Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: Kindergarten Hat by Janet Lawler (little bee books)

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Kindergarten Hat

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriquez

little bee books, 2020

 

Happy book birthday to Kindergarten Hat (June 9, 2020)! As a former kindergarten and preschool teacher, I love any book that helps young students conquer their anxiety and make that leap into going to school. I enjoyed reading about Carlos, his mother, and his new teacher with the giant hat! Janet Lawler is spot on with this lovely, colorful book.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Janet! Don’t forget, everyone, to help Janet celebrate her delayed book birthday on Tuesday, July 28, at 10 AM (Connecticut time). See more info below and mark your calendar.

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Without further delay, here’s Janet!

Welcome, Janet! Tell us a little about yourself.

I started writing picture books as a second career after practicing law for more than a decade. Both careers require that you communicate clearly and simply. But writing for children is a joyful passion that gives me deep satisfaction and peace. I love how words make music, and I marvel at the way illustrators add detail and layers to my stories. Each book is a new adventure! I have had over twenty-five books published and have several more in the pipeline.

What was your inspiration for KINDERGARTEN HAT?

My son and daughter had the same terrific kindergarten teacher, 9 years apart, at our neighborhood grammar school. Judy Baccei always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so her students could find her easily. That hat inspired my story.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?

 My writing journey for this story started over thirteen years ago! I went through many revisions before starting to submit the story to various publishers. I did some submissions on my own and more than once put the manuscript in the “back drawer” as I worked on other stories.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines was acquired by Brett Duquette at Sterling in 2017. Brett and I really connected throughout the editing process. So I asked my agent to submit KINDERGARTEN HAT to Brett after he’d moved to Little Bee. After one round of pre-acquisition editing, to add depth to Carlos’s emotional journey, the manuscript was acquired. Thereafter, I did another round of revisions, as well as several additional “tweaks” to get the story just right.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday of KINDERGARTEN HAT?

The pandemic certainly changed my plans for promoting this book! I had planned for a large launch event on May 30th that was canceled. I did a book birthday posting on my Facebook page, and both my publisher and my agency spread the word via Twitter and Instagram. I e-mailed and messaged indie bookstores and friends, fans, and family all over the country. I have recorded a virtual story time that will post live on the Kids Place of the Farmington CT Public Library on Tuesday, July 28 at 10 a.m. That will be my delayed “book birthday” launch! Anyone can visit that day or thereafter, to hear more detail about the book and listen to my full reading of the story. https://www.facebook.com/flkidsplace/

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have had a 2nd book released this summer—Good Night, Little Engine. , The classic tale by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could, celebrates its 90th Anniversary in 2020!  Grosset & Dunlap asked me to write a rhyming bedtime story as part of the celebration. Good Night, Little Engine is beautifully illustrated by Jill Howarth. I hope that both KINDERGARTEN HAT and Good Night, Little Engine will help comfort and encourage kids during uncertain times.

Congratulations, Janet! I look forward to reading more of your books!

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Amazon Blurb:

A practically perfect first-experience story, especially for anxious hearts and gentle spirits.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

From Janet:

Carlos is new to town and his anxieties grow as he prepares for the first day of school and travels on the bus with a special flower for his teacher’s hat. This floral take on the starting-school theme was inspired by Janet’s son and daughter’s wonderful kindergarten teacher. She always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so that kids coming off the buses could find her.
It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the corona virus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile.


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Book Report: How Long Is Forever? by Kelly Carey, Illustrated by Qing Zhuang

 

How Long Is Forever?

Written by Kelly Carey

Illustrated by Qing Zhuang

Charlesbridge, 2020

 

Who loves blueberries, farms, kitties, and grandparents? I do! Thank you, Kathy Temean, for hosting Kelly Carey and Qing Zhuang. Thank you, Kelly Carey, and Qing Zhuang, for sending me a copy of this lovely picture book! I was thrilled to read it and I can recommend How Long Is Forever? to young readers (and their grandparents) everywhere. Happy reading!

And while you’re at it, let’s have blueberry pie.

 

News from Charlesbridge

Waiting for pie takes a long time, but not forever.

Mason is waiting for Nana’s blueberry pie and complains that it’s taking forever. So Grandpa challenges him to figure out how long forever really is. Is it as long as Grandpa has had his tractor? No. As long as it took Nana to grow the roses to the top of the chimney? Not even close. After a trip around the farm to figure out the answer, Nana’s pie is ready.

