Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Review: Wake Up, Freight Train! by Danna Smith and Jon Andersen

Wake Up, Freight Train!

written by Danna Smith

illustrated by Jon Andersen

Little Simon, 2022

Choo-choo! Hop aboard this hard-working nighttime freight train!

Written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Jon Andersen, this sturdy board book will delight train lovers of all ages. 🙂

Thank you, Danna Smith, Lynne Marie, and Rate Your Story March on with Mentor Texts! After participating each day, reading posts, commenting, and reading/studying mentor texts (picture books worth a closer read), everyone was eligible for prizes offered by blog guests. Fortunately for me, my name was pulled and I won a copy of Danna Smith’s adorable board book Wake Up, Freight Train!

Thank you to everyone for a fantastic month of reading, studying, and learning!

Why I Love This Book:

~ adorable!

~ fun, rhyming text

~ trains, an ever popular subject matter for young readers

~ word play and train-specific words

~ answers to “What does a freight train do at night?”

~ bright colors, animals and wildlife, shaped board book

~ plenty of onomatopoeia so readers can join in the fun!

From Goodreads:

Hop aboard this train-shaped board book that introduces each car of a freight train during a nighttime adventure!

Blow the train whistle, shovel more coal.
Here we go, freight train! Get ready to roll!
Toot-toot goes the horn, Blink-blink go the lights,
Clang-clang goes the bell, all through the night.

Featuring all the cars of a freight train, this board book is perfect for young readers who love trains! And since freight trains ride at night, there are adorable sleepy animals throughout for little ones to find.

Toot-toot! Happy adventures on the freight train!


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Book Review: Braver Than Brave by Janet Sumner Johnson and Eunji Jung

Braver Than Brave

written by Janet Sumner Johnson

illustrated by Eunji Jung

Capstone Editions, 2022

Be brave!

That’s what I keep calling this delightful picture book about a young girl who must find her own kind of courage to ride the BIG one like her older brother and friends.

Thank you to Janet Sumner Johnson and KidLit411 for sending me a copy of Braver Than Brave!

There are so many reasons I enjoy this book. The message is wonderful for young children. The setting is fun, the characters are just right, and the problem-being brave enough to do something scary-is perfect for ages 3-5 who face an amusement park full of new experiences (in life and at actual amusement parks). And let’s not overlook the fact that Wanda is adorable!

Congratulations, Janet and Eunji!

Why I LOVE this book:

~adorable Wanda

~the amusement park setting is fun and facing BIG rides is a common fear and experience of most children

~great message

~colorful, action-filled illustrations

~surprise ending!

~back matter that shares more about being brave

~a chicken exit (own it!)

Back Cover Blurb:

Go forth and be brave!


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Book Review: Reach for the Stars by Emily Calandrelli and Honee Jang

Reach for the Stars

Written by Emily Calandrelli

Illustrated by Honee Jang

Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2022

Thank you, Kathy Temean at Writing and Illustrating, author Emily Calandrelli, and illustrator Honee Jang for sharing this beautiful book, Reach for the Stars! Thank you for sending me a copy to read and share. Congratulations!

A heartwarming picture book, Reach for the Stars shares the wonder and amazement of the natural world and all that is in it. Calandrelli leads readers through the growing up and exploring years in the life of a young girl, all the while encouraging readers to be amazed and to dream the big dreams about life. Jang perfectly captured the beauty and imagination of the story. Reach for the Stars is a lovely book to read to inspire, inform, and enjoy.

Why I Love This Book:

~ beautiful illustrations, dreamy and imaginative

~ the wonder and awe about the natural world the author and illustrator share throughout the story

~ the fun of reading the story in rhyme

~ the natural world is amazing, and that appreciation and respect for learning about and exploring more is front and center in this book

~ science! STEM. Girls in science!

~ the encouragement to readers to dream big, explore, and follow your dreams

Amazon Blurb:

From Emmy-nominated science TV star and host of Netflix’s hit series Emily’s Wonder Lab Emily Calandrelli comes an inspirational message of love and positivity.

From the moment we are born, we reach out. We reach out for our loved ones, for new knowledge and experiences, and for our dreams!

Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of the world around us, this uplifting book will inspire readers of every age. A celebration of love and shared discovery, this book will encourage readers to reach for the stars!


