Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Review: “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses by Beth Anderson

“Smelly Kelly” and His Super Senses, How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway

Written by Beth Anderson

Illustrated by Jenn Harney

Calkins Creek, An Imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane; 2020

Thank you, Beth Anderson and Tina Cho, for sending me this delightfully smelly picture book! I first read about “Smelly Kelly” and His Super Senses when I read a post by Tina Cho on the Group Blog. You can read the post here: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/search?q=smelly+kelly

We all want to be special in some way, right? James Kelly had a super sense-his nose! Besides his great sniffing skills, Kelly was an inventor and investigator. Using his skills, “Smelly” Kelly kept the New York City subway safe for years.

I enjoyed reading this well-written and colorful picture book. I shared it with two of my grands, and my grandson in particular was captivated by the information and illustrations. His little scientific mind was hard at work, trying to figure out what was going on. He often figured it out before I even read the entire page!

Congratulations, Beth Anderson and Jenn Harney, for a book well done!

Why I Loved This Book:

~ fascinating story about a historical person

~ reading about someone with an unusual super power

~ wonderful illustrations that set the tone just perfectly

~ lots of interesting tidbits and events from the life of James Kelly

~ very informative backmatter, which includes a photo of the real James Kelly

~ great read

~ lots of STEM concepts and problem solving included

Amazon Blurb:

James “Smelly” Kelly used his super-senses and intelligence to make sure that the New York City subway in the 1930s ran safely throughout his lifetime and beyond.

James Kelly smelled EVERYTHING: rats in the shed; circus elephants a mile away; tomorrow’s rain. His sense of smell was EXTRAORDINARY. But what good was a powerful nose? How could his super-sniffer make him special? In the New York City subway, James found his calling–and earned the nickname “Smelly” Kelly. Armed with his super-sniffer and the tools he invented, he tracked down leaks from the dangerous to the disgusting, from the comical to the bizarre. Then, he sprang into action to prevent cave-ins and explosions in the tunnels beneath the city. Smelly Kelly not only hunted leaks but also saved lives–and he discovered the truly extraordinary power inside him. Beth Anderson’s fast-paced text and Jenn Harney’s comical illustrations bring to life this everyday superhero.


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Book Review: Cluck and Fluffy by Ceasar R. Castro

Cluck and Fluffy

Written by Ceasar R. Castro

Illustrated by Alaina Luise

Mascot Books; November 3, 2020

I looked forward to reading Cluck and Fluffy, a story about a rabbit who lived with chickens.

Just last summer, we had several “wild” (someone let them loose)bunnies running through our pasture and eating my flowers. Not long after (and everyone knows, there is never just ONE rabbit), our neighbors mentioned they had caught the big female. They put her in the chicken coop with their chicks. She quickly dug an arm-length deep hole and had 10 kits. We were invited over to visit, which resulted in the adoption of Pretty and Rocky. So far, no extra babies. Whew.

Thank you, Mascot Books, for sending this copy for me to review. You can read more about Mascot Books at www.mascotbooks.com.

Why I enjoyed this book:

~ Farms! I love farms and barnyard settings.

~ Bunnies and chickens

~ The themes of making friends, dealing with bullies, and doing what is right regardless of peer pressure

~ The story is based on personal family history, with a lovely fictional story built around those memories

~ The surprising names (not what you would predict)

~ Friendship is color blind

Happy Book Birthday, Ceasar R. Castro, Alaina Luise, and Cluck and Fluffy!

Amazon Blurb:

The timeless story of Cluck and Fluffy explores a friendship which endures despite the teasing, and mocking that their unique alliance garners. From the minute a brand-new rabbit is introduced to a flock of chickens at Farmer Raul’s ranch, the residents do everything they can to alienate and make fun of their new neighbor. That is, until one stormy night, when a brave chicken breaks from the crowd and befriends the rabbit, thus spawning a friendship that withstands the bullying and taunting from the other chickens.

Will this brood of close-minded chickens learn to accept the unexpected friendship of a chicken and a rabbit? Or will Cluck and Fluffy be forced to forge their own path forward?

