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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Debut Author, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 227
1. #747 – ROAR! by Julie Bayless

Roar! Written and illustrated by Julie Bayless Running Press Kids     10/13/2015 978-0-7624-5750-2 32 pages      Age 4—8 “It is nighttime in the savanna, which means that it is time to play for one rambunctious lion cub! The cub tries to make new friends with the hippos and the giraffes, but roaring at …

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2. #746 – Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Book Scavenger Written by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman Illustrations by Sarah Watts Christy Ottaviano Books      6/02/2015  .         .        …978-1-62779-115-1 .         .       .   .354 pages     Age 8—12 Junior Library Guild Selection “Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her …

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3. #731 – Where Are My Books by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Where Are My Books? Written & Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi .    Simon & Schuster BYR        5/12/2015 .                          .978-1-4424-6741-5 .                         .40 pages       Age 4—8 …

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4. The Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight Spills His Gut

Kid Lit Reviews is proud to have Dragon—and a captive Knight—here today to talk about Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle’s debut picture book There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Tomorrow, Kid Lit Reviews will review this gorgeous and humorous picture book (read it here). Please welcome Dragon and Knight. Hi Dragon! Thanks …

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5. #734 – There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann & Ben Mantle

. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight Written by Penny Parker Klostermann Illustrated by Ben Mantle Random House Children’s Books      8/04/2015 978- 0-385-39080-4 .                        .40 pages     Age 3—7 “A knight, a steed, a squire, a cook, a lady, a castle, [and …

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6. #735 – Scrap City by D. S. Thornton

Scrap City Written by D. S. Thornton Capstone Young Readers    10/01/2015 978-1-62370-297-7  352 pages       Age 10—14    “Beneath a small Texan town lies s city unlike any other . . . “Eleven-year-old Jerome Barnes isn’t expecting to find anything interesting in crazy Wild Willy’s junkyard. But then he discovers Arkie. Arkie …

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7. #688 – The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham & Pétur Antonsson

9780062271501 (1)X
The Luck Uglies

Written by Paul Durham
Illustrated by Pétur Antonsson
HarperCollins Children’s Books      4/29/2014
390 pages                    Age 8—13

“Rye O’Chanter has seen a lot of strange things happen in Village Drowning: children are chased through the streets. Families are fined for breaking laws that don’t even exist. Girls aren’t allowed to read anymore, and certain books—books that hold secrets about Drowning’s past—have been outlawed altogether.

“Now a terrifying encounter has eleven-year-old Rye convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. Before the monsters disappeared, there was only one way to defeat them—the Luck Uglies. But the Luck Uglies have long since been exiled, and there’s nobody left who can protect the village.

“As Rye dives into Downing’s treacherous maze of streets, rules, and lies, she begins to question everything she’s been told about the village’s legend of outlaws and beasts . . . and what she’ll discover is that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.” [book jacket]

The protagonist—in a story filled with creative, well-developed, essential characters—is eleven-year-old Rye O’Chanter. Rye and younger sister, Lottie, live with their mother, Abby, and Nightshade Fur Bottom O’Chanter (nickname: Shady), the family pet, on Mud Puddle Lane. Muddle Puddle Lane runs close to the salty Bog, which lies near Beyond the Shale (a forest few would dare enter). Rye’s best friend, Quinn Quartermast, and his widowed, blacksmith father, also live on Mud Puddle Lane.


At the opposite edge of town, again beyond the protective village walls, is the River Drowning and, on its coast, The Shambles, an area so lawless, corrupt, and dangerous that even the Earl, his soldiers, and his constable (Boil “the enforcer”), are afraid of its inhabitants and frequently inebriated guests. Rye’s other best friend, Folly Flood, lives here, in The Dead Fish Inn, with her parents and nine older brothers (the toughest men/boys in Village Drowning—toughest of the tough being the conjoined twins).

Now here’s an oxymoron to make this story exciting and relatable. These three kids are good kids.

They listen to their parents—except when they sneak out, use Abby O’Chanter’s (no longer) secret room, or travel by rooftop.

Each obeys the Laws of Longchance—except when running from soldiers, Quinn teaches Rye how to read, or, together, they read a precious (and stolen), banned book.

And, the kids stay put, when told not to stray—so many examples.

Rye O'Chanter

Rye O’Chanter

Last week I mentioned that there was one more middle grade novel that was a WOW! The Luck Uglies is that wow novel. The story cannot be put down. It’s as if the pages turn on their own, keeping you captive, though a willing captive. Rye, Folly, and Quinn are a terrific threesome. They are smart. They are heroes. They are flawed. Rye’s father, Harmless, plays a major role in the magical-action-adventure story, (he is High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies), but not without Rye close by. Rye has her friends, no matter the danger. The Luck Uglies is one of those rare books whose story and characters stick with you long after the back cover closes.

I love the names of people and places. Each—possibly only in my mind—is somehow appropriate. The Village Drowning is always drowning in the Laws of Longchance, fearful of a Bog Noblin or Luck Ugly return, or literally in the River Drowning.  Earl Longchance has a long chance in deed of ever coming out of this story smelling like a rose.

The O’Chanter family live by a code called House Rules.
003_Shady -- make sure they are credited to Pétur Antonson.

House Rule #2:
“He may run and he may hide, but Shady must never go outside.”

This refers to Shady, the family pet. It was imperative that Shady not go outside unless with someone. Why? You will love the answer.

This refers to Shady, the family pet. It was imperative that Shady not go outside unless with someone. Why?   You will love the answer. Another animal, a monkey named Shortstraw, is in the habit of reaching for what it wants. Shortstraw wants Mona Monster,  Lottie’s pink hobgoblin doll. Lottie and Mona are inseparable, so when Shortstick makes a move for Mona, Lottie is right there ready to save her.  Swearing occurs on occasion, especially from the smallest mouth in the house. Little Lottie breaks up the intense action with her comedic action words—nothing for parents to fret.

The biggest problem in Village Drowning is Earl Morningwig Longchance. When his father was still alive and ruling, monsters called Bog Noblins were terrifying the village and the village soldiers could not defeat them. The father made a pact—in blood—with the only group capable of defeating the Bog Noblins. This group, a secret society many called criminals, villains, and outlaws (mainly because they were) defeated the Bog Noblins, but not before the father died, passing his authority on to his son, Morningwig. Not a single Bog Noblin has been seen or has terrorized Village Drowning since, yet Earl Morningwig Longchance promptly ignored the blood pact, branded the group outlaws, and banished them from Village Drowning. That group is the infamous Luck Uglies, now disbanded throughout the shale and beyond.

The narcissistic Earl also decreed the Laws of Longchance—keeping villagers poor and the Earl rich. He is an oppressive ruler (women and girls may not learn to read or write, among other things), and the father of one spoilt daughter and one blind, banished, son. Truth be told, Earl Longchance is nothing more than a bully who remains in the safety of Constable Boil’s shadow.

The gigantic, hairy monster Bog Noblins were said to eat inattentive villagers, especially the delicious children, and then make necklaces strung with the feet of their feast. The villagers, believe Bog Noblins are now extinct—are they?—and nothing more than a joke to the secure villagers.

“What has bad breath, one eye, and likes to eat children?
“A Bog Noblin with a stick in its eye.” 

Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pétur Antonsson.

Can you guess what happens next? Yep, a malnourished baby Bog Noblin (Leatherleaf), returns to the village. Rye encounters it first, but escapes unharmed. She also finally meets her father, Harmless, the High . . . the once High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies. Earl Longchance puts the entire village in extreme danger when he captures Leatherneck, to pretentiously show-off his ability to protect the people. When Leatherleaf’s family—three, larger than Leatherleaf, Bog Noblins, with attitudes—demand their kin be returned, Longchance refuses. What happens next is much too exciting to explain. My fingers could not type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

The Luck Uglies is about family and community working together. The line between right and wrong blurs, which might concern parents, but this mirrors real life. No one is all good or all bad. I loved all the intense action, the unexpected surprises, the exciting twists I didn’t see coming, and the end that never completely arrives.

Durham is an awesome writer who knows how to spin an intriguing tale with intelligent humor and characters so believable the reader will immediately relate to them. The world he has built is at once believable and fantastical. Is there anything to complain about The Luck Uglies? I have not found anything. Maybe in Book #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers, but I am not expecting anything to ruin this delicious, not-to-be missed trilogy.

I did mention that The Luck Uglies is a series? Thank your lucky stars. The Luck Uglies series is the one, and only series* that kids who enjoy action and adventure, monsters and mayhem, plus a little bit of magic, should devour this year and every year, until the trilogy unfortunately ends.

THE LUCK UGLIES. Text copyright © 2014 by Paul Durham. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pétur Antonsson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.

Purchase The Luck Uglies at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesHarperCollins C. B.

Learn more about The Luck Uglies HERE.
Meet the author, Paul Durham, at his website:  http://pauldurhambooks.tumblr.com/

Cybils Interview with author Paul Durham click HERE.

Meet the illustrator, Pétur Antonsson, at his website:  http://paacart.tumblr.com/
Author Paul Durham Interviews Pétur Antonsson click PART#1   PART#2    PART#3

Find more middle grade novels at te HarperCollins Children’s Books website:  http://www.harpercollins.com/

HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

*The Guardian Herd Series by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth for 2014


The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers

The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers







Review word count = 950 (Oops! Honest, I did cut . . . and cut . . .)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. 



Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: action-adventure-fantasy, debut, HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins Publisher, humorous, magical, Paul Durham, Pétur Antonsson, The Luck Uglies, The Village Drowning, trilogy hard to beat. Forked-Tongued Charmers

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8. #691 – FRED by Kaila Eunhye Seo and TWO–2–GIVEAWAYS!



Welcome to TGIF

Thank Goodness It’s FRED!
PPP- FredCoverX


Written by Kaila Eunhye Seotop book of 2015 general
Illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo
Peter Pauper Press          5/01/20`15
40 pages                Age 4—8
“Fred’s world is filled with fantastical friends that make
his days so much fun he hardly notices that no one else can see them. But one day Fred goes off to school, and things start to change. As Fred grows up, his childhood friends slowly fade away and seem to disappear, taking some of life’s sparkle with them. But a chance meeting with a special young girl reminds Fred—and readers young and old alike—that magic and wonder never really disappear . . . they live forever in our hearts.” [book jacket]

Fred’s imaginary friends have the people in his small town thinking he is different—a polite way of saying the boy is odd. Fred has the ability to see and hear things other people cannot. Fred also believes in things the other townsfolk either cannot, or simply will not, believe. Despite the townsfolk’s’ inability to see, hear, or care about Fred’s creatures, the creatures cared about the townsfolk.

