Children will love Gracie’s actions and expressions and will eagerly ask for rereads so they can chant along with the...

Too Hot to Moo

What’s a cow to do when her family gets a pool and she’s left alone in her sunny field? Debut author Henwood’s and veteran illustrator Lemaire’s hilarious answer is a delightfully fun read-aloud.

Gracie the cow is so hot she can’t even moo. When she hears the construction on the human side of the fence, she’s curious. What are those construction vehicles doing dumping gray sludge into a big hole in the yard? Young readers will figure out what’s happening before the bovine: the farm family is getting their very own swimming pool to cool off in in the wicked heat. While the farm kids do pour water over Gracie, the relief is short, so when she realizes that the pool is a constant source of water, she charges through the fence and lets out a tremendous “MOO!” before doing “a perfect udder flop right into the deep end!” Not only does she get the water in the pool all muddy, she pees in the shallow end, a gross-out detail sure to delight kids. Despite all the family’s coaxing, once Gracie is in the pool, she intends to stay there, and it takes police cars, a water pump truck, and a crane to move her back to her own side of the fence (which gets fixed while she’s being moved). Once again too hot to moo, Gracie languishes on her side of the fence. But then the construction vehicles are back; this time, however, they’re digging a mud wallow for Gracie. While the story is probably fictional, it feels almost as though it could be real, and kids will enjoy imagining a cow doing a very cowlike dive into a human pool, especially given the gleeful expression on Gracie’s face in Lemaire’s illustration. The only quibble is that the humans are not clearly diverse—and there were opportunities to make them so. Henwood repeats the phrase “Hot, hot, hot, too hot to moo” on several pages throughout the story, giving lap readers a chance to join in chorally and take part in the story. The text design also adds a bonus feature as some of the word layout emphasizes the action: two lines ripple in blue cursive as the water is poured into the pool, and when Gracie breaks through the fence, the text cracks at an angle.

Children will love Gracie’s actions and expressions and will eagerly ask for rereads so they can chant along with the too-hot refrain.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4602-6049-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

A delightfully monstrous and fresh take on a traditional story.

Cinderella and the Vampire Prince

This fairy-tale retelling by picture-book veteran Blevins (Colors All Around, 2016, etc.) and illustrator Cox (Ben’s Rocket, 2016, etc.) might be just what the fairy godmother ordered for readers who are bored of goody-two-shoes Cinderellas.

After a warning to readers that this story is “one of the scariest,” it introduces night-owl Ella, who rubs soot into her skin so that she’ll better blend into the darkness during her night wanderings. She climbs trees, howls at the moon, and frolics with the forest residents. Her stepsisters, meanwhile, are mean and take cleanliness too seriously. When the invitation to a prince’s ball arrives, Ella gives attending some consideration; she’s never wanted to marry a prince, but she does want out of her stepmother’s awful house. Problematically, she has no dress or ride; even worse, her usual, wonderful fairy godmother is on vacation. (Ella has caused her a lot of worry with her night wandering in the past.) Instead, a bat-winged, creepy fairy godfather shows up, granting her a dress worthy of a flamenco dancer and a blood-red tomato carriage with rabbit coachmen pulled by a white-tailed deer and a brown bear. Ella is the hit of the ball, and she loves the costumes of the other guests, who look like monsters, ghosts, and mummies. The problem? Those aren’t costumes, and the vampire prince wants to taste Ella’s blood. But maybe, Ella considers, a vampire wouldn’t be so bad as a husband. Although Blevins bills this book as a twisted fairy tale for brave readers, none of the monsters are too scary, and the happy ending is more comical than eerie. Confident, independent readers who love their stories with a hefty dose of Halloween humor will fall under this Cinderella’s spell, and they’ll applaud the ending in which Ella gets to be herself and enjoy her nighttime hobbies with someone who’s happy to join her (minus the blood drinking, which is glossed over). Cox’s illustrations capture the tone perfectly and introduce a cast of creatures that never crosses the line into terror.

A delightfully monstrous and fresh take on a traditional story.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

An imaginative, smile-inducing, beautifully designed introduction to a favorite magical beast.

