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Results 1 - 25 of 179
1. Double the Size, Double the Fun – Picture Book Reviews

If you’re looking for picture books exploring friendships of massive proportions, then these two latest delights are for you. Perfect for melting any sized heart!  Blue Whale Blues, Peter Carnavas (author, illus.), New Frontier Publishing, 2015.   On first glance, I noticed something different about Peter Carnavas‘ most recent creation compared to his previous works. […]

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2. #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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3. #738 – When a Dragon Moves In Again by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam

When a Dragon Moves In Again Written by Jodi Moore Illustrated by Howard McWilliam Flashlight Press        9/01/2015 978-1-936261-35-2 32 pages        Age 4—8 “If you build a perfect castle, a dragon will move in, followed by. . . a baby?! Preparations are in fll swing o welcome a new family …

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4. #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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5. #730 The Bear’s Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

The Bear’s Surprise Written & Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud Chronicle Books       9/15/2015 978-1-4521-4028-5 32 pages       Age 3—5 “Little Bear is ready for yet another adventure! But, wait! Where is Papa Bear? Never fear, Little Bear will find him! Follow the curious cub through the interactive cut-outs on every page …

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6. #728-9 Busy Baby Friends & Busy Baby Trucks by Sara Gillingham

combo covers
Busy Baby: Friends & Busy Baby: Trucks
(Touch Think Learn)
Written & Illustrated by Sara Gillingham
Chronicle Books      9/15/2015
10 pages      7” x 7”      Age 0—2

“Baby is a little nervous to see so many new faces, but with a turn of the swivel headpiece and a reassuring word, baby can smile and make friends! In the new Busy Baby series, busy babies can play and share with friends, or ride in a fire truck and cement mixer and meet each new adventure with a smile.” [press release]

In Busy Baby: Friends Baby meets many new friends and must learn to smile. By turning the swivel headpiece from a frowning baby to a smiling baby, young children can determine how well the Busy Baby makes friends. In the second spread, someone wants to play the tambourine but Baby has a hold of it. Busy Baby: Friends asks young children to help the other kids and in the process make new friends. From sharing the tambourine to helping a new friend stand up, Baby is busy making new friends and learning to smile her way through the day.

1Busy Baby: Trucks may be the first introduction of trucks to a young child’s world. Baby is asked to fix a crack in the sidewalk using a cement mixer; help the community recycle, race the fire truck to a fire and rescue the injured; and tow a disabled car. Not all is work for Baby. There is also an ice cream truck in need of customers. Young children, especially boys, will love th is introduction into the world of work vehicles.

Busy Baby Friends_Int 1Each book is made of thick cardboard that will withstand falls and the occasional throw. Tearing a page is nearly impossible. The thicker pages also make it easier for little hands to turn pages. The easily cleaned glossy pages will take care of spills and blobs of peanut butter and jelly wipe off with a quick swipe, getting the book back to your child in a jiffy (no pun intended). The swivel headpiece—smiling on one side and frowning on the other—is also made of thick material and spills with ease. At first, spinning the head may be the most fun part of the Busy Baby Series (it was for me).

Busy Baby Trucks_Int 1I think young children and parents will adore the Busy Baby Series (Friends and Trucks). These books are a great way to help a young child learn how a smile can help one make new friends or turn a situation from grim to happy. The illustrations are made of geometric shapes and bright colors that will delight young readers. In addition to other children, animals add a nice touch of whimsy. Young children can learn as they listen to the story and play along.

BUSY BABY:  FRIENDS. BUSY BABY:  TRUCKS. Text and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sara Gillingham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Busy Baby:  Friends at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksChronicle Books.
Purchase Busy Baby:  Trucks at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksChronicle Books.

Learn more about Busy Baby:  Friends HERE & Trucks HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Sara Gillingham, at her website:  http://www.saragillingham.com/
Find more board books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

Also by Sara Gillingham

Love Is a Tutu - 2016

Love Is a Tutu – 2016

How to Grow a Friend - 2015

How to Grow a Friend – 2015

Felt Finger Puppet Board Books: On My Beach

Felt Finger Puppet Board Books: On My Beach




(reviewed here)



How to Mend a Heart - 2015

How to Mend a Heart – 2015

Snuggle the Baby - 2014

Snuggle the Baby – 2014

I Am So Brave - 2014

I Am So Brave – 2014

Highlights of Your Life: A Journal That Glows as Your Child Grows - 2014

Highlights of Your Life: A Journal That Glows as Your Child Grows – 2014

—and many more






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

Full Disclosure: title by author & illustrator, and received from Publisher, 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: 4stars, Board Books, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Library Donated Books Tagged: Busy Baby: Friends, Busy Baby: Trucks, Chronicle Books, frowns, infants to age two, making friends, relationships, Sara Gillingham, smiles, spinning heads, Touch Think Learn

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7. 8 Ways Character Relationships Can Enhance Your Writing

Tonight in the night class I teach at a local university on writing children's books, we'll be talking about how the relationships your characters have can deepen your story's plot, enhance the connection between your characters and readers, raise tension, complicate conflicts, and much more.

The following are 8 ways you can use relationships between your characters to enhance the stories you write:

  1. Create resonance with your audience by putting your characters in relationships that matter most to and intrigue your readers 
  2. Use your character relationships to better reveal your characters’ personality and inner conflicts 
  3. Use character relationships to pull your readers deeper into the story and your characters’ lives 
  4. Use your character interactions to give your characters more profound opportunities to experience growth or change 
  5. Deepen your plot with character relationships that increase the conflict, tension and emotional/physical stakes of the story 
  6. Deepen your plot with character relationships that impede, thwart or help the protagonists’ success, or distract the protagonist from the end goal 
  7. Raise the emotional tension of your stories by creating relationship events or taking character relationships in a direction that terrify your readers 
  8. Increase the emotional connection between your readers and characters by creating relationship events or taking character relationships in a direction that makes readers worry, sad and/or happy

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0 Comments on 8 Ways Character Relationships Can Enhance Your Writing as of 8/5/2015 1:05:00 PM
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8. #706 – Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates

am cover
Beach House
Written by Deanna Caswell
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Chronicle Books       5/12/2015
32 pages      Age 4—8


“A long, long drive.
It’s been a year
of dreaming, waiting.
Summer’s here.
“In a funny and moving celebration of family, vacations, and the joy of the sea, Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates capture the essence of summer—sand castles, tide pools, starry evenings—and the love that warms every moment.” [book jacket]

Well, if you are not fond of overcrowded pools or swimming deep within them to find fantasy and fish of questionable species (review of Pool here), then maybe traveling to the ocean, staying in a summer home, and breathing in the salt air is more to your liking. If so, then Beach House is the perfect picture book to kick off your summer.

After a long drive—“Are we there yet?—the family arrives at the beach house for their summer vacation. The sea beckons, but the car needs unloaded, and the suitcases unpacked.

“Doors fly open.
End of the road.

“To the beach!”
“Not yet—unload.”

Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

So many bags, so much stuff. Amazing one family needs this much for a vacation from daily life. Fun waits as the clothes are hung and shoes arranged. The youngest son and his faithful pal look hopefully out the window at the beach and the water. Then the magic words that get everyone moving. Suits are on, and dad is loaded down with every imaginable beach toy and towels. The family hits the beach. The two kids gleefully run into the water with the puppy right behind them. The toddler plays in the sand, making castles and other sand-filled joys. After a full day of sun, sand, and water, the family cuddles up to a roaring fire for dinner and then the comfort of baths and soft beds. Tomorrow will be another day on the beach. The text, written in rhyme, easily flows off the tongue, fluently rhyming for readers and listeners alike.

bates - dad loaded down

I love the illustrations which overflow with intimate detail. The younger boy, pulling his wagon full of sand toys, has the glimpses of a diaper popping out of the top of his swim trunks. He is obviously a toddler. Another favorite scene has the two older kids—a boy and a girl—in the water playing. Dad is tossing the girl up and into the water. The boy has his hands cupped around his mouth, yelling at mom, who is on the beach with the toddler. I can hear him saying, “Hey, Mom! Mom! Look at me!”

The watercolor and pencil illustrations exude summer on a soft, white, sandy beach that keeps the ocean where it belongs, allowing just a wave or two onto its shore. I am reminded of summer vacations with my family. Five of us crammed into a small cottage, swimming all day, eating ice cream bars on the stoop, and watching my older sister wash the paper plates—a joke I was too young to understand, or even remember without photographic evidence. Beach House brings out memories, or maybe, it will give you pause—a small suggestion—to plan that family getaway.

running into water full spread large

BEACH HOUSE. Text copyright © 2015 by Deanna Caswell. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Beach House at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesChronicle Books.

Learn more about Beach House HERE.
Meet the author, Deanna Caswell, at her website:  http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/
Meet the illustrator, Amy June Bates, at her website:  http://amyjunebates.blogspot.com/
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 = 453

beach house

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Amy June Bates, Beach House, Chronicle Books, Deanna Caswell, family time, ocean cottages, relationships, sand castles, summer vacations, swimming

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9. #695 – Waggers by Stacy Nyikos & Tamara Anegόn



Written by Stacy Nyikos
Illustrated by Tamara Anegόn
Publisher: Sky Pony Press      12/02/2014
32 pages                  Age 4—8


“Waggers is so happy to be adopted by his new family and all he wants is to be good—he really does! But it isn’t Waggers fault that his tail goes crazy when he gets exited. How much harm can a tail do, anyway? Well, his new family is about to find out. In the kitchen, Moni’s cookies smell so good that Waggers’s tail makes the dough hit the ceiling. And when Waggers helps Michael defeat a monster in the living room, there may be a sofa casualty. After his tail accidentally scratches the paint off the car in the garage, Mom and Dad aren’t so sure their home is the right fit for such an excitable pup. Could this be the last straw, or can Waggers and his family find a way to stay together?” [book jacket]

If you like dogs, or stories about dogs, you’ll like Waggers. Waggers is available for adoption—free—from a litter of five puppies. It always makes me a little suspicious when purebreds are given away free. Waggers is a Razortail Whippet. This may sound like a legitimate breed, yet there is no such breed, but the name fits Waggers perfectly. It would be so much fun if there were. Mom and Dad wonder how much trouble a little pup like Waggers can cause. Their son tries to pick up Waggers and the pup gets so excited his tail twirls the other four puppies into the air.

adoptUnlike his littermates, Waggers has an exceptional tail. An exceptionally long tail. How long is an exceptional tail? Waggers’ four littermates have tails approximately six-times shorter than their bodies. Waggers’ tail is also approximately six-times . . . longer. So when Waggers wags his tail it acts like a whip, mowing down everything in its extensive path. If Waggers were a superhero, his special powers would be inside his tail. It could upturn furniture, fling cookie dough into the air, and take paint right off a car. Oh, wait, Waggers DID do all those things.

Waggers, is a cute dog with a big head, long body, and constantly protruding tongue. He loves to show affection, which makes Waggers happy, and when he is happy Waggers gets excited, and when he gets excited Waggers’ tail starts twirling, and THAT is what gets Waggers into so much trouble. Picture a cat-hating dog determined to get a hissing, clawing, and course-changing feline out of the house. Waggers doesn’t need a cat to cause such a mess, just his tail.

monsster aleretwhoops monsterThe illustrations are by first-time children’s book illustrator and graduate student Tamar Anegόn. I find her art to be a feast for the eyes. She brings Waggers to life with the use of bright colors, expressive eyes, extensively patterned clothing, and lots and lots of details.

Mom and dad have had enough of Waggers’s tail-caused wreckage and decide he needs a new home. On Waggers’s last night the kids camp outside with their soon-to-be-gone dog. Waggers is overcome with an insatiable, interminable, and inaccessible itch. His tail begins to twirl and . . . there goes Mom’s bushes and Dad’s lawn. Waggers tries to be good. He really does try. Still, despite all his destruction, Waggers’s tail, in the end, might just be his salvation.

Waggers is a fun, humorous book young children will love at home or during a story hour at school or the library. Put a bunch of youngsters in one room, read Waggers, and then plug your ears. The laughter will be deafening.


WAGGERS.Text copyright © 2014 by Stacy Nyikos. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Tamara Anegόn. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sky Pony Press , New York, NY.

Purchase Waggers at AmazonBook DepositorySky Pony Press.

Learn more about Waggers HERE.
Meet the author, Stacy Nyikos, at her website:  http://www.stacyanyikos.com/
Meet the illustrator, Tamara Anegόn, at her website:  http://lacajitadetamara.blogspot.com/
Find more picture books at the Sky Pony Press website:  http://www.skyponypress.com/book/

Sky Pony Press is an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing

Desi -  the Muse

Desi – the Muse

Desi as Waggers

Desi as Waggers



A Pretty Good Likeness?



Review Section: word count = 378

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


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: 978-1-62914-629-4, adoption, dog rescues, dogs, family, humor, relationships, Sky Pony Press, Stacy Nyikos, Tamara Anegόn, Waggers

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10. # 694 – Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco by Julie Anne Grasso

Ebook cover Lemon Festival Fiasco final 14 March 2015 Hi Res.
Frankie Dupont And The Lemon Festival Fiasco

Series:  The Frankie Dupont Mysteries
Written by Julie Anne Grasso
Illustrated by Alexander Avellino
Published by Julie Anne Grasso           3/302015
158 pages                 Age 8—12
“Hot off cracking his first official case Frankie Dupont is on the scene when his new teacher takes ill. The pint-sized detective suspects a classic case of sour grapes, but the evidence leads him to the one placed he wouldn’t mind avoiding for the rest of his natural life. Enderby Manor has a few more secrets up her sleeve, and as Frankie begins to unravel them, he discovers a plot stinkier than a sardine sandwich. In Book 2 of the Frankie Dupont Mysteries, Frankie will make some new friends, upset some old ones, and of course, there will be lemon meringue pie.” [back cover]

Review (491)
It is the start of a new school year for Frankie and his friend Kat. Middle school is a now a combination of two grades in one classroom. Worse, the Appleby triplets—Angus, Archie, and Amy—are in his class and they annoy Frankie like an itch you can’t reach. Day one is short for the head teacher. His assistant, Miss Chestnut, made him a lemon meringue pie and, after one bite, he abruptly leaves for medical help. Frankie swiftly learns one of the pie ingredients is an organic weed killer. This one clue will take Frankie from confronting Miss Chestnut—bad idea—to accusing Merideth De Carlo, the daughter of Evelyn—of Evelyn’s Everlasting Cupcakes—and finally to Enderby Manor and Madame Mercure, a strange woman bent on taking over the hotel.

sick teacher

I enjoy the Frankie Dupont series because of the strange, yet plausible cases and the interesting clues. I love the fully fleshed crazy characters and their well-written stories with unexpected twists. The Lemon Festival Fiasco did not disappoint, though Frankie could be annoying. Unlike the first story, The Mystery of Enderby Manor, where Frankie was eager to show he could solve the case better and faster than Inspector Cluesome, one year later Frankie is arrogant, pushy, and most often wrong. It seems being the only ten-and-three-quarters-year-old to pass the private investigator’s test has gone to his head.