“Sometimes they acted like the wind and moved branches out of the way for people.
And sometimes they acted like shade and kept people cool on hot summer days”

What is Fred seeing and hearing that make the others consider the young boy an oddity? Fred sees creatures . . . imaginary creatures . . . imaginary friends. He never cares about making other friends—he already has the best friends a young boy could hope to have.

PPP - Fredstreet

When the day arrives for Fred to begin school, he makes new friends . . . real, alive friends. His imaginary friends wait, no longer part of Fred’s day. One day becomes two, then three, and each school year blends into the next. One-by-one the creatures Fred adored disappear, losing their color, and fading into the background.  By the time he reaches adulthood, all the imaginary creatures are lost from Fred’s memory.

The real world takes too much of Fred’s attention and time. Fred’s days run together as he does the same things day after day. This monotony leaves Fred feeling empty, friendless, and all alone, even in the park where he played so joyfully with . . . with . . . he doesn’t remember with whom he played with, or even what his playmates look liked. Where did his childhood friends go?

looking in on school

FRED will have you wondering when your imaginary friends left you. When these old friends leave, they take with them a very precious commodity: your imagination. Can you imagine doing anything other than your daily routine? Not just a dream vacation, but something that will cheer you up, daily make you implausibly happy, and has the synapses on the right-side of your brain sizzling with ideas, as they jump from neuron to neuron. Neither can Fred, poor guy. Then he gets lucky. A small child comes to the park while Fred sits reading—always a delightful detail in a children’s book. The young girl, with a pocket full of lollipops, asks Fred if he and his friends would like a lollipop. His friends anxiously watch Fred, who says,

“Excuse me?”

Someone can see his friends. They are all still with him. A synapse POPS! Another SIZZLES! Fred’s heart no longer feels weighed down, and instead, he feels free. Fred’s imaginary friends—and his imagination—return. Adult Fred finally realizes he . . . wait, I cannot tell you what Fred realized. Fred would like to tell you himself. This is his story. FRED surprised me, in a very wonderful way. Imagination, and the magical journeys it can create, is not the sole domain of childhood, but we tell ourselves there is no time for such “silliness,” yet without retaining our child-like selves, we lose much of our creativity.

PPP- Fredpark

I love Ms. Seo’s direct lines in the pen and ink illustrations. Each spread overflows with artistic detail and the color remains only with the story and its characters. I think Ms. Seo’s attention to detail and using color to focus readers’ eyes on the story shows she cares about making a terrific sensory experience for children. The monsters are hilarious and kid-friendly. Not one creature will cause nightmares, as none is even a wee-bit scary. They walk among the unsuspecting—and unbelieving—in town without any commotion. I do wonder how the non-believers (who possess little to no imagination), would think if they saw what Fred could see. The story and all the eye-catching illustrations are a definite sign that this debut author/illustrator has not lost her childhood imagination, inspiration, or her imaginary friends.

FRED. Text copyright © 2015 by Kaila Eunhye Seo. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Kaila Eunhye Seo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peter Pauper Press, White Plains, NY.

Purchase FRED at AmazonBook DepositoryPeter Pauper Press.

Learn more about FRED HERE.

TEACHERS:  Common Core Teaching Guide for FRED.

Meet the author/illustrator, Kaila Eunhye Seo, at her website:  http://www.eunhyeseo.com/
Find more picture books at the Peter Pauper Press website:  http://www.peterpauper.com/

**NOTE: Through the month of May, 20% off at Peter Pauper Press. Use Code: MAY 20

Review Section: word count = 663

Huntington Press Best Picture Books 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

FRED  FTC   correct box


MEGA FRED FRIDAY GIVEAWAY from May 1st – May 29th
Set of all TEN of our Critically Acclaimed Picture Books

For a Chance to WIN Click the Rafflecopter Link Below

PPP- FredCover

Fred by Kaila Eunhye Seo


All the Lost Things by Kelly Canby,

All the Lost Things by Kelly Canby


Elephantastic by Michael Engler


The Zoo Is Closed Today! by Evelyn Beilenson


Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! by Bruce Arant


Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley


Hank Has a Dream by Rebecca Dudley


Celia by Cristelle Vallat

Not the Quitting Kind

Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth


Digby Differs by Miriam Koch!

For a Chance to WIN Click the Rafflecopter Link Below

Rafflecopter Giveaway

fred link 4

    WAIT . . . THERE’S MORE!

Kid Lit Reviews is giving away ONE copy of FRED 

To ENTER Just Leave a COMMENT Below

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: adult picture books, creativity, FRED, FRED by Kaila Eunhye Seo, friendship, imaginary friends, imagination, Kaila Eunhye Seo, loneliness, losing child-like qualities, Peter Pauper Press

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9. #699 – Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer & Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella Brings the Family

Written by Miriam B. Schiffer
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle Books      3/05/2015
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day cerebration but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in the sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.” [book jacket]
Stella’s teacher at Elmwood Elementary School announces a celebration for Mother’s Day and each student can invite a “special guest.” Jonathan, Leon, and Carmen are inviting their mothers. Howie even has two mothers to invite! Stella does not have a mother. Her classmates wonder—without a mother—who reads to her at night, helps her with homework, and kisses her when she gets hurt. Stella has many people who do those things. She has her Papa and Daddy, Nonna, Aunt Gloria, Uncle Bruno, and Cousin Lucy. Jonathan suggests inviting them all, but Stella is not sure. On party day, Howie is there with his two mothers and Jonathan is with his grandmother (mom is away in the army). The party is a big hit and everyone has a great time.

kids table

Stella Brings the Family delves into what a family consists of today. No longer simply mom and dad plus kids, today’s configurations of families can be anything that consists of people loving and caring for each other. That can be mom and dad plus kids, or a mom and child, a grandmother and grandchild, even two dads and a daughter, like Stella’s family. Stella Brings the Family is not a book about homosexuality. It does not try to explain why Stella has two dads or anything about the two dads, except that they love Stella.

invite daddy papa stella

What Stella Brings the Family is, is a celebration of family and a celebration of acceptance. None of the kids—or special guests—care about the kind of family each child is a member of, but rather that each child has someone who reads to them at night, helps them with homework, and kisses them when they get hurt. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Stella Brings the Family. Debut author Schiffer keeps the story’s focus on Stella, who stands out thanks to her curly red hair.


The watercolor illustrations beautifully render the multicultural and multigenerational family members. The kids’ invitations, with their drawings of family members, are terrific. The invites look like how someone Stella’s age (6—8) would write, though just a little better than most that age might draw. Clifton-Brown elicits the emotional story clearly through Stella’s expressions. At day’s end, the worn out teacher rests her head on her desk. Stella tells her things will not be as hectic for Father’s Day . . . she will just bring two dads, not the entire family. While not a huge twist or a big laugh, the ending is sweet, just like the story.

STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY. Text copyright © 2015 by Miriam B. Schiffer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Holly Clifton-Brown. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Stella Brings the Family at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Stella Brings the Family HERE.
Meet the author, Miriam B. Schiffer, at her Young Children column:  http://bit.ly/ReadingChair
Meet the illustrator, Holly Clifton-Brown, at her website:  http://www.hollycliftonbrown.co.uk/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 384

stella brings the family

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: 2 dads, 2 moms, Chronicle Books, family composition, Holly Clifton-Brown, Miriam B. Schiffer, multicultural, multigenerational, Stella Brings the Family

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10. #704 – Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips

Today’s review is a bit different from the usual fare here on Kid Lit Reviews. I received a young adult book last year, which I do not review, because I firmly believe YA does not mix well with picture books and middle grade fare. I set it aside. Last night, needing a break from reading kid’s books and packing boxes, I picked up that book, simply titled Crazy. Crazy is Linda Vigen Phillips debut into children’s lit. Written in verse, the story is a fast read. The story shines a light on mental illness and, though set in the 1960s, is every bit as relevant today as it was then. Crazy moved me and I hope it moves you.

crazy coverCrazy

Written by Linda Vigen Phillips
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers     10/06/2014
314 pages         Age 12+
A Junior Library Guild Selection for 2014

“Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness. No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. Laura finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?” [book cover]

15-year-old Laura’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and the family suffers right along with her, as most often happens. The author took parts of her own life, apparently having a mother who also suffered from mental illness. In the sixties, where the story takes place, mental illness carried much stigma so families kept this very secret. A lot of effort went into hiding the ailment from others. Kids never brought friends home to play or for sleepovers. If the family member was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the family’s secret keeping went into high alert.

Now this may sound crazy in itself, but people outside the family secret did treat kids and adults with a mentally ill family member differently—poorly, often as if the craziness could rub off the family and onto them. Many people did not consider mental illness a medical disorder. Instead, mental illness was a problem of attitude, disposition, and a weakness of the will. Thus, mentally ill people could cure themselves by changing their attitude and their disposition by just acting normal. “If they would just do this or do that, they would be fine in no time,” was the basic attitude of most people.

The mother was a brilliant artist when younger, but gave it up. Laura encourages her mother to paint again, thinking it might help her mother regain her sense of self and thus act more normal. Instead, her mother has a “nervous breakdown.” Now Laura blames herself because she encouraged her mother to paint and, in her mind, the act of painting again caused her mother to collapse. Being a gifted artist in her own right, Laura is terrified that she will tumble into the same black hole her mother has. At one point, Laura even believes she is on her way, and in great fear and despair, refuses to paint, despite a contest deadline looming near.


“If you’ve ever been there
when a lightbulb gets real bright
just before it blows out,
then you know what it was like
around here when things got extremely crazy,
right before they shipped Mama off
to the nut house.

“It’s all my fault
for suggesting
she take up painting again.
That’s what she was doing
that day I came home
to such a mess.
She was trying to paint on canvas,
not ceramics,
and maybe,
well, maybe she just forgot
how to do it
and it frustrated her real bad.
I could see she was beside herself
with frustration.

“I never should have suggested it.

“Maybe that’s why she put her hand
on the hot stove last night
and didn’t even smell
the burning flesh.
Now on top of her craziness
she has a bandaged hand.”

