a Riverkeeper.

Erik: When did you decide to start your book?

Ms. Parenzan: The publisher of this book – Mitchell Lane Publishers – contacted me in 2009 to determine if I had an interest in being a member of the writing team for the series of books that “Green Changes” is part of. Of course I had to say YES! I had written other books for them prior to this book. The book was released in 2010.

Erik: How do you think your book has impacted the lives of the kids reading it?

Ms. Parenzan: I have actually had the opportunity to talk with some of the book’s readers! They shared with me that what impacted them most was the stories about other young readers who have made and are making a difference. They enjoyed learning about the Green Teen’s salsa and the Food from the ‘Hood’s salad dressing. They laughed with Alyse Lui and her description of her family as the “French Fry Family” because of the smell that was emitted from their biodiesel fuel that powered their car! They started to consider the size of their own carbon footprints and encouraged their own families to make small green changes. Overwhelmingly, they realized that it’s the cumulative effect of all the little changes we each make that has a large impact on the health of our planet.

Erik: Have we gotten better, as a species, with our green acts? 

Ms. Parenzan: Overall, I do believe we have gotten better. Back when I was your age, recycling wasn’t even practiced. Today, it’s common practice. That’s the beauty of being a change maker. If practiced long enough, it becomes an integral component of your daily life. It becomes part of your regular routine. But we still have a long way to go. We know more today than we did yesterday, and hopefully, we’ll all know more tomorrow than we know today. We can’t let up or give up. We are the change.

Erik: What is the hardest part, in your opinion, of living green? The easiest?

Ms. Parenzan: I believe the hardest part of living green is staying positive in a world that feeds on negative information. You just need to turn on the evening news to get a daily dose of negative reality – from the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay to rising sea waters due to climate change. Sometimes we are made to feel that the problem is bigger than the person, that our individual acts won’t make a difference, but that’s not true. The easiest part today to living green is having access to information to help you make the best educated decisions. Your answers are but a click or book away. The information is there for you when you’re ready to receive it and act on it. You just need to be ready, and that happens at different times for different people.

Erik: If you could only do one thing to help the Earth, what would it be?

Ms. Parenzan: Simply be the example for others to follow. There’s no need for finger pointing or poster waving — that only gets you attention in the moment. Your actions will have a longer and more positive impact.

I like to share this song and video with others: The song was written and performed by Dan Berggren, a folk musician from New York. The photos and videos were taken by Carl Heilman and primarily feature the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. It brings me hope.

Erik: Could you also tell us about your current work as a Riverkeeper?

Ms. Parenzan: A Riverkeeper is part of the Waterkeeper family of licensed voices for watersheds around the world. Today, there are almost 300 waterkeepers on six continents in 34 countries. The parent organization is Waterkeeper Alliance, which was founded and spearheaded by Bobby Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney and activist. Each of our work is based on the Clean Water Law that states that every citizen on this Earth is guaranteed the right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. Here in the United States, we turn on the tap and take good, clean water for granted. That is not the case, however, around the world. Although the Clean Water Act is the foundation for our work, each program can take on its “own flavor” depending on the watershed being protected and the background of the waterkeeper.

This short video will help you understand our mission:

My work as the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper focuses on about 10,000 square miles of the watershed in and around the North and West Branches of the river. Basically, I start at the dam in Sunbury and go north on the North Branch and west on the West Branch and all the drainage area feeding these two parts of the river.

My approach is multi-faceted: I educate. I investigate. I advocate. And, when necessary, I litigate.

My watershed is rich in energy concerns. We have legacy coal mining issues: abandoned mine drainage and abandoned land drainage. This drainage lowers the pH of the water, making it acidic and incapable of supporting aquatic life. The west branch of the river is the most impaired because of it. The good news is we are seeing improvement in parts of the watershed due to acid mine drainage remediation programs! There are hundreds of thousands of abandoned and orphaned natural gas and oil wells out there, many of which are leaking methane. Energy companies drilled them and then walked away. We don’t know where they are. We need to find them and close them. There are thousands of fracked natural gas wells with hundreds of miles of pipelines connecting these wells and transporting gas in and out of the watershed. There’s an old coal-burning electric generation plant (that will be converted to a dual – coal and natural gas – electric plant in the next few years). There’s a proposed small hydroelectric dam planned too. Of course, we also have a nuclear power plant. All traditional energy generation requires water and makes some impact on the earth. But here’s the “kicker”: we don’t need all of this energy. For every megawatt of power we use here in the Susquehanna River Valley, two megawatts are exported. The many miles of proposed natural gas lines are not to bring gas to the residents of Pennsylvania but to transport gas to other states – and other countries. Pennsylvania and her communities are paying the cost to be energy exporters. Isn’t it time we put the people of Pennsylvania ahead of the profit of big companies?