I do like the new character, nine-year-old Amy Appleby, one of the “annoying triplets.” She stays close to Frankie, which irritates the clues right out of him. Frankie does not like that she is smart, possibly smarter than him. It is clear early on that Amy is not trying to outsmart Frankie; she just wants to be close, like any nine-year-old girl with a crush on an older boy. Frankie never picks up on this. Hopefully, that crush will play out in the next edition.

you did it wrong again

The illustrations were done by a new illustrator and are quite good. Personally, I think Frankie looks too old for a 10 ¾ year-old boy and not as cute this time around. I imagine it is difficult to match the work of another illustrator. The Lemon Festival Fiasco can stand on its own, still I recommend reading book 1 first. There is information about the Enderby Manor characters that will help readers understand why Frankie dislikes the manor. Those characters are still a group of, mostly, likable oddballs.

The Mystery of Enderby Manor is an extremely well written mystery with strange, unexpected twists, and thus a difficult case to outshine. The Lemon Festival Fiasco, while a good mystery—that will entertain readers—readers will decipher this lemony mystery much sooner than Frankie. Reluctant readers will like the fast read and may stick with the story because they can solve this case faster than Frankie. Ms. Grasso is a gifted writer who improves with each new story. Her Caramel Cardamom series is a success, as will The Frankie Dupont Mysteries.

ay nd frankie laying in the grass with kat looking on
NEXT UP:  Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage
FRANKIE DUPONT AND THE LEMON FESTIVAL FIASCO. Text copyright © 2015 by Julie Anne Grasso. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Alexander Avellino. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Julie Anne Grasso.

Purchase Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco at AmazonBook DepositoryJulie Anne Grasso Books.

Learn more about Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco HERE.
Educational Activity Booklet HERE
Meet the author, Julie Anne Grasso, at her website: http://www.julieannegrassobooks.com
Meet the illustrator, Alexander Avellino, at his website: http://www.alexanderavellino.com

Also by Julie Anne Grasso

Frankie Dupont And The Mystery Of Enderby Manor

Frankie Dupont And The Mystery Of Enderby Manor

Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage

Frankie Dupont And The Science Fair Sabotage

Escape From The Forbidden Planet

Escape From The Forbidden Planet

Return To Cardamom

Return To Cardamom









Review Section: word count = 491

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

frnkie dupont 2 lemon festival fiasco

Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Alexander Avellino, Frankie Dupont and the Lemon Festival Fiasco, humor, Julie Anne Grasso, lemons, middle school kids, mysteries, relationships, sleuths, The Frankie Dupont Mysteries

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11. #693 – When I Grow Up I Want to be . . . a Veterinarian by WIGU Publishing

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…a Veterinarian!: Sofia’s Dream Comes True!

Series: When I Grow Up
Written and illustrated by WIGU Publishing
WIGU Publishing        12/08/2014
56 pages            Age 7—12
“Sofia wants to care for all the animals in the world. But Mom does not think Sofia is ready for the responsibility of even one pet. Ready or not, when a hungry and sick-looking cat appears at the family’s back doorstep, Sofia takes action. When Sofia is found feeding the cat, Mom gives in and agrees that a trip to the vet will tell them if the cat is healthy and not someone’s lost pet. As the veterinarian introduces Sofia and readers to the important and wide-ranging work of animal doctors, Sofia learns how she might help all kinds of animals, including a little stray cat!” [back cover]

Like every kid, at some time in his or her life, Sofia desperately wants a pet. Mom sternly responds, “No,” after every plea. I suspect many kids will relate to this situation. Dad tells Sofia gets her love of animals from Mom, which made mom’s stern and resolute rejections surprising to me,


“. . . the answer was always ‘No. And I mean it, Sofia!’ . . . and she meant it.”

Mom’s reluctance must be due to something she went through as she has some definite opinions about caring for pets. While looking outside at the soaking wet cat, mom says:


“People should be more responsible about animals.”
“There are too many unwanted animals running around.”

Veterinarian does not delve into the reasons behind the above statements; instead letting Sofia remark that she cannot believe any pet could be unwanted. I agree with Mom and Sofia. Bringing a pet into the family is a big decision, and includes much more than housing and feeding. But Veterinarian is about the career, not the social issues. Continuing with the story, mom finally tells Sofia her reasons for saying no: she does not think the family is ready for a pet. But then it rained.

“It rained cats and dogs.”


That night it really did rain cats . . . one little, hungry, “sorry-looking,” water-soaked cat. To Sofia’s amazement, her mother was also upset and concerned about the cat. With dad taking the lead, mom agrees to take the cat—now called Samantha—to Dr. Helen, a veterinarian.

Dr. Helen looks for a microchip, listens to Samantha’s heart, weighs her, and then tells Sofia, there are an estimated 10 million different kinds of animal species on Earth . . . that we know of. Much of our planet is unexplored—mostly underwater—and there are animals we have not seen, and some we never will. I did not know this, which is why I love the WIGU series—I learn something with each edition.


Dr. Helen gives a short history of cats and dogs. Cats first became household “pets” 3,000 years ago in Egypt, where they were worship (cats kept rodents out of the grain and hunted dangerous snakes, including cobras). Dogs, as pets, began roughly 33,000 years ago. Dogs were valued for their companionship and keen senses—hearing, sight, smell—that helped protect humans. Dr. Helen told Sofia cats are the most popular pet (2:1 dogs), yet veterinarians treat more dogs than they do cats. No explanations are given.


As with the other When I Grow Up editions, Veterinarian is loaded with useful information kids will enjoy reading, can use as a reference, or when exploring possible careers. Teachers can use this series as adjunct texts. In Veterinarian, Dr. Helen describes many areas of specialization and the road to becoming a veterinarian. The illustrations are a combination of actual photographs and digital images. On the cover, I adore Samantha’s contented look on her face as Sofia hugs her.

contented cat samantha

In the end, Sofia decides she wants to become a veterinarian. The family decides to keep Samantha, even with the funny, unexpected twist. Veterinarian’s tone is positive and it highlights the best about being a vet. This is my favorite edition thus far. Wigu Publishing is planning to explore more careers for the When I Grow Up series and is working on Spanish versions. Every school should have this series, keeping room for new editions. The When I Grow Up series might go on forever.


WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE A . . . VETERINARIAN. Text copyright © 2014 by Wigu Publishing. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Wigu Publishing. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Wigu Publishing, Sun Valley, ID.

lg span vet

Purchase WIGU I Want to be a . . . Veterinarian at AmazonBook DepositoryWIGU Publishing.

