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

Reviews! Mystery & Mayhem books by Tom McCarthy

3 Oct

survivalSurvival: True Stories

By Tom McCarthy

128 pages – ages 10+

Will be published by Nomad Press on October 24, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “Tales of survival are as old as humanity! In Survival: True Stories, readers discover accounts of survival that required innovation, a thirst for adventure, and even a bit of brutality. Whether it’s Shackleton on the frozen landscape of Antarctica or William Bligh and his loyal followers adrift in the Pacific after mutiny on the Bounty, survival is a fascinating topic for readers ages 9 to 12!

Survival is the second book in the Murder & Mayhem series, which features true tales that whet kids’ appetites for history by engaging them in genres with proven track records—mystery and adventure. History is made of near misses, unexplained disappearances, unsolved mysteries, and bizarre events that are almost too weird to be true—almost! The Mystery & Mayhem series delves into the past to provide kids with a jumping-off point into a lifelong habit of appreciating history.”

What I Thought- This was a good book. I like that in the introduction Mr. McCarthy points out that he chose true stories that make you wonder whether you would actually survive, and not think that anybody could just do that. The stories are all true, and kids will enjoy reading about them. They learn a little bit of history, and they may not even realize it. There should be a little bit of reader discretion, as there are parts where it is pointed out that there may have been cannibalism, or just mentioning the death of explorers. The book doesn’t go into detail, but it does mention those parts. A neat part of the book is that there are fact boxes at the end of each chapter that tell of other important events going on at the time. Altogether a really neat book.

I give the book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

shipwreckPirates and Shipwrecks: True Stories

By Tom McCarthy

128 pages – ages 10+

Will be published by Nomad Press on October 11, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “When Daniel Collins and the crew of the Betsey set sail for Cuba in 1824, they have no idea of the horrors that lie ahead. This is just one of the stories in a collection of five true tales about pirates and shipwrecks that introduces readers to the perils of the high seas.

Pirates and Shipwrecks: True Stories is the first book in the Mystery & Mayhem series for 9–12 year olds, which features true tales that whet kids’ appetites for history by engaging them in genres with proven track records—mystery and adventure. History is made of near misses, unexplained disappearances, unsolved mysteries, and bizarre events that are almost too weird to be true—almost! The Mystery & Mayhem series delves into the past to provide kids with a jumping-off point into a lifelong habit of appreciating history.”

What I Thought- Mr. McCarthy has written another book that is just as good as the Survival book. Also nonfiction, these true stories tell of real-life pirates, and also real-life shipwrecks that almost (or even did!) turned into disasters. It was an interesting look into a different time. The one thing I like about both books is that they include maps of where the events take place. Mr. McCarthy’s writing style is well organized and well written, with a lot of information for the readers. The book does mention cannibalism, and some of the people were beheaded by pirates, but the book doesn’t go into detail, and only writes what had to have been written to write an accurate novel. The books are shorter, and good for a quick read, especially chapter by chapter. A really nice nonfiction series!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

My Latest Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Article: The 2016 National Book Festival

1 Oct


I recently went to Washington, D.C. to cover the 2016 National Books Festival as a Scholastic News Kids Press Reporter!

Click HERE to read the whole story on the Kids Press Corps Notebook blog and check out a video of me interviewing the awesome authors Calvin Trillin, Sharon Robinson, Raina Telgemeier, and Pam Muñoz Ryan about their most recent books!

Me interviewing the Library of Congress' Chief Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian Jane Sanchez

Me interviewing the Library of Congress’ Chief Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, Jane Sanchez

Perfect Picture Book Friday! I Love Cake! By Tammi Sauer AND WINNER OF DIARY OF A TOKYO TEEN!!!

30 Sep

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 about friendship.

cakeI Love Cake! Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose
Written by Tammi Sauer
Illustrated by Angie Rozelaar
40 pages – ages 5+

Published by HarperCollins on May 3, 2016

Theme/Topic- Friendship

Genre-  Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “In the middle of Sweet Valley Woods lived Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose.

‘I am Rabbit.’

‘I am Porcupine.’

‘I am Frog. Just kidding! I am Moose.'”

Synopsis from Publisher: “Bestselling author Tammi Sauer’s characters are both lovable and mischievous. In I Love Cake!, the first picture book featuring irrepressible Moose, orderly Rabbit, and fun-loving Porcupine, Rabbit plans a fabulous birthday party with fun activities and a delicious cake. Porcupine and Moose come to enjoy Rabbit’s big day, but everything goes south when impulsive Moose loses control of his appetite!