Dragons Are Real

An illustrated picture book challenges readers’ notions of what real dragons are like—and tells them how to act when they meet the creatures in person.

After a set of lovely endpapers that look like embossed leather on a Renaissance tome, this volume opens with a faux cover inside, giving readers the sense that they are seeing a story within a story. The helpful introductory text by Budayr (A Year in the Secret Garden, 2014, etc.), presented next to a village-burning dragon straight out of a medieval bestiary, sets the tone for the tale: “I bet you think you know the TRUTH about REAL DRAGONS,” the book wagers, while scrawled in big green letters across the page, readers are assured, “You don’t!” The beasts aren’t village burners, gold hoarders, or princess eaters. Then, as readers turn the page, the faux storybook packaging disappears and the gorgeously rendered creatures soar to life, showing a hot dog–roasting dragon using his fire for the good of woodland creatures and a cheerful cohort flapping his wings frantically to keep up with a flock of storks (“Real dragons can fly but not very high”). Dragons turn out to be poetry aficionados who have memorized such vast quantities of rhymes that they’re likely to put their audience (here a host of enchanted creatures and characters, including unicorns, griffins, gnomes, elves, wizards, and a tiny hot dog–eating dragon from a previous illustration) to sleep. Instead of hoarding gold, dragons stockpile books, though they’d be happy to share their reading time with a friend. Dragons love to dance (and a crowd of children from different ethnicities joins in—some pulled right off the ground). In this impressive tale, the beasts are ticklish, disguise artists, have a wicked sweet tooth (“They can smell something sweet and sugary from hundreds of feet away”), adore riddles, and are ready to be anyone’s friend. With such striking and humorous pictures by veteran artist Welply (The Random House Book of Bible Stories, 2015, etc.), reminiscent of Mark Teague’s lighthearted dinosaurs, the book delivers friendly, fantastical dragons that should surely charm children. Budayr’s evocative vocabulary may prove difficult for beginning readers (“snort, kajort, and galumph”; “whirring, churning, scheming”), but lap readers should love the percussive sounds, and independent readers may enjoy the demanding word choice.

An imaginative, smile-inducing, beautifully designed introduction to a favorite magical beast.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936426-20-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Audrey Press

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

A charmingly clever ode to backyard camping and the fun of spending time in nature, with a good bit of humor rolled into its...

Oh So Quiet!

Two scared campers encounter a frightening creature in Craig’s (Farmyard Beat, 2012, etc.) picture book with illustrations from Dunkley (Twenty Poems for Boys, 2016, etc.).

As the story opens, an illustration of a sleeping owl accompanies a phrase that repeats throughout the book: “Oh the forest is so quiet, oh so quiet in the night.” Then there’s a strange flapping noise, and two boys in a tent look out into the darkness to figure out what’s lurking there. The illustration for the first noise shows clearly that the flapping sound is just coming from a bat—a typical forest animal with a friendly expression. Soon the refrain repeats against a backdrop of the boys playing cards in their well-lit tent as an old, well-loved teddy bear looks over their shoulders. Once again, a noise startles them; this time, they discover a group of well-dressed, squeaky mice playing on a leaf trampoline. The boys return to their tent, and a third noise startles them back out—the howling of two foxes, which has them just about ready to give up on their outdoor adventure. But then one of the boys sees what he thinks is a squirrel and grins at their silliness. Of course, it’s a skunk that sprays, and the noises all return, sending the boys into a tizzy. Luckily, Daddy’s on hand to keep the boys brave—until, that is, a bear shows up. Daddy and the boys head home to the comfy indoors, but all the noisy forest animals are equally startled, leading to a twist that will surprise both young readers and grown-ups. The limited vocabulary and repeating text make this book a good confidence-builder for newly independent readers, and lap readers will enjoy chiming in with their parents. But the real fun is the storytelling in Dunkley’s illustrations, which offer much detail and humor, whether it’s in the boys' reactions or in the playfulness of the animals. The color palate and adorable animal characters will have young readers poring over the pictures even if they can’t read it on their own. The surprising plot twists—and text that’s uncomplicated without being boring—will make adults glad to return to this bedtime story with their children.