 

What I LOVE About This Book:

~ Nana! I am a Nana, so I love that the grandmother is named Nana

~ Blueberry pie!

~ The kitty included on almost every spread (I love kitties)

~ The concept of forever and how it is explored through the eyes of a young child

~ The lovely story

~ Wonderful, colorful illustrations

~ Farm and farm house!

 

Amazon Blurb:

Mason is waiting for Nana’s blueberry pie and complains that it’s taking forever. So Grandpa challenges him to figure out how long forever really is. Is it as long as Grandpa has had his tractor? No. As long as it took Nana to grow the roses to the top of the chimney? Not even close. After a trip around the farm to figure out the answer, Nana’s pie is ready. And Mason’s finally got the answer: forever is how long he’ll love Nana’s pie and how long he’ll love Nana and Grandpa, too.

 

 

 


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Book Report: The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony, Gunner Meets Stella by Lynne McGlothlen #BookBirthday

The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony, Gunner Meets Stella

By Lynne McGlothlen

Illustrated by David Gnass

Mascot Books; June 2, 2020

Happy book birthday to The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony, Gunner Meets Stella by Lynne McGlothlen! Thank you, www.mascotbooks.com, for sending me a copy to review.

Meet Gunner, a standard poodle who looks big enough to ride! This story of Gunner is based an a real standard poodle named Gunner. Gunner is a therapy dog who visits residents and families in hospice and senior care centers.

I loved reading this story about Gunner meeting Stella, a young girl who was visiting her grandmother in a hospice center. Stella was very sad, but Gunner helped her to express her feelings and performed tricks to make her feel better.

I am fascinated by therapy dogs. I learned more about dogs who go to school to become therapy dogs as I read The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony. I even learned why he is called a poodle pony!

Readers who love dogs and adventures will enjoy this book. This book would also be good to read with children who are going through the loss of a grandparent or parent due to illness. The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony is a great book to read to open up conversations with children about scary end-of-life events.

Why I Liked The Adventures of Gunner the Poodle Pony:

~ I loved learning more about poodles

~ I loved learning about therapy dogs

~ I was happy to read that Gunner was able to encourage and help Stella as she faced the loss of her grandmother

~ The story is easy to read

~ In this story, Gunner actually talks to Stella. He is a poodle gifted with conversation skills!

~ The backmatter taught me more about the author, poodles, dogs, and therapy dogs

~ Gunner is pretty adorable!

Amazon Blurb:

Gunner is a special poodle. He’s what you might call “amazing” even! Gunner can do all kinds of tricks, but his most important job is to help others when they are sick or sad. When Stella’s grandmother is sick in Hospice, Gunner is there to comfort her.


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Book Report: Bandit the Cow Dog by Phil Mills Jr. #BookBirthday

Bandit the Cow Dog

Written by Phil Mills Jr.

Illustrated by Jeanne Conway

Mascot Books (June 2, 2020)

Happy Book Birthday to Bandit the Cow Dog by Phil Mills Jr.! Thank you, http://www.MascotBooks.com, for sending me a copy to review.

As a lover of horses and ranches (and having an unfulfilled lifelong dream of living on a ranch and raising horse), I loved reading this colorful picture book.

Set on a ranch in Wyoming, the story is told from the eyes of the retired Australian shepherd working dog, Bandit, and a young girl, Mary. Mary comes to visit her grandparents for the summer. Once on the ranch, Mary quickly learns she has daily responsibilities and chores. She even finds out that eggs do not have to be white and one must help out as a member of a family. All goes well until Mary forgets one essential rule on a ranch: always close and secure gates.

Bandit the Cow Dog is a fun read. I think young readers who enjoy animals, ranches, horses, and dogs will like this book. Happy Book Birthday!

What I Like About This Book:

  • I love the ranch setting
  • I love the animals – dogs, chickens, horses, and cows
  • I love how Mary has to accept responsibility for her actions, even though that is not an easy thing to do
  • I like how Mary has consequences to her actions
  • Horses!

More about Phil Mills Jr.

Amazon Blurb:

Spending the summer on her grandparents Wyoming ranch was a new and exciting opportunity for ten-year-old Mary Andrews. She lived in Denver, Colorado, and being around horses and cattle every day was a different experience. Having to do daily chores like gathering eggs and keeping an extra-close eye on her dog Princess was also new. She found it hard enough to just make her bed and keeping her clothes picked up.