Learn more about WIGU I Want to be a . . . Veterinarian HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Wigu Publishing, at their website:  http://bit.ly/WIGUTeam
Find more picture books at the Wigu Publishing website:  http://whenigrowupbooks.com/

.Spanish Edition

When I Grow Up . . . Books


span army



in the U. S. Army [review here]




a Teacher [review here]




a Firefighter  [review here]




in the U. S. Navy  [review here]




a Nurse  [reviewed soon]


Review Section: word count = 543

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


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: adopting pets, animals, care of animals, cats, dogs, relationships, When I Grow Up I Want to be . . . a Veterinarian, WIGU, Wigu Publishing, wildlife vets

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12. PS Mum, this is for you – Mother’s Day picture book reviews

Unconditional love, tolerance and understanding; all qualities most mothers possess in spades. They warrant gratitude every single day, not just on Mother’s Day. So this year, before you load up mum with a bed full of toast crumbs and good intentions snuggle up to her with one of your favourite ‘I love you’ reads. Here […]

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13. #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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14. #659 – Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox & Stephanie Graegin




Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Dial Books for Young Readers         3/10/2015
40 pages          Age 3 to 5


“Peace is an offering.
A muffin or a peach.
A birthday invitation.
A trip to the beach.

“Follow these neighborhood children as they find love in everyday things—in sunlight shining through leaves and cookies shared with friends—and learn that peace is all around, if you just look for it.”


Peace is an Offering contains a strong message about what the abstract concept of peace means for the young (and old): helping one another, being kind, joining together, and enjoying all aspects of life with respect to your family, friends, and neighbors. Peace does not need to be overcomplicated or forced. Peace is the accumulation of all the small, meaningful acts we do each day.

“Will you stay with me?
Will you be my friend?
Will you listen to my story
till the very end?”

The children in this large neighborhood, make, find, and (most importantly), show kindness to each other every day in simple heartfelt ways. The poem is beautifully written and illustrated. Children will easily understand each deftly visualized line or verse of the poem. Multicultural children interact with each other, families spend time together, and friends stay close.

peace is an offering 1

What is not to love about Peace is an Offering? Nothing, though the spread alluding to 911 seems unnecessary. The verse feels out of place, as does the illustration, which deviates from the light, airy, everyday life depicted on the other spreads (see two examples here). but for those who lost a loved one or friend, the spread may provide comfort. Peace is an Offering is a gratifying read; uplifting and inspiring young and old alike. The author finishes the poem by offering advice to children.

So offer a cookie,
Walk away from a fight.
Comfort a friend
Through the long, dark night.

I loved every aspect of every spread. The poetry speaks to the heart. Pencil and watercolor illustrations have those details I rave about. Simply said, Peace is an Offering is a joy to read.

PEACE IS AN OFFERING. Text copyright © 2015 by Annette LeBox. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Graegin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Penguin Random House, NY.
Purchase Peace is an Offering at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPenguin Random House.
Learn more about Peace is an Offering HERE.

Meet the author, Annette LeBox, at her website:  http://annettelebox.com/
Meet the illustrator, Stephanie Graegin, at her website:  http://graegin.com/
Find more picture books at Dial Books for Young Readers website:  http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/dialbooksforyoungreaders/

Dial Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Penguin Random House.  http://www.penguin.com/children/

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: acceptance, Annette LeBox, Dial Books for Young Readers, family, friends, love, multicultural, peace, Peace is an Offering, Penguin Random House, relationships, Stephanie Graegin

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15. Self-knowledge: what is it good for?

Marvin is a delusional dater. He somehow talked the gorgeous Maria into going on a date with him, and today is the day. Maria is way out of Marvin’s league but he lacks self-knowledge. He thinks he is better looking, better dressed, and more interesting than he really is. Yet his illusions about himself serve a purpose. They give him self-belief and as a result the date goes better than it would have done otherwise. Maria is still out of Marvin’s league, but is at least impressed by his nerve and self-confidence, if not by his conversation.

The case of the delusional dater suggests that self-knowledge doesn’t necessarily make you happier or more successful, at least in the short term. According to social psychologists Timothy Wilson and Elizabeth Dunn, there are physical and mental benefits associated with maintaining slight or moderate self-illusions, such as believing one is more generous, intelligent, and attractive than is actually the case. There are some truths about ourselves which, like Marvin, we are better off not knowing.

Real world examples of the benefits of moderate self-illusions are not hard to find. In my experience as a university teacher, average students who believe they are better than that tend to work harder and do better than average students who know their own limitations. Studies of HIV-positive men have shown that they are more likely to practice safe sex if they believe they are unlikely to get AIDS. Sometimes positive self-illusions can be even self-fulfilling. Studies of women at weight loss clinics have shown they are more likely to lose weight if they believe they are going to lose weight.

My favourite example of the power of self-illusions is a famous study of snake-phobic subjects who were played what they believed were the sounds of their own heartbeats as they were shown slides of snakes. In fact, instead of their own racing hearts, they were played the steady heartbeats of someone with no fear of snakes. As a result, the snake-phobic subjects inferred that they weren’t that scared of snakes after all and became less snake-phobic.

Knowledge of how generous, attractive, or frightened you are might not sound like “self-knowledge.” We like to think of self-knowledge as something deeper, as knowledge of the “real you.” But the real you isn’t something apart from your thoughts, motives, emotions, character traits, values and personality. Knowledge of these things is knowledge of the “real you,” and the question remains why knowledge of the real you should matter. Most of us have heard of the ancient command to “Know thyself” but few have dared to ask what good it does.

Abstract Reflections, photo by Francisco Antunes, CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

Low-end explanations of the value of self-knowledge say that self-knowledge is a good thing because it makes you happier or more successful. High-end explanations say that the real point of self-knowledge is that having it enables us to live more authentic and meaningful lives. From this standpoint it doesn’t matter if self-knowledge doesn’t guarantee happiness or success. That was never the point of “Know thyself.”

High-end explanations of the value of self-knowledge are seductive but don’t really work. To be authentic is to be true to yourself, and you might wonder how you can be true to yourself, to who you really are, if you don’t know yourself. Actually, it’s easy to show that authenticity is possible without self-knowledge. Suppose the opportunity arises to cheat in a card game but you don’t cheat because you aren’t a cheat. In refraining from cheating you are being true to yourself but what makes you refrain from cheating is the fact that you aren’t a cheat. You don’t need to know you aren’t a cheat for you not to cheat. You can be true to yourself regardless of whether you know yourself.

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Could this be why self-knowledge matters? The idea that self-knowledge has something to do with finding meaning in your life is promising but controversial. There is plenty of evidence that people find their life choices more meaningful when they are consistent with the kind of person they think they are, but the kind of person you think you are may be quite different from the kind of person you actually are. Being mistaken about the kind of person you are needn’t prevent you from finding your life meaningful on its own terms.

Am I saying that self-knowledge is worthless? Not at all. What I’m saying – and this might be a surprising thing for a philosopher to be saying – is that self-knowledge is overrated in our culture. The truth of the matter is not that you can’t live authentically, meaningfully, or happily without self-knowledge, but that a modicum of self-knowledge might, depending on the circumstances, improve your prospects of living in these ways. While self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, you are unlikely to do well in life if you are grossly self-ignorant. Marvin’s self-illusions might get him through his date with Maria but in the longer term he will save himself the pain of repeated rejection if he stops kidding himself.

