Is It Over? by Sandy Brehl and Rebecca S. Hirsch

IS IT OVER?

Sandy Brehl, Author

Rebecca S. Hirsch, Illustrator

Pen It! Publications, Fiction, Jul. 6, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Storms, Weather, Fear, Self-esteem, Self-reliance, Family, Parents

Opening: Clouds tower! Waves crash! “DADDY!”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

IS IT OVER? celebrates the power of love and storytelling to overcome fear. A prowling, growling thunderstorm sends Risa running to Daddy, begging him to make it stop.

When the storm worsens, Risa asks for a story, but Daddy’s time as a soldier changed his childhood view of storms. Inspired by her stuffed toy elephant, Ivan, Risa summons the courage to find her own story in the storm one that helps them both.

What’s  to like about this book:

With hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados already beginning, Sandy Brehl’s book about storms is very timely. It is a quiet book that will help soothe children’s fears about the storms that pop up when they are least expected. I will have to admit I love storms and find her story very creative!   

Brehl’s text is very lyrical and is packed with noisy words: RRROAR!…CRRRACK!…KA-BOOM! The story is very visual, which will delight readers. Even Daddy has a moment when his heart races, but he admits to Risa that he loved storms when he was kid, because he saw stories in the storm shapes. But it requires imagination. Risa watches the clouds and suddenly she begins to see her own storm pictures. Such a creative way to help kids through a noisy storm. It is an excellent book to read aloud.

Rebecca S. Hirsch vibrantly illustrates IS IT OVER? with double-page spreads. The words and the illustrations depend upon one another. They show emotion and imagination. Her artwork seamlessly flows with the strength of the storm and is bright and cheery at the end. The entire book is gorgeous and will be a winner with families.

ResourcesIS IT OVER? is a resource for families and teachers. But you can also check out Teacher Resources on Brehl’s website. Encourage kids to talk about how storms make them feel. Watching clouds turn into shapes was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Have kids share what they do to help them deal with a storm. Do they play in the puddles when the storms are over?

Sandy Brehl is an award-winning author, member of the Wisconsin chapter of SCBWI, and the Holocaust outreach educator. She is the author of the award-winning Odin’s Promise Trilogy, a middle grade series set in Norway during WW II. Visit here website.

Rebecca S. Hirsch is an illustrator and member of the Wisconsin Chapter of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and daughter in Waukesha, WI. Visit her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children by Janie Reinart

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

Janie Reinart, Author

Morgan Taylor, Illustrator

Blue Whale Press

, Fiction, Jun. 1, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Children, Refugee settlement, Play, Imagination, Hope, Uganda

Opening: “We come, little sister and me, with nothing…but our dreams.”

Synopsis

When war forces two sisters to fee their home in South Sudan with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, Big Sister strives to help Little Sister smile again at the refugee settlement in Uganda. But as quickly as Little Sister’s smile appears, it disappears: that is until water makes mud. In the end, Big Sister’s artistry and kindness brings hope to their situation. 

This title is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys, but continue to play and is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at the Bidibidi settlement in Uganda.

What to love about this book:

A hopeful and heartfelt story about Big Sister helping Little Sister overcome the scarcity, poverty, starvation, and harsh reality of living in a refugee camp — through imagination.  If you can imagine and dream, you can create anything. With a stick Big Sister draws a story from home in the dirt. Pebbles become a puzzle. A bag becomes a balloon. A cardboard box becomes a car. And with mud, you can make just about anything and put a smile on Little Sister’s face. Big Sister makes joy out of nothing. 

Janie Reinart’s writing is lyrical as she draws readers more deeply into the difficult life of children displaced by war around the world. This is an excellent classroom discussion book for students to learn about the refugee situation. Children are resilient and resourceful, as Big Sister demonstrates. All kids need time to play and have fun. 

Morgan Taylor’s bold and colorful illustrations show both the sadness of the situation and the joy found in play.

An important reason to purchase a copy of When Water Makes Mud, is that that the publisher’s profits are being donated to Unicef.  

Resources: There are free downloadable resources at http://www.janiereinart.com under the Books tab. Think about all the things you could do with mud. You could make mud pies, mud balls to throw at targets, mud bricks to build a small fort, paint with mud, slide in mud, and make pretend mud cookies. Use your imagination like Big Sister does.

