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1. New Images from the Illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (or Sorcerer’s) Stone–and a Video about Illustrator Jim Kay’s Creative Process!

The release of the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone is nigh–in fact, it’s tomorrow (October 6th)! Four glorious new illustrations have been bestowed upon us ahead of the book’s release, thanks to an exclusive post made by EW. Steady yourselves:

There’s this striking illustration of the quidditch hoops, set against a backdrop of Hogwarts, with some very dramatic, Halloween-y colouring:



A drawing of Harry, presumably at platform 9 3/4:


along with this fascinating glimpse into the birth of Kay’s depiction of Harry:

“I was looking at all these photographs of evacuee children from the 1940s — in England, you’d call them ‘blitz kids’ — who have been taken away from their home during the blitz. They had sort of thick, scruffy hair, and round glasses, and looked sort of underfed and malnourished, from really tough East End parts of London as well. I wanted that real character coming through, some adversity. But also slightly fragile, because he’s thin, and he’s smaller than usual.”

Luckily, Kay spotted the perfect young model while riding the London Underground, and told the boy’s mother he’d like to photograph her son as a character to work from. The boy, Clay, is a stage performer, so he’s fantastically skilled at interpreting the spectrum of emotions Kay asks him to project.

This illustration and discussion of Dumbledore, which reveals that Kay has strewn easter eggs throughout his artwork (another thing to look forward to!):


“What I like about early portrait painting,” Kay says, “is that you have objects in them that are representative of that person. So the dried plant there is honesty — but on the honesty is also a little camouflaged praying mantis. It’s sort of saying, there is honesty with Dumbledore, but with a catch. There’s also a little bottle of dragon’s blood because he wrote a book on dragon’s blood. And knitting because, of course, he likes to knit.”

Dumbledore’s likeness has a special place in Kay’s heart: “He’s based on an amazing illustrator I know, who I absolutely idolize. He’s been an inspiration for years for me, so it’s a huge deal that he’s lent his face to Dumbledore.”

And his portrayal of the perilous wizard’s chess game:



And there’s yet another thing to marvel at: Pottermore has released a video of Kay discussing his creative process, along with a peek into his studio! Click here to watch it, or see it below!

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2. Scholastic to Offer Assistance to Syrian Refugees

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3. Scholastic Reports $191.2M in Revenues in Q1 2016

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4. Dustin Nguyen & Derek Friedolfs to Illustrate Young Justice League for Scholastic in “DC Comics: Secret Hero Society”

You first heard about it from us a few weeks back— a secret project being produced by Eisner-nominated Lil’ Gotham co-writers Dustin Nguyen and Derek Friedolfs in partnership with all-ages book publisher Scholastic and DC Comics.  Finally, we have the official announcement. The first of three illustrated novels licensed by Scholastic, Secret Hero Society: The Study Hall of […]

4 Comments on Dustin Nguyen & Derek Friedolfs to Illustrate Young Justice League for Scholastic in “DC Comics: Secret Hero Society”, last added: 9/21/2015
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5. Mark of The Thief (2015)

Mark of The Thief. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2015. Scholastic. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Did I enjoy Jennifer A. Nielsen's Mark of the Thief? Yes!!! Very much. What should YOU know before picking it up? Well, it's a FANTASY novel set in Ancient Rome. Sound appealing? I think so! Here's how it starts:
In Rome, nothing mattered more than the gods, and nothing mattered less than its slaves. Only a fool of a slave would ever challenge the gods' power. I was beginning to look like that fool.
 Mark of the Thief is narrated by a slave, Nic, who through a series of events find himself in ever-increasing danger. It starts with him refusing to obey Sal's orders to go into a newly discovered tunnel/cave within the mine. He's not the first slave Sal's ordered there. The first died. The second, well, he came back clearly insane. Nic's escape attempt doesn't quite go as planned, it's best not to overhear EVIL, SECRET plans and be seen...But Nic is lucky in many ways when he does finally venture into the depths of the earth....

I would definitely recommend this one. Nic's character was great. And Nic meets a lot of interesting characters, including one he's not quite sure about at any given time: a young woman named Aurelia.