“While self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, you are unlikely to do well in life if you are grossly self-ignorant.”

The same applies to talentless contestants of reality TV talent shows. It’s hard not to think that delusional contestants who believe they can sing like Michael Jackson would in the end live happier lives if they learned to handle the truth about themselves. How can you plan your life if you are completely clueless about what you are good at? At some point, you need to come to terms with the real you, and the challenge is to figure out how to do that.

Writing in the 17th century, René Descartes saw self-knowledge as strictly first-personal, as the product of a special kind of mental self-examination. Descartes was wrong. We aren’t unbiased observers of our own inner selves, and the studies suggest that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves aren’t to be trusted. We all like to think well of ourselves.

A better bet is to try to see yourself through the eyes of others. When it comes to the real you, your friends, colleagues, and nearest and dearest probably have deeper insights than you do. The self-knowledge you get by social interaction is indirect and third-personal but that’s okay. For example, you might not think that you are generous but if everyone you are close to thinks that you are tight with money then that trumps your self-conception. In this case, other people know the real you better than you know the real you.

Of course, seeing ourselves through the eyes of others can be hard to do, especially when their opinion is unflattering. That’s one of many factors which make worthwhile self-knowledge so hard to get. So if self-knowledge is something which matters to you then here is some practical advice: try to accept that reliable self-knowledge is not something you can get by self-examination. Instead, try to see yourself as others see you, and give up any idea that you are always the best judge of the real you. Even with the help of others, a degree of self-ignorance is unavoidable. But if self-ignorance is part of the human condition, so is the ability to get by without really knowing ourselves.

This article originally appeared in LUX Magazine.

The post Self-knowledge: what is it good for? appeared first on OUPblog.


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16. We Have a New Member of the Family

At least, temporarily.

At least, I HOPE it’s temporary.

Kevin has a special-needs uncle – let’s call him Roy. His grandmother adopted him out of foster care when he was a toddler.

I guess, technically, he’s not really special needs. He’s not retarded but rather, just slow. His birth mother drank and probably did drugs when she was pregnant with him which caused brain damage. He’s only a few years younger than myself.

Kevin’s grandmother passed away and he’s been living with Kevin’s parents all of these years.

However – Kevin’s parents are getting older and it’s harder for them to get around and quite honestly, they just want to live their remaining years peacefully. The situation has become tense and Kevin became his co-guardian – he’s now fully (or will be when his mother passes away) responsible for him.

We knew, at some point, he would need to get out on his own, learn to be independent. The challenge? He can’t really be by himself. He has no concept of money. He will never drive. And he doesn’t always have common sense when it comes to some things. So he will need frequent supervision. Our plan was to get him moved into an apartment and the family would take turns dropping by to check on him – take him meals once in a while, etc.

I came up with the plan of moving him into our rental house across the street. He would pay us rent and we could keep a close eye on him. (He gets money from the government every month due to his disability and might I just add – THIS IS WHAT GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS WERE MEANT TO DO: to help those that can’t fully help themselves. NOT SUPPORT PEOPLE WHO ARE MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY CAPABLE OF WORKING. *ahem* Focus Karen, focus). No one is currently living in the house now and we need to get someone in there so we can start paying down our loan.

Kevin originally bought the house with his parents in mind and they are still welcome to move in, as soon as they sell their house. The problem? Who knows when that will be. It could be months. It could be years. In the meantime, Roy can live there and we’ll come up with another solution if/when his parents sell their house and/if they still want to move in when that happens. We talked about this plan and he was going to present this plan to his parents after bowling with Roy.

Things sort of reached a breaking point on Sunday night. Kevin left to go bowling with Roy and was gone for several hours. He was gone so long, I started to become worried about him. When he finally came home, he had Roy with him. He felt like the situation was getting worse and why wait?

Our plan is happening now.

The problem is – Kevin didn’t do this gradually so Roy doesn’t have any of his stuff moved into the house yet. So, he’s living with us until we can move him into the house. I’m sure we’re still going to have to “introduce” him slowly to being in the house and living on his own. I’m going to try and talk the boys into spending a few nights with him at the rental house so he doesn’t get scared being on his own. Plus – it’s always a little spooky spending the night in a new place.

But it’s time. Kevin’s parents won’t live forever and no one in the family really wants him to live with them. And to be perfectly honest, Roy is mentally capable of living on his own, he just hasn’t up to this point. There has always been someone to baby him and look after him.

And he won’t be “alone” per se, the family will still be available and did I mention we’ll be across the street if he needs anything?

I think it’s a win-win for everyone, quite frankly.

This is going to be quite an adjustment on everyone’s parts. I think this will actually be good for Blake. He has always had a special connection to Roy – Kevin’s grandma watched Blake when he was a baby so I could continue to work and Blake and Roy have sort of grown up together. They are pretty close. For example, right now, Blake is watching TV with Roy and I can’t tell you the last time Blake came out of his room to watch TV. I think he feels like he needs to take care of Roy and that might be a good thing in the long run for Blake. Roy gives him purpose. He feels comfortable around him and he’s the most animated whenever he’s around him.

Again, a win-win situation. Stay tuned … we’re turning the page to another chapter in our lives.

Filed under: Life, Relationships

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17. Commitment is Too Hard Nowadays

LOVE this article!! This was linked on Facebook and honestly, I don’t have much to add. It’s spot on. It perfectly describes the social media age.

And if you wonder why you can’t commit, or if someone you love can’t commit, consider this article. It might save your relationship and possibly teach you long-term happiness.

When we choose—if we commit—we are still one eye wandering at the options. We want the beautiful cut of filet mignon, but we’re too busy eyeing the mediocre buffet, because choice. Because choice. Our choices are killing us. We think choice means something. We think opportunity is good. We think the more chances we have, the better. But, it makes everything watered-down. Never mind actually feeling satisfied, we don’t even understand what satisfaction looks like, sounds like, feels like. We’re one foot out the door, because outside that door is more, more, more. We don’t see who’s right in front of our eyes asking to be loved, because no one is asking to be loved. We long for something that we still want to believe exists. Yet, we are looking for the next thrill, the next jolt of excitement, the next instant gratification.

We soothe ourselves and distract ourselves and, if we can’t even face the demons inside our own brain, how can we be expected to stick something out, to love someone even when it’s not easy to love them? We bail. We leave. We see a limitless world in a way that no generation before us has seen. We can open up a new tab, look at pictures of Portugal, pull out a Visa, and book a plane ticket. We don’t do this, but we can. The point is that we know we can, even if we don’t have the resources to do so. There are always other tantalizing options. Open up Instagram and see the lives of others, the life we could have. See the places we’re not traveling to. See the lives we’re not living. See the people we’re not dating. We bombard ourselves with stimuli, input, input, input, and we wonder why we’re miserable. We wonder why we’re dissatisfied. We wonder why nothing lasts and everything feels a little hopeless. Because, we have no idea how to see our lives for what they are, instead of what they aren’t.

Read more…

Filed under: Facebook Stories, Relationships

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18. Cancer for Christmas

My wife sat at her laptop furiously compiling the lists for our four girls. She checked it once, then again while travelling to website after website scouring the internet for the best price and delivery. Items were added to baskets and carts checked out at such a frantic pace that I literally felt a warmth emanate from the credit card in my back pocket. Shopping at a fever pitch – Christmas delivered in two days or less. Not like most years, where she disappears for hours on end to find the perfect gift at the mall. She doesn’t have time for that this year because we got cancer for Christmas.