Janie Reinart is also the author of Love You More Than You Know, a book for military families. She has worn many hats, performing as a clown in children’s hospitals, sharing original tales in schools as a musical storyteller, and helping children find their voice as a poet in residences. But most of fall, she loves writing for children. She lives in Ohio with her husband and delights in playing with her 16 grandchildren. To learn more about Janie, visit her website. 

Morgan Taylor is a Philadelphia-area native who graduated from Arcadia University’s Bachelor of Arts Program for illustration. She enjoys working mainly in oil paint and digital mediums. Her main focus is portraiture, nature, and things from everyday life. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania. You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Pooka and Bunni by Jennifer Zivoin

Pooka & Bunni

Jennifer Zivoin, Author and Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Nov. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Sisters, Sibling relationships, Imagination, Creativity, Perseverance, Problem solving

Opening: “This is Bunni…and this is Pooka. Bunni is big, clever, and interested in many things. Pooka is small, clever, and interested in whatever Bunni is is doing.”

Synopsis:

Bunni is building a wonderful pillow castle while her little sister, Pooka, peppers her with questions and wants to help. Bunni replies, “You’re too little to help! You’ll just knock everything down.” Bunni leaves for her whistling lessons and warns Pooka not to touch anything.

But you know little sisters. The moment Bunni is gone, Pooka peers inside the castle with awe. She bounces up and down until “uh oh…” the castle comes tumbling down on top of her.  But don’t under estimate little sisters, even if the pillows are much bigger than she is and way too heavy.  Pooka uses her imagination and creativity and perseverance to build something just as wonderful! What will Bunni think?

Why I like this book:

Jennifer Zivoin has written a delightful story about siblings playing together that is full of heart. Bunni is like many older siblings who don’t want their little sisters to get in the way of their big projects. Except there is a twist in this story that makes it such an endearing read for children and their parents.  Kids will cheer for Pooka and her her imagination and can-do attitude. And they will be delighted with Bunni’s response and the Ooops! moment at the end.

Zivoin’s illustrations are beautiful and showcase the wonder of children dreaming big and playing together.  Just look at that cover! This book is an excellent bonding story for parents to share with siblings.

Resources/Activities: This book is a great starting point to encourage your older and younger kids to build, draw, decorate, bake or plant something together, Younger siblings look up to their older siblings and want to do everything they do. What a fun family discussion book about teamwork and playing together.

Jennifer Zivoin has illustrated over 30 books, including Something Happened in Our Town and A World of Possibilities. This is the first book has has both written and illustrated. Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University, Bloomington.  Jennifer lives in Carmel, Indiana. Visit her at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

The Story of the Wright Brothers by Annette Whipple

Dec. 17, 2020 Marks the 117th Anniversary of Powered Flight

See Virtual Celebration Details Below

The Story of the Wright Brothers: A Biography Book for New Readers

Annette Whipple, Author

Alessandra Santelli, Illustrator

Rockridge Press, Biography, Jul. 28, 2020

Page: 66

Suitable for ages: 6-12

Themes: Airplane, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Childhood, Curiosity, Dreams, Imagination, Inventions

Opening: “Impossible! Most people thought a flying machine would never work. For hundreds of years, people had been trying to figure out how to fly.”

Synopsis:

The Wright brothers were the first to build and fly an airplane. Before they made history, Wilbur and Orville were curious kids who loved learning about the world around them. They weren’t rich. They didn’t go to college. But they fell in love with the idea of flying and taught themselves everything they needed to know to make their dream come true.

Young people will enjoy reading about Wilbur and Orville’s childhood. They were born just after the Civil War at a time when people traveled by horse and buggy or train. Their home had no electricity or telephones. There was no indoor plumbing and they used outhouses.

But they grew up in a loving home filled with books and parents who encouraged them to figure out how things worked. They grew up taking things a part and putting them back together again. They had a favorite flying “bat” toy that was propelled by a rubber band.  When it broke they studied the design and made their own. Later they built kites and sold them to friends. Their curiosity continued in many areas. They learned how to make the first self-inking printing press and published a newspaper, flyers and business cards for customers.