With hilarious bits of dialogue throughout, I Love Cake! is not only a dynamic read-aloud, it works as an inspiration for a short play. Themes of friendship and forgiveness come through on every page—and the birthday theme makes I Love Cake! an excellent choice for a birthday gift!”

What I Thought- This book is fun – it shows all of the joys of friendship, and how friends can get angry, but also forgive each other. Moose realizes that you cannot always just say you are sorry, so he decides to fix the problem (I won’t tell you how!🙂 ). I like that Ms. Sauer describes Moose as “just Moose”, because I think it is good that kids realize you don’t need to be known for something, you can just be yourself. That was a very nice subtle message. There is a gentle humor to the book, which is helped with the sweet illustrations of Ms. Rozelaar. Altogether, this is just a perfect book!

Activities and Resources- For a good resource for friendship activities, visit HERE!

To learn more about how kids make and keep friends, visit HERE!

Because Rabbit is throwing her birthday party, HERE are some tips for planning kids’ birthday parties from!


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



I will be emailing you shortly to find out your mailing address, so you can get your copy of the book!

Review! Frazzled by Booki Vivat

29 Sep

frazzledFrazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom

By Booki Vivat

240 pages – ages 8+

Published by HarperCollins on September 27, 2016

Synopsis- Abbie Wu knows that Middles get the worst of it all. Just take the Middle Ages for example – they were pretty terrible (what with the no electricity and the plague)! It’s also pretty terrible being a Middle Child (Abbie would surely know – she’s one!), and if that’s not enough to convince you, Middle School is the epitome, the middle of middles! This, of course, means that Abbie Wu is most certainly doomed. How will she ever survive, or even get to the middle of, middle school?

What I Thought- This was a pretty funny book! I think the main reason I found it funny is that I have similar classmates that overreacted to everything in sixth grade (some still overreact to things!😉 ). The book is very realistic of school life and the kids who inhabit it. Ms. Vivat’s writing style is very over-the-top in a very good way – including immense exaggerations and other such things. The stroy gets into the head of a 6th grader perfectly, and keeps the readers chuckling throughout the book. There are pretty awesome doodles throughout the book, drawn by Ms. Vivat, which help tell the story – quite literally, as phrases, dialogues, and even entire scenes happen within them. I thought that was a nice way to make the book easier to read for younger kids and they add to the fun feel of the book. The book is hilarious, and kids will enjoy reading about the (mis)adventures of Abbie Wu!


I give this book 5 out of 5 bookworms!

Check out the book’s trailer!

Review and GIVEAWAY! Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin

28 Sep

groovyGroovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs
Series: Groovy Joe #1
Written by Eric Litwin
Illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld
40 pages – ages 3+
Published by Orchard Books on August 30, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher-Meet Groovy Joe, a fun-lovin’, guitar-strummin’, doggy-ice-cream-eatin’ pup as he wrangles three hungry dinosaurs and soon has them singing, grooving, and sharing! 

Groovy Joe was living the dream.
He had a spoon and tub of doggy ice cream.
And he started to sing:
Love my doggy ice cream! Love my doggy ice cream!

Eric Litwin, author of the bestselling and beloved Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, and bestselling artist Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, have created a captivating new canine character who will groove his way into readers’ hearts and have them grooving and giggling all the while. In his debut adventure, Groovy Joe faces three roaring dinosaurs hungry for his doggy ice cream! Oh no! But Joe knows just what to do and soon enough he has them all sharing while moving and singing along.”

What I Thought- This is a really nice picture book! I really liked Mr. Litwin’s Pete the Cat series, and the positive message it sends, and this new series looks like it will be just as great! The illustrations are very fun, summing up the signature rhyme and rhythm of Mr. Litwin’s writing perfectly. The book has repetitive phrases, so kids will be able to follow along easily, and even read together with their parents. Groovy Joe is a good role model, always showing kindness, and not yelling at the three dinos that kick down his door (that is extreme kindness right there!). This is a great new book, and kids will love the new series, with the next book coming out in Fall 2017! Love the groovy music downloads that go with the book too! I wonder if Groovy Joe will ever meet Pete the Cat!😉


Check out the Groovy Joe website HERE for a discussion guide, music and more!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Litwin is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who merges music and early literacy together. He is the author of the first four Pete the Cat picture books and the exciting new musical series The Nuts. Eric’s books have sold more than 6.5 million copies and won eighteen state and national awards, including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award. Eric is a popular performing artist who plays guitar, sings, tells stories, and brings books to life. Visit him at


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of the New York Times bestsellers Duck! Rabbit!Exclamation MarkSteam Train, Dream TrainShark vs. Train; and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, which has been on the bestseller list for over three years. He has also written and illustrated a number of books, including What Are You So Grumpy AboutCloudette, and E-mergency, a Publishers Weekly and Boston Globe Best Book of 2011. For more information, visit him at

Check out the trailer!