About the Author:

Ceasar Castro grew up in the southern part of San Diego county at a time when farming was prominent in the area. His father was a farmer. In the summers Ceasar would work on the farm picking crops and selling vegetables. After graduating from high school, Ceasar attended San Diego State University and graduated with a Bachelor s degree in Engineering. He then accepted a job at the Navy Research Laboratory in San Diego. He later attended Purdue University and obtained a Master’s degree in Engineering. As an engineer Ceasar wrote numerous technical reports. This book is his first storybook. It is a reflection of his youth living in a rural area of San Diego which no longer exists. His fondest memories are of chickens and rabbits in their backyard.


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Book Review: Way Past Worried by Hallee Adelman

Way Past Worried

Written by Hallee Adelman

Illustrated by Sandra de la Prada

Albert Whitman & Co., 2020

I first heard about Way Past Worried when I read a post by Kathy Temean on her Writing and Illustrating blog. (By the way, this is a great place to read about new books, agents, editors, publishers, and so on.) Here is the link to Kathy’s original post about Way Past Worried: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/book-giveaway-way-past-worried-by-hallee-adelman/

Thank you so much, Kathy for featuring this great book! Thank you, Hallee, for the swag bag of fun gifts and a copy of Way Past Worried! It’s already a hit with the two young readers next door (my grands).

Brock is beyond worried about going to his friend Juan’s superhero party. He has so many questions and concerns about who will play with him (or not play with him), what if his costume is not good enough, who will he visit, and what if someone laughs at him. Brock’s worries build and build, making him feel way past worried.

This well-written book gives simple strategies for dealing with worry as the young characters attend a party. If you have a child (or even an middle grade or early teen) who deals with social anxiety, reading this book will help readers talk their way through possible strategies.

What I Loved About This Book:

~ So cute! The characters, setting, story, all of it.

~ Excellent premise! Who has not struggled with anxiety at one time or another? I imagine there will be many more instances of social anxiety once COVID is contained (or managed) and people of all ages are allowed to return to in-person social activities.

~ Great story! As I said before, I think this is well written and it’s very easy to read aloud. My granddaughter was enthralled from beginning to end. That’s her, wearing the mask sent by Hallee and holding my copy of Way Past Worried (which will probably end up at her house).

~ Perfect illustrations! Child-friendly and fun. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations as we read the story together.

Read more about Hallee Adelman at: https://halleeadelman.com/

See more of Sandra de la Prada’s illustrations at: https://www.sandradelaprada.com/

Amazon Blurb:

Brock is worried. Way past worried, with his heart thumping and his mind racing. Today is his friend Juan’s superhero party and he’s going all by himself. What if nobody plays with him? What if everyone laughs at him? Brock doesn’t feel like a superhero, but… what if he can save the day and find a way past worried all by himself? This engaging story speaks to kids’ emerging emotional intelligence skills and helps them learn to manage worry.


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Book Review: Bess the Barn Stands Strong by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia

Bess the Barn Stands Strong

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia

Illustrated by Katie Hickey

Page Street Kids, 2020

Barns and me, we go way back. My family can probably still whip up perfect eye rolls if I mention a barn I saw or attempt I made to have the vehicle stop so I can take a few photos. Backseat eye rolls, accompanied by the driver eye roll, sideways glance, and scurry to find an appropriate place to pull over, filled many happy family road trips.

Barns are fabulous. Of course I was super interested in reading Bess the Barn Stands Strong. Fortunate for me, I received my own autographed copy from Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia via Vivian Kirkfield’s www.viviankirkfield.com site. WordPress has changed and I haven’t figured out how to add JUST the words I want in a link, but here is the specific link for Bess the Barn Stands Strong: https://viviankirkfield.com/2020/09/08/happy-book-birthday-bess-the-barn-stands-strong-plus-double-book-giveaway/#comment-202883

Thank you, Elizabeth and Vivan, for sharing this wonderful picture book!

Bess the Barn Stands Strong is a story about a barn. Bess is a sweet barn, strong, beautiful, and caring. As a main character, Bess is pretty awesome. But she ages, as we all do, and eventually becomes overlooked for the new fancy barn build just over the fields. And Bess is ignored. Until the storm.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you, because YOU need to read the story yourself and see what happens to Bess and all of her barnyard friends.