But life took a dramatic turn for the young girl when she was given her first horse. Mary had never ridden before and there was a lot to learn. Thankfully, Bandit, the ranch cow dog, was around to watch over her. Bandit may have been retired, but he still liked herding chickens and trying to corral the ranch cats. Mary would soon learn having a horse was a lot different than having a dog. Along with such ownership came greater responsibilities. That would also mean learning to admit your mistakes, no matter how difficult, and then accepting the consequences, especially when Bandit knew the truth.


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Book Report: Goodbye Kindergarten by Andrea Williams #BookBirthday

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Goodbye Kindergarten

Written by Andrea Williams

Illustrated by Vanessa Alexandre

Mascot Books; May 5, 2020

 

Coming soon! Happy May 5 Book Birthday!

Thank you, Andrea Williams, for writing this book. Thank you, Mascot Books, for sending a review copy of Goodbye Kindergarten.

What a year we are having! As some people say, the 4th year of April . . .Be sure to read to the bottom of the post for some ideas on ways to add closure to this school year.

Just in time for helping unsettled and disappointed young readers, Andrea Williams has her Goodbye Kindergarten book arriving on the book scene.

Andrea Williams decided to write a book for her kindergartners with the goals of saying goodbye, reminding the students of all the great things they did during the year, and giving students an opportunity to say goodbye and transition to the next grade.

Instead of being full of tears, Goodbye Kindergarten is uplifting as it reminds readers of what they learned, the friends they made, and the fun they had. Most of all, students are reminded that teachers are proud of them and they will never forget their students.

With this odd year of school, most schools have already closed for the remainder of the school year. Students are learning at home. This could be a fun time for young students, or a time of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. At least in our district, our students did not even get a chance to say goodbye to their teachers, classmates, and classrooms. On a Friday, they learned school was closing. By the end of the weekend, they couldn’t even return except to pick up a packet, personal items, and a Chrome book. Shortly after, it was announced that school (as they used to know it) was over for the year.

Saying goodbye is an important step in adjusting to change. Goodbye Kindergarten will help kindergarten students (and preschool students, as they do some of the same activities) remember the good times and talk about what comes next. Goodbye Kindergarten will remind readers that even though classrooms are virtual, their teachers and friends remember them.

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What I Like About This Book:

~ the sharing of normal kindergarten activities

~ the remembering of all the things kindergartners do throughout the year

~ the joy and sense of accomplishment by both students and teacher

~ the opportunity to acknowledge the upcoming changes and the ending of kindergarten

~ the simple text, reminiscent of Goodnight Moon

~ the colorful illustrations

 

Amazon Blurb:

Kindergarten has been full of fun and learning, but the school year is almost done. Its time to say goodbye to your teacher and friends. No need to be sad! Celebrate the special people, places, and things in your classroom, and all the knowledge you’ll take with you into first grade!

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Some Ways to Add Closure to the School Year:

~ complete school work given by teachers; this will help your student feel the sense of accomplishment

~ celebrate the last day of school with a special breakfast, last day of school pictures, a walk down memory lane of favorite school memories (both at school and at home)

~ draw pictures of favorite school memories, or as you finish the school year, help your child journal about things he or she remembers (they draw, you help them write, or take dictation)

~ print photos you’ve taken during the school year (parties, field trips, classroom visits); let your child add them to a small photo album; label pictures with names and locations

~ ask the teacher to plan a virtual meet and greet (Zoom is quite popular for this); the last day of school would be a perfect time, though multiple visits would be great as well

~ call your child’s teacher and let your child visit

~ video your child doing something new and share the video with your child’s teacher; my daughter-in-law did a live video of my grandson riding a bike (without training wheels!), which was something new he learned. This was quite exciting for him! Having the teacher celebrate was a treat.

~ contact the parents of your child’s friends; arrange for them to have a virtual play date by using a computer app; they could work puzzles at the same time, draw a picture at the same time, share a favorite book, or eat a snack together (yet apart!)

~ revisit first day of school pictures; encourage your student to remember how he or she felt on that day; compare how he or she feels now

~ use technology to your advantage. If your child’s classroom used an app for keeping in touch (our preschoolers used Bloomz), reach out and contact families. I shared a picture of my two preschoolers (grands) on this app. Soon enough, most parents had shared pictures of the rest of the classmates. I shared these with my grands.