A charmingly clever ode to backyard camping and the fun of spending time in nature, with a good bit of humor rolled into its colorful illustrations.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9967212-0-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlbop Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

A lively and clever volume about the importance of tackling new activities; perfect for toddlers who are ready for a little...

Try! Try! Try!

An energetic boy tells his animal friends that they already know how to dance in this board book for very young readers by Craig (In Our Tree, 2016, etc.).

A young boy in a cave with a flashlight in the cartoonish illustration by Tan announces that bears, like the gigantic brown one he stands next to, “love to roar!” The boy does, too, and soon the two (the child only a quarter of the beast’s size) roar together like best friends. The sound effects of the bellowing are written in a decorative font that spreads wide on the page around the pair. The boy also likes to fly with candy-colored pastel birds; the sound of their wings flapping as they carry him through the air displays that same oversized font. Next the boy joins his bunny pals to hop on the grass and his otter friends to play “slippity-slide” in their watery home. But when the muddy boy invites the animals to dance with him, they decline, embarrassed at their lack of ability (“Oh no! We can’t dance! / say my friends all-a-giggle”). Nonsense! The boy explains that if they can flap, wiggle, roar, hop, or slide, they can dance, too. All it takes is a little effort, as the book’s title emphatically declares. Soon, the animals are all vigorously dancing, using one another’s moves: the bear flaps and the squirrel (wearing an amusing “Dance Baby” T-shirt) roars. The cheerful volume offers suitable vocabulary for newly independent readers just gaining confidence. And lap readers impatient with longer books should find the pacing a joy. The lush illustrations remain a bit wiggly—on the cover, the boy’s limbs look a bit like wet noodles—but they delightfully fit the tone of the exuberant work. Readers should be encouraged by the message that they can apply the skills they love and are proficient at to pursuits they may be nervous about trying.

A lively and clever volume about the importance of tackling new activities; perfect for toddlers who are ready for a little plot with their pictures and for children who can proudly read aloud to a younger sibling.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9967212-4-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlbop Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

A delightful take on the theme of a boy and his dog, full of detailed—and frequently funny—images and a valuable message...

The Egg Thief

A boy tries to figure out how to replace some missing eggs in this picture book about community and family.

Georgie feels too sleepy to perform his morning chores, but Mama reminds him the eggs “aren’t going to collect themselves.” Georgie ventures out into the ominous clouds and enters the barn only to discover that the eggs are gone. The culprit? A scruffy-looking dog with perfect puppy-dog eyes and a big personality. Georgie names the dog, who is ready to help the boy find a solution to the egg problem, Buster. The dog’s first plan involves Georgie stealing some duck eggs; but that ends with the boy in the stream and still eggless after Buster pulls him out. Buster’s next scheme takes Georgie to Widow Kolbach’s barn. Georgie tries to keep Buster from crossing into her yard, but before the boy can get away, Widow Kolbach spots him. In a surprise twist, the widow needs help in her henhouse, and she allows Georgie to keep half of the eggs he collects for her. “How’d you know she needed help?” Georgie asks Buster. The sweet tale ends happily: Georgie not only obtains his eggs (and Buster gets a new home), but the pair also assists someone who needs an extra hand. Gallegos’ wonderful, tonally perfect images expertly capture Buster’s moods, from looking appropriately shamefaced, his tail between his legs and his ears drooping, to feeling perky. The dog’s excitement, inventiveness, and loyalty to Georgie spring off the page. The pair’s facial expressions are also brilliantly executed in the artwork. The story’s hint about the importance of kindness resonates, especially in light of so many recent news reports about bullying. Adams (The Coal Thief, 2015, etc.) uses challenging, but perfectly appropriate, vocabulary words, like “squelched” for the sound of the mud on Georgie’s boots. The introduction of these words, the small text size, and the historical, rural setting in the illustrations (Georgie wears knickers; midcalf, lace-up boots; and a newsboy cap) may skew the audience to confident early elementary readers (grades two and three).

A delightful take on the theme of a boy and his dog, full of detailed—and frequently funny—images and a valuable message about paying attention to the needs of your neighbors.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940716-36-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

A remarkable debut enlivened by heroic portions of silliness, spirit, and depth.