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Book Review: Cayuga Island Kids, THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS by Judy Bradbury

The Case of the Messy Message and the Missing Facts, Cayuga Island Kids

by Judy Bradbury

illustrations by Gabriella Vagnoli

City of Light Publishing, 2022

Thanks to Kathy Temean and her Writing and Illustrating blog, I received a copy of this fun chapter book mystery! Thank you, Kathy, Judy Bradbury, and City of Lights Publishing!

I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter book. In part, I liked learning about a new area to me. Just check out this map at the front of the book! The writing was clean and understandable, characters engaging, the mystery lots of fun, illustrations just right, and current topics were spot on.

Why I Liked This Book:

~believable characters

~great premise

~mystery

~key words: misinformation, research, fact detectives, disinformation

~kindness rocks and Little Libraries

~fun setting, normal school adventures for elementary students (homework, projects)

~just right illustrations and back matter

This book is definitely a keeper.

Amazon Blurb:

It’s Fall now and the Cayuga Island Kids are busy with homework, projects, and after school activities. But there’s still plenty of time for mystery and adventure! In the third book in the Cayuga Island Kids chapter book series, Julian is exploring food science as he experiments with recipes on his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Being a cookie sampler takes Mac’s mind off his troubles with fractions. Yoko is practicing gestures and facial expressions in anticipation of the school play tryouts. Maya is Ms. Choi’s helper in the after-school Make-and-Take-Club for younger crafters. Lacey is taking care of the little community library that Gram built—and searching for the next mystery to solve. When two of Ms. Choi’s glitter pens go missing, Maya turns to Lacey for help. The clues and evidence point to a suspect, but are they jumping to conclusions? When a classmate jumps to conclusions and shares false information about Julian’s cookies, the Cayuga Island Kids join forces to set the facts straight. When the kids research explorers for a school project, they uncover misinformation that blurs the truth, and makes the reasons for being a fact detective crystal clear. As the fall leaves turn color, the Cayuga Island Kids come to realize that sorting through clues and evidence—just like research—means making sure information is factual, and not just a fraction of the truth. Young readers will cheer for the Cayuga Island Kids as they embark on this latest adventure involving faulty assumptions, missing facts, flour bugs, and chocolate chip cookies.


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Book Review: In the Garden with Flori by Sonja Danowski

In the Garden with Flori

Written and illustrated by Sonja Danowski

Translated from German by Marshall Yarbrough

NorthSouth Books Inc., 2022

Friends, we are talking gorgeous. I was initially drawn to this oversized picture book just by seeing some of the illustrations. The illustrations, plus the garden theme, put this book right on my want-to-read list. I love gardens.

After receiving In the Garden with Flori from NorthSouth Books, I was indeed enchanted with both the richly detailed illustrations and the gardening, trouble-filled story. Thank you, NorthSouth Books!

Why I like this book:

~ Gorgeous, detailed, full-page illustrations

~ Flori, the adorable sidekick, who as dogs do, causes a certain amount of trouble

~ Child-centered story

~ Friendship

~ Love the garden! Both the wild outdoor garden and the protected inside garden

~ The endpapers – check out the detail!

~ The nature theme

Congratulations, Sonja, for creating this beautiful picture book!

Amazon Blurb:

Batchelder Honor recipient Sonja Danowski has created a new story reminding us that love, patience, and a sense of humor help any garden to flower.

What a fuss! Linn’s grandfather broke his leg. Fortunately, his granddaughter Linn offers to take care of his spectacular garden. After all, Linn has helped out in the garden many times and knows a lot about plants. With Linn’s dog, Flori, and her good friend, Emi, by her side what could go wrong? But when mischievous Flori causes a mess, Linn has to learn to deal with a difficult situation. Taking responsibility for the first time is a big step. Together with Linn, we experience pride in the trust placed in us as well as self-doubts along the way. Sonja Danowski’s lovingly detailed illustrations appear almost lifelike and unfold with incomparable magic.


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Book Review: A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

Hello, friends! Just look at what I call “Girl in a Tree.” Her (current) favorite thing to do is climb trees. She was more than happy to shimmy up and strike a “missing-teeth” pose with Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s traditional retelling of a Yiddish folktale, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Thank you, Miss Autumn.