In the 1890s cars and bicycles appeared. The Wright brothers bought bicycles, took them a part to figure out how they worked and then began fixing bicycles for friends. They opened the Wright Cycle Company and fixed and sold bicycles. Eventually they began to design their own models.

Explore how the Wright brothers went from young boys in Dayton, Ohio who designed bicycles to world-famous inventors, the first aviators, and businessmen.

Why I like this book:

Annette Whipple has written an inspiring introductory book for young readers, who are curious and imaginative, and dare to dream. They will also learn how important it is to think outside of the box. For instance, Wilbur began studying flight by watching birds. He observed how birds tipped their wings when they flew. “Learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.”— Orville Wright

The book is beautifully designed and well-researched. It follows the brothers lives chronologically. The flowing narrative tells their story with a lot of boxed inserts about timelines, myths/facts, quotes from the Wright brothers and their legacy. My favorite are “Jump into the Think Tank” questions for kids. The chapters are short and each page features colorful and evocative illustrations. Chapter 8 features a quiz for readers about what they’ve learned, followed by a section about how the Wright brothers’ invention changed our world. There is also a glossary.

Both children and adults will enjoy learning details about the early lives of these young inventors, best friends and business partners. The book is perfect for children who like to take things a part and figure out how they work. And it will encourage young scientists and dreamers everywhere to create their own inventions.

I live in Dayton, Ohio and worked many years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). The Wright brothers may have flown their first glider from Kitty Hawk, but they tested and perfected their early aircraft on Huffman Prairie, which is at the end of the major flight line at Wright-Patterson.

The 88th Air Base Wing commander, along with members of the Wright brothers’ family and a limited number of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park representatives, will join together Dec. 17, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. to lay a wreath commemorating the 117th anniversary of practical powered flight. This wreath-laying tradition began in 1978 at the Wright Brothers Memorial on top of Wright Brothers Memorial Hill overlooking Huffman Prairie.

VIEW THE CEREMONY VIRTUALLY:  Because of COVID-19 protocols limiting gathering sizes, the general public is encouraged to view the event online at https://www.facebook.com/WPAFB.

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. In 2020, She’s the author of several books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls.  When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy won in a book giveaway by Annette Whipple on Vivian Kirkfield – Children’s Writer blog, in exchange for a review.

Wondrous Rex by Patricia MacLachlan

Wondrous Rex

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Emilia Dzubiak, Illustrator

Katherine Tegen Books, Mar. 17, 2020

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Dog, Animals, Words, Imagination, Stories, Writing, Friendship, Magic

Opening: “I am seven years old, and my life is soon to be full of “wondrous” happenings. “Wondrous” is a word I learned from my aunt Lily, a writer of books.”

Synopsis:

Grace’s aunt is a writer. She works with words every day and teaches Grace interesting words like “melancholy” and “delirious.” But Lily is often “flummoxed” by her writing. Her stories don’t go anywhere, her desk is a mess, and her writer’s group can’t help.

So Lily posts an ad for an assistant: A writer of books needs an assistant, a coach, a helper, for inspiration and some magic!

The next day, Grace opens the door, and there is Rex: a Labrador retriever who will change Grace’s life, and Lily’s. The word “amazing” is an everyday word for Rex, who inspires Lily, and helps Grace find the words to write her own story.

Newbery Medal-winning author Patricia MacLachlan has written a magical and funny tale about the joy found in using words, sharing stories, and loving a wondrous dog named Rex.

Why I like this book:

Patricia MacLachlan has written a magical and charming story about seven-year-old girl, Grace, who loves big words but isn’t sure how to use them to write a story. However, her teacher has confidence in her. What fun it would be to be Grace who has an Aunt Lily, who is a writer. But Grace quickly discovers that even writers have their moments coming up with story ideas.

And then there is Rex, a smart dog, who knows things and can keeps very good secrets. He appears to inspire Aunt Lily and Grace. Readers will fall in love with Rex, as does everyone in the story. Rex is central to the story. (*No Spoilers)

Wondrous Rex introduces children to the process of writing stories and poetry. They also get a peek at how author’s interact and support each other in their “writer’s groups.”  The story is also peppered with a few large words like, “flummoxed and wondrous.” I would have just loved this story as an eight-year-old,  because I was always writing poems, stories and plays, with no one to guide me.