Betrayal, Secrets, Mystery and Suspense. Magic. ACTION. Just a few reasons why you might find this one difficult to put down!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. I Love My Dinosaur

Board Book: I Love My Dinosaur. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hi! I'm Patrick, and I love my dinosaur! 
So here's my little dino.
He's green with tiny teeth.
Scaly on his top side
And bumpy underneath.

Premise/plot: Readers meet a boy, Patrick, who loves his dinosaur. Through rhyme, he shares just why he loves his dinosaur so much.

My thoughts: Caroline Jayne Church's board books are best for young toddlers. The art is cute and precious-y. Some readers find that type of art irresistible. Others not so much. But you always know what to expect from Caroline Jayne Church.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Watch for It: Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Jennifer and Matthew Holm have teamed up again, this time to write a semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Sunny Side Up. Illustrated beautifully by cartoonist Lark Pien, the reader is shot back to August, 1976, West Palm Beach, Florida. Gramps and Sunny reunite outside the Eastern Airlines terminal and their journey begins. Sunny is introduced to Pine Palms Retirement Community; life with seniors; Buzz, the groundskeeper's son; and comics. Flashbacks fill in the backstory of what precipitated Sunny's visit down south. Substance abuse is carefully; yet, honestly handled.

The understanding of each other that the characters attain, the give-and-take, and the discovery of the new is beautiful in this treasure. I would watch for this work on the awards lists. Enjoy the book, readergirlz, and then lend it to your little sister.

Sunny Side Up
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
illustrated by Lark Pien
Graphix, Scholastic, 2015

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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8. A Lucky Author Has A Dog

A Lucky Author Has A Dog. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Steven Henry. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Early in the morning, people are waking and going to work. So a dog is, too. Because an author should also be waking. A lucky author has a dog to begin every day with a kiss--then some help getting dressed.

Premise/plot: Ever wondered what a day in the life of an author was like? A Lucky Author Has A Dog is a picture book about what it's like to be an author--an author with a dog! It talks about writing and publishing--being an author. But it is also very much a celebration of dogs and pets.

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was a great book. I loved how it discusses the writing process. I loved the point of view as well. For example, "Are stories waiting to be noticed? The dog will show the author how to look and listen the way a dog does. An author without a dog can learn. But having a dog is better. Because everything is better with a dog."

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Frog on a Log?

Frog on a Log? Kes Gray. Illustrated by Jim Field. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Hey Frog! Sit on a log!" said the cat. "But I don't want to sit on a log,' said the frog. "Logs are all hard and uncomfortable. And they can give you splinters. Ouch!" "I don't care" said the cat. "You're a frog, so you must sit on a log."

Premise/plot: The cat is quite BOSSY, as this frog discovers in this rhyming book. Cat knows exactly where everyone is allowed to sit: frogs on logs, cats on mats, hares on chairs, mules on stools, gophers on sofas, etc. The frog keeps on asking question after question perhaps hoping to change the cat's mind, but, he asks one question too many…

My thoughts: The text was okay for me. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I think I might have liked this one a tiny bit more if I'd liked the illustrations.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Exclusive premiere of the trailer for Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplins

Here's an exclusive first look at the trailer for Craig Thompson's Space Dumplins, his long awaited first graphic novel for kids. It goes on sale next week.

2 Comments on Exclusive premiere of the trailer for Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplins, last added: 8/24/2015
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11. When Sophie's Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt

When Sophie's Feelings are Really, Really Hurt. Molly Bang. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sophie loves to paint. She also loves the woods. Now Ms. Mulry is telling the class: "After school, find a tree you like a LOT. Look at it carefully--the trunk, the branches, the leaves. Tomorrow your'e going to paint that tree from memory."

Premise/plot: Sophie's feelings get hurt during art time at school. One of the boys--Andrew--teases her about her painting, telling her that her painting is all wrong. Can the teacher intervene and reassure Sophie that there isn't a right and wrong way to paint a tree?

