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Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Sinterklaas by Kathy Dobson (self published, 2017).

On December 2, my mom and I traveled to Rhinebeck, NY to attend their Sinterklaas Festival. Inspired by the traditions of the Dutch who settled in Hudson Valley over 300 years ago, this festival is non-denominational and all-inclusive. It's a celebration of children, who are crowned kings and queens for the day, with dance, theater, and music throughout the day, which culminates in a huge parade that night.  

This is an enchanting book, particularly for anyone who has attended the festival. It tells the story of a Dutch girl's Sinterklaas doll that is lost at sea as she sails to America. The doll makes its journey to find a home, eventually turning into Sinterklaas the man, who walks in the parade.

You can read more about the Sinterklaas Festival in Hudson Valley here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eli's 1st Winter Carnival

Eli's 1st Winter Carnival by Lisa Bowen, illustrated by Nina Vanessa Pontillas (Real Life Learning, 2016). 

This is a cute book about a little Canadian boy named Eli who is excited about going to his first winter carnival. He makes snow angels, goes sledding, has a snowball fight, and more. When he gets home, he has pancakes and cozy time with his family before going to bed thinking about his fun day. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

No Chimney? No Problem!

No Chimney? No Problem! by Jodi Wojtowicz, illustrated by Breanna Sipple (Moon Jump Press, second edition 2017). 

Well, it's just about Christmastime already, and Santa will soon be visiting boys and girls around the world. But what if, like many people nowadays, you don't have a chimney? How will Santa deliver your presents? This book answers that question in a fun way that can lead to a new tradition. All you need is a magical key that only Santa can use (included with the book) and hang it on your front door. 

I wish I liked the illustrations better because I really like the idea of the magical key. I do appreciate that the characters have brown skin; it's nice to see that diversity, especially as the characters are drawn in such a way that many different types of people could see themselves as represented. 

You can buy the book here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mousekin's Thanksgiving

Mousekin's Thanksgiving by Edna Miller (Simon and Schuster, 1985). 

This book is about a mouse who wakes up on a cold November day to discover that the food he stored for the winter is gone. He goes to all the animals in the woods asking them who took his food, and they describe the large bird that gobbles. Come winter, the turkey digs up the food from under the snow and the mouse and all his animal friends have a feast. 

The text and watercolor illustrations evoke a calm, quiet atmosphere. This is the only Mousekin book I had as a kid, but I've discovered that it's actually part of a series. I look forward to checking out some of the other titles, especially the other holiday ones.

For more Thanksgiving books, visit my Pinterest board here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Smarty Locks and the Unforgettable Zoo

Smarty Locks and the Unforgettable Zoo by Marilyn Harary, illustrated by Janette Louden (self-published, 2016). 

This is an enjoyable story with fun illustrations about a girl named Smarty Locks with big curly hair.  She's excited to go on a school field trip to the zoo.  When it starts storming and the trip is cancelled, she and her classmates are upset. But Smarty Locks thinks hard to come up with a solution, and ends up saving the day.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Surprises

Halloween Surprises by Ann Schweninger (Puffin Books, 1984). 

This is an adorable book that I enjoyed as a kid. It's about a family of bunnies celebrating Halloween. The book is set up like a comic strip, with speech bubbles telling the story as the bunnies create their costumes, make jack-o-lanterns, go trick-or-treating, and host a Halloween party. I especially love the tiny baby bunny.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dahlov Ipcar's Maine Alphabet

Maine Alphabet by Dahlov Ipcar (Islandport Press, 2012). 

Dahlov Ipcar (1917-2017) was a talented and prolific author and illustrator who lived and worked on a farm in Maine for most of her life. The first children's book she illustrated was The Little Fisherman by Margaret Wise Brown in 1945, and went on to write and illustrate over thirty more.

Maine Alphabet is a wonderful collection of some of Ipcar's past illustrations, with one original illustration created for the board book. It captures an old fashioned Maine, with a lot of great animal art as well.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hats of Faith

Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh (Shade 7 Publishing, 2017). 