We dlistidn’t ask for it. It wasn’t circled in the wishbook or written in red crayon. No one sat on Santa’s lap and begged for it. No, cancer just showed up unannounced and took our year away.

So rather than spending quality time with each of the girls to weigh their enormous wants against our limited budget as in years past, she spent Saturday morning hunting and pecking under great duress. Do they have the right size? Will it be delivered on time? Is that really something she will use or should we just give her cash?

At some point during the madness, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She paused to consider. Her eyes got red and her mouth failed her. She didn’t answer, but I knew. I knew what she wanted the second I asked the question and Amazon.com can’t deliver it, even though we are Prime members. It is the only thing either of us want.


We want our baby to stop hurting.

We want her to stop having to face treatments that make her sick and waste away.

We want her legs to work.

We want her to be able to go to school… to run, skip and play like every normal 12 year-old girl should.

We want her to stop coughing.

We want her hair to grow back so people don’t stare at her.

We want normal family time – not garbled, anxiety-laden, jumbled hodge-podge comings and goings where one is sick or two are missing for yet another appointment.

We want to relax and not worry.

We want to give cancer back.


I’ll take one of those please, Santa. Any size will do. No need to wrap it up because if you deliver it, the paper won’t last long. Oh, and you can ditch the receipt, I won’t be returning that gift.

I know many people are dealing with heartbreak and struggles. While Christmas is a season of love and giving, it also seems to magnify pain and loss. We don’t have the market cornered on hurt. I realize that.

It’s just that my wife loves Christmas so much. She loves everything about it, from finding the perfect, fattest tree to decorating every square inch of the house in some form of red and green. She loves the sound of the carols (save Feliz Navidad) and the smell of the baking, even though she is the one wearing an apron. She loves that, for the briefest of moments, the world focuses on the birth of our Savior. She loves taking a drive to see lights on houses and staying home with hot chocolate around a fire. She loves spending time with family, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, reading the nativity story, and candlelight Christmas Eve services. She loves the mad dash on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought… the joy and wonder on our children’s faces. She loves it all.




How do we do it this year?

Should we skip it?

Or should we cherish every moment together as the babe in the manger intended us to? Maybe, instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, we should hold on to the fragile remains of what we have – love, family, friends, and a newfound respect for the precious thing that is life. We should cling to our little girl, who, though frail, is fighting hard and encouraging others to do the same.

We aren’t alone. During the year, we’ve been welcomed into the country club no one wants to join – the childhood cancer community. While we are bound together by common tragedy, it is the warmest, most caring and wonderfully supportive group imaginable. It is the fraternity I wish I’d never pledged. Many of our new brothers and sisters are dealing with such incredible loss, and this time of year must certainly be crippling.



When referring to the promised coming of the child in the manger, Isaiah said, “…and a little child shall lead them.”

What if we took a cue from our little child?


Although she is the one feeling the pain, nausea, and side effects of cancer, she is also the one most excited about Christmas. Even though she only had the strength to stand long enough to put a single ornament on the tree, she admires the finished product and loves to be in the den where she can see it. She is the one who insisted on taking decorations out of town with her while she has to be gone for treatment. She is the one snuggling her elves, dreaming about Christmas morning, and soaking up every minute of the nearness of family and Christ at this time of year. She holds a compress on an aching jaw with one hand and draws up surprises for those most dear with the other. In a year of typically rapid growth for a child her age, she weighs 75% of what she did last Christmas, yet she samples whatever treats her nervous stomach will allow. While we fret over diagnosis and treatment, she savors joy, plucks smiles from pain, and builds a resume of contentment that few on this earth have ever seen. Perhaps she has it right and we have it all wrong.


Kylie hanging her favorite ornament

Kylie hanging her favorite ornament

Instead of looking to health and prosperity for our happiness, what if, just for a moment, we set aside our problems – however overwhelming, and looked to the manger, toward a child – with gratitude for his coming and a longing for his return? What if we laughed in the face of the enemy, knowing that we are wonderfully cared for and uniquely loved? What if we hoped, even when victory was uncertain? What if we dreamed of a better tomorrow regardless of what it may hold?

What if we smiled more…

This joyous Christmas, our family holds on to hope. Together, we look to the manger, to Jesus Christ our Lord for strength and healing. We dream of the day when there is a cure – for our child & every child. We pray that next year, not a single family will have to unwrap cancer for Christmas.

Filed under: From the Writer

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19. Pure Joy

I got to be party to pure, absolute joy this weekend. I have seen such displays on television after a big win in sports or gameshows. This time, it was my little girl who celebrated. After so many losses in the past six months, it was a much needed win.

As a parent, one of the worst things about cancer is being totally helpless. We are forced to sit and watch as one thing after another is taken away from our little girl. Ballet, plays, school, vacations, little things and big things are plucked away as she lays in bed.

Wonderful organizations are out there to give back to these kids. Groups such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation come beside them to give them something to look forward to during their treatment. A very introspective child, Kylie debated long and hard over her wish, finally deciding she wanted to see Aladdin on Broadway.

A few weeks ago, Kylie was asked to be the honored child at Make-a-Wish Georgia’s annual fund-raising Wish Gala. The chairperson of the event took her on a shopping spree for a gown. This day of shopping was unlike any that my girls have been on – especially Kylie. As a fourth child, hand-me-downs are the rule of thumb. If it isn’t obscenely high or dragging the ground, it fits.

Not this time. She was treated like a princess. After a six month hiatus, I saw her old friend, “excitement” start to creep back into her life.

The big night came. We all got dressed up for the Gala.



She knew she was going to sing with her sister. She knew I was going to speak. She thought of herself as the entertainment and the face of wish-children for the evening. What she didn’t know was that Make-a-Wish had planned a big surprise for her. They had a video from her favorite Broadway performers who granted her wish to go to see Aladdin. Here is her reaction:



Priceless.  Pure Joy.

After so many months of seeing her disappointed, I can’t look at that video without tears.

You might be wondering if I embarrassed myself and my family in front of the trendier set. I believe the answer is no. With a stern admonition from the start, I spent the evening minding everything I did and said carefully. I paused three seconds before any word escaped my lips. I didn’t spill or break anything. My online tux-buying escapade was made unnecessary by a friend exactly my size who owns a tuxedo. I did not step on anyone’s dress or trip on my way to the stage. I didn’t try to fit in by discussing the beach chalet I own in Vermont.

It was a lovely evening. Kylie was the star…. And she deserves it.


Filed under: Dad stuff

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20. The Art of the Snot Rocket

I have no idea when I perfected it. The snot rocket is an art boys learn early on. We had our share of cold winters in Kentucky where I grew up. Winter, where the snot rocket is born…

You might say there is no skill involved in expelling phlegm from your nose. That’s where you are wrong. Anyone’s nose can run. The question is: can hold your nose just right, tilt your head and force it out properly so that it doesn’t land on your face or clothing? Because that would be embarrassing. Further, can you aim it while on the run so it doesn’t freeze and become a dangerous icy patch to those who come after you?

I can.