My thoughts: I liked the text. I did. I like Sophie as a character. And I liked how expressive the story was. Did I like the illustrations? Yes and no. I actually really liked Sophie's drawing of a tree. Her art assignment was beautiful. And I liked the brightness of the colors. But overall, I didn't "love" the illustrations.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Your Hand in My Hand

Your Hand in My Hand. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Your hand in my hand is where it belongs. Your hand in my hand as we walk along. The world's full of wonders. There's so much to see. I'll find them with you if you find them with me.

Premise/plot: Your Hand in My Hand celebrates families, friendship, seasons, and nature. The illustrations feature a parent and child. (They're mice, I believe.) It's a sweet and precious book. Not every reader loves sweet and precious. Not all adults and not all children. But for the right reader, or set of readers, this one is quite lovely.

My thoughts: Did I love it? Yes and no. I didn't love Your Hand in My Hand as much as his previous book, Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. I really loved that spirited book. Your Hand is My Hand is much quieter, not as exuberant or obnoxious. There's something personal and precious about it which I can't help liking. This one was originally published in the UK.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. DC and Scholastic Tease A New Title for January 26, 2016! What Could It Be?!?

☛ CAVEAT ☚ All of which follows is readily and publicly available online. (Until someone plugs all of the leaks.) I have not used any confidential sources. The original catalog citations which I quote below (with embedded URLs) are not hidden or behind a paywall at Edelweiss. Further information was all found by Google searches, and […]

2 Comments on DC and Scholastic Tease A New Title for January 26, 2016! What Could It Be?!?, last added: 8/28/2015
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14. A Girl Named Disaster

A Girl Named Disaster. Nancy Farmer. 1996. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I read A Girl Named Disaster and Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind the same week. That fact definitely influenced my thoughts on both books--fair or not. Reading is subjective, after all.

Did I enjoy reading A Girl Named Disaster? Yes and no. I didn't exactly "enjoy" it. I found it a bit slow at the beginning, and, a bit rushed at the end. There were times I definitely found it interesting, but, I never really found myself loving it.

Nancy Farmer's A Girl Named Disaster is set in Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. Nhamo has an interesting relationship to the rest of the family. She dearly, dearly loves her grandmother (Ambuya), and is in return beloved of her grandmother. (She is in fact probably the favorite granddaughter.) But the rest of her family is a different story. They seem to blame Nhamo for the circumstances of her birth. Her mother returned home from school (high school??? college???) pregnant and married to a "useless" man, a man named Proud. Neither is in her life when the novel opens. Her mother died when Nhamo was a toddler--eaten by a leopard. Her father had disappeared even before that. Nhamo is, without a doubt, a hard worker. Yes, she is slightly bitter that her tasks are more difficult and time-consuming than her slightly-older cousin's--Masvita. But she isn't hate-filled and overflowing with attitude either.

Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster introduces readers to a culture where marriage happens VERY early in life for girls--twelve to fourteen, and where a woman's worth is very much tied to her ability to produce children, particularly sons. Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster features a heroine who is to be sacrificed via marriage. Like Shabanu, this marriage is MOST, MOST unwelcome. Dare I say this would-be marriage sounds even more unpleasant than the one in Shabanu--and I never thought I'd say that. Like Shabanu, the heroine makes the only choice she can under the circumstances....

Nhamo runs away from home in an attempt to make it across the border to Zimbabwe. Once there, she'll pretend to be Catholic--her mother attended a Catholic school--and seek refuge with nuns. Is she actually Catholic? No. Of course not. Her ideas of who Jesus is are far from sound, to say the least. But that is not exactly the point of A Girl Named Disaster.

Her journey to Zimbabwe is....much longer than she imagined it ever could be. It is not a journey of a few days or even a few weeks. MONTHS go by with Nhamo still struggling to reach her destination. It is her fight for SURVIVAL. It is definitely nature versus Nhamo...with Nhamo receiving a bit of help from the spiritual world.

Will Nhamo's life be better--easier--in Zimbabwe? Will she find her father? Will she find her father's family? Will she find welcome with them? What will happen to her if she doesn't find them? What will become of her? What are her chances of a decent life, a good life???