The problem in the sixties, as it was in the fifties, and every decade past, was a lack of information. Even today, though much enlightened, some still attach a stigma to mental illness. Books like Crazy help change these views by looking to the next generation. Laura, having been kept in the dark by her family (Laura is not old enough to understand), knows little about her mother’s illness. She understands mom is crazy, as she lives with the craziness each day. Laura watches her mother sit in a chair all day, staring at nothing in particular and worrying about everything (JFK’s assassination occurs), then watches her mother in crazed action, with energy that overflows and keeps her moving for days.

Laura gives up her own artistic talent to maintain her sanity, but it does not work. Laura feels herself falling deeper into a hole she cannot comprehend. Despite asking what is specifically going on with her mother, no one will explain. Not understanding, Laura’s mind works herself into her own despair. Overloaded with a sick mother, keeping secrets, and normal teen angst Laura works herself into believing she is beginning the slow descent into craziness. Her father has closed himself off, in his own attempts to deal with an ill wife he dearly loves, so Laura does not get the support she needs from him. Her older sister is busy with her own family, having married young. Laura’s friends are in the dark, though would most likely be a great support system for her, if she was not so afraid to tell them.

Crazy does a great job describing mental illness fifty years ago and an even better job of describing a kid who must live with a mentally ill parent. The writing is easy to read and a fast read, since most of the verse deals with Laura and her thoughts, rather than visual descriptions. It works. I think an advanced middle grader could read Crazy and enjoy the story along with a new understanding of mental illness. Crazy was difficult to put down, even for an hour. I read the 314 pages in one evening. The story is that compelling and that interesting. I needed to know how Laura was going to deal with her mother’s illness. Would she ever return to painting? Could she ever tell her friends? Would Laura really descend into darkness, herself, as she imagines is happening? Will anyone ever speak truthfully and answer Laura’s questions? I just had to know.

Laura tries to protect herself from a mother she does not understand and friends who might abandon her if they knew her secret. I enjoyed this emotionally stirring story. Crazy drew me into the story immediately with the powerful writing. The author does a great job leading the reader down the path she wants them to walk. Laura is a credible character and one in which many kids will see themselves. Laura will have your empathy, but it will take time to understand the other characters’ motives. The story rolls out perfectly. I know this because I have a brother with bipolar disorder. In a group setting, Crazy can easily lead to a great discussion. I recommend Crazy for advanced readers age 12 and up, including adults.

You can purchase Crazy at AmazonEerdmans Books.

Discussion Guide is HERE.
Learn more about Crazy HERE.
Meet the author, Linda Vigen Phillips, at her website:  http://www.lindavigenphillips.com/
Find more picture books at the Eerdmans Books for YR website:  http://www.eerdmans.com/YoungReaders/

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co.

CRAZY. Text copyright © 2014 by Linda Vigen Phillips. Copyright © 2014 by publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, MI.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 864


Filed under: 5stars, Book Excerpt, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: 1960s JFK assassination, bipolar disorder, Crazy, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, emotional, high school angst, Linda Vigen Phillips, mental illness, powerful

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11. #705 – Pool by JiHyeon Lee



By JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books      5/01/2015
56 pages      Age 3—5

“What happens when two shy children meet at a very crowded pool? Dive in to find out! JiHyeon Lee’s masterful story of a chance encounter takes readers on a journey that reminds us that friendship and imagination have no bounds.” [book jacket]

Pool arrives just in time for summer. Pool wordlessly tells the story of one young boy going to a public pool to find it is crowded. Actually, barely an inch exists between swimmers. He sits on the side of the pool, probably contemplating what to do. Then he dives in and goes below the legs of all those swimmers. Down into the depths of the pool, the young boy meets all sorts of curious water-living creatures. Crazy big-eyed fish, long L-shaped fish, and even a fish resembling a toucan exist down below those swimmers.

Most importantly, the young boy meets another swimmer his own age. The two explore all the life below the other swimmers. Schools of bluefish swarm the young boy, who looks uncertain. The brave outlook of the young girl must give him confidence, as they fearlessly swim among fish with many sharp teeth and come eye-to-eye with a huge whale. As the two swim up for air, the fish follow causing a riotous exit from the water by the other swimmers.


I love Pool. Pool exemplifies the power of the imagination and the pull of kindred spirits into friendship. Pool shows the boy’s problem-solving skills as he decides to go below the swimming feet where there would be room to actually swim. Those above him crowd the water too tightly to even move, let alone swim. Below the surface, this resourceful boy meets another young swimmer and the two find ways to enjoy the water and themselves. Are those fish real? It’s anyone’s guess whether those crazy-looking fish are real or the figment of the young swimmers’ imaginations. Last out of the pool is an inner tube wearing young swimmer, who looks back upon the now quiet and still water. If you saw what this youngster saw, you just might believe.

Pool is perfect for any summer day, rain or shine. Lee used oil pastels and colored pencils to create the beautifully crafted spreads. As the young boy swims below the crowded surface, his trunks turn from a dull grey to a dark blue. The further he descends, the brighter the spreads. I think the message is that one must go beyond the ordinary, innertube crowd to see the wonders of the world and, when finding friendship, enjoy the time together in those wonders you share. Staying on the surface, with the crowd, is safe but often lonely. Pool is Lee’s first picture book. I hope she continues to publish. Her work is collector worthy.

Next time you go swimming, try going down to the depths of your imagination. You just might meet your kindred spirit.


POOL. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by JiHyeon Lee. Copright © 2015 by Chronicle Books. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Pool at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Pool HERE.
Collect Wallpapers no.1 and no.2
Meet the artist, JiHyeon Lee at her pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/kooshles/ji-hyeon-lee-south-korean-illustrator/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

Originally published in South Korea in 2013 by Iyagikot Publishing.

top book of 2015 general


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 353



Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, collector-worthy picture books, imaginative, JiHyeon Lee, Korean born children’s authors and illustrators, Pool, splendid, summer, swimming

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12. #716 – Painting for Peace in Ferguson by Carol Swartout Klein

Painting for Peace in Ferguson
Written by Carol Swartout Klein
Treehouse Publishing Group      2/21/2015
52 pages       Age 6+

“Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the story of a community coming together, hundreds of artists and volunteers, black and white, young and old, to bring hope and healing to their community using the simplest of all tools—a paintbrush. Written in child-friendly verse, the actual artwork painted on hundreds of boarded up windows in Ferguson, South Grand and surrounding areas illustrates the story. The art ranges from simple, childlike drawings of love and peace to challenging and compelling calls for social change. The effect on the town’s landscape and its people was remarkable: turning fear into hope, frustration into inspiration, and destruction into creation. . . . when people reach out to each other across lines that divide us and work together, remarkable things happen. A single paintbrush can paint one picture but thousands working together can transform a community.” [back cover]

Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image8

The paintbrush became a tool of hope in Ferguson. Artists young and old, amateur and professional, armed with a paintbrush came together to transform the boarded up windows of a community that had imploded upon itself in grief and anger. Painting for Peace in Ferguson captures those mostly now gone images inside a children’s book that is not, and should not be just for children.


The images range from simple black and white messages of hope to murals compelling a need for social change. From single boarded up windows to complete storefronts, (and the broken windows and doors of City Hall), told the story of Ferguson, Missouri uniting behind strong ideals: loving one another and coexisting in peace.


With over 140 artworks painted over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the images in Painting for Peace in Ferguson are powerful testaments to the human spirit and resiliency. Children likely find the events of Ferguson confusing. Painting for Peace in Ferguson possesses the wonderful ability to help foster understanding and discussion, not just with children but also with adults, many of whom are also struggling to comprehend the events that disrupted their lives and communities.


300 artists and volunteers created paintings in the City of St. Louis’s communities of Ferguson, Dellwood and South Grand. Such a gargantuan effort showers inspirations of hope, peace, and love among those communities and all who read Painting for Peace in Ferguson.


If there is any drawback to Painting for Peace in Ferguson it is the text, with inconsistent rhyme patterns and the occasional slanted rhyme. The attempt to rhyme may be based on a false belief that children’s books need to rhyme to attract and hold a child’s attention. The Ferguson story would have been better served in simple and straightforward prose. Still, the message of Ferguson is clear and not easily forgotten, nor should it be.

“In the small town of Ferguson
In 2014
Some people did things that
Were meaner than mean

“Some people were mad
Some people were sad
But everyone, everywhere
Felt pretty bad :(

“But when morning came
Folks took one look around
And said we don’t like
The looks of our town”


Painting for Peace in Ferguson has the power to ignite many a discussion from those with elementary children to those between adults. The symbol of hope and peace is one children should learn and embrace, but it began with the hundreds of artists who descended upon Ferguson in a united belief that Ferguson—and the country as a whole—can heal and grow.


In this regard, Painting for Peace in Ferguson is a picture book like no other and belongs on the collective landscape for years to come as a reminder that communities need not implode in anger and grief—though greatly justified—when there is a better, more productive and satisfying option of healing in hope and peace—as in South Carolina these past few weeks. Author Carol Swartout Klein is a native of Ferguson.

PAINTING FOR PEACE IN FERGUSON. Text copyright (C) 2015 by Carol Swartout Klein. Illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by Rachel Abbinanti, et al. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Treehouse Publishing Group, St. Louis, MO.

Purchase Painting for Peace in Ferguson at AmazonBook DepositoryBook’s Website.  (Available in paperback 8/04/2015) **Proceeds from the sale of Painting for Peace in Ferguson are donated to youth arts and small business recovery in North St. Louis County.