The Dirt Bike Detective

In this debut upper middle–grade mystery, several outcast students at a charter school search for their missing teacher.

Twelve-year-old Oliver Teller lives in Raven Ridge, Colorado. His mother works two jobs to keep him attending Raven Ridge Academy, a castlelike school situated above an old silver mine. Oliver has a large birthmark on the right side of his face, making him a target for bullies like Johnny Ricker. He also has a friend named Gio and harbors a crush on the clever Jaclyn Jones. Hoping to start the new school year right—and impress his teacher, Mr. Doyle—Oliver brings his great-grandfather’s pocket watch to history class. When Johnny steals the watch from Oliver, Mr. Doyle confiscates it until after school. Enter Chase Sullivan, new student and self-styled detective, who promises to get the watch back. Luckily, Chase’s specialty is the paranormal. The academy is home to gargoyles, ghostly students, mysterious power surges, and a teaching staff whose conversations seem to point to a conspiracy. When Mr. Doyle goes missing, the young detectives explore every possible explanation, from aliens to zombies. They must act quickly because the U.S. president is coming to honor their classmate Ana Rahela Balenovic, who wrote an award-winning essay on her pride in America. Hoover presents a sprawling world populated by charming heroes, like Jaclyn, and lovable oddballs, like Eduard (an eloquently snooty math whiz). Hoover also creates fragile, heart-stopping moments that launch his narrative above the average kids’ adventure. During art class, Oliver is partnered with the know-it-all Ana Rahela to draw each other’s portraits; he draws her with a big mouth and balloon head, while she portrays him as he longs to be seen—without his birthmark. Daringly, the author also gives readers two versions of America to consider: one that celebrates independence and another that poisons its own soil with chemicals. Though Hoover leaves some things unexplained by the end, his narrative is a concert of striking events and complex emotions.

A remarkable debut enlivened by heroic portions of silliness, spirit, and depth.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9966709-1-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Iconicon, llc

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

A notably perceptive chapter book that invites empathy and understanding through the words of its engaging young narrator.

Gerald's Journal


A gentle, observant boy with special needs records his ups and downs at his new school in this lively, journal-style children’s book.

How does a kid fit in when he leaves his special education school behind to attend a general education school? That’s the dilemma faced by a boy named Gerald, who writes down his feelings and observations as he makes his way through his first uncertain, friendless days: “When I am writing, I can take my time and say things just right,” he says. He experiences loneliness, and for a time, a bully calls him “dummy” and “retard” and plays mean tricks on him. But readers shouldn’t expect pathos (or bathos) here. McElhinny (Storm, 2002) has created a thoughtful, funny character who’s rooted in the love and support of his family and is naturally considerate of others. He does his best to make sense of his new circumstances even though he misses his old school, where “Everybody always wanted to play with me.” McElhinny doesn’t specify what exactly makes Gerald “different,” but the text reveals that he’s pulled out of class for speech therapy, reading, and gym time with other special needs kids. (He also loves pizza, movies, Frisbee, superheroes, playing the saxophone, and fishing with his grandpa.) In the end, due to his own good nature and a few fortuitous occurrences, he wins friends who appreciate him for who he is. The author gives Gerald a genuine-feeling narrative voice, which is further enhanced by the book’s black-and-white journal design that features kidlike printing with misspelled, crossed-out words, as well as stick figure drawings, on ruled paper. A deep understanding clearly informs this story, and this is underscored by McElhinny’s dedication of the book to his own son, who he says “makes this world a better place just by being himself.”

A notably perceptive chapter book that invites empathy and understanding through the words of its engaging young narrator.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944613-00-6

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Armonia Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

An impressive work that takes a mundane journey and makes it a hilarious, melodious adventure.

Country Store


A veteran children’s musician captures the epic proportions of a childhood trek to the country store in this debut sing-along picture book.

