A kids’ story that offers a warm reminder of what it means to be openhearted.



A young boy learns to face his fears in Annunziata’s uplifting debut illustrated children’s book.

For as long as he can remember, Caleb has wanted to climb a tall mountain near his house, but fear has kept from attempting it. In fact, he’s so scared of what could go wrong during a climb that he lives in a constant state of worry and anxiety—until one fateful day, when he decides to take his first step on the path up the mountain. Caleb feels an initial rush of excitement, but instead of his fear going away, it becomes even stronger. While resting under a tree, he meets a wise, talking dove that teaches him how to slow down and enjoy the journey. It soon becomes clear to the boy that he was rushing things because he was still afraid. Taking the dove’s advice, he slowly begins to notice the wondrous beauty that surrounds him and ultimately sees the world in a new way. Soon, he feels ready to take on more adventures. This children’s story presents a surprisingly profound message with beautiful, full-color illustrations and a gentle tone. The dove represents the boy’s guardian angel, and the dialogue reflects this deeper sentiment: “I have always been with you, Caleb. My guidance has been ever present for you and forever will be.” An accompanying image then depicts an angel following Caleb, instead of a bird. (The angel and Caleb both appear to be light-skinned in the uncredited illustrations.) This notion of a spiritual being guiding one’s every move appears throughout the narrative, which also effectively emphasizes the importance of learning to be present in the moment. Caleb’s personal transformation from a scared little boy to a brave one will be relatable to readers of all ages.

A kids’ story that offers a warm reminder of what it means to be openhearted.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982234-00-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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The artist’s fans might key in, but most young readers will be left in the dark.


When your computer powers down, the little “dot” is off-duty. You don’t think it just sits there, do you?

In this tipsy flight from Steadman, originally published overseas in 2000, the tidy dot on the first page is quickly transformed into mad splotches of black sporting googly eyes. It zooms through cyberspace to have tea—or, rather ink (“I LOVE INK!”)—with “my friend the Duchess of Amalfi,” and then goes off to spatter the besieging Duke of Bogshott and his white-uniformed army. Serving largely as an excuse for the illustrator to wield pen and brush ever more ferociously across a series of spreads, this free-associative plotline culminates with an invitation to attend the wedding of the duke and duchess as “Best Dot” (“I was so excited I made a mess on her carpet”) and a quick return home: “And here I am, ready to work for you again—dot dot dot.” As a clever riff on the internet, this doesn’t hold a pixel to Randi Zuckerberg and Joel Berger’s Dot. (2013) or Goodnight iPad by “Ann Droid” (2011), and the illustrator’s whacked-out mite isn’t going to take young readers on the sort of imagination-stretching artistic rides that Peter Reynolds’ The Dot (2003) or Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (2011) offer. But it does at least dispense exuberantly unrestrained permission to paint outside the lines.

The artist’s fans might key in, but most young readers will be left in the dark. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56792-520-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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