I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good – darn good. I feel like if we could get this added as an Olympic sport, I could medal. Where is the SRAA (Snot Rocket Athletic Association) to champion this cause? Imagine that, a Southern boy winning gold in the Winter Olympics.

I got to test my skill Sunday. It dipped to freezing in Georgia for the first time this winter. I love cold runs. In fact, I planned on doing 8 miles and stretched it into 10. There weren’t many people on the greenway with me while I plied my phlegmy craft. Unbeknownst to me, there was a new factor at play.

Kylie has decided that she no longer likes the shape of my head and wants me to cover it with hair again. In fact, she decided she would like me to cover my face, as well. I don’t know what that says, but I am happy to comply. Just like I had always wanted to shave my head, I have always wanted to try to grow a beard. My lovely wife objected to both, but we do pretty much whatever Kylie wants while she is in treatment. So I have a week’s worth of stubble on my head and face.

I think it is going to come in. It looks slightly patchy on the cheeks, but a goatee will not be a problem. All the online beard-growing advice I’ve found says you have to give it a month before you decide. I can hold out. I’m actually kind of excited about it. Right now, with stubble all over, I feel dangerous – like a European bad guy in a James Bond film.

This new growth plays havoc with the snot rocket, however. I didn’t know it when I started running. I launched away for the 5 miles out. When I turned around, more people had joined the run and I noticed quite a few stares. I chalked it up to my new shady appearance. They must be afraid – wondering if I was planning dastardly deeds that only MI6 can thwart. Dangerous.

Little did I know until I got to the truck that I was stockpiling snot rockets on my new facial hair. Like twin demented antlers, they had collected and grown in a downward spiral shape from my upper lip. Yuck…

I have a challenge before me this winter of adapting the game to my new look. Don’t worry, part of being a professional is overcoming obstacles that stand in the way. And if the SRAA comes calling, I will shave and probably wax my upper lip to be competitive. Nothing can get in the way of an Olympic dream.

Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on The Art of the Snot Rocket, last added: 11/5/2014
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21. A Thing for Vanna White

When I was in college, I had a thing for Vanna White.

Thing – (n) An odd desire or inkling of unknown origin and without rational basis that impels one to make poor decisions.

Everyone has a thing for someone else at some point. You can’t dismiss them, nor can you describe them. Things are just things. Boys especially get things because we are so visually driven. My thing happened to be for a letter-turning model who wore evening gowns.

vwIt’s best when a thing isn’t an acquaintance. That way, you have little opportunity to make a fool of yourself. Also good is when your thing is a celebrity because they have 300 pound security officers to keep fools with things away.

I never got the chance to meet Vanna. A friend had a similar thing for her and we decided to drive to Charleston when Wheel of Fortune went on the road. Our jalopy broke down somewhere in Tennessee and we never got close. Probably best.

By the time I met my wife, I thought I was over my thing. Little did I know that Vanna would rear her finely-styled locks into my life again. Searching for something to watch, I paused on Wheel of Fortune far too long, which elicited a comment from my Future Lovely Wife, who knew about my thing for Vanna.

FLW: It’s okay, you can watch her.

Me: No, I don’t want to watch her.

FLW: Seriously, nothing else is on and I know you like her.

Me: I don’t like her.

FLW: It’s okay to think she’s pretty.

(Before I type my response, you have to understand that I am and always have been an idiot.)

Me: Oh, you’re nowhere near as pretty as Vanna White.

Yup. That is actually what I said. I fully intended to say, “Vanna White is nowhere near as pretty as you.” But I didn’t. Stupid Thing! That comment has been etched in family lore ever since. Somehow, she still met me at the altar.


In breaking news, my wife is HOT! I’m sorry if that offends anyone – I don’t mean it to be demeaning. I asked if I could say it and it doesn’t offend her. She got the chance to wear an evening gown a few weeks ago and WOW! I always knew she was gorgeous, but WOW! Of course, in the pictures, there is a gorilla in a tuxedo beside her who looks too dumb to know he is the poor side of the unequal relationship.


There is a point in this post.


I decided to change the background of my phone to the picture of us in our swanky clothes. Since there are six of us, I couldn’t lay it out without cropping one or two of my kids, which could cause problems (especially if it were one of the middle children who always feel cut out). So I made just my stunning wife in her blue gown my background. Now that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it has been for me.

You see, every time I finish a call or close an app, no matter what I’ve been doing or seeing, I go right back to my wife. Remember our visual nature. Wherever I allow myself to wander, this picture on my phone gets me revved up about my wife… which is kinda the way it’s supposed to be.

Take note guys. Find a picture where your wife, fiancée, girlfriend looks absolutely gorgeous and put it as the background on your phone. Too often, we get stuck looking at other things.

Things aren’t real and will get you nowhere. Just ask me about Vanna.

Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on A Thing for Vanna White, last added: 11/13/2014
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22. How Are You?

The most disingenuous three words in the English language. Unless you are the ultimate cynic and cast your lot with I love you. I hope that’s not the case.

Do we ever mean it when we ask? Really? When is the last time you passed someone in the hall and said “how are you” and truly wanted to take the time to know how they were? I’ll bet it’s been a while.

I’m not holier than thou. I say it all the time and rarely care. If some slick gunslinger is quicker on the draw than me, I even add the oft-disregarded, “I am well, and you?” Of course, I don’t want to know.

Until yesterday.

I get these wild hairs – often they involve really stupid things, but this one actually had redeeming potential. I decided to spend my lunch hour in the lobby of my building asking people I saw, “How are you?” and giving them available time and a proper interest to see if they would answer.

Most people don’t stop long enough to notice my disarming voice beckoning them to unburden themselves. The first seven I asked kept moving and gave the appropriate return without so much as an upward glance.

I don’t believe that anyone is “fine” like these seven told me. Pawn your lies and rote responses elsewhere.


Number eight seemed to think I had serious mental problems and eyed me warily while reaching into her purse for either a small handgun or pepper spray. Needless to say I decided against an elevator ride with this charmer. “I’ll take the next one, Bonnie Parker.”

You can trap the elderly.

In walked a slow, older gentleman. Number nine. He began scanning the directory and seemed somewhat confused.

“How are you?” I asked in a very welcoming and reassuring tone.

“I’m fine young man, just fine,” he replied. Something was different, though. Before he spoke, he turned and made eye contact.

He was rather unkempt, smelled like my high school gym teacher, and had a thick bushel of hair growing out of each nostril. But he smiled warmly. In fact, he smiled all over… an infectious smiled that started at his lips, slowly ran through his eyes and worked its way off his person and onto me. I liked this old dude.

“Say, would you know where the office of Litton & Driscoll is located,” he asked.

“I think that’s on the fourth floor.”

He patted me gently on the chest with some paperwork he had rolled into a tube, like a kid’s telescope. “Thank you, friend.”

“Don’t mention it.” Judging from his demeanor, this might be my first victim who actually was okay. He might just be fine. I had to be certain, though. “Are you sure you are fine?”

He looked at me long whilst I returned my best, biggest, dopiest smile.

“Well, I am headed up to settle my wife’s affairs. So, if you want an honest answer, I suppose I’m not fine.”

Oh boy…  Panic!   In over my head…  I thought I would learn about a foot ailment… or a wayward kitten. Not this. Why am I so stupid? All of me wanted to say, “I’m fine, and you?” But I got myself into this.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine.”