Learn more about Painting for Peace in Ferguson HERE.
Resources for Parents & Teachers can be found HERE and HERE.
Coloring Pages for Kids can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Carol Swartout Klein, with her biography HERE.
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Website:  http://www.paintingforpeacebook.com/
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/paintingforpeacebook
Find more picture books at the Treehouse Publishing Group website:  http://www.amphoraepublishing.com/treehouse-publishing-group/

Treehouse Publishing Group is an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group

2015 IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year—Peacemaker

     The riots following the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case left storefronts along the main streets of Ferguson and the South Grand neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri with broken windows. When the businesses were boarded up the next day, they appeared closed and unsafe, furthering the economic hardship and community despair.
     Hundreds of local artists responded almost immediately by volunteering their time to help the businesses and beautify the affected blocks. Hundreds of gallons of paint were donated by individuals and businesses as far away as Massachusetts, and an online fund drive quickly raised nearly $1300.
     Tom Halaska, who grew up in North St. Louis and now owns the Art Bar at 2732 Cherokee Street on the Southside of St. Louis City, is the driving force behind the effort known as Paint for Peace StL. He maintains all the donated supplies in storage at the Art Bar and continues to be a matchmaker between boarded businesses anywhere in the region and volunteer artists. (© http://paintforpeacestl.org/)

     Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image202Carol Swartout Klein grew up in Ferguson, got her first set of jacks from the Ferguson Woolworths store (now the Ace Hardware store), got her first driver’s license at what was the Ferguson Department store (now BMI Fitness), graduated from McCluer High School and got married at Ferguson Presbyterian Church.
     She was so inspired by witnessing the spirit of hundreds of volunteers coming together to bring hope to a community in shock, she wanted to capture the story. Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the result. A journalist and marketing professional by training, she saw how healing the process of creating the artwork was for all those involved. As the community came together to help others, the artists, business owners and volunteers helped themselves, creating new connections she hopes will continue to create a positive environment of hope and peace. (©Peregrine Book Company)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Painting for Peace in Ferguson, by Carol Swartout Klien, and received from Treehouse Publishing Group, (an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: artists for peace, Carol Swartout Klien, communities transformed, Ferguson Missouri, Painting for Peace in Ferguson, peace initiatives, racial divides, racism, Treehouse Publishing Group

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13. #727 – The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham

The Perfect Percival Priggs
Written and Illustrated by Julie-Anne Graham
Running Press Kids       5/26/2015
978-0-7624 -5506-5
32 pages      Age 4—8

“Percival Priggs wants to be the perfect child in order to please his seemingly perfect parents. But even when Percy gets his family into a mess of a situation, his parents’ love for him remains absolute perfection.” [front jacket]


“Percival Priggs was perfect.
His parents were perfect.
His grandparents were perfect.
Even his pets were perfect.”

Wow! The Priggs are a tremendously perfect family. This puts a lot of pressure on young Percy to be perfect in everything he does. Both parents are professors with shelves of awards between them. Percy has his own shelf that is nearly as filled with shiny trophies and perfect straight-A report cards. But Percy is finding it is tiring to be so perfect all of the time. If he told his parents this, would they love him any less? Percy is afraid they might, and so he keeps his feelings to himself.

2One weekend, Percy has so many competitions to complete he has no idea how he will ever finish on time. He isn’t thrilled about many of the competitions he is entered in, but he must to find a way to finish perfectly before the weekend is over. Percy comes up with a plan to finish faster, only making one small miscalculation . . . that sends everything into a disastrous cavalcade of humorous tumbles. He just knows his parents will be furious. What will happen to Percival Priggs now that he is no longer a Perfect Percival?

ill1_planI love this story. How many of us think we must be perfect and perform all our duties perfectly, never giving ourselves a break? Count me in. Yet, what does that teach our children? I love that Percival’s parents finally open up to their son, showing him that they were never always perfect (and maybe still not). This takes a load off young Percy’s shoulders. The illustrations (pen and ink on drafting film, with textures and backgrounds in Photoshop), are goofy with an old-fashioned sense of style and are extremely appealing. Oddly, there are words embedded in the character’s head, face, and eyeglasses (which all three wear). I’m not sure, but are these people so intent on perfection that they actually were their thoughts? It is an interesting idea and illustration technique.

I love the message from these two imperfect parents: They love Percy for who he is, not what he wins, and they keep on trying for perfection because they love what they do, not because they want to be perfect. They let Percy off the hook, telling him to find out what it is he loves to do, and then do that, no matter the imperfections or failures he will encounter along the way. Percy does just that in a humorous attempt to find out what he loves to do.

percival_spread2Roller-skating . . . nope, he falls too much. A rock star . . . well, no, not a rock star. In the end, Percy’s trophy shelf is as full as ever, but looks a whole lot different. It starts representing the real Percy. And his best trophy, the one he adores the most? Nah, not telling. Read The Perfect Percival Priggs to find out.

THE PERFECT PERCIVAL PRIGGS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Julie-Anne Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Running Press Kids, Philadelphia, PA.

Purchase The Perfect Percival Priggs at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksiTunes BooksRunning Press Kids.

Learn more about The Perfect Percival Priggs HERE.


Find The Perfect Percival Priggs Activity Pack HERE.


Meet the author/illustrator, Julie-Anne Graham, at her website: http://www.julieannegraham.com/
.           .  Twitter: @Ja_Illustrator
Find more picture books at the Running Press Kids’ website: http://www.runningpress.com/rpkids
.             . Running Press Kids is an imprint of Running Press Book Publishers, and a member of the Perseus Group.


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


Full Disclosure: The Perfect Percival Priggs by Julie-Anne Graham, and received from Running Press Kids, (an imprint of Running Press Book Publishers), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: family, Julie-Anne Graham, parent-child relationships, perfection, Perseus Group, pressure, Running Press Book Publications, Running Press Kids, The Perfect Percival Priggs, winning

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14. Young Spencer Talks About Where Are My Books?

Today, Kid Lit Reviews is pleased as a fat whale flopping in the ocean to welcome Spencer. Spencer’s story has been memorialized in Deborah Ridpath Ohi’s first solo picture book, Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster). Spencer has an interesting story that may have happened to you or your child. One-by-one his favorite picture books …

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15. #642 – Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt & Vin Vogel


Maddi’s Fridge

Written by Lois Brandt
Illustrations by Vin Vogel
Flash Light Press              9/01/2014
Age 4 to 8          32 pages
“Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, play in the same park, and go to the same school. But while Sofia[s fridge is full, Maddi’s fridge is empty—white empty—just a small container of milk.

“Why doesn’t your mom go to the store?” Sofia asks

“We don’t have enough money”

“But what if you get hungry?”

“We have some bread,” says Maddi. “Please don’t tell anyone.”

“Sofia promises Maddi she won’t tell, but is determined to help her best friend. She sneaks food for Maddi in her bag and discovers that, while fish and eggs are good for kids, they aren’t very good for backpacks. Despite Sofia’s very best efforts, Maddi’s fridge is still empty. Sofia promised not to tell. Now what does she do?”


“When Sofia and Maddi played at the park, they stretched their toes to the sky.”


Best friends Sofia and Maddi play in the park every day. Sofia runs faster than Maddi, but Maddi climbs the rock wall quicker than Sofia does. Somehow, that evens things out for the two friends. Their food situation is far from even. Sofia discovers Maddi has only milk in her fridge—less than full. Sofia’s fridge is loaded with food—good food. Maddi has a lot of energy for a girl barely eating, but then, hunger knows how to mask itself, usually through embarrassment and shame. Embarrassed, Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell anyone. Sofia goes home to eat. (Why didn’t she invite Maddi?)

MF layout 3

Sofia keeps her promise not to tell; still she must help her best friend. That night, Sofia’s mom makes fish and rice for dinner. There is enough food that even Pepito, the dog, had some fish and rice mixed into his dog food. Sofia got a great idea. She asks her mom if fish is good for kids and mom says it iss perfect. That night, Sofia put some fish in a baggie and dropped it into her backpack. The following day, Sofia’s backpack stunk of inedible fish.

“Yuck,” said Maddi

“Double Yuck,” said Sofia.

The following night, Sofia’s mom makes frittatas for dinner. Again, even Pepito has frittata mixed into his bowl. Sofia asks if eggs are good for kids . . . see where this is going. Yeah, Sofia tries to help her friend and keep her promise at the same time, but backpacks filled the night before, and sit outside the fridge waiting for the morning to arrive, do not make good transportation when sneaking food for a friend.

MF layout 9

Sofia knows she needs help. Can she break her promise to Maddi? Kids will understand this story; laugh at the funny moments, and leave wanting to help others, as kids are prone to do. In Maddi’s Fridge, Sofia’s brother offers his favorite food and Pepito offers his bowl and a can of dog food (what a happy dog—I thought it was a cat).

The illustrations add humor with the comic-like characters and a neighborhood setting that could be your neighborhood. Randomly open the book and odds are good you will see a positive spread and probably humor. Only three pages express Maddi’s situation and her embarrassment. The author kept Maddi’s Fridge a story kids will enjoy and understand.

In the end, the two girls must work out what it means to break a promise. Will Maddi be upset with Sofia? What is more important: promises or people? (Or best-friend people?) Maddi’s Fridge could easily have been a message story or had the lack of food a constant talking point. Instead, Maddi’s Fridge is a sweet story about two best friends taking care of each other.

Mf layout 5

Oh, there is another side story where Maddi helps Sofia, but I can’t fit it all in. Sorry, you will need to read Maddi’s Fridge. The story is perfect for story time, teachers of grades K to 2, and homeschoolers. Maddi’s Fridge is a sweet story that remains positive, refusing to become sad or gloomy, though the subject of hunger can certainly be both.

MADDI’S FRIDGE. Text copyright © 2014 by Lois Brandt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Vin Vogel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Flash Light Press, Brooklyn, NY.


Buy Maddi’s Fridge at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryFlash Light Pressyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Maddi’s Fridge HERE.

Meet the author, Lois Brandt, at her website:    http://www.loisbrandt.com/

Meet the illustrator, Vin Vogel, at his website:    http://www.vinvogel.com/

Find more picture books at the Flash Light Press website:    http://www.flashlightpress.com/


Also by Vin Vogel

The Thing About Yetis! (Fall, 2015)

Music Class Today! (Fall 2015)


maddis fridge

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: childhood hunger, children's book reviews, Flash Light Press, hunger, Lois Brandt, picture book, social issues, Vin Vogel

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16. #647 – The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

guardian herd 1 starfire


The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

Written by Jennifer Lynn Alvareztop-10-use-eb-trans
Harper/HarperCollins Children’s Books      9/23/2014
Age 8 to 12              272 pages

“Once every hundred years, a black foal is born, prophesied to either unite or destroy the five herds of flying horses that live in the land of Anok. He is fated to become the most powerful Pegasus in all of Anok. Star is this black foal. Even though Star has malformed wings that make him unable to fly, the leaders of each herd will take no risks and want to execute Star before his first birthday. With the help of his friends, Star must escape the clutches of the powerful leaders. His epic journey of self-discovery turns into a battle between good and evil that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.”


“Star trotted through the dense pine forest, alone.”

