Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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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?


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Book Review: Whole Whale by Karen Yin and Nelleke Verhoeff

Whole Whale

Words by Karen Yin

Art by Nelleke Verhoeff

Barefoot Books, 2021

Thank you, Kidlit411 and Karen Yin for sending me a copy of Whole Whale! What a wonderfully huge and engaging picture book!

I follow several picture book and book blogs to keep up with what is going on in the book business. I love reading about new picture books and encouraging authors and illustrators. Several blogs share updates about agents, editors, and publishing houses, which is always interesting. And sometimes, to my joy, I comment on blog posts and my name is pulled from the hat and I win a copy! I have met many wonderful books (and authors and illustrators) this way. Plus, I’m keeping up with what’s happening in the kid book world. Win-win-win.

A recent post at Kidlit411 shared about Whole Whale and Karen Yin. Whole Whale is her debut picture book. What a splash! Be sure to hop over to Kidlit411 and read her interview.

Why I LOVE this book:

~ The book size is huge – just like a whole whale! 12 x 12 inches!

~ How do you fit a whole blue whale in a book? Can you? What a fun mystery for young readers.

~ Fun, rhyming language builds suspense

~ A catchy repeating chorus, “But can we fit a whole blue whale?”

~ A fun fold-out surprise at the end

~ The final page which lists all the animals in the book

~ Can you count 100? Fun, fun, fun!

~ A wide variety of animals, land, sea, and sky

~ Encouragement to make room for just one more

~ Fantastic colorful illustrations

Congratulations, Karen and Nelleke! What a fun book!

You can find Karen:

KarenYin.com (sign up for the Purposeful Prose Newsletter)

Twitter: @karenyin, https://twitter.com/karenyin

Instagram: @karensoffice, https://www.instagram.com/karensoffice/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/karenyin

Karen sent me this book via Once Upon a Time, a bookstore in Montrose, CA. Thank you!

Monet was trying to help me post this review. Can we fit the big fat cat?


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Book Review: Poetrees by Douglas Florian

Poetrees

Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

Beach Lane Books, 2010

I finally had a chance to borrow Poetrees from the library. What a fun book!

Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian, the pages resemble different aspects of trees – bark, roots, rings, leaves, and more. I love the way the reader needs to turn the book on its side to read up to down the long way, resembling the height of trees. So much fun!

Why I Like This Book:

~ the variety of trees included in the book, each as unique s the next

~ the wordplay and fun-on-your-tongue poetree

~ the artwork gives glimpses into the words and thoughts inspired by the poetree

~ what I learned about trees, especially the ones not found in my Pacific Northwest region

~ the glossatree gives more info about each tree or tree part

~ the sense of awe, wonder, and amazement which exudes from this book of trees


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Book Review: Squish, Squash, Squished by Rebecca Kraft Rector and Dana Wulfekotte

Squish, Squash, Squished

Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021

As the oldest child in a family of 4 children and 2 parents, I can relate to being squished in the car. And squabbling and fighting about it, especially over who gets a window seat. (This was before the time of cell phones, electronic games, and movie viewing options many children have now. Back in the dark ages. We had a car. A station wagon car. With fold up bench seats in the way back, but that was usually full with the family dog and picnic lunch stuff.)

I digress.

I won a copy of Squish, Squash, Squished from Rebecca Kraft Rector through Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. You can view the original post to learn more about Rebecca and Dana here. THANK YOU, Rebecca and Kathy!

Squish, Squash, Squished is such a delight to read! I loved the problem (squished in the back seat), the characters (adorable cuties with their no-nonsense mom who takes extreme-but fun-measures to stop the bickering), and the imaginative cast of characters who hop in for a ride. The words are just perfect with plenty of language and word-play, and the illustrations are the icing on the cake.

I suggest this book for anyone who has bickering children in the backseat, anyone who has children (or is a child), those who love fun word-play and stories, and creative minds who believe animals can do the things they do in this book.

Why I Love This Book:

~ told in the style of It Could Always Be Worse, the escalating drama is wonderful

~ I love the word-play and sing-song silliness

~ fun cast of characters, a mix of people and animals (love it)

~ adorable setting and the perfect illustrations to make this picture book of the magical sort

~ while not preaching about keeping it quiet in the backseat, readers will get the hint that it could always be worse . . .

Living in an RV, I sometimes drift into the theme of being squish, squash, squished, but I better hush-mush or my hubby might invite in some passers-by…


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Book Review: Nibbles, A Green Tale (RE: A Green Way to Get Rid of Dandelions)

Nibbles, A Green Tale

Written and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton

Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009

I have so many wonderful memories of the guinea pigs we loved during my years of teaching preschool. Our mama gave us hours of delight as we watched her lead her trail of babies around the room. Rustling plastic bags brought squeals demanding whichever “greens” we had brought. Both preschoolers and my family members loved snuggling and playing with these cuties.

Imagine my delight when I saw Nibbles, A Green Tale at the library! Nibbles is obviously a guinea pig, one who loves dandelions. With our current pasture-wide crop of dandelions, I couldn’t wait to read this picture book. If only I could borrow a city of dandelion-loving guinea pigs and let them camp out in the pasture for a week or two. That would take care of the clouds of white seeds.

Why I LOVE this book:

~ guinea pigs! Wheet, wheet!

~ guinea pigs who eat dandelions

~ guinea pigs wearing clothes!

~ a fun story of how one guinea pig rescued dandelions from becoming extinct

~ a green strategy to solve dandelion problems (though the sheer number of them needed to clear a pasture…)

~ adorable illustrations

~ wonderful story and characters

There is a sequel to this book, Nibbles: Another Green Tale. I can’t wait to track down a copy.