The book has twelve chapters with 88 pages, perfect for older elementary students learning to tackle early middle grade books or reluctant readers.

Emilia Dzubiak’s pen and ink illustrations are lively, entertaining and perfect for text.

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include My Father’s Words, The Poet’s Dog, Word After Word After Word, Kindred Souls, and The Truth of Me.  She is also the author of many beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library book.

How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur by Jason Cockcroft

How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur

Jason Cockcroft, Author-Illustrator

Nosy Crow, Fiction, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Dinosaur, Pet, Owner’s Guide, Humor, Friendship Imagination

Opening: Congratulations on your new dinosaur! When you first meet him, you might find that he is surprisingly shy. But don’t worry. He’ll soon come out of his shell!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Taking care of your very own dinosaur can be a bit tricky at first. But if you follow a few simple guidlines, like making sure he gets plenty of food and exercise and remembering to clean up his gigantic poop, you may find you’ve made a lifelong friend.

Why I like this book:

What a hoot! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is both utterly delightful and an imaginative picture book for young children. Which means kids will be tickled by all the things the boy must do to care for his gigantic pet — starting with a healthy breakfast and trying to figure out how a shovel BIG dinosaur poop into a wheel barrel.

The text is written like a manual for owning and taking care of a pet, which can easily be translated into a guide for any child thinking about getting a new dog, hampster or cat.

The illustrations are oversized, as is the large green dinosaur, with his short legs and long tail. Each page is packed with fun details that children will have a grand time exploring. My favorites include the boy’s dog’s reaction to meal times, the poop, bath time and bedtime. Hilarious! And, make sure you check out the funny end papers of the delivery man.

Resources: This is a great read aloud at home or school!  Let kid’s imaginations soar as you encourage them to draw a colorful picture of the dinosaur they might like to own. What color of dinosaur would they pick? What would they name their dinosaur? Where would their dinosaur live? Would they really want a dinosaur for a pet? Or would they prefer another animal for a pet like a crocodile, horse, giraffe, or elephant. Have fun with this book!

Jason Cockcroft was born in New Zealand and raised in England. He is the illustrator and author of more than forty books for children, and he illustrated U.K. covers for the last three books in the Harry Botter series. He’s very happy to live in Addingham, England, a beautiful city that sounds like church bells, smells like chocolate, and is invaded by Vikings all year round.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis and a Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway 

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Stephan Pastis, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Entertainment, Media tie-in edition, Fiction, Mar. 3, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Detective Agency, Mistakes, Failure, Self-Confidence, Comics

Book Jacket Synopsis:

My names is Failure. Timmy Failure.

I am the founder, president, and CEO of the best detective agency in town, probably the nation.

The book you are holding is a historical record or my life as a detective. It has been rigorously fact-checked. All the drawings in here are by me. I tried to get my business partner to do the illustrations, but they were not good.

This book, and my life, are the inspiration for a new movie, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It can been viewed on Disney +. It’s true. Now, in addition to being the best detective in town, probably the nation, I am also a movie star. My greatness knows no bounds.

Why I like this book:

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis brings back his boastful and overly confident Timmy Failure in this hilarious specialbook for fans. Pastis’s comedic timing is brilliant. You’ll have to admit that 11-year-old Timmy is an adorable character who is clueless about his lack of skills and his failures, but lovable all the same. Then add his imaginary and lazy business partner, Total, a 1500-pound polar bear who spends most of his time gorging on trash, and what you end up with is Total Failure Inc.

The narrative is first person TIMMY and is witty, sarcastic and entertaining. His last name was once Fayleure, but someone changed it to Failure. He certainly lives up to his name.

“I am the soon-to-be head of multi-billion-dollar employer of thousands who made it big by adhering to one simple credo: Greatness.

I am a detective without peer.

A visionary without limits.

A pioneer of tomorrow who only challenge now is to remain humble.”

The truth is that Timmy is totally bored in school and his teacher’s and other students don’t understand him or his rich fantasy life, which leads him to a lot of trouble at school and home. Timmy is socially inept in his interactions with other characters — Weevil Bun, Rollo Tookus, and Jimmy Weber. And then there is his arch nemesis, Corrina Corrina (aka The Beast) who is smart, tutors other students and has her own successful detective agency. And Timmy does not lose a client to Corrinna Corrina. Fortunately for Timmy, he does have a mother and other adults who do care about him.