“You married?”

“Yes, sir. For 22 years now.”

“Seem young for that.”

I really liked this old dude.

“How long were you married?”

“Fifty-three years last August….”

And so began a wonderful story of love and loss.

You know what? I’m glad I asked. In fact, I’m going to break the habit of asking when I don’t care. From now on, I will only ask, “how are you” if I have time and interest in the answer. Try it yourself. Better yet, come join Joseph and me for coffee tomorrow morning and see that infectious smile.

Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on How Are You?, last added: 11/19/2014
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23. Where’s My Stuff?

I remember distinctly the last time I held it in my hands. Shiny, yellow, beautiful – a huge exhaust pipe rolling out the back billowing imaginary smoke as my hotrod peeled rubber and raced away topping speeds of 210 miles per hour. I set my favorite Hot Wheels car on top of my dresser one night, went to bed, and never saw it again. I’m sure there is a logical explanation – factory recall, aliens, jealous friends, Hot Wheel collecting criminals. I looked for it everywhere to no avail. Whenever I read Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay, I think of my car. It was just too good for this earth.

Did you ever lose something and it drove you nuts?

I lose stuff a lot. Big stuff, little stuff.

I had a jean jacket once. When I wore it, I was invincible. Cool like James Dean. All of my friends had them. When we felt cocky, we’d flip the collars up. In truth, we always felt cocky so they may as well have been starched. Those were the days


By the time I settled down into a job, that jacket had lived a pretty good life and didn’t really fit into a young professional wardrobe. It hung in the closet alone. Every once in a while, I would get it out just to smell it. It had the scent of autumn, the great outdoors, cheap perfume, debauchery, friendship and youth all rolled into one. I never dared wash it, lest I forget.

Then it was gone. On a chilly night, my girlfriend took it from my closet to warm her on her way home. I married the girl, but never saw my jean jacket again.

Was she jealous of the jacket? I don’t know. There are two predominant theories:

  1. She tried to wash it but couldn’t make the smell go away or the collar go down.
  2. She washed it and realized it would never be the same. Ruined.

She swears she never took it. (It’s not like I have a history of losing stuff…)

And then, there are these polka-dotted shoes she owned. I hated those shoes. Somehow, in a move, they disappeared. Although I shoulder the blame, I will go to my grave denying I had anything to do with their demise.

What happens to the stuff we lose? When we get to heaven, will there be a pile of it waiting for us? If so, I fear my pile will be huge. However big my mansion is, the closets are likely stuffed full already. Maybe when I show up, St. Peter will hand me jean jacket so I can inhale it in pure oxygen while I vroom my little yellow car across the clouds. I hope it smells the same, although they probably filter debauchery scents.

My wife can dance through the mist in her shoes I did NOT destroy.

Who knows where all of the stuff goes. One of the great mysteries of life.

The question is: does it matter? Am I the poorer for losing stuff?

Nah… Stuff is just stuff and most times, the memories are better than the stuff ever was. I never filled out that jacket as well as I remember. The collar should have stayed neatly down. But in my memory and a couple of pictures I have yet to lose, I was legendary.



Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

4 Comments on Where’s My Stuff?, last added: 11/27/2014
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24. The Front of the Parade

I dislike parades. Not a little, a lot!

I don’t care about the pageantry or the spectacle. I just get bored. A.D.D.? Maybe. Every time I’m stuck watching them, I can’t find an ounce of enjoyment – I just think about two dozen other things I could be doing. This couldn’t be truer than when I’m at Disneyworld.

My kids, on the other hand, love parades. So when people start lining the streets, they want to stop riding roller coasters and wait. UGH…

Wait for what? Floats. No thank you! If a float doesn’t contain root beer and ice cream, I don’t want it.

I figure with half of the eligible riders standing along the parade route, the lines to the cool things are shorter. Not my family. We wait – and not for the good stuff.

A funny thing happened on our trip last week. We were headed to a ride at the back of the park while people were lining up for the parade. No one with me suggested we stop to watch (miracle), so I powered into the street. We must have been the last ones let out before they closed the rope because we found ourselves about 20 paces in front of the parade with all of its flags and music.

Maybe it was the fact that I was pushing my daughter’s wheelchair, or possibly because I looked so stately and official, but it became apparent that the spectators thought we were supposed to be the ones leading the parade. We all realized it at the same time as they clapped and waved at us.

My kids became confused.

They grouped together.

“Should we pull off and get out of the way?” they wondered.

The oldest asked, “What do we do?”

Of course they looked to me, the leader, the head honcho, the alpha male for direction and what did they find me doing?


With a dopey grin on my face, I waved back at all of my adoring fans.

When life puts you at the front of the parade, smile and wave!


The kids laughed at me, but it caught on. All of us began waving to the crowd.

You know what? Everyone waved back. The people didn’t think we looked out of place – they just waved at us. I wonder what they thought when the real parade came and they realized we didn’t belong. Oh well, we were gone by then. We walked over half of the parade route unencumbered by the bustling crowd until we got near the ride we wanted. Then we simply ducked into the masses and became one of them – anonymous once more.

I still hate parades… But for a moment, I was the grand marshal.

Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

6 Comments on The Front of the Parade, last added: 12/10/2014
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25. Sorry To See You Go

My technophobic wife has taken an increasing shine to internet shopping.

Point, click, receive, wrap… Point, click, receive, wrap…

At this point, you might be thinking this is another husband-rant about all of the clicking activity and the bill that will come due in January. Well, that may be a subject for another post (I hope the title changes), but right now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the amount of email spam that her clicking has brought us. You see, we share an email account. Mistake? Maybe… but it has worked thus far.

Here is the problem, cleaning my inbox is the one thing I’m OCD about. I need it to be current or I lose focus. At work, I churn through emails faster than a Gopher on balsa-wood. If I can answer it immediately, it is gone. If it makes me mad, gone. If it is ambiguous and may not pertain to me, whoops, I hit delete. My inbox is squeaky-clean. The one at work, that is.

The shared inbox at home gets bogged down in December with order confirmations, shipping information, and advertisements. Oh the advertisements. Did I mention my wife is a technophobe? So, while she has mastered the checkout function of two hundred seventy-four websites, I can’t convince her that they won’t think any less of her if she unchecks the little box that says, “Would you like us to send you an ungodly amount of emails that are irrelevant, obnoxious, and likely to cause enmity between husband and wife?”

I should be working a second job to prepare for the aforementioned bill, but I spend my December trying to unsubscribe from every mailing list known to mankind. Only they lie to you when they allow you to hold the illusion that leaving them is an option. It’s a web of deceit – an impossibility. You cannot be removed from mailing lists. “You have been removed from our mailing list. We are sorry to see you go” is a lie from the bowels of the earth.


What the little button should say is, “Thank you for verifying your existence, I will now torture you every fifteen minutes with a blinking email reminder of your incompetence.”

After trying unsuccessfully to remove our email address from yet another list, I marched to the den, bowed out my chest, and sternly gave my wife an ultimatum!

“Either you learn to uncheck the subscribe button, or we are changing our email address!”


Women don’t like ultimatums.


Of course, our email address remains the same and though wounded and alone, I am off to fight a MailChimp.

Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

9 Comments on Sorry To See You Go, last added: 12/17/2014
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