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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Happy Thanksgiving!

May the Lord bless you and keep you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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Haiku Moment: fall’s siren song

crimson flames top trees,

fire-tipped shelter burns my eyes

with fall’s siren song

fall’s siren song by Angie Quantrell

photo by Angie Quantrell, Yakima Valley


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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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Peoh Point Hike

Last month we took advantage of a sunny fall day and drove the 4×4 pickup to the top of a ridge just south of Cle Elum, Washington.

Peoh Point is a rocky outcropping overlooking Cle Elum and Roslyn, both of which are nestled near I-90 in Washington state. The drive to Cle Elum along the freeway is fast. But the fast ends once you get off the paved road.

The drive to the parking area of Peoh Point is definitely for high clearance vehicles. We did not need 4×4 at all, but the potholes and rocks would have caused trouble for my car.

We found the Peoh Point hike through the Washington Trails Association site: http://wta.org . You can visit to read my report for our day of hiking here: https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report-2020-10-17-0055288474

Despite the slow ascent and very bumpy road, it was a beautifully crisp fall day with leaves full of color and drifting to the ground. Everything was damp due to recent rain, but snow was absent.

The “trail” begins about 10 miles up the unpaved road. Once you find the 5-way intersection of dirt roads, that is the place to park if you want a longer “hike” (or walk). Look closely, as I couldn’t count 5 roads so we missed this place. There is a sign which tells you to go left. We did. And parked just down the road.

The Peoh Point trail is really a cell tower access road, so the hiking was easy. Other than fallen branches, rocks, potholes, and puddles, it was a pretty relaxing hike. I’m glad we parked where we did though, to get a decent walk in. You can continue on the road to Peoh Point and get very close, about one mile, from the point. We wanted a longer walk.

The point. Wow. We had views! The cell tower is ON the point, but there is plenty of space to wander around and look at the views. We could see (and hear) the traffic of I-90 and even a train. We used binoculars to find landmarks in Cle Elum and Roslyn. We could see Ronald, the lake, and more. We could tell eastbound traffic was backed up on the freeway. It was fun to play “bird” and see from a bird’s viewpoint.

BEWARE: Peoh Point is a cliff! Steep drop-offs are all along the north side of the cliff. There is a fence around the cell tower, but even with that fence, it would be easy for a pet or child to wander through. Most of the area does not have a fence, so take care around the edges.

Fun fact: At the 5-way intersection, there was a sign pointing to a different dirt road, one that said Ellensburg, 23 miles (or so). We want to go back some day and take that back road home. We just didn’t have enough time for 23 more miles of potholes. 🙂

This hike is gorgeous. Plenty of evergreens, deciduous trees, wildflowers, chipmunks, and birds. We mostly had the place to ourselves, other than one other couple and a few passing motorcycles and vehicles. We did not see any facilities.


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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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Haiku Moment: snags

barbed rust hinders, snags,

weathered disrepair guards path;

time soldiers on, march!

snags by Angie Quantrell

photo by Angie Quantrell

Horsethief Butte, Columbia River, Washington


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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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Pumpkin Patch 2020

In the year 2020, everything changed. Yes, we all know this.

Each year, I’ve planned a pumpkin patch outing with my grands. This year, we were lucky to find one (a pumpkin patch, not a grand). And this year, I had separate trips with the two families, mostly due to scheduling, but also . . . 2020.

The Quantrells went with me on a very rainy day to Washington Fruit and Gift Shop at Barrett Orchards. We’ve used Barrett’s displays as backdrops and adventures before, but never on such a wet outing. We were the ONLY people outside and inside other than employees. Though adults and children alike were damp and dripping, pumpkins were chosen and lovingly carried home for fall fun. Papa broke my rule (see below) and carried out Donavyn’s huge pumpkin.

The Aucutts went with me to Dagdagan’s Fruit and Vegetable Stand, where the owners conveniently displayed a mini straw bale maze filled with piles of pumpkins. We were the only ones in it for most of the time and need only don our masks to go inside to pay for the chosen orbs. I might say, the older they get (the grands) the larger the pumpkins they choose. My rule: you have to be able to carry it. That sort of helps me out.

Both Hayden and Donavyn (oldest child in their respective families) chose close to 30-pound pumpkins. An oldest thing? A boy thing? Who knows. Autumn, the youngest, chose three mini pumpkins, caring for them as a mother would her young children (or stuffed animals). Gage chose traditionally and Khloe went with a white pumpkin, though she also leaned towards a larger choice.

Happy Fall to all!