This little board book is a great way to introduce children to hats and head coverings from various religions and faiths. Each page has a different person and head covering. I love all the bright, colorful clothing. Young children may not be able to fully grasp the concept of faith-based head coverings, but they will at least be exposed to different types of people and dress. I could see this being a great conversation starter for older kids. There are also lots of great resources and teaching tools on the book website.

I had fun with the coloring pages below, which you can find on their website.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! by Alva Sachs, illustrated by Patricia Krebs (Three Wishes Publishing, 2009). 

This is the story of a day in the life of three best friends. Marcus, Justin, and Mario start their Saturday playing videos and making lunch. When they're not sure what to do next, Justin's dad suggests enjoying the nice weather outdoors, and helps them spruce up their old skateboards. They invite the other dads to come and watch them race in the park. While it's a simple story, it's nice to see diverse friendships and father-son relationships. I really love the illustrations by the Argentinean artist. 

The author and and illustrator have collaborated on several picture books. More information can be found here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mad Libs

Disclaimer: I received this gift bag from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

I was fortunate to recently receive a bag from Brightly filled with Mad Lib books and other little goodies. I absolutely loved Mad Libs as a kid; they were so fun to play alone or with friends and family. 

If you don't yet know about Brightly, it's an online resource from Penguin Random House that helps parents, educators, and anyone with kids in their lives grow lifelong readers. Brightly offers book recommendations from all publishers for every age and stage, reading tips, author essays, and much more. It's a great site and they have lots of fun giveaways; in fact, I randomly won a copy of the new Jerry Spinelli book from them a little while back.

Since I don't have kids yet, I plan on donating these to a local children's literacy charity organization. I know some kids will have a lot of fun with them while also practicing vocabulary and grammar skills!

And the best part is that Brightly is offering a downloadable 15 pack of Mad Libs for FREE on their site here! So be sure to check that out.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Just Kept Spinning

I Just Kept Spinning by Destini Berry, illustrated by April Foxx (Kifani Press, 2017). 

This is a wonderful book based on the experiences of the author, who is only eighteen. 
I especially love the rich, soulful acrylic illustrations. Kifani Press (which is co-owned by sisters April and Ashley Foxx) raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to publish the book. 

All seven-year-old Destini wants is to dance, but she's banned from her first recital because her natural locs go against the "rules" for a ballerina. But Destini won't back down, and her mother promises her they'll be able to conquer the problem, because "small people can do big things." Her mother starts calling newspapers and TV stations and soon lawyers start wanting to help them. The whole town gets talking about how it's an unfair rule, and Destini is allowed to dance in her first recital just the way she is, with her beautiful locs.

I'm pleased to be able to offer a discount on this book to my followers. You can just go to the website and use discount code SYS15 to receive 15% off your order through September 15. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Anything But Pink

Anything But Pink by Adelina Winfield (self-published, 2016). 

This is a cute book about a little girl named Starri whose parents don't get her anything pink when she's a baby because they don't want to feed into the stereotype. Of course, as Starri grows up, all she wants is pink. Pink clothes, pink toys, pink room... everything pink! Finally her parents tell her, that while pink is great, there are so many other wonderful colors out there, and variety is the spice of life.

I liked both the message and the cute illustrations for this book. My only complaint is that all the characters' mouths are always puckered into O's like dolls, which is a little odd, and doesn't allow for variety of expression in their faces. But otherwise, I enjoyed this book. I also liked that the parents seem to be an interracial couple, or at least they could be seen that way, so that little mixed girls can see themselves in Starri as well. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Mermaid

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (Penguin, 2017). 

Jan Brett has been a favorite author/illustrator of mine since I was a kid. If you have never read her books, you really should. Her illustrations are beautifully detailed, usually drawing from Scandinavian motifs. Here she departs from that and instead creates a Japanese underwater world in this original retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Instead of three bears there are three octopuses, and instead of a little golden-haired girl there is a mermaid. This is a wonderful book that I am happy to add to my collection.