~ birthdays? Our granddaughter will turn 4 next week. Her mother has arranged a drive-by and wave birthday party.

Do you have any other great ideas? I’m sure we’d all love new ideas. Share them in the comments. Thanks!


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Thank you, Vivian Kirkfield, for bringing this book to my attention. Perfect timing!

Parents, grandparents, families, this book is a free e-book for young readers. Be a Coronavirus Fighter touches on the most basic things we need to know about fighting the virus and staying healthy. Thank you, Helen Wu and Songju Ma Daemicke!

Be a Coronavirus Fighter!

Read Vivian’s interview with Helen Wu and Songju Ma Daemicke:

via Helen Wu and Songju Ma Daemicke: Will Write for Cookies and COVID-19 

Read to the bottom of the post to find the link for the book as well as links to learn more about the author and illustrator.


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Book Report: Grandpa Grumps by Katrina Moore #BookBirthday #BeeAReader

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Grandpa Grumps

Written by Katrina Moore

Illustrated by Xindi Yan

little bee books, April 7, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday to Grandpa Grumps by Katrina Moore!

I enjoyed this book from the get-go. From front to back, Grandpa Grumps is full of adorable details, tells a perfect story, and bursts with fun colorful illustrations. My grands ask for this one over and over. They are drawn to the story! (I don’t think it’s because they have their own Grandpa Grumps. LOL) Thank you, little bee books, for sending a review copy. #BeeAReader

What I Love About This Book:

~ The adorableness. It’s a thing. Honest.

~ The story about a young girl meeting her grandfather from China for the first time

~ The learning and sharing that goes on between the generations

~ The way the relationships grows between Grandpa Grumps and Daisy

~ A recipe!

~ Perfect illustrations that complement and enhance the story (much adorableness)

~ The story is sweet, but Daisy does face a problem when Grumps doesn’t react the way she imagined. I love how she finally solves the problem.

~ A shining example of creativity and partnership between the author and illustrator

~ Anyone who has relatives from a different country could prepare the way for visits by reading Grandpa Grumps.

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Amazon Blurb:

Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting from China, and try as she might, Daisy can’t get her grumpy grandpa to smile!

Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting for the first time from China, and Daisy is so excited to meet him! She has big plans for all the fun they’ll have together, like tea parties and snow angels, but when Yeh-Yeh arrives, Daisy finds him less jolly than she imagined. Throughout the week, she tries all sorts of things to get him past his grumpiness. Will she be able to make him smile before he goes home?

Kids will love this funny and heartwarming story about overcoming cultural differences and connecting across generations!

You can find Grandpa Grumps here.

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Book Report: Kelan and The Magical Glove by Kelan Davoud #BookBirthday

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Kelan and The Magical Glove

Written by Kelan Davoud

Illustrated by Eric M. Strong

Mascot Books, March 2020

 

Kelan and The Magical Glove is a fun adventure for readers who love Legos, Fortnite, and using their imagination. Thank you, Mascot Books, for sending a review copy.

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*spoiler alert* Kelan and his best bud love Legos, Fortnite, and hanging out. But after one bullying session by Billy the Bully, Kelan has to use a long stick to retrieve his new Lego set from beneath poison ivy. That is when he discovers a sparkly glove. This magical glove turns Kelan’s creations into real life things! Kelan and his friend are able to soak Billy and his sidekick, but Billy promises revenge.

Kelan and The Magical Glove is full of boy adventures. Legos, gaming, and problem bullies. Using the fantasy of the magical glove, Kelan now has a resource to help him stop the bullies. Creative, imaginative, and full of fun. With illustrations resembling cartoons and graphic novels, elementary-aged readers will be drawn to the story and adventures. Lego lovers will dream of finding their own magical glove.

 

What I Liked About This Book:

~ Fun, imaginative, and problem-solving

~ The themes of friendship and bullies

~ The magical glove (I want one!)

~ Bright, colorful illustrations

~ The hint of further adventures, since Billy threatens revenge . . .