The Story

The Pegasi of Anok (mythical winged horses), consists of five herds each with their own leader—the over-stallions—and their own land. None crosses the borders without permission. Wars have been raging between these herds for hundreds of years. Star is a black foal born into the Sun Herd, led by Thunderwing. When Star’s mother died birthing Star, Thunderwing’s mate adopted him, much against her mate’s wishes.

Star, a black foal, was born under the Hundred Year Star. If he can remain alive until his first birthday, he will receive the star’s power, and then become either a destroyer or a healer. No one knows which he will become, not even Star, and this terrifies the over-stallions of each herd. The last black foal born under this star all thought would be a healer. He was a good weanling, but when he received the power, he became a destroyer and wrecked havoc in all the land of Anok. It is up to the over-stallion of the guardian herd—Thunderwing—to kill the black foal before his first birthday, or to let him live and receive his ultimate power. Thunderwing is as scared as the others are and plans to execute Star before his first birthday.

Only Star’s three friends and his adopted mother believe Star will be a healer and seek to keep Star alive so he can receive the power of the Hundred Year Star. The other weanlings (those under one-year of age) bully Star and his three friends, mainly because he cannot fly. He does not fit into his wings, and must walk every like a common horse—a terrible insult to a Pegasus.

One particular weanling has it in for Star and tries to kill him. But in doing so, he crosses into another herd’s land, starting a war. Between this new war and the majority of pegasi wanting him executed, Star knows he must be on his own. Can Star survive without his friends, tend to his own food and water, and remain hidden from all other pegasi? Whether or not Star can survive on his own will greatly determine his future. With five herds looking for him, Star’s odds of survival are slim.


The Guardian Herd has every element a kid wants in an adventure. The author has created an imaginative, highly stylized world kids will appreciate. There are great characters that are easy to understand and like, even the terrifying bully Brackentail. This adventure has tons of action, some with violence. The violence is not bad until the final battle, making this book more appropriate for middle graders on the older end of their age-range.

There are many characters is The Guardian Herd. So many that the author starts with five pages of descriptions so kids know the herds and the pegasi in each herd. I found this section a tad overwhelming and skipped it altogether. I had no trouble remembering who was who and where they belonged. The only thing this list does, in my opinion, is make the story seem cumbersome and it might scare off a reader or two. I would drop it or place it at the end of the story.

Star is a wonderful character. Despite his worthless wings and inability to fly, Star has a warm personality, respects and honors his friends and adopted mare, and is braver than one would think given his situation and fate. Star is a character whose side you will quickly take up. When off on his own, Star’s humor—or the author’s humorous writing—had me in stitches. I loved his friend Crabwing and the things they did in and around the bay.

Granted, there is a huge war near the end of the story and the violence can be just shy of young adult territory, but I do not think it will give any kid nightmares, especially when the scenes that follow these battles are as strong and easy to envision. Once these scenes begin, the war becomes a distant memory. I think these final scenes will override any violent scenes a kid may linger on. The ending is extremely well written and strong. It was nothing as I imagined it might be. I cannot explain any further without spoilers, so this will have to do: the ending is fantastic. If the author does not hurry up and finish the next book, I may start stalking her blog.

The Guardian Herd may not be a New York Bestseller, yet, but it will entertain, and possibly teach your child a few things about friendship, respect, and loyalty. If not, they will still be completely engrossed for a few hours with an imaginative world that actually resembles our own world in many ways. I highly recommend this series for kids age 10 and up. Adults who love fantasy adventures will also enjoy The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire. This is Jennifer’s debut novel with HarperCollins—her first traditionally published book!

THE GUARDIAN HERD #1: STARFIRE. Text copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Advanced Readers Copy received from the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.


Get your copy of The Guardian Herd: Starfire at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryHarperCollinsyour favorite book store.

Learn more about The Guardian Herd: Starfire HERE

**Also Available in Audio

Meet the author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at her website:    http://www.jenniferlynnalvarez.com/

Find more exciting stories at the HarperCollins website:    http://www.harpercollins.com/

HarperCollins Children’s Books is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Here is a twelve-year-old kid’s view of The Guardian Herd #1:  Starfire. Read Erik’s review HERE


Also by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

The Pet Washer

The Pet Washer




Reviewed HERE



guardian herd starfire


Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: children's book reviews, Guardian Herd, HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins Publishers, Hundred Year Star, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Land of Anok, middle grade novel, Pegasus, Starfire

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17. #650 – The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey by Gregory E. Bray & Holly J. Bray-Cook

cover 2 mzzox


The “Tail” of a Boy Named Harvey

Written by Gregory E. Bray
Illustrated by Holly J. Bray-Cook
Published by Gregory E. Bray         6/01/2013
Age 4 to 8              32 pages

“Harvey is always playing with his pets, but his pets don’t like the way he plays with them. When the tables have turned, will he enjoy the way he’s played with?”


“Harvey was an energetic boy. He loved playing sports.”

The Story

Harvey is a typical five-year-old. He is rambunctious, energetic, imaginative, and self-centered. Harvey loves playing with his pets: a dog and a cat (names not given). Being a young boy, he does not think of either pet’s feelings or consider how they might like to play. The pets are like large dolls that breathe. Harvey puts clothes on them, uses the cat as a basketball, and dresses both up in military garb when he wants to play army—sending the cat up into the air so it may return in a parachute. To say Harvey plays rough with his companions is a mild way of describing his actions. Harvey plays like a little boy plays, with energy and enthusiasm.

The poor dog and cat are not happy and try to avoid Harvey at all costs. His parents cannot figure out why the pets react so adversely to their son, until the day mom catches Harvey ready to catch his parachuting kitty.

“She sent him to his room after dinner and he was only allowed to come out for school and meals.”

Harvey’s response to his punishment further shows he has no idea what he did to get into so much trouble.

“Stupid pets!”  [Harvey said, while lying in bed.]



I really like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Subconsciously, Harvey understood what he did was wrong. In his dream, he is the “pet” and the pets “own” him. The pets play with Harvey exactly as he played with them—thrown up in the air, dressed up, and abruptly awakened. Harvey hates this “playing.” The army games the pets play with Harvey terrify him enough to jolt him awake. Mom tells him it is only a dream, but Harvey has other thoughts on his mind,

“I’m sorry guys. I didn’t know how bad I treated you. I promise to play nice with you for now on!”

I like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey because animal abuse starts with that first inappropriate action. While most kids do not continue on abusing animals—and later extend the abuse to humans—the sooner they learn to respect their pets, the faster they will learn to respect other people and themselves. Harvey’s self-centeredness, typical for his age, opened up a notch with his revelation. I love that Harvey came to this realization mainly by himself, though he would have gotten there much slower had mom not punished him. This is a perfect example of how kids learn. The author’s inspiration for the book came in part from his son Liam and their cat Harvey. The author got it right.


Now, what I do not like about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. I am not a fan of the 8 x 8 format mainly because little hands need the stronger pages of a traditional picture book format. A couple of pages came loose from the binding in my copy. The main problem with the story is the lack of action. The narrator tells us 90 percent or more of what is happening instead of letting the characters do this. The story would be more engaging had this happened. The reader would also be able to add to the story by adopting character voices and further charm their child. Please remember the key maxim: Show not Tell.

The illustrations are good, not traditional looking picture book illustrations, but nicely done. The pets are great at showing their dislike through facial expressions, though my cat would have simply hissed or bit, then run away. When the pets do run away, their fast retreat is nicely illustrated. The illustrator made sure we understood Harvey’s point of view drastically changes when he becomes the pet. The dog and cat (wish they had names) are adorable. Nice job with the little details I love so much.


I think kids will like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Young kids will appreciate the story and laugh at Harvey’s predicament. Those with pets will quickly learn from Harvey and that is a great thing to happen. Classrooms with a pet would do well to read this story, as would any child soon to get their first pet. The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey is the author’s, and the illustrator’s, first children’s book. They both did a nice job bringing the story of Harvey (the cat or the boy, I am no longer sure which) to life.

THE TAIL OF A BOY NAMED HARVEY. Text copyright © 2013 by Gregory E. Bray. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Holly J. Bray-Cook. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gregory E. Bray, Sacramento, CA.

For a young lad’s critique, click HERE


Purchase The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey at Amazon—B&N—CreateSpace—Gregory Bray—your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey HERE

Meet the author, Gregory E. Bray, at his blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Meet the illustrator, Holly J. Bray-Cook, at her website:

Gregory E. Bray published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform


tail of a boy named harvey

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


A Little about Gregory E. Bray

gregory e bray authorx

“Gregory E Bray (1967-present) was born and raised in Sacramento, CA where he still resides He was a film major in college who now works in the IT industry. He has written scripts for corporate videos and shorts and uses humor in everything he writes. He uses his humor in this, his first children’s book, to help get the books message out to children. His inspiration for writing this children’s book comes from his wife Lita, their son Liam and their cat Harvey.”

How to Find Gregory E. Bray


Blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/gregoryebray

Goodreads Author Page:   https://www.goodreads.com/geb1967

Amazon Author’s Page:    amazon.com/author/gregorybray

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: be kind to pets, cats, children's book reviews, dogs, Gregory E. Bray, Holly J. Bray-Cook, imagination, pets, picture books, relationships, respect

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18. #653 – Woodland LItter Critters ABC by Patience and Robert Mason


wood;and llitter critters ABCx


Woodland Litter Critters ABC

Written by Patience Mason
Illustrated by Robert Mason
Patience Press 6/01/2014
Age 2 to 5 32 pages

“The Litter Critters were all found hiding by Patience Mason. As they gather to watch the sunset at the shady river the Litter critters introduce young children to the alphabet.”


“Near the shady river at the end of the day, Andy Acorncap ambled along.”

The Story

Here is how it happens: Clarice the Caterpillar is long and sleek and singing a song as she watches the sun set. Greta the Giant Gnat buzzes as Luisa and Leif Liveoak, with their long legs and huge feet, dance and put on a show. I doubt anyone is looking at the Nut Family, the bunch of show-offs. Certainly not Rupert the Reindeer, he is too shy to look at anyone. Sarah Sweetgumball, who only wants to fly, keeps both her eyes upon one-eyed Tilly Thistlebottom instead of the setting sun. Tilly likes to bounce around the ground.