A young boy and his dog set off to the country store, a long walk from home. Soon the boy meets his friend Bob, who asks for help with his chores so that he can go along. The narrator gladly obliges. A detail-filled, two-page spread shows the chaos the boys create as they finish the farmyard tasks: a cat drinks from the milk pail; the dog chases the pigs; and the two friends ride a wheelbarrow, chasing the chickens and spilling the freshly collected eggs. But, presumably, the work gets finished, and on the next page, the boys and the dog head for the store, slowing down on the hot day, until they run into Jim, who has a bike. All three boys pile on the bike in carefree fashion, unconcerned with helmets or safety rules, picking up speed. “Everything was goin’ just fine until / We came to a great…big…hill,” the narrator says, dubiously pointing at a winding path in the illustration, while Bob urges Jim to take the long way. Jim refuses, even though it means (shown in another wordless, two-page spread) that the narrator, Bob, and the dog will have to push the bike to the top. The reward? The ride down at increasing speeds, at first joyous and then terrifying as the bike’s brakes snap, and three kids careen straight into a cow standing in the path, sailing into the air and landing—wouldn’t you know it?—at the door of the country store. There they meet two female friends (one of whom is the sole child of color in the cast). And the entertaining punch line? The narrator is the only kid with any money. In Noah’s amusing tale, the uneven rhythm of the words, sprinkled with fiddley-diddley-diddley-dees throughout, is a challenge to scan without first listening to the CD that accompanies the book. But after a reader enjoys the music, the rhythms should come naturally. And while the lyrics are clever and the refrain will likely have kids joining in, the project communicates much of the nostalgic story—and the characters’ emotions—through Noah’s glorious, wordless spreads, which should have children laughing out loud.

An impressive work that takes a mundane journey and makes it a hilarious, melodious adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5173-0535-2

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Tim Noah Productions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

Young readers who love to pretend will see Gracie as a kindred spirit and look forward to future seasonal adventures in this...

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear


A girl and her dog rescue pretend dinosaurs, aliens, and whales in this debut ode to imaginative play by O’Kelly with illustrations by Farrell.

Young Gracie wakes her dog, MonkeyBear, in the morning and makes plans for a “perfect day for an adventure.” MonkeyBear is clearly a genius: his room features posters of Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and the Parthenon, as well as a bookshelf with titles on string theory and wormhole physics among other, more immediately useful subjects. Gracie’s enthusiasm is contagious, and together she and MonkeyBear begin their first mission: excavating a mystery in their backyard. There, they find a living but stuck Tyrannosaurus rex, cleverly revealed in a two-page spread that requires readers to turn the book sideways. Gracie and MonkeyBear quickly offer to get the dinosaur out and give it directions back home. Later, the girl and her dog are startled to see a Voosurian starship that appears to be crashing. Luckily, they both speak Voosurian, a cleverly phonetic language with lots of “OO” sounds that kids will enjoy sounding out, and MonkeyBear even has a helpful ship-repair manual (“ROOF [I will go and get it],” the dog says). After designing a slingshot launcher to get their friend home, Gracie and MonkeyBear begin their third adventure, involving a whale. In this fantastic book, O’Kelly deftly manages the transitions from one adventure to the next, and Farrell’s inventive, entertaining images capture the whimsy and delight of imagination. In particular, Gracie’s costume changes—a paleontologist’s fedora and leather jacket, a starship mechanic’s purple jumpsuit, and wet suit and cap to rescue the whale—suit each of her missions perfectly. Also, in the various color illustrations, Gracie’s skin tone is ambiguous, making it possible for young readers of many ethnicities to see themselves in her.

Young readers who love to pretend will see Gracie as a kindred spirit and look forward to future seasonal adventures in this planned kids’ book series.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2016


Page Count: 36

Publisher: MonkeyBear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

An enticing and accessible introduction to the human body that should work as a read-aloud for classrooms introducing...

You're Amazing! (Starring You)

Louie the Lumin and his two young friends explain some of the human body’s magnificent highlights in this Seussian rhyming book.