We are also contributing to the nutrient loading of the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna River contributes about 50% of all freshwater entering the Bay and about 40-45% of all pollution. Some of this pollution comes from our farming practices. As Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, I am exploring ways that my organization can help to lower the amount of pollution reaching the Bay from this part of the Susquehanna River watershed.

I hold an environmental engineering degree with a water focus from Penn State University. For over 30 years, I worked in engineering, technical communications, and business development. To date, I have written over 30 children’s books and a few books for adults too. There are several books planned for the next year. We just received a grant that includes the creation and publication of a children’s book for young river stewards. I am also talking to one of my publishers about a history book about Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River, with a focus on water activities.

Thank you very much Ms. Parenzan!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! So you Want to Grow a Pizza? by Bridget Heos

24 Jun

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 tells you about how to grow what you need for a pizza in simple ways.

GYF_Pizza_cvr2.inddSo you Want to Grow a Pizza?
Written by Bridget Heos
Illustrated by Daniele Fabbri
24 pages – ages 6+

Published by Amicus Ink on February 2, 2016

Theme/Topic- Making your own food/Eating healthy

Genre- Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Pizza is delicious. Have you ever wondered where it came from? Like all food, it comes from plants and animals. How would you like to grow a pizza at home?”

Publisher’s Synopsis: “If you really wanted to grow a pizza, you’d need a wheat field, a cow, a pig, a vegetable garden… and you’d run out of room quickly! The sensible narrator advises each child gardener to start small, and they all gain an appreciation for fresh ingredients by the end of each book. A young boy wants to grow his own pizza, learns where the many ingredients come from, and learns how to grow the ingredients to make pizza sauce. Includes kid-friendly pizza sauce recipe.”

What I Thought- This is a really nice book, with gentle humor, present in the tone that the words and illustrations take. The book is rather encouraging, while also informing the reader of what they can do. Kids will enjoy reading the book to learn how they can make their own pizza. The illustrations have a certain warmth to them that generates a feeling of hominess. This is a great book part of a series about making your own food (like a pie, a taco, and a salad). The book features a recipe in the back for making your own tomato sauce, which gives the kids something to do with what they have grown. It’s a great idea to have kids learn to cook and where their food comes from.

Activities and Resources- You can find a recipe for making homemade pizza at HERE, which I think would go nicely with the pizza sauce recipe featured in the book.

Even if you don’t have a big field, you can still grow your own wheat in your garden! has a nice tutorial for growing your wheat crop HERE.

The book does mention that you can start your own compost pile, including basic directions such as what can go in it, but has a nice tutorial for creating your own compost pile from scratch right HERE!

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

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Can I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang

18 Jun

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 good story about facing your fears.

secretCan I Tell You a Secret?
Written by Anna Kang
Illustrated by Christopher Weyant
40 pages – ages 4+

Published by HarperCollins on May 31, 2016 

Theme/Topic- Facing your Fears

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Pssst!

Yes, you.
Could you come here for a sec?”

Publisher’s Synopsis: “From the author-illustrator team of You Are (Not) Small, winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, comes an adorable picture book featuring Monty.

He’s a little frog with a BIG secret that he’s ready to share. Monty learns how to face his fears with some help from his new friend—YOU!”

What I Thought- This is a really cute book. It’s by the same people as those that wrote You Are (Not) Small (Review HERE), and the art and writing style collaboration is perfect for the book. I was glad to see another book by them. The book has a good message on how to handle fears, without sounding preachy, as the reader is “helping” Monty out with his fears. It’s a nice story that kids will enjoy reading, and learn a little without realizing it. The illustrations are simple. The white space on the page draws the reader’s eye to the illustration, giving it nice emphasis.







The book also shows that it is a good idea to talk with someone about something you are afraid of and not keep it inside.