A Girl Named Disaster is slightly less depressing than Shabanu. That's not fair. It's not. The ending sees Nhamo with a bit of hope and a chance at a future.

Still neither book "feels" like a children's book. And when I do think of Newbery or Newbery Honor, I tend to think CHILDREN'S BOOK more than anything else. Arranged marriages, child-adult marriages, don't really come to mind. Still exposure to diverse titles can be a good thing. And both books offer readers something to think about.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Best Young Adult Books with Pat Schmatz, Author of Lizard Radio

It’s a tough assignment, and the best I can do is choose five YA books that, if I were shipwrecked today, I’d want with me.

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16. Scholastic Education Hires Three New Executives

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17. New Images from the Illustrated Edition of “Harry Potter”

The U.S and UK illustrated editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are hitting the shelves on October 6th, 2015. In January 2015, Scholastic and Bloomsbury released the first images from the book illustrated by British artist Jim Kay. Now, just a couple of weeks before the release of the book, Buzzfeed has released two new illustrations, one of them being a sketch of Harry Potter’s character.


According to Bloomsbury, the full-color illustrated edition of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone is filled with “rich detail and humour that perfectly complements J.K. Rowling’s timeless classic”. Rowling herself has endorsed the book, saying:

“Seeing Jim Kay’s illustrations moved me profoundly. I love his interpretation of Harry Potter’s world, and I feel honoured and grateful that he has lent his talent to it.”

Buzzfeed has also released an exclusive video in which Kay talks about his artistic process and creation of his illustrations. To see that video and all of the illustrations released so far, visit the Buzzfeed article from here.  More information can also be found from the Bloomsbury website.

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18. Did You Read: Under Dogs by Markus Zusak

How wonderful to have three books in one collection: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl, by Markus Zusak. Thanks much, Scholastic! (And Arthur A. Levine for bringing the set together in hardback originally!) These books were written prior to The Book Thief and stand strongly. In my mind I've sequestered Markus' beautiful, poetic language to The Book Thief, thinking it fit the tone of that lifework so well. However, reading of the Wolfe brothers, I'm reminded it is Markus' voice which blooms with metaphors across his entire body of work. For me, it creates a sympathy, an understanding, a care for Cameron, the youngest brother making his way through his Australian adolescence.

From crazy schemes, to searches for identity, to family and friend relationships, Ruben and Cameron's exploits entertain and touch the heart with resonating honesty and truth. This is one to look for rgz, if you missed it go by. You have to get to know these brothers. Raise the boyfriend bar.

Under Dogs
By Markus Zusak
Scholastic, paperback, 2013

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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19. Elephant in the Dark

Elephant in the Dark. Mina Javaherbin. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Merchant Ahmad had brought a mysterious creature all the way from India! The news spread fast through the village. What could the huge beast be?

Premise/plot: A village determines to find out about the mysterious new beast--by feeling their way to the truth in a dark barn. Every single person gives a different description. After the first few people share with the others their descriptions and conclusions, much arguing follows. Especially as more and more people keep adding to the discussion with their insights.

My thoughts: A retellng of a familiar poem or story. One version of this folk tale was by Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet. His was called "The Elephant in the Dark." Overall, I liked this story. I thought Eugene Yelchin did a great job with the illustrations, matching them with the story's origins and giving the book a very traditional feel.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Where's Walrus? and Penguin?

Where's Walrus? and Penguin? Stephen Savage. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: Where's Walrus? and Penguin? is a sequel to Where's Walrus. Both are wordless picture books. In the first book, a Walrus escapes from the zoo and manages to cleverly escape capture or recapture. It's a hide-and-seek book. In this second book, Walrus and escapes with a friend, a Penguin. Once again readers are asked to play hide and seek. The illustrations reveal their whereabouts. Can readers spot Walrus and Penguin on every spread? Where will they go next? How will they be disguised?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked the first book too. I think it's a fun and engaging book to share with young children. It's actually one of the few wordless picture books I like. I probably liked the sequel more than the original because it is a true sequel. The ending is absolutely adorable.