Green-furred Louie addresses the reader to explain the book’s purpose: “And although it’s wrapped up in some big fancy phrasing, / Its message, quite simply, is you are amazing!” In this volume by debut author Pichora with Dr. Seuss–homage illustrations from Motz (There’s A Fly On My Head, 2016, etc.), Louie introduces his friends Joanie, a pink-furred Lumin, and blue-furred Leo. The two youngsters help describe all the parts of the body that make it so astonishing, starting with the five senses. After that brief mention, they move on to an ode to feet (and some vivid facial expressions from the Who-like Lumins), legs, and hands, before peering inside the body. Joanie, Leo, and Louie take turns meeting each other’s organs—strangely animated characters that roughly look like body parts. Stomach dresses like a plumber and explains: “Sometimes it’s messy, and toxins get through, / But I try to get most of that out with your poo.” Liver is depicted as a chemist responsible for sorting out everything that’s good and bad in the digestive system and getting it to the right places. Heart, a fitness expert, describes the nonstop workout of the circulatory system before introducing the lungs, a pair of office workers who beg readers, “Please, please, please, please promise don’t ever smoke!” But what sets Lumins apart from other animals are their brains and the smarts that make it possible to build cities and “send robots to Mars” and other miraculous feats. The wonderful rhymes scan beautifully, making this a delight for reading aloud despite the densely packed text and “fancy phrasing” warned about in the introduction. Though the background images are sparse to accommodate the text, the colorful characters and settings accurately capture the whimsy of Dr. Seuss’ work without undermining the biology hidden in the charming rhymes. The captivating lessons include: “So for all of your talents, / I think that you’ll find, // That the best one of all / is your Brilliant mind!”

An enticing and accessible introduction to the human body that should work as a read-aloud for classrooms introducing biology and health tips or for strong independent readers who are fans of Dr. Seuss.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-9105-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

A wonderfully imaginative adventure involving a missing toy.

A Whole Nuther Thing

When a boy’s truck vanishes, replaced by a hockey puck, he longs to know why it disappeared and just where the new object came from in this rhyming picture book.

In this tale, a confused boy looks at the hockey puck that appears where his toy truck is supposed to be. “It sure wasn’t mine, and it wasn’t my mother’s; / it wasn’t my granny’s; it wasn’t my brother’s,” he explains. He tries hooking it up to a radio to analyze it (a book open to a page on UFOs and an interstellar poster in the boy’s treehouse give observant readers two clues about what eventually happens). Luckily, a traveler named Follansbee, who dresses like an old snake-oil salesman, stops by with the answer: when something disappears and another thing pops up in its place, it’s because the Hole Nuther, a curious creature who lives underground, has taken it. Nuthers like new things but always replace the objects they’ve taken, just to be fair. The Nuther, vaguely anteaterlike in shape, sports green and white striped fur and an affable disposition. The boy and Follansbee embark on a plan to entice the Nuther to take something else and return the truck. Unfortunately, the Nuther likes the vehicle as much as the boy misses it. After trying an assortment of treasures (and looking awfully brokenhearted), the boy accepts a gift from Follansbee’s elderly mother: a basket of Druthers, which look like jewel-bright paper cranes, sure to please the Nuther. When the boy wakes just before dawn, the Druthers have grown into glowing pinwheels, leaving a trail to not only the boy’s truck, which “looked better than ever,” but also to the Nuther, who has a final encounter with that hinted-at UFO. While at first the UFOs seem a bit tacked on, the inventive story delivers lots of charm as the plot gets even stranger, especially with all the clues in Fang’s (Tibby and Duckie, 2014) brightly colored images. The detailed, whimsical, and endearing illustrations show the boy experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. Definitely for the 4-to-8 crowd, this book can be read aloud at bedtime. Ross’ (Red Boots and Assorted Things, 2016) text scans smoothly, and beginning independent readers should find plenty of words they recognize among the fun, concocted, or uncommon ones like “Dingledong Dell,” “calaboose,” and “wallaby.”

A wonderfully imaginative adventure involving a missing toy.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9903086-1-4

Page Count: 28

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

A skilled and witty tale about a boy who would be king that should appeal to children and adults.

The King of Average

A supposedly average boy realizes that he’s not so mediocre after all in this debut middle-grade novel.