And thanks to Karen for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and Kathy Temean for hosting Karen and her picture book. You can read more about Karen on Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating.

Now, as a person who lives full-time in an RV with her husband and quite hunting-crazy cat Monet, I know something about being crowded. When all the grands are over (7), there is nary a place to sit. We have to double-up AND use the floor. Inside the RV, we have also had: 2 cats, 1 dog, a fledgling goldfinch, spiders, earwigs (YUCK), flies, wasps, adults, grandchildren, 2 bunnies…I think that might be it. Thankfully, this crowd was not all at the same time. Oh, and the occasional Monet-attempted catch-and-release mouse.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Told both in rhyming and lyrical text, the mix was perfectly combined for a satisfying read. Not too much of either, but just right. For a fun retelling of a traditional story, you need to read about Farmer Earl and his crowded farmhouse.

What I Like About This Book:

-humor abounds, though I imagine Farmer Earl would not feel the same way

-the hugely huge family (this phrase cracks me up)

-a fun, re-imagining of a classic tale

-the animals and chaos

-perfect little rhyming couplets that young readers will pick up in no time

-the combination of both lyrical and rhyming text

-adorable and engaging illustrations filled with plenty of details to amuse readers

Amazon Blurb:

Farmer Earl has had enough―his home is too crowded! So, he visits the wise woman in town for help. She tells him to bring all his ducks in the house. And then all his horses. And all his goats too! How will there be more room with all these animals? This updated folktale uses humor to explore what it takes to gain a new perspective.

Find Karen:

Amazon

Instagram

Twitter


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Book Review: Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Wheels of Change

Written by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Illustrations by Melissa Moss

Cover and book design by Simon Stahl

Creston Books, 2014

Historical fiction for middle grade, here I come! Thanks to Kathy Temean and her blog Writing and Illustrating, I won a copy of Wheels of Change from author Darlene Beck Jacobson. Thank you both for introducing me to this fascinating trip back in time.

Twelve year old Emily loves spending time in the carriage-building shop, even though it is not appropriate for young ladies who should be spending their time inside learning how to sew, bake, clean, and care for a house. With a quick mind, sincere heart, and means-well actions, Emily seeks answers to why people act the way they do, often getting herself into trouble.

Set around the turn of the century (1890s to 1900s), Wheels of Change indeed focuses on the changes of that time period. From the plight of being female to the lingering after-effects of the abolition of slavery to the ever-moving-forward march of replacing horse and buggy with motorized vehicles, Jacobson does not shy away from history. The clash of changes factors is faced head-on, all through the eyes of Emily. A few facts are based on personal family history while the rest of the story springs from her creative mind.

Why I Loved This Book:

~the story is based on history and changes that cause struggles and disagreements for most people

~the time period is one about which I enjoy reading

~great writing and descriptions allowed me to “see” what was going on

~the emotions and the conflict of the story seemed to be what could have really taken place

~it was obvious that plenty of research went into the writing of this book

~LOVED the back matter and learning about the family connections to this story

~the book would be perfect for young readers to read as they learn about history (for both education and pleasure)

Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2015

Mighty Girl Pick 2015

Grateful American Book Prize Honorable Mention 2015

Amazon Blurb:

Racial intolerance, social change, and sweeping progress make 1908 Washington, D.C., a turbulent place to grow up in for 12-year-old Emily Soper. For Emily, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic, and she’s more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer than trying to conform to the proper expectations of young ladies. When Papa’s livelihood is threatened by racist neighbors and horsepower of a different sort, Emily faces changes she’d never imagined. Finding courage and resolve she didn’t know she had, Emily strives to save Papa’s business, even if it means going all the way to the White House.


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Book Review: With Great Power, The Marvelous Stan Lee by Annie Hunter Eriksen and Lee Gatlin

With Great Power, The Marvelous Stan Lee, An Unauthorized Biography

Written by Annie Hunter Eriksen

Illustrated by Lee Gatlin

Page Street Kids, 2021

Ka-POW! Sending thanks to Annie Hunter Eriksen, Lee Gatlin, and Kathy Temean for sending me a copy of this super picture book about Stan Lee, the comic book hero icon!

I enjoyed reading Kathy’s feature on With Great Power, The Marvelous Stan Lee, An Unauthorized Biography. You can read her post here.