If you love farms and barns, you will enjoy Bess!

Why I LOVE This Book:

~ barns!

~ a barn as a main character – how often does that happen? This could be the first time ever. (Don’t quote me on that.)

~ great story with just the right amount of tension

~ reading that there is purpose to old things, and old things can still be useful (I’m working on the older part as my birthday comes this month)

~ barnyards and animals are very popular with young readers

~ old versus new; I’m definitely of the older is better school

~ beautiful illustrations enrich and fill out the story

~ barns!

Amazon Blurb:

A steadfast old barn shows she’s sturdy enough to save the day.

Beam by beam and board by board, Bess the barn is built by able hands to keep the farm’s animals safe and sound. Through many seasons and celebrations, that’s just what she does, until she starts to sag…and creak…and slump. Then new everything comes along: a new farmer and a shiny new barn. A mean storm arrives not far behind, putting both barns to a dangerous test―can old Bess weather this threat to the farm?

Bess opens her doors wide, welcoming all to celebrate the year-round ups and downs of farm life and admire the enduring strength and importance of something made to last.

“There’s a marvelous mix of peppy text and bone-deep comfort at work within the language of this story . . . [and] visual treasures abound in the corners of the art . . . Seasons come and seasons go, but cozy concepts like barns on farms will never die.” – Kirkus Reviews


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Book Review: The President of the Jungle

The President of the Jungle

Written and Illustrated by Andre Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo, Pedro Markun

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018 in Brazil, 2020 in America

Let me introduce you to the perfect book for elections, whether they take place in the jungle or the, er, human jungle. Meet The President of the Jungle, a tale translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Thank you so much, Linda Ashman and Picture Book Builders, for sending me a copy!

I totally loved reading The President of the Jungle! Humorous, funny, heartfelt, and perfect for showing a simple explanation of the democratic process. The illustrations are spot on, colorful, and bring this story to life. Pick up this book and read it with your littles. Or just yourself. All of you will enjoy it.

What I Loved About This Book:

~ humorous, tongue-in-cheek

~ well written

~ cleverly explains the democratic process in a fun, engaging way

~ vocabulary and glossary

~ jungle animals!

~ the story itself

~ colorful, captivating illustrations

Amazon Blurb:

In this fabulous and funny introduction to how elections work, the animals decide they are tired of their king and that it is time to vote for a president.

Lion may be King of the jungle, but lately he only seems to care about himself. His subjects are fed up, so they decide to try something new–hold an election! Once Owl explains the rules, the fun begins, and Snake, Sloth, and Monkey all announce they will be candidates. But oh no, Lion is going to run too! It’s a wild campaign season as the animals hold rallies, debate, and even take a selfie or two, trying to prove why they’d make the best president of the jungle.

This funny, non-partisan story features lively illustrations, a helpful glossary, and colorful characters who have an infectious enthusiasm for the election process.


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Happy Book Birthday: Elephant Ears by Fanya Randall

Elephant Ears

Written by Fanya Randall

Illustrated by Alejandro Echavez

November 3, 2020; Mascot Books

Coming soon! Happy Book Birthday to Elephant Ears, written by Fanya Randall, illustrated by Alejandro Echavez! Thank you, Mascot Books http://mascotbooks.com for sending me a copy to review.

Going to school is fraught with all sorts of anxiety and social issues (especially in 2020). A significant part of going to school is learning to navigate in groups of people = social skills. Academics feature in as well. But this book is about bullying, a huge issue nearly any place we go, whether in-person or online.

Max was super excited to begin kindergarten. Mom dropped him off at school, and he was ready to go, new backpack, clothes, and all. What Max was not prepared for was meeting the class bully, who called out attention to Max’s larger than normal ears. Billy continued bullying Max and shouting out, “Max has elephant ears.”

The situation escalates, but I don’t want to ruin the ending, which is perfectly satisfying. Many examples of appropriate behavior are portrayed through other characters. In the end, what we hope would happen in all bullying situations happens. While we cannot expect perfect endings all the time, this book is just right for laying groundwork on how to deal with bullies.