WIN A Groovy Starter Pack!!!


One (1) winner receives:

  • a copy of Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs
  • a “Get Groovy” art-print from the illustrator.

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment, but, if you want, you can also describe a time when something you did made somebody’s day!

The giveaway will be closed on October 4th, and the winner announced on October 5th!

Giveaway open to US addresses only.

Prizing and samples provided by Scholastic.*

Visit the website HERE to hear the free downloadable musical performance of this rocking story in English and Spanish! While you’re there, check out “The Groovy Dance,” Joe’s very own doggy dance track!”

*Please note that I am partnering with Scholastic for this post.

Perfect Picture Book Friday! You Made Me a Mother by Laurenne Sala

23 Sep

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 gorgeous book about a mother’s love.

mademotherYou Made Me a Mother
Written by Laurenne Sala
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
32 pages – ages 4+

Published by HarperCollins on March 8, 2016

Theme/Topic- Mother-Child/Love/Family

Genre- Realistic Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “I felt you.
You were a pea.
Then a lemon.
Then an eggplant.”

Synopsis from publisher: “In this beautiful celebration of motherhood, the universal message of unconditional love for a child shines through. Laurenne Sala’s heartwarming text, accompanied by New York Times bestselling artist Robin Preiss Glasser’s charming illustrations, creates a firsthand look at the powerful bond between mother and child from pregnancy to birth and beyond.”

What I Thought- This is a really sweet book, with love pouring throughout the pages, and into the reader as well. The illustrations are rather realistic, but with a very nice feeling to them. The writing reflects ho a mom would actually speak to her child and flows very nicely. I could see mom’s reading this book over and over again to her children. The pictures are full of emotion, and they showcase how a mother loves her child. This is a gorgeous book that parents will love to read to their kids – and that their kids would love to be read to!

Activities and Resources- has a great list of 101 things you can do with your child HERE! has a great list for parents to teach about love HERE!

Check out the trailer for the book –

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

Review, Interview & Giveaway! Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer

22 Sep

tokyoteen1Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes

Written and Illustrated by Christine Mari Inzer

128 pages – ages 12+

Published by Tuttle Publishing on September 6, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and an American father in 1997, Christine Mari Inzer spent her early years in Japan and relocated to the United States in 2003. The summer before she turned sixteen, she returned to Tokyo, making a solo journey to get reacquainted with her birthplace. Through illustrations, photos, and musings, Inzer documented her journey.

In Diary of a Tokyo Teen, Inzer explores the cutting-edge fashions of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, eats the best sushi of her life at the renowned Tsukiji fish market, and hunts down geisha in the ancient city of Kyoto. As she shares the trials and pleasures of travel from one end of a trip to the other, Inzer introduces the host of interesting characters she meets and offers a unique—and often hilarious—look at a fascinating country and an engaging tale of one girl rediscovering her roots.”

What I Thought- This was a rather interesting book, chronicling the time that the author as a teen went to Japan by herself to visit her grandparents, and her experiences there. The book is funny, as the American-ized Inzer experiences the differences in the two cultures first hand. There are hand-drawn comics and illustrations throughout the book, providing a lot of humor and information at the same time.


One thing I liked was how she combined the actual photos of the time she went along with her illustrations. It was a nice blend and created a cool contrast on the page. There are some really good thought-provoking quotes in there – like in the end when Inzer gets back to America and says “I guess I will always feel halfway home.” That’s a sentiment many kids who identify with two different places will connect with. There were some really great funny moments too so the whole story has a great balance. Inzer’s writing style blends seamlessly into her comic illustrations, making the story feel less like a comic or graphic novel, and more of a traditional novel.  The book is also a wonderful informal travel guide, and Japanophiles will like hearing about places to see – I know I did! I will be looking for more titles coming from this promising young author!