This fun picture book is filled with engaging history, colorful action scenes, and plenty of comic book feel. I thoroughly loved reading more about Stan Lee. If you love comic books and super heroes, you’ll want to read this one! THWACK!

What I Loved About This Book:

~ fascinating information about Stan Lee

~ detailed, comic book feel of the illustrations

~ fun and engaging read

~ inspirational story

Amazon Blurb:

Every superhero has their origin story: a radioactive spider bite turns ordinary teen Peter Parker into Spider-Man, wealthy Tony Stark escapes captivity by building his Iron Man suit, scientist Bruce Banner survives gamma rays only to transform into the Hulk.

For Stan Lee, it was books of adventure, monsters, and magic that helped him transform from an ordinary boy to a superstar superhero creator. At first, reading these stories was a pathway to a world bigger than his family’s tiny apartment in New York City, but it wasn’t long until Stan was crafting his own stories, creating comics professionally when he was still just a teenager! Still, writing wasn’t exciting when the heroes were always the same: strong, perfect, and boring. Stan had a revolutionary idea. What if anyone―even an ordinary kid―could be a superhero?

Discover more about the life of the Cameo King, known to many for his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how he revolutionized comics with this vibrant introduction bustling with action, humor, and references for fans new and old. ‘Nuff said!


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Book Review: The Chickens Are Coming! by Barbara Samuels

The Chickens Are Coming!

Written and illustrated by Barbara Samuels

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019

I was sitting in my she shed the other day and heard a nearby rooster crowing. Very nearby. Just a note: we do not have chickens OR roosters.

Though our neighbors do. So we often have feathered guests running around the pasture. But I’ve never heard the crowing this close.

I carefully tip-toed to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there was a handsome fellow and his girls right outside the door! They happily pecked and picked, enjoying free range exploration and snacking.

Sorry about the Eiffel Tower right in the middle of the photo…I didn’t see it until later.

They make me laugh, those chickens. Seeing them made me remember a picture book I had just read to my grandson, The Chickens Are Coming!.

This is such a fun picture book. A brother and sister who live in a large city see a sign about chickens needing a new home. Pretty soon they are the owners of a delightful group of hens, each with a name and personality. The story continues as the siblings hope for eggs, but no eggs are found.

Why I Like This Book:

~ the chickens have personalities

~ the story line is fun: discover chickens need a home, adopt the chickens, learn about chickens, try to help the chickens get ready to lay eggs, try to find eggs, try to find chickens

~ plenty of detailed and engaging illustrations – my first grader was captivated by all of the things he could see on the pages

~ chickens in the city!

~ chicken dance

~ free range eggs (a personal favorite of mine)

Feeling like a good chicken story or adopting a hen or three? The Chickens Are Coming! will give you plenty of good reading and/or help you learn what you need to do when your chickens arrive.


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Book Review: Milo’s Moonlight Mission by Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova

Milo’s Moonlight Mission

Written by Kathleen M. Blasi

Illustrated by Petronela Dostalova

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Thank you, Yeehoo Press, Kathleen M. Blasi, Petronela Dostalova, and Kathy Temean for sending me a copy of this fun, adorable picture book! I won a copy from Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. Two of my grands are really into outer space right now, so this book is perfect! My youngest grand just came home from her first day of kinder, and the coloring page? It was all about outer space.

Book Jacket Flap: “Outer space is there for exploring, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command . . .”

From the front cover, to the jacket flap, the inside pages, the illustrations, and the lovely story, there is nothing I don’t love about Milo and his urgent desire to head to outer space! I love that this story is based on an actual scientific event – the Leonid Meteor Storm – that occurs every November.

What I love about this book:

~ the enchanting story

~ the large, lovely, colorful, illustrations

~ the idea of Mom being Second-in-Command

~ The way Milo helps out so his dream becomes reality

~ the fun facts I learned about observing celestial events and the Leonid Meteor Storm (incidentally, and now I can’t remember who, but after I had read Milo’s Moonlight Mission, I was reading about a historical person, and his name was Leonid! I imagine his parents were interested in meteor storms just like Milo!)

~ the overall “package” of a captivating picture book, ready for repeated read-alouds

Milo’s Moonlight Mission is the perfect book for your budding astronomer or astronaut.

Amazon Blurb:

The most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the ideal moment–with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!


When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this important mission with him?