James thinks he’s a typical 11-year-old, which suits him just fine. His father is gone, his mother hates him (she commonly wishes he was never born while on the phone with her friends), and he has no siblings. James, who earns C’s in school, looks rather ordinary (he certainly isn’t handsome). Instead of fighting it, he embraces his mediocrity, declaring himself the best average guy the planet has ever seen. One day in a garden, he meets Mayor Culpa, a talking goat. Following the animal, James finds himself suddenly transported to another world. The chatty creature reveals that he’s a Scapegoat (“As long as I’m to blame, no one else can be burdened. It’s what I was bred for”). He tells James that he can become the Kingdom of Average’s new ruler. But to claim the crown, the boy must first complete a mission—find the old king and discover why he abdicated the throne. Mayor Culpa, professional optimist Monsieur William Roget, and Roget’s pint-sized pessimist, Kiljoy, join James on his journey. They travel from Disappointment Bay to Serenity Spa to the Unattainable Mountains, and as their quest evolves, James begins to learn that maybe he’s not quite so mundane. When they reach the part of the kingdom dubbed Epiphany, James finally grasps who he is—someone extraordinary. While James initially believes that he’s mediocre, Schwartz’s novel assuredly is not. This is a volume that kids and parents can read together because it works on two levels—young ones should love the adventure-packed plot and hilarious characters, and grown-ups should chuckle at the wordplay embedded in every page. Schwartz’s characters are more than clever—they’re ingenious. Mayor Culpa constantly apologizes, and Kiljoy represents that little voice inside people’s heads that attempts to invalidate their intentions. These living, breathing allusions effectively push the narrative forward (although Armitage’s sketchlike illustrations fail to enhance the story—such fanciful places and characters should be left to the imagination). Schwartz’s nicely succinct writing style places the focus on the striking worlds he creates. The book delivers an important lesson—be your own hero. With this debut, the author should soon be a hero to readers everywhere.

A skilled and witty tale about a boy who would be king that should appeal to children and adults.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5137-0331-2

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Updrift

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

Help kids prepare for a doctor’s visit, especially the kindergarten checkup, with helpful tips for Mom and Dad, too.

Jake's Kindergarten Checkup

From the My Sister, Me and Dr. Dee series , Vol. 1

Experienced pediatrician de Freitas shows her comforting bedside manner in this very encouraging, cheerfully illustrated picture book.

Jake is ready for kindergarten except for one thing: his kindergarten checkup. His little sister, Chloe, who loves to play doctor, can’t wait for Jake to go, but he’s worried about having to get a shot. At a doctor’s office populated by a diverse array of patients and staff, Jake’s mom tries to comfort him: “It’ll be over before you know it,” she says. “Let’s wait and see what Dr. Dee says.” As the nurse takes Jake through all his measurements, Chloe can’t wait for it to be her turn. Jake’s frustrated by her distractions: “This is my appointment. Remember?!” Through the regular weight and height checks to the more specific kindergarten-readiness tests, such as the hearing test and a urine check, de Freitas describes everything approachably, allowing children to feel that maybe Jake’s worries aren’t so well-founded. When Dr. Dee, a woman pediatrician, enters, there’s even more checking to do. De Freitas introduces various medical terms—including otoscope and opthalmoscope—that will please the Doc McStuffins crowd. But soon, despite the fun of the visit, the dreaded moment arrives: it’s time for a shot. It’s not Jake who needs comforting, though—it’s Chloe, who’s suddenly in tears! Jake is so distracted by Chloe’s crying and his admirable big-brother efforts to comfort her, he hardly notices his shot at all. Lyon presents all the instruments and atmosphere of the pediatrician’s office in clear, easy to identify, soft-hued illustrations, and her cartoonlike characters have easy-to-read facial expressions. With the heavy load of text, necessary for all the information offered, it could be a case of information overload. But Freitas and Lyon sidestep potential confusion with a well-considered layout that sometimes features three or four pictures per page, showing each step of the process. De Freitas’ dialogue is spot-on, and nervous youngsters will find Dr. Dee’s interactions with Jake and Chloe reassuring.

Help kids prepare for a doctor’s visit, especially the kindergarten checkup, with helpful tips for Mom and Dad, too.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9844529-4-1

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Carmel Valley Pediatrics

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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