Readers won’t be disappointed in their unforgettable and favorite hero. He succeeds to fail at everything, but he does so with charm and pride. Pastis’s black and white comic illustrations adorn every page and will leave readers roaring with laughter. And the fact his unorthodox story of failure has elevated him to stardom, shows Timmy’s brand of detective work is heartwarming to his fans.

Resources:  You can’t fail to have fun at Timmy Failure’s website. Check it out!

Book Giveaway: In order to participate and win a copy of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, leave a comment below by April 26! Tell me if you’ve read the other books in the series and which one is your favorite. Or tell me if you are new to this series and would love a chance to win a copy. You must live with the US or Canada to participate.

Stephan Pastis is a New York Times best-selling adult author of Larry in Wonderland and Pearls Before Swine. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is his first book for young readers, and is followed by Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done and Timmy Failure: We Meet Again. He lives in northern California.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided fee by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Twist by Sarah Cannon

Twist

Sarah Cannon, Author

Feiwel and Friends, Feb. 11, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Monsters, Fantasy world, Magical creatures, Creativity, Friendship

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Eli has a dream. He’s going to be the next Stephen King, and he’s just created his best monster yet!

Neha has a secret. Her notebook is filled with drawings of a fantasy world called Forest Creeks, and it’s become inhabited by wonderful imaginary creatures. But her new friends are in danger . . .

Court has a gift, both for finding trouble and for stopping it. And when she accidentally ends up with one of Neha’s drawings, she quickly realizes that the monsters raiding magical Forest Creeks are coming from Eli’s stories.

When these three creative kids come together, they accidentally create a doorway from Neha’s sketch book of Forest Creeks into the real world. Now every monster that Eli ever imagined has been unleashed upon their town!  Only Eli really knows what his monsters are capable of doing. The kids must band together to save their town and a fantasy world from horror-story monsters that come to life.

Why I like this book:

Sarah Cannon’s novel, Twist, is an imaginative, scary and offbeat adventure story. Readers who love dark humor and wacky storytelling are in for a treat! There are quirky main characters they’ll root for and monsters lurking on every page. The story is fast-paced and combines a spirited narrative with clever wordplay. Fans of Cannon’s first novel, Oddity, will cheer for Twist.

I marvel at Cannon’s ability to build fantasy worlds with a strong realistic “twist.” The standout characters, Eli, Neha and Court are kids with real problems. They are a diverse  group of students who deal with their own inner monsters: bullies, social anxiety and regular middle grade angst. But they are also very creative artists and writers, who realize that they have to work together to stop the mayhem they’ve released on their vulnerable town and Neha’s fantasy world, without the help of adults. Court is the problem-solver. There are other memorable characters — both human and magical — who contribute to the story.

The plot is dangerous and the tension palpable. Eli’s writer brain knows his monsters,  especially Howler, who is murderous and has an evil glint in his eye. And there is Lichenthrope, who is designed to lie flat and undetectable in the forest until someone walks over top of him. Eli also knows exactly when the monsters will attack, so he has to act fast. But Neha’s adorable and mischievous Creeps are invading the town and must be located and protected from the monsters. The friends divvy up groups of Creeps and sneak them into their homes for protection. More mayhem! Time’s running out on their mission is to restore order.

Cannon’s story ending allows readers to imagine what happens next.  OR, it may leave the door open for a sequel. I’ll let readers make their own conclusions.

Sarah Cannon, author of Oddity and Twist, has lived all over the US, but right now she calls Indiana home. She has a husband, three kids, and a misquided dog. Sarah hold a BS in education. She’s a nerdy knitting gardener who drinks a lot of coffee and eats a lot of raspberries. She is probably human. Visit Cannon at her website. There is a study guide for the classroom.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi

Weird Little Robots

Carolyn Crimi, Author

Corinna Luyken, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Oct. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Science, Girls, Building robots, Bird watching, STEAM, Magic, Friendship

Book Synopsis:

When two science-savvy girls create an entire robot world, they don’t expect the robots to come alive. But life may be a bit more magical than they thought.