Wallie the Walking stick towers over the Volt Vines’ family, whose ties are a tangled mess. Blue, one-eyed Xat and his master Xerxes the Xenos are the only foreigners, having flow in from the stars or maybe even Mars. Finally, everyone gathers around Zippy the Zygodactyl to watch the sun make its final descent and disappear. And that is how it happens most every evening.



As the day slowly winds down, various woodland creatures—litter critters—watch the sun set. From Andy Acorncap to Zippy the Zygodactyl, various critters from A to Z teach young children their ABC’s and a little about creativity. The author created each of these critters from various pieces of the woods that fall upon the ground, hence “litter” critters. Each is remarkably lifelike in appearance.

These critters are cute with their twig arms and legs, acorn bodies, and various decorations. Most of us walk over these cast-off pieces, never thinking at all about the possibility these could be critters. Patience Mason doesn’t think this way. Instead of stepping on the twigs and nuts, leaves and scattered seeds, she sees hiding woodland critters waiting for her to pick them up and give them life once more. These critters look real. Patience has done a remarkable job putting each together with imagination and creativity. Any child could do the same, though not at her level of artistry. Yet, with a little help, kids could create all sorts of litter critters never before seen. There is no artificial coloring added to any critter. Critters like Mike Magnoliacone and Greta the Giant Gnat, get their color naturally—Mike from magnolia cone seeds; Greta from sparkleberry leaves.


An unusual feature in Woodland Litter Critters ABC, aside from all the critters, is the ABC’s are not only in upper case, as in every other ABC book, but also in lower case. Children can walk into their first day of school knowing both and be ahead of the class.

I think kids will enjoy looking at each critter, trying to find them in subsequent pages, and possibly making their own. In fact, I cannot imagine any child who reads Woodland Litter Critters ABC not wanting to make its own critters. For families that have a creative day, this is an ideal book. The possibilities are endless. While this is not a craft book, there are certainly many ideas represented for kids to follow or mix up. Woodland Litter Critters ABC is the most imaginative and creative ABC book I have ever seen. The pages are not thick as in most ABC books, but torn pages are worth the risk to introduce your child to the likes of Ulysses Unicorn and Elvis Evergreen (with wife Elvira).


WOODLAND LITTER CRITTERS ABC. Text copyright © 2014 by Patience Mason. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Mason. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Patience Press, High Springs, FL.

Purchase Woodland Litter Critters ABC at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPatience Press—your favorite bookstore.

See the individual creatures of Woodland Litter Critters ABC HERE
Meet the author, Patience Mason, at her website:   http://patiencepress.com/patience_press/Welcome.html
Meet the illustrator, Robert Mason, at his website:   http://www.robertcmason.com/
Find other books at the Patience Press website:   http://patiencepress.com/

Also by Patience Mason

Recovering from the War

Recovering from the War






Also by Robert Mason



Chickenhawk Back in the World

Chickenhawk Back in the World











woodland litter critter ABC

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: ABC's, children's book reviews, creativity, outdoors, Patience Mason, Patience Press, picture book, Robert Mason, woods

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19. #658 – You Are (Not) Small by Anna King & Christopher Weyant

You Are (Not) Small

Written by Anna Kangtop-10-use-eb-trans
Illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Two Lions             8/05/2014
Age 4 to 8           32 pages


“Two fuzzy creatures can’t agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all! Size all depends on who’s standing next to you.”


“You are small.”


Two funny, hairy purple and orange creatures square off and let the other know about their size:  big or small. The orange creature tells the purple creature that he is small. The purple creature responds that he is not small, but the orange creature is big. Orange denies being big, despite towering over the purple, who denies being small, despite barely coming up the orange creature’s waist. STOP! What is going on with these two? Don’t they see the obvious?

Nope, they sure do not. The big guy denies he is big, bringing in others just like him to prove his point.

You Are Not Small int spread 3

 “They are just like me.”

Huh? The little creature brings in others just like him and he, too makes the same point. This argument is not logical, but young kids will not care. Honestly, in my first read-through, which is always for fun, I didn’t give much to the faulty logic either. I doubt I even noticed it—laughing excessively, wiping tears from my sparkling eyes, and holding my laugh-cramped stomach. Then the interaction gets a tad intense. Voices get louder.

“You are all small!’
“You are all big!”

Each of the supporting groups has interesting reactions. At first, the purple creatures look on, one wide-eyed (love it), but the orange creature’s are less interested. One even rolls his eyes (love it, more). Ratchet up the tension and voices. Everyone is now involved. This plot, the characters, the twist at the end all make for a charming book no young child should be without.

Five colors and a white background make perfect illustrations for this story. The black outlining brings character and emotions to these hairy big and small creatures. Their rotund figures remind me of polar bears. I love the small dot eyes. The comical noses on these creatures are huge and terrific. Add in the mitten-like hands and these creatures are all thumbs and harmless. Oversized text compliments these terrific illustrations, which children and their parents will love—enough to read many successive times.


Whoa! What was that? Two huge feet— each foot half a page in width—and two legs, cut off before the knee, slam down in the middle of the lively argument. The green, hairy creature is humongous! Tiny pink creatures find their way down by way of yellow parachutes. Purple and orange creatures look up with varying interest; including a wide-eyed, purple creature and a glasses wearing orange creature with a content smile (love the small details). Many of the creatures on both sides are smiling. Combatant purple looks to his orange sparring partner, points to one pink creatures and says,

“See? I am not small.”

Misunderstood orange, wearing a big smile, points to the green creature that dropped in only moments before, and says,

“See? I am not big.”

Notice, there are no exclamation points in either statement. The two creatures have come to a conclusion. Both sides smile, one declares something, and off everyone goes, happy as if no argument ever occurred. Lesson: your size is relative to whom you are standing near. You can be both small and big!

You Are Not Small int spread 1

You Are (Not) Small has one of the funniest twists/lead-ins to a next book I have read in a while. Aside from the back matter telling us the author/illustrator team of Kang and Weyant are working on a sequel, the final spread gives it away. Kids will grab up the sequel as fast as the books hit the shelves. Pre-order the sequel now, well, if you could, but you cannot. What a shame.

Kids will howl at the twist, never having seen it coming until it hits. All readers, young and old, big and small, will adore this crazy book about size’s relative nature, be it of girth or problem. There is always going to be one bigger and smaller than yours.

Go get You Are (Not) Small right now. Read it every night—you will do this voluntarily. Read it to the kids, if you want. They will love it as much as you will. Laugh every day. Cry every day (from laughing). Then, when the new book is announced, pre-order as fast as your small, uh, big, uh . . . just do it. Wonderful debut from this husband / wife team.  Up next: That is (Not) Mine  2015

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL. Text copyright © 2014 by Anna Kang. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Christopher Weyant. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Two Lions, New York, NY.
Buy You Are (Not) Small at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryTwo Lionsyour favorite bookstore.
Learn more about You Are (Not) Small HERE.
Meet the author, Anna Kang, at her facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/YouAreNotSmall
Meet the illustrator, Christopher Weyant, at his website:   http://christopherweyant.com/
Find more picture books to laugh at the Two Lions’ website:   http://www.apub.com/imprints

Two Lions is an imprint of Amazon Children’s Publishing

An interview with Anna Kang 

Art: India ink and watercolor
Also by Anna Kang & Christopher Weyant
That is (Not) Mine  2015
you are not small
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: Amazon Children's Publishing, Anna Kang, children's book reviews, Christopher Weyant, debut author, picture book, Two Lions

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20. #659 – Fat and Bones and other stories by Larissa Theule & Adam S. Doyle

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories

Written by Larissa Theule
Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle
Carolrhoda Books            10/01/2014
Age 8 to 12           104 pages

“Welcome to Bald’s Farm. Well, perhaps it’s not Bald’s Farm anymore. The old man has kicked the bucket, setting off a wave of conflict from the muddy pig pen to the tall wheat fields. In this darkly funny, slightly supernatural chain of tales, no creature is safe. Not Leonard Grey, a spider with sophisticated tastes. Not Esmeralda, a resentful one-footed pig. Not Tulip, a plant with a mean streak. And as for Bones, the old man’s son, and Fat, his winged rival? They’ll learn that danger lurks in the strangest of places . . .”


“Fat stood on the topmost branch of the tree, gazing in the direction of the farmhouse.”

The Story

Bones is the son of his father, the farm owner, who has most recently passed away. Fat is the former farmer’s fairy. They hate each other with a passion usually reserved for love. Now that Bone’s father has died, Bones will run the farm and his first priority: get rid of excess Fat.

In the span of one day, Bones tries to take out Fat, who tries to take out Bones. The pigs must move around on less and less feet to supply Bones with his favorite meal of pig foot stew. Pa may be dead, but Bones is still hungry. Ma, who is crying herself blind ventures out to the pigpen to grab a foot. Which one does she get?

Leonard’s family thinks he is the strangest spider that has ever spun a web. He cannot sneak and lives alone. He reads poetry while drinking herbal tea. Down below, Fat is making a new potion and needs the fresh blood of a spider. Leonard picks this moment to prove he can sneak. He cannot.

The Dead Man Song is for Priscilla Mae, the escaped spider for which Leonard has found love. She sees a group of animals honoring the dead farmer’s passing. Jimmy’s in Love pits mouse against mouse for the love of a mouse across the kitchen floor. Cat lurks on the floor, waiting for a wandering mouse. Sometimes he greets the mouse.

“Good afternoon, mousie-pie.”

Sometimes he pounces. Occasionally, that tricky cat does both. A mouse just never knows. Jimmy decides to take a chance but the floor is full of water—salty, tear stained water. Daisy and Tulip are the best of friends, sharing a puddle. All is well, until little sprouts move in and choke the water supply. Daisy and Tulip argue over how to get the sprouts to leave. The differences could mean the end of Tulip or Daisy.

Finally, Dog Alfred visits his Ma. Ma wants Alfred to go home. Alfred is sneezing. He has a cold. Alfred is upset, (and sets up Ma to speak a line of funny I love)

“Ma,” he said, [pleading voice] “I came all this way. I can’t go home now.”
“You live next door,” she said.

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories


Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is a fast read with only 104 pages. On those 104 pages, every word counts thanks to wonderful writing and editing. Each story has something to teach kids. In Leonard Grey III, Leonard learns it is okay to be yourself and love is better than alone. Fat feels morally obligated to care for his neighbors, even when he is the one who injured said neighbor. Be nice to others; get to know your neighbors; be responsible for each other. Esmeralda must decide which is more important, her jealousy and “revenge” or the good of the group. Fat and Bones is philosophy 101 for the middle grades.