Five out of five bookworms for this book!fivebooks

For a complete preview of Diary of a Tokyo Teen, visit Tuttle’s website HERE

Christine Mari Inzer was kind enough to agree to an interview with me!

bloglogo When did you decide to publish your musings from your trip? Why?


tokyoteenBefore I had even left for Japan, I decided that I wanted to create a book about my experiences there. My mom is Japanese and I was born in Tokyo, so it holds a special place in my heart. I also love the travelogue genre and combining comics with my love of Japan was something that came natural to me.

bloglogo Have you gone back to Japan since the time the book was written?


tokyoteenYes, I have actually gone back twice since the book was first written, most recently in August. My grandparents live near Tokyo, so we try to visit every other year. I’m always excited to return.


bloglogo Your book is funny, while also being an informal travel guide for Japan, with most of the humor being supplied from the illustrations. What made you decide to have the book be partly in comic form? Did it make it easier to write in information on Japan?


tokyoteenI feel like drawing has always been the easiest way to express myself. In a way I do think that it also made it easier for people to visualize Japanese culture, which is so colorful and vibrant in itself.


bloglogo If you could write another book like this, say for another country, would you?


tokyoteenI would love to make another book like this! I would definitely love to have an opportunity to travel to Europe and do the same thing, especially someplace like France or Spain.


bloglogo What aspect of Japan interests you the most? What would you say someone MUST see if they go to Japan?


tokyoteenFor me, going to Japan is a multidimensional experience, and there’s never really been a single aspect of it that I like the most. I love everything! However, if I can share one thing I love to experience in Japan, it would be Shibuya Crossing at night.


Thank you Ms. Inzer!

Now for some exciting news!

You can enter a giveaway to win a copy of this book courtesy of Tuttle Publishing by commenting below on something you love about Japan or something that you really enjoyed when visiting another country and discovering a new culture!

The winner will be chosen on 9/29 (and announced on 9/30) by random draw out of all the comments – good luck!

Review and book birthday! The Ominous Eye by Tracey Hecht

20 Sep

nocturnals2The Ominous Eye

Series: The Nocturnals #2 (#1)

Written by Tracey Hecht

208 pages – ages 7+

Published by Fabled Films Press on September 20, 2016 (TODAY!)

Synopsis- “Join Dawn, Bismark and Tobin as they set out to investigate the source of a violent jolt that fractures the earth! Along their journey, the Nocturnal Brigade meets an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara named Polyphema—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. Polyphema with her special insights, is the only one who can help the Nocturnal Brigade stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas, and some kiwis, the animals set a trap since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.”

What I Thought- This was a nice sequel to the first Nocturnals book. It still has the same feel, but it also shows the characters changed just a bit, and become more mature. The book gives enough background so that the reader doesn’t have to have read the first book (but do because it was good!). I like that it has a friendship message that kids can follow, while still being an enjoyable book and not preachy. The friends that make up the Nocturnal Brigade are fun and a but zany. The characters are funny and personable, and their personalities develop throughout the story. There are nice watercolor illustrations throughout the book that really add to the overall feeling of the book. Hecht’s writing really sets the readers imagination on fire! I think that this is a great series, and I hope the next books are as great as the first two!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Reviews – Non-fiction Monday!

19 Sep

I’ve been trying to find and read a larger variety of children’s non-fiction books. I was sent some non-fiction books from Rourke Educational Media (visit the publisher’s website HERE) and I really like the variety of subjects the publisher carries. I also like how the topics are broken down into bite-sized chunks making complex topics easy for kids to digest. Below are some of the books that really caught my eye.


Vroom! Hot Cars: Tesla Model S
By Julio Diaz
32 pages – ages 5+
Published by Rourke Educational Media

Synopsis from Publisher- “The ground-breaking Tesla is featured in this title with information on how it is changing the automobile world.”

What I Thought- In a world of limited fuel, it is important for kids to know that they do not need to buy a gas-powered car. It not only explains that there is a 100% electric car, but it also explains how it works. It includes diagrams, photos, and clear descriptions on how the car works, is made, and the good it does for the environment. The book is very informative.

hotelYIKES! It’s Haunted: Haunted Hotels
By Grace Ramsey
32 pages – ages 5+
Published by Rourke Educational Media

Synopsis from Publisher- “This title looks at haunted hotels around the world with paranormal activity that has happened there.”

What I Thought- This was an interesting book. It talks of the ghosts, without making it too scary. It is nice that it mentions haunted places all over the world, so kids get a bit of a geography lesson too. This is a great read, with Halloween coming up, and there will be a lot of interest in the subject. Kids will love learning about these spooky attractions.

phtogSTEAM Jobs In: Photography (Steam Jobs You’ll Love)

By Ray Reyes
48 pages – ages 5+
Published by Rourke Educational Media

Synopsis from Publisher- “Photography is the focus of this STEAM driven title in the world of photography. Focusing on the improvements of equipment.”

What I Thought- This was a great introduction to jobs involving photography and STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). It discusses how photographers need to know angles and lighting and other things, such as how they use technology to edit the photos, engineering to design/innovate cameras, scientists using cameras to photograph space, and other such things. It is a neat book, and kids interested in cameras would like to learn how they can make a living with one.

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