I really enjoyed reading Elephant Ears and came away with good ideas of how to encourage young readers how to avoid becoming a bully, how to help a bully, and how to help someone is being bullied.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ the topic of bullying is relevant and very important

~ the age of the characters is when bullying sometimes begins-kindergarten

~ characters were in place to reflect someone being bullied, a friend who struggled with how to help, and the bully

~ sound examples and story of a bullying incident

~ great story

~ perfect illustrations to go with the story

Amazon Blurb:

Max is starting kindergarten and is excited for his first day of school. On the playground, a bully starts to tease Max about his ears making him feel sad. Will Max get enough courage to speak up for himself to the bully, and will his classmates help him?

This book teaches children about bullying and the importance of how to properly handle a bully situation. Through early education our hope is that it will change the narrative where bullying statistics will decrease and children will learn to be more empathetic and inclusive to all.


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Book Report: The Science of Defying Gravity by L.G. Reed

The Science of Defying Gravity

Written by L.G. Reed

Illustrated by Basia Tran

Keyes Canyon Press, 2020

Does your child have a science fair coming up? Or perhaps your middle grade student loves things that fly. This book is for both of you!

Cassie is not interested in science class, and therefore, her grades suffer. But she REALLY wants to go to Space Camp. After her family experiences financial difficulties, Cassie has to take Space Camp attendance into her own hands and figure out how to be able to attend. Setting the goal to make it to camp is just the right fuel to blast her rocket into space.

Thank you, KidLit411 www.kidlit411.com and L. G. Reed for sending me a copy of The Science of Defying Gravity! This chapter book is a very engaging read, and I couldn’t stop-just one more chapter, oops, two more chapters . . . and suddenly I was done reading it.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ Cassie and her best friend Wylie are great characters; flawed yet lovable

~ Excellent premise of a student having no interest in science class transforming into a driven young tween who worked her tail off to implement a stellar science fair project and presentation

~ Family issues were on target and added to the build-up towards the story climax

~ Cassie continued marching forward despite hitting numerous obstacles

~ Cassie and her feelings of being overlooked by her parents, which led to her striving to gain their attention

~ Cassie’s best friend, Wylie, is on the spectrum; this adds an extra layer of interest and learning about others who may be differently abled

~ Budding romance, just barely, but adorable

~ Science-I learned quite a bit about science fairs, gravity, what makes things fly, how to plan a winning science fair project, how they are organized, and even specifics about scientists in the real world

~ Cassie is a strong female main character, and will surely inspire other young girls to follow their interests in STEM fields

~ Helpful backmatter

~ The usefulness of this book to help students prepare for an actual science fair (lots of examples)

Amazon Blurb:

“Useful, entertaining, and encouraging; will inspire confidence and an appreciation of science.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.” — Booklife Reviews

In this mashup of STEM education and fiction, 11 yr old Cassie films her life. She loves movies and dreams of becoming a movie director in SPACE. *Her plans to go to Space Camp are derailed when her dad loses his job and she must win a SCIENCE FAIR to earn a scholarship to attend. Spunk, a caring teacher, an engineering mentor and her friends keep her dream on track.* Contained within THE SCIENCE OF DEFYING GRAVITY is an actual science fair project, including tables and charts for kids to see. The project covers the four forces of flight—lift, thrust, gravity and drag—which are embedded in the fictional story but are factually accurate.


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Book Review: Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison #BookBirthday

Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes

Written by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison

Illustrated by Marco Primo

Mascot Books; October 6, 2020

Happy book birthday to Backpacks and Baguettes, Coloring the World through Young Eyes by Sam Morrison and Angus Morrison! Coming out on October 6, this interesting travel and coloring book is filled with fun tales, adventures, and coloring pages.

I was sent a copy of this book by Mascot Books in exchange for a review. Thank you, Mascot Books and Sam, Angus, and Marco, for the many adventures! Read more about Mascot Books at http://mascotbooks.com.

Why I Like This Book:

~ This chapter book is written by a boy who has been lucky enough to grow up in Paris and Washington D.C.! How cool is that?