Activities and Resources- 

Check out a sample of the book at the publisher’s website HERE.

Family Education has a good article on how to face fears objectively, found HERE. has an article about how to ease your child out of fear, found HERE.

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

Perfect Picture Book Friday! My Little Sister and Me by Maple Lam

10 Jun

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 captures the relationship of siblings.

littlesisterMy Little Sister and Me
By Maple Lam
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by HarperCollins on May 10, 2016

Theme/Topic- Siblings

Genre- Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “For the very first time, Mom asks me to take my little sister home from the bus stop – all by myself!”

Publisher’s Synopsis: “It’s a big job when a big brother gets to take his little sister home from school for the very first time. In debut author-illustrator Maple Lam’s charming story, she celebrates the incredible relationship between a little boy and his younger sister. Similar to books like I’m a Big Brother by Joana Cole and What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff, this book is perfect to read with both older and younger siblings, as well as with youngsters getting ready for back-to-school!”

What I Thought- This is a really sweet book. It shows the care and affection siblings have for one another perfectly. It is also incredibly realistic, because even though they love each other, they may not understand each other – such as when the sister is picking up trash to look at it, and the brother says “Ewwwww.” The book is simple, but funny, as the sister runs off after whatever catches her eye, and her brother tries to keep her on track (wow – that pretty much sounds like my sister and me). The illustrations go perfectly with the book, the watercolors create a feeling of soft love. This is a fabulous debut!

Activities and Resources- has a good article about things you can do to reduce friction in sibling relationships HERE. has great ideas for strengthening the sibling bond HERE.

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

Blog Tour! Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

8 Jun
bixbyMs. Bixby’s Last Day
By John David Anderson
320 pages – ages 8+
Will be Published by Walden Pond Press on June 21, 2016
Synopsis from Publisher- “John David Anderson, author of Sidekicked and The Dungeoneers, returns with a funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking contemporary story about three boys, one teacher, and a day none of them will ever forget.
Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard, the ones who stopped trying long ago. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like school is somehow worthwhile. Who recognizes something in you that sometimes you don’t even see in yourself. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.
Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a risky plan—more of a quest, really—to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them—and what the three of them mean to each other.”
What I Thought- This was an interesting take for a new genre from Mr. Anderson – he normally writes in a fantasy/superhero genre, not a realistic fiction. AND… this book was pretty darn good. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I agreed to read it because I liked Mr. Anderson’s other books. I am glad I did so. Mr. Anderson gets into the minds of the three main characters, and he makes them extremely life-like, so much that you believe that they could exist. They act like normal elementary school boys, and that made the book so much more enjoyable. The story is actually quite sad and reserved, but it also has a way of making you feel good about yourself at the same time. Mr. Anderson has written a marvelous foray into realistic fiction, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.
I give this five out of five bookworms!fivebooks


John David AndersonAuthor Bio:
John David Anderson is the author of many books for young readers, including Sidekicked (See my review HERE) and The Dungeoneers (See my review HERE). A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at


There is an excerpt that you can read from the novel HERE.

You can also see a video featuring the book HERE.

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Review! Great Americans: The Founders by Michael T. Best

6 Jun

greatamericansGreat Americans: The Founders; A Quick and Patriotic Tour Through the Lives of Those Who Changed History

Series: Great Americans Volume 1

By Michael T. Best

132 pages – ages 7+

Published by Crosswick Books on December 17, 2015

Synopsis- Have you ever wondered how our country became what it is? More specifically, who laid the foundation for our nation to rise on? There were several people who did a lot of amazing things, and it took a lot to kick start this country.

What I Thought- It was pretty cool that I didn’t know who everyone was mentioned – I knew a lot, but not all. There are real stories included in the book of real Americans who plotted the course of the country, people such as Benjamin Franklin, Abigail Adams, Robert Fulton, Daniel Boone, and others. The blurbs on each person are quick, and simply sum-up the main points of why they are so important, and also include some fun facts about the person and what they did. The book would make a good addition to classrooms talking about America right after the Revolutionary War (or in that time period, really). It’s a good nonfiction book that is organized rather well. Kids will like reading about important women from this time period in the book too. Although the information in the book makes me think of a history text book, the information is presented in a way that the reader isn’t bogged down with fact after fact. I found it a highly enjoyable read!

I give this bookfivebooks five out of five bookworms.


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