Eleven-year-old Penny Rose has just moved to a new town, and so far the robots she builds herself are her only company. But with just a bit of magic, everything changes: she becomes best friends with Lark, has the chance to join a secret science club, and discovers that her robots are alive.

Penny Rose hardly remembers how lonely she used to feel. But then a fateful misstep forces her to choose between the best friend she’s always hoped for and the club she’s always dreamed of, and in the end it may be her beloved little robots that pay the price.

Quirky and wonderful, this illustrated chapter book from Carolyn Crimi and Corinna Luyken shows that making your own space and a true friend in the world is a kind of magic all its own.

Why I like this book:

Carolyn Crimi’s has created an endearing debut chapter book that is full of wonder, magic, and new friendships. There is also a healthy dose of suspense and humor. And it is a story about girls who love all things science! Corinna Luyken’s warm and expressive black and white illustrations appear in each chapter and contribute to the story.

I enjoyed the friendship that is forged between Penny Rose and Lark, two quirky eleven-year-old girls who love science and making things. Penny Rose is good at building robots out of items she finds, like cell phones, dentures, and pencil sharpeners. Lark is not afraid of showing her weirdness and is passionate about birdwatching and building unusual birdhouses for her feathered friends from things she collects. Lark brings a unique perspective to Penny Rose’s interest in robots. Both girls are imaginative and create roboTown — a perfect city for the robots — in Penny Rose’s backyard shed.  Then something magical happens. The robots spring to life. Each robot has its own personality.

However, the friendship is tested when Penny Rose is invited to become a member of Secret Science Society. Much to her surprise, the society is made up of popular girls at school who like science, and a bully, Jeremy. But Penny Rose isn’t allowed to tell anyone about the society, including, Lark, who isn’t invited. Tension builds between the girls, until someone steals some of the robots and trashes the shed. But revenge is sweet in this story. And friendships can be rekindled when Penny Rose decides not to join the society unless Lark is invited.

Carolyn Crimi is the author of several books for children, including Where’s My Mummy?, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates, and There Might Be Lobsters. She lives in Illinois.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

My Storee by Paul Russell

My Storee: Just Because You Can’t Spell Doesn’t Mean you Can’t Write

Paul Russell, Author

Aska, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Oct. 2, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dyslexia, Spelling, Reading, Writing stories, Creativity

Opening: “Storees keep me awaik at nite and counting sheep neva helps becos I no a grand adventur is allways waiting four me at the end ov my pencil.”

Book Synopsis:

A boy has a big imagination and loves to write down his stories. He writes about unicorns, dragons laying rainbow eggs, robotic pirates and gruesome ogres. When he writes them down and turns them into his teacher, they come back covered with red marks circling his spelling.  He becomes discouraged that his dyslexia keeps him from sharing his stories.

One day a new teacher arrives at his school full of energy and enthusiasm Mr. Watson tells magical stories about objects he has hidden in his briefcase and covers the chalk board with his funny drawings.  Mr. Watson makes the students feel safe and inspires them to be themselves. So the boy decides to share his dragon story. Instead of red marks, Mr. Watson asks the boy about his dragon story.

Why I like this book:

Paul Russell has written an inspiring and hopeful story for children who are dyslexic and  find spelling challenging. It also is a story for all children who are learning to spell and write. It encourages kids to use their imaginations and creativity to express all of the ideas that want to be heard.

And Russell “gets” the struggle dyslexic students and reluctant writers face when putting their ideas onto paper. He was that dyslexic boy who was inspired to become a writer and  teacher because one special teacher believed in him.

Aska’s colorful illustrations that are infused with imagination, humor and expression. I chuckled my way through these detailed beauties. Aska worked with around 70 children, many of whom were dyslexic or had reading difficulties. The children helped her design the book’s imaginary world through the stories they created! Make sure you check out the end pages as they are a lot of fun!

Resources: Encourage kids to write an imaginative story without worrying about spelling. The idea is not to be perfect, but just to have fun with writing something silly or serious. This book belongs in every school library.

Paul Russell is a teacher, artist, playwright, author and father of two. His book, Grandma Forgets, was a CBCA Notable book.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.