~ Sharing his own experiences, Sam tells of travel adventures he has enjoyed with his father.

~ I love how Sam tells of friends he met along the way. Making friends as one travels is definitely a perk of being an adventurer.

~ Sam gives interesting factoids about the different locations he has visited.

~ How many locations are included? 16 chapters, though at least one features more than one place. I wish my passport had that many stamps!

~ Coloring pages! And extra blank spaces for readers to draw their own pictures.

~ Great voice! I enjoyed getting to meet Sam through his travels and stories.

~ Well written, engaging, and a page turner. Each chapter is not too long, which kept me reading on to see what came next.

~ The title is perfect! When I first searched for this book on Amazon, I put in Backpacks and Baguettes. And what showed up? Backpacks and baguettes. I didn’t know you could order baguettes on Amazon.

~ Great read!

Check out Sam’s adventures at @samrmorrison on Instagram. He wants to hear about your adventures!

Amazon Blurb:

You’re only a child once. Capturing the world through young eyes is difficult. Backpacks and Baguettes attempts to better understand what children think, see, feel, and smell when they are traveling. Everything is new, and everyone is a possible friend.

Your guide is Sam, a half-American/half British boy who so far in his young life has been lucky to grow up in Paris and Washington, D.C.. Sam loves soccer and food and is curious about how people in other countries lead their lives. He thinks graffiti and street art are better than postcards to truly understand a place. He’s even included some authentic global graffiti in the book for you to color. He’s also left space on the back of each image for you to draw your own graffiti or take notes.

Backpacks & Baguettes is a reminder of what it was like to be in the world before the pandemic hit – the sound of mopeds in Rome, the smell of chicken turning on a spit at a French market, a water fight in Bangkok, mushroom hunting in the hills of Tuscany, the feel of fog on your face in San Francisco bay–human contact.

Sam’s stories are ultimately about asking questions until you’re exhausted. They’re about not caring what people think. They’re about smiling and laughing until it hurts and playing until you scrape your knees. They’re about letting your imagination run wild. They’re about realizing in one breath that children are different, but ultimately the same all around the world. They’re about being a kid once.


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Drawn to Help: Children’s Books to the Rescue!

Check out this wonderful program Tara Lazar shared on her blog today. Kidlit authors and illustrators are visiting sick children in the hospital, sharing books, and giving art lessons. What a great way to help someone who is going through a tough time! Way to go!

Thank you, Tara for sharing this!

Click the link below to read more about Drawn to Help: Children’s Books to the Rescue!


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Book Review: The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho

The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

Written by Tina Cho

Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Kokila, An Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC; August 2020

I was super excited to win a copy of The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow, from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating website. You can read more from Kathy and check out her post at https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/book-giveaway-the-ocean-calls-by-tina-cho/ . Thank you, Kathy and Tina!

The Ocean Calls, A Haenyeo Mermaid Story is the fascinating story of women divers who use the skills passed down from generation to generation to dive and gather the fruits of the sea. Living on Jeju Island in South Korea, the mostly mature and elderly women dive into waters off the island, up to 30 meters deep. They do not use breathing equipment and can hold their breath up to two minutes! I am amazed!

The story focuses on Dayeon, a young girl, and her grandmother, one of the diving mermaids. Grandma is trying to encourage Dayeon and teach her the skills necessary to become a Haenyeo Mermaid. I love the way the young girl struggles with the fear of jumping into the wild ocean, even as she dreams of being able to do what she sees her grandmother doing.

This engaging story is delicious! I loved learning more about a new subject, one I had never heard about before. What an encouraging picture book, one that invites readers to explore a new world with their eyes, ears, and hearts!

Why I Love This Book:

~ The story is wonderful

~ The fascination I felt as I read about Haeynyeo Mermaids

~ The underwater world of women divers

~ The illustrations bursting with color and extra details

~ The setting on and off an island of South Korea

~ The history and the traditions of generations of courageous women

~ Fabulous backmatter

Amazon Blurb:

A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world.

Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

Tina Cho’s The Ocean Calls, with luminous illustrations by muralist Jess X. Snow, is a classic in the making.