I am not a fan of the cover. The moon grinning as it does is eerie, but that is the intent. The illustrations use dark tones of green, grey, and black. The image is often part of the shadow or obscured by it. I am sorry to say, I am not a fan of these illustrations. I love the individual stories. I enjoyed the way one story depends on the other. What happens in one story—or does not happen—affects another story, which affects another, and so on, yet none may be the wiser. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories play this out for kids in a way they can understand.

Humor plays a big part, easing what are actually dark themes of death, jealousy, war, and dejection into an enjoyable, funny story, odd as that may sound. Some kids may not like the darker, philosophical themes, while others will love them. I think the older the child, the more they will enjoy Fat and Bones.

These Seven stories, all intertwined, are a great read. Each story has a unique mix of characters from the Bald Farm. Each has their own plot, conflict, and resolution, yet the stories build on each other, need each other to live. There are many things kids can learn from these stories while reading a funny, heart-felt whole divided into parts that seem to stand on their own—because they do. Older kids will enjoy this book. Adults will enjoy this book. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is the author’s debut.

FAT AND BONES AND OTHER STORIES. Test copyright © 2014 by Larissa Theule. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam S. Doyle. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.
Purchase Fat and Bones at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryLerner Booksyour favorite bookstore.
Learn more about Fat & Bones: And Other Stories HERE
Meet the author, Larissa Theule, at her twitter page:    https://twitter.com/larissatheule
Meet the illustrator, Adam S. Doyle, at his website:    http://adamsdoyle.com
Find other middle grade novels at the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://www.carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

fat and bones
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: Adam S. Doyle, Charolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Debut Book, fairies, farm life, feuds, Larissa Theule, Lerner Publishing Group, middle grade novel, pig foot stew

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21. #656 – Gollywood Here I Come! by Terry John Barto & Mattia Cerato




Gollywood Here I Come!
written by Terry John Barto
illustrated by Mattia Cerato
Author House       8/14/2014
30 pages        Age 4 – 8
“When Anamazie isn’t twirling a baton, taking an acting class, or attending singing and dance lessons, she fantasizes about being a movie star. One day, after leading the Wattle View School Band in the 4th of July parade, and a few hard knocks, her dream comes true.”
The Story

Anamazie, a talented young turkey, leads the school band in the local holiday parade, and then hops in her doting mother’s car. They are off to the Korn-A-Plenty Community Theater for the finals of the Gobbleville’s Got Talent show. Though she gave a rousing performance, Anamazie does not win the show.
Mom Henrietta is waiting backstage along with a talent scout from Gollywood Studios. He wants Anamazie to screen for the studio’s next motion picture. Anamazie wins the part, but has trouble working with the leading man. Will Anamazie lose her first starring role, or will she become the star she has always dreamed she would become?


Gollywood Here I Come opens with an expansive layout of Gobbleville. There are homes, restaurants, a bank, a taco restaurant with half arches, and—hurray—a bookstore. In the distance is the GOLLYWOOD sign (similar to the large Hollywood sign in Los Angeles). The illustrations are quite detailed and the turkeys—Gobbleville citizens —are expressive, colorful, and imaginative.


I like the length of the story and the illustrations, which are on every page sans one. Mom Henrietta is a stereotypical doting stage mom. She follows her daughter’s career so closely, trying to help at every juncture, that studio security must escort her off the movie set. Anamazie does have some difficulties, but I was disappointed that we do not get to see how she overcame those. Because of a lack of character development, it is difficult for the reader to care about her, though mom Henrietta Pearl is a hoot. Children’s story protagonists must solve their conflicts (problems, difficulties). Instead, the story glosses over this by simply telling the reader,

“Six months later, the film debuted . . .”

Suited more to the older end of the suggested reader age of 5 to 8, Gollywood Here I Come is a cute mini-version to fame with a message of perseverance, hard work, and a positive attitude as the means to success. This is the author’s first picture book. His second, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon, released last December. (reviewed HERE (coming soon)).

GOLLYWOOD HERE I COME! Text copyright © 2014 by Terry John Barto. Illustrations copyright © by Mattia Cerato. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Author House LLC, Bloomington, IN.

Purchase Gollywood Here I Come at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryAuthor House.
Learn more about Gollywood Here I Come HERE.
Meet the author, Terry John Barto, at his website:  tjbkids.com
Meet the illustrator, Mattia Cerato, at his website:   http://www.mattiacerato.com/
Check out additional Author House books at its website:   http://www.authorhouse.com/
Coming soon from Terry John Barton, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon



Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Author House, Gollywood Here I Come!, Mattia Cerato, movie stardom, Terry John Barto

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22. #661 – Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds by Dale Kutzera

Wattpad Coverx


Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds

Series: The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean
Written by Dale Kutzera
Illustrated by Joemel Requeza
Salmon Bay Books        10/6/2014
285 pages Age 8 to 12

“Andy McBean is struggling to survive Middle School in the soggy hills of the Pacific Northwest. He’s messy, fearful of bullies, and hates the rain. And spending much of the last year in the hospital battling leukemia hasn’t helped. Then one night a meteor storm devastates the county, cutting off power and communications. One giant boulder skids to a halt right on Andy’s front lawn. The glowing meteor draws the attention of neighbors, the media, the army, and even the new girl from Andy’s art class. He is thrilled at the notoriety, but everything changes when the meteor cracks opens and a towering machine steps out. Separated from his family, Andy must fend for himself and rescue his friends. Join Andy on this thrilling adventure as he meets an alien, learns what they want on planet earth, and devises a bold plan to stop them.”

The Story

Andy wakes one morning to find an alien pod on his front lawn. Mom’s roses are ruined. The aliens are here to collect—using a Vaporizer—all the water found on Earth, including that of humans, who are more than 60% water. These creatures travel the universe harvesting water from planets without significant life. The “Big Heads,” who bark the orders, make a decision: humans are not significant. Large tripod machines crush homes and businesses with grabbers capable of sweeping up people and holding them in a cage, until it is time to vaporize them for their watery bodies.

Andy gets away and rescues Charlie from her ruined home and then his best friend Hector. They avoid the large, bulky “Thugs,” who bully the worker aliens until they obey the Big Heads’ commands, and the crushing arms of the grabbers. Andy befriends a worker alien by the name of Been’Tok. Been’Tok, Andy, Hector, Charlie, and Andy’s dad plan to shut down the vaporizer, free the hostages, and send the aliens back to where they came from. But can an eight-year-old boy, recently recovered from bouts of leukemia treatment, save his world?



Inspired by War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds actually brings the aliens to Earth. The action is fast. Andy and his friends are easy to like and fun to watch as they travel by foot. The story is believable, though Andy has several lucky escapes from the aliens (great fun!). Been’Tok is a cute, three-eyed monster with a heart and soul. He loves collecting the odd artifacts he finds while vaporizing various planets for the water his planet desperately needs. He disagrees with his commander, believing humans are significant, especially after Andy saves his life.

The cuteness of Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds reminded me of E. T., even though the two are different types of stories. Until the end, it is not clear whether Been’Tok wants to return home. He enjoys the company of Andy and his friends. The communication barriers make for some delightful scenes as Been’Tok tries to learn Andy’s language. World leaders and military might around the world meeting Been’Tok is funny. Unfortunately, there are several typos throughout the book, but I could actually ignore them—a first—thanks to the intense story that held my interest (though that does not excuse the sloppy editing). Black and white illustrations enhance the story.


Middle grade kids, especially boys, will love the world Kutzera created.  The three-tiered aliens can be humorous and dangerous at the same time. Readers will find several surprises along the way and a happy conclusion. Andy is a terrific character from his loyalty to his best friend Hector, his desire to impress Charlie—the new girl at school—and his valiant attempts to move past his illness, despite his parents’ fears and coddling. Will Andy McBean have future adventures?* If he does, I hope Been’Tok finds a way to join him.am4
ANDY MCBEAN AND THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Text copyright © 2014 by Dale Kutzera. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Joemel Requeza. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Salmon Bay Books, Seattle, WA.

*Series: The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean
. . . . .   .    . #2: Andy McBean 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea released 12/29/2014

Purchase Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds at AmazonB&NSmashwords.
Learn more about Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds HERE
Meet the author, Dale Kutzera at his website: http://dalekutzera.com/
Meet the illustrator, Joemel Requeza, at his website:
Find Salmon Bay Books here:
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: aliens, Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds, Dale Kutzera, Joemel Requeza, relationships, Salmon Bay Books, saving the world, The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean

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23. #667 – LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser

cover - publisherx


Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age

. . . . .(How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species)
Written by David Zeltser
Illustrations by Jan Gerardi
Egmont USA          2014
190 pages       Age 8 to 12
“In Lug’s Stone Age clan, a caveboy becomes a caveman by catching a jungle llama and riding it against the rival Boar Rider clan in the Big Game. The thing is, Lug has a forbidden, secret art cave and would rather paint than smash skulls. Because Lug is different, his clan’s Big Man is out to get him, he’s got a pair of bullies on his case—oh, and the Ice Age is coming. When Lug is banished from the clan for failing to catch jungle llama, he’s forced to team up with Stony, a silent Neanderthal with a very expressive unibrow, and Echo (a Boar Rider girl!). In a world experiencing some serious global cooling, these misfits must protect their feuding clans from the impending freeze and a particularly unpleasant pride of migrating saber-toothed tigers.” [book jacket]
About the Story
The clan has broken into two factions, the Macrauchenia Riders and the Boar Riders. Each clan believes the other are uncivilized—without laws, few table manners, and possibly cannibals—yet each clan is living exactly like the other clan lives. The two only get together for the Big Game, called Headstone, where, using stones, they bash in opponents’ heads. To become cavemen, caveboys must catch an animal to ride in the Big Game.

Lug, a smaller caveboy, is the outsider, the one the bullies and their cohorts pick on. He has no interest in Headstone. Lug AG4simply wants to draw, something not understood by others. He fails to catch a llama and is banished to the woods, along with Stone, who also failed. The hot and humid weather is getting colder, something Lug notices but others brush off. The Ice Age is on its way and no one will listen, except Crazy Crag—banished years ago—and Hamela (aka Echo), a Boar Rider girl. To make matters worse, a pride of hungry saber-toothed tigers is migrating south and heading for the clans—and a meal of cave-people-steak. The cave kids try to save their people with the help of Woolly, a baby woolly mammoth, lost from its family, who can communicate with Echo. Living alone in the woods, Crazy Crag has figured out a few things. Can Lug learn Crazy Crag’s secret in time to save the clans people, or will they become extinct?

LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age
has all the elements of a book: fast-paced action, suspense, and good characters the reader can relate to and enjoy. Written for middle grade kids, younger advanced readers will also enjoy LUG’s charm. I like the cover and the illustrations, which are black-and-white cave-like drawings, slanted enough to often be funny. The story itself has kid-funny action and characters. Reading it will make you laugh and sometimes groan at the word play, (Headstone; Smilus, the ruthless head saber-tooth tiger; Bonehead, the Big Man’s son).

I love the curly-haired Echo, who is an activist and a vegetarian, possibly the world’s first. I also loved the coming of the CG 4 EchoIce Age’s parallel to today’s climate crisis. LUG might make kids more aware of their own climate changing. Lug agrees, writing in a pre-story note,

“. . . You see, the world began to get colder—much colder. And my clan initially reacted by doing this:




“That’s right, a whole lot of NOTHING . . . I hope this story will inspire you to pay attention to the big changes happening to your world. If you are extinct, sorry.”

There are no prehistoric dinosaurs, but the animals you will find have interesting qualities, including finding a way to talk to humans. More than anything, I like LUG because it is a good story. If cave kids could read, they would have enjoyed LUG

Lug returns for more prehistoric climate-change adventures this Fall (2015) in LUG: Blast from the North (working title). LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age is David Zeltser’s debut children’s series.  (20% of proceeds go to organizations that help children and families in need.)

LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE (HOW ONE SMALL BOY SAVED OUR BIG DUMB SPECIES). Text copyright © 2014 by David Zeltser. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jan Gerardi. Published in 2014 by Egmont USA, New York, NY.
Purchase LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age at AmazoniTunesBook DepositoryEgmont USA.

Learn more about LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age HERE.
Meet the author, David Zeltser, at his website:  http://www.davidzeltser.com/
Meet the illustrator, Jan Gerardi, short bio:  http://bit.ly/19Z1Vh3
Find more Middle Grade Books at the Egmont USA website:  http://egmontusa.com/

Curriculum Guide can be found HERE.
Activity Guide can be found HERE.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Fast Friday Read, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: cavemen, children's books, David Zeltser, Egmont USA, humor, Jan Gerardi, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, prehistoric era

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24. #672 – The Water and the Wild by K. E. Ormsbee



The Water and the Wild

Written by K. E. Ormsbee
Illustrated by Elsa Mora
Chronicle Books       4/14/2015
440 pages           Age 10—14
“For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.

And then a door opens in the apple tree.

Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.” [book jacket]

The beginning of The Water and the Wild draws the reader in with the sharp writing and imaginative descriptions. We meet 12-year-old Lottie, an orphan, who lives in a New Kemble Island boardinghouse with a reluctant Mrs. Yates, whom the author describes as dour with a dislike of children.

“In her opinion, children belonged to a noxious class of furless, yippy house pets that did nothing but make noise at inconvenient times and crash into her potted gardenias.”

Lottie has only two things she cares about: the apple tree, where she hides her keepsakes in a copper box she found hidden in its roots, and her best friend Eliot. Each year, Lottie placed a wish in her keepsake copper box and returned it to the roots of the apple tree. Each year, on her birthday, an unknown writer sent Lottie her wish.


Eliot is ill with an unknown incurable disease, and nearing the end of his young life. Lottie decides to ask for a cure for the incurable. Soon after, her life changes course when Adelaide, a sprite, urgently whisks Lottie to safety down the roots of the apple tree to Limn, a mysterious place that exists under New Kemble Island. Here, Lottie meets Mr. Wilfer, a sprite healer, Adelaide and Oliver’s father, and Lottie’s benefactor. Mr. Wilfer has been working on an “Otherwise Incurable” potion. Problem is, this is supposed to be for the king, not Eliot, and when it does not arrive as expected, the king arrests Mr. Wilfer. With the cure in hand, Adelaide, Oliver, Oliver’s half-sprite, half-wisp friend Fife, and Lottie take off for the castle to save Mr. Wilfer.

I enjoyed The Water and the Wild but the journey to the castle felt like it would never end, though there are many bright spots along the way that I loved and will intrigue readers. The three kids travel through strange lands filled with danger. Along the way, Lottie learns she is half human-half sprite—a Halfling—and the Heir of Fiske making her heir apparent to the throne and a target of the current, rather cruel, king. The worlds of both New Kemble Island and Limn are easy to visualize.


Oliver speaks in the words of poets, all of which the author annotates after the story. This can make Oliver’s speech confusing at times for both Lottie and the reader, but is an unusual and imaginative way to introduce kids to classic poetry. Lottie, the odd-girl-out in both worlds, is an easy character to cheer on and kids in similar situations will easily identify with Lottie’s loneliness and the cruel, bullying students she encounters at home.

I wish I knew how the story ended. Maybe there is a sequel in the works, but as it is now, Lottie is somewhere in Limn doing something and, as the author writes,

“This is better.”

I do recommend The Water and the Wild to advanced middle grade readers and adults who enjoy a good story filled with suspense, unusual beings, adventure, and a little magic. The illustrations at the head of each chapter are made from cut paper. See Elsa Mora’s website for more examples of this incredible artform. The Water and the Wild is K. E. Ormsbee’s debut novel.

NOTE: There is a sequel planned for Fall 2016, as yet un-titled.

THE WATER AND THE WILD. Text copyright © 2015 by K. E. Ormsbee. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Elsa Mora. Reproduced by permission of the Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase The Water and the Wild at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Read an excerpt HERE or HERE

Learn more about The Water and the Wild HERE.
Meet the author, K. E. Ormsbee, at her website:  http://www.keormsbee.com/
Meet the illustrator, Elsa Mora, at her website:  http://www.artisaway.com/
Find more middle grade novels at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

© KLR — Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

water and the wild 2015

Filed under: 4stars, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: adventure, Chronicle Books, Elsa Mora, imagination, K. E. Ormsbee, magic, sprites, The Water and the Wild, wisps

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25. #686 – Dragon and Captain by P. R. Allabach & Lucas Turnbloom – Flashlight Press

I cannot recall so many 6-star reviews in such a short period of time (5 of 7 current titles). I didn’t hand-pick them, it was simply their turn. I hope you have a chance to read each of these books, and any other that might make the list this year. Today, another winner arrives today. Debut author Allabach and award-winning cartoonist Turnbloom blend the picture book with the graphic novel for a unique experience.
Dragon and Captain

Written by P. R. Allabach
Illustrated by Lucas Turnbloomtop book of 2015 general
Flashlight Press            4/01/2015
32 pages               Age 5—7
“What is Captain doing in Dragon’s sandbox? He’s moping over his lost ship. Dragon is a boy in a robe and pajamas. Captain is a boy with a three-sided hat. But when they set off on a backyard adventure to find the lost ship, they become . . . DRAGON AND CAPTAIN, FEARLESS EXPLORERS! Together they trek through a dark forest, climb down a cliff, and hike all the way to the sea to outsmart a band of evil pirates! Can dragon and Captain rescue the missing ship . . . before lunch?” [book jacket]

Imagine a picture book partially written as a graphic novel. That image is Dragon and Captain, the story of two little boys who wake up one morning to confront a mystery—where is the Captain’s ship. Did the sea grab hold, dragging it far away, or did something more nefarious occur?

While enjoying his breakfast, a blue-hued Dragon spies a red-haired pirate trespassing in his sandbox. Rushing out, Dragon confronts the intruder,

“Hey, pirate. What are you doing in my sandbox?”
“I’m not a pirate, good sir. I’m the captain of a ship.”
“You look like a pirate.”

Thus begins the wonderfully witty and whimsical, fantasy-filled, backyard adventure. Turnbloom’s graphite, ink, and digitally painted illustrations alternate between the boys’ imagination—told as a comic strip—and their reality—seen in traditional picture book spreads. The process enhances the story with vivid action, and gives the reader direct access to the young boy’s right-brained imagination and creativity.


Captain and Dragon’s world is void of technology. A crayon drawing, a paper-towel tube, and a toy watch respectively become a map, a telescope, and a compass. What would your imagination do with green bushes, a water sprinkler, and a stone walkway? How would your creativity re-claim the Captain’s ship using only toy sandbox shovels, paper, and a bicycle? Why must the duo sneak past the one-eyed teddy bear? Captain, and his new friend Dragon, trek through a dangerously dark forest and scale a cliff to reach the sea, never leaving the backyard and finding all the above items valuable to their journey.

I love that Dragon and Captain could ignite a child’s innate imagination, sans technology. I love that after reading Dragon and Captain, kids might see their surroundings as an adventure; everyday objects as imaginatively malleable; and reading as exciting and essential. Parents will enjoy reading Dragon and Captain to their children, especially after hearing their cries of,

“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do around here.”

Yes, there is something to do and Dragon and Captain will show the way. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations by award-winning cartoonist Turnbloom, and the backyard fantasy-adventure, smartly written by debut author Allabach. Dragon and Captain is a terrific book for any “Books for Boys” list, yet girls will love it, too. Aye, matey, this girl adores both the Dragon and the Captain.

DRAGON AND CAPTAIN. Text copyright © 2015 by P. R. Allabach. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lucas Turnbloom. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Flashlight Press, Brooklyn, NY.

Purchase Dragon and Captain at AmazonBook DepositoryFlashlight Press.

Learn more about Dragon and Captain HERE.
Dragon and Captain Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/DragonandCaptain
Meet the author, P. R. Allabach, at his/her website:  http://prallabach.blogspot.com/
Meet the illustrator, Lucas Turnbloom, at his/her facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/lucas.turnbloom
Find more picture books at the Flashlight Press website:  http://www.flashlightpress.com/

2015 Literary Classics Seal of Approval

Review Section: word count = 389

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
dragon and captain allabach and turnbloom - flashlight press 2015

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Graphic Novel, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: backyard adventure, creativity, Dragon and Captain, dragons, fantasy-adventure, Flashlight Press, imagination, Lucas Turnbloom, P. R. Allabach, pirates

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