Text: 0 out of 0
Illustrations 5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 5

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. I Love My Puppy

Board Book: I Love My Puppy. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hi, I'm Mia, and I love my puppy!

Premise/plot: A little girl loves her puppy and shares with readers why.

My thoughts: Cute, precious, oh-so-predictable rhyming book. I think you either love the art of Caroline Jayne Church, or you don't. I would say that most of her books are for the younger audience. By the time your little one is over the age of two or three, they've probably grown past these types of books.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Watch for It: A Little in Love, Eponine's Story, by Susan E. Fletcher

Are you a fan of Les Miserables? Watch for this new novel written as Eponine's story: A Little in Love. With her first book for young adults, Susan E. Fletcher is hitting the U.S. market after winning the Whitbread First Novel Award for adults in the United Kingdom.

This is a bit softer of a retelling/imagined story than the book, play, and musical. We'd love to hear your take once you've finished, readergirlz. Did Fletcher catch Eponine's voice for you? Her motivations? Her values? Let us know when you finish, but for now, watch for it on August 25th!

A Little in Love
by Susan E Fletcher
Chicken House, Scholastic, 2015

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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23. Fuse #8 TV: Kevin Sherry

After a brief hiatus I’m back with my regular interview series, Fuse #8 TV. By complete coincidence (fortune favors the busy) I didn’t have an interview slated when I was in the thick of my move to Evanston. Now that I’m safely ensconced in Illinois (albeit with oddly empty bookshelves) I’m fully ready and prepared for this month’s interview. And what an interview it is! Here is a bit of what you’ll find in this one:


Not necessarily in that order. Or, odder still, all at the same time. You see, this week we’re interviewing the hugely amusing Kevin Sherry, author of THE YETI FILES, an early chapter book series one and all should know. And in the course of our talk he not only removes (temporarily) articles of clothing but we also get to learn about his magnificent puppetry.

On top of all that, I continue my “Reading (Too Much Into) Picture Books” series in which I tackle the true villains of the Where’s Waldo series. If you watch it with the sound off, you can have fun with my facial expressions.  So please, enjoy! I sure did.

All other Fuse #8 TV episodes are archived here.

Once more, thanks to Scholastic for being my sponsor and helping to put this together.


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24. Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost

Eva Sees A Ghost (Owl Diaries #2) Rebecca Elliott. 2015. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hello Diary,
It's me--Eva Wingdale! Did you miss me? I bet you did! I love: drawing, patterns, daydreaming, the word plum, funky hats, questionnaires, my friends, being super excited! I do not love: my brother Humphrey's horrible singing, Sue Clawson ("Meany McMeanerson"), the color gray, washing my feathers, being scared, squirrels, Mom's caterpillar sandwiches, feeling lonely.
Eva Sees A Ghost is the second book in Rebecca Elliott's Owl Diaries series for young readers. (I'm thinking second grade, or so, would be the target audience. Or an advanced first grader. As a read aloud, even younger audiences would enjoy.) It is a chapter book. It is heavily illustrated. It is heavy on puns.

In this book, Eva sees a ghost. She is upset when NO ONE believes her. Can she prove to her classmates, her friends, her teacher, her family that she really did see a ghost? Or did her own eyes deceive her? How does one go about proving something like this?! 

Did I like it as much as the first book in the series? Probably not. But it was still a quick, enjoyable read. As an adult, I was able to guess the outcome very early on, but, younger readers may not be so quick to guess. (In a way, it is fun to guess, to see if one's guess is correct, and to look for clues and make predictions as one reads.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Carry and Learn Shapes

Board Book: Carry and Learn Shapes. Scholastic. 2015. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Bright, sparkly roof
Door to a cozy home

Premise/plot: A board book for young toddlers that introduces basic shapes.  The five shapes introduced are triangle, rectangle, circle, square, and star.

My thoughts: A simple, bright, colorful board book for young ones to hold and carry. The pages are easy to turn. The book is easy to grasp. A few pages offer--or potentially offer--an interactive experience. It may not be a thrilling story, but, it's a serviceable concept book. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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