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Amazon Blurb:

Kelan and his best friend Noah are fed up with bullies. At every turn, their tormenters come up with new and creative ways to make Kelan and Noah s lives miserable. Luckily, everything changes once Kelan finds a sparkly, colorful glove in the forest. They soon discover that whenever Kelan wears the glove, magical things start to happen! Finally, Kelan and Noah are able to put a stop to their bullies mean pranks. Join our friends as they figure out how to stand up for themselves with the help of one magical glove, a few Legos, and their imaginations!

Find Kelan and The Magical Glove at Amazon.

 


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Book Report: Andres and His Rubik’s Cube Madness by Andrea Alvarez #BookBirthday

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Andres and His Rubik’s Cube Madness

Written by Andrea Alvarez

Illustrated by Ana Sebastian

Mascot Books, March 2020

 

Andres and His Rubik’s Cube Madness is the perfect book for these anxious days! If you and your child are stuck at home due to the coronavirus, get yourself a copy of this book and your own Rubik’s cube. Accept the challenge!

Much thanks to Mascot Books for sending a review copy. Happy book birthday, Andres and His Rubik’s Cube Madness (March 3, 2020).

I loved reading this book about Andres. Introduced to the Rubik’s Cube by a new neighbor, Andres was inspired and challenged to try to solve the cube. He eventually discovers that there are Rubik’s Cube competitions all over the world and decided he wanted to compete. Hard work, practice, and dedication helped Andres learn ways to solve the cube.

I was amazed at how FAST Andres and other competitors solve the cube. At the time of the printing, Andres had a personal best time of 8.33 seconds to solve the cube. That is seconds! I take longer to sneeze. Congratulations, Andres!

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Why I Enjoyed This Book:

~ The story is wonderful! Based on a true story, the author (mother to Andres) shares how he decided to accept the Rubik’s Cube challenge.

~ I learned so much about Rubik’s Cubes. There is an entire community built around competing and solving the puzzle cubes.

~ Excellent illustrations perfectly match and enhance the story. The reader is engaged in the story and illustrations.

~ Information is included for readers to use as they learn the algorithms to solve the cube.

~ Good writing and great story telling!

Our state just closed ALL schools for 6 weeks. That’s a long time, friends. I think this book AND several Rubik’s cubes might just help us to fill the long, long hours.

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Amazon Blurb:

When Andres saw the new kid in the neighborhood solve a Rubik’s cube super fast, he wondered if he could learn to solve one too. He tried twisting and turning the multicolored cube but it seemed impossible. With a little encouragement from his mom, Andres began to practice every day. And when he discovered a Rubik’s cube competition to qualify for the biggest championship, he knew he had to try!

Andres and His Rubik’s Cube Madness is based on the true story of Andres a boy who cleverly practiced hard and learned hundreds of algorithms to solve the Rubik’s cube in lightning speed. He was dedicated and persistent, but most importantly, he never gave up.

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Book Report: Jessica Tandy, The Girl Who Loved Candy by Susan Dils

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Jessica Tandy, The Girl Who Loved Candy

Written by Susan Dils

Illustrated by Juan Diaz

Mascot Books, 2020

 

What happens when Mom finally gives up on the whining and lets her daughter eat all the candy she wants?

Yikes! Most can (correctly) predict the consequences of this sweet-tooth folly. Quick, make a list of what you think happens. I bet you’ve guessed at least one disastrous consequence!

Thank you, Mascot Books, for sending a review copy of Jessica Tandy, The Girl Who Loved Candy.

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Why I Liked This Book:

~ Like Jessica, I love candy (though I rarely eat it due to the consequences of too much sugar)

~ Jessica, free to eat all the candy she wants, gorges herself, and then suffers overwhelming health issues

~ This book really lets readers know what will happen if too much sugar is in your diet (cavities, rotten teeth, poor health, grumpy attitude, sleepiness, general malaise)

~ The real consequences of eating straight sugar, even with brushing, are mouth and health issues; I’m glad this is included in the book

~ The book shares the path back to good health (and renewed friendships)

~ Love the importance of eating healthy, which was shared in ways I thought not too pushy

~ Great illustrations

~ I did want to shake the mom a bit (really? Jessica could eat ALL the candy she wanted??? But then, where would the story be?)

~ Fun and engaging, told in rhyme

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Amazon Blurb:

Oh, how delicious it would certainly be
If we could all eat what we wanted freely!
Join Jessica Tandy in this humorous tale as she learns a lesson the hard way, finding out that poor eating habits can lead to a lot more than just cavities.
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