Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Letters From Space: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Former astronaut Clayton Anderson is not a stranger to my blog. I reviewed his previous book A is for Astronaut (also from Sleeping Bear Press).  Letters from Space is just as informative and engaging. As you'll see in the samples below, the illustrations by Susan Batori are full of humor. Kids will laugh out loud as they learn about disposable underwear; food, spiders, and plants in space; and how astronauts fly EVERYWHERE within the space shuttle. 

All of this is communicated through fictional letters "home" to friends, young fans, and family. Because of course, no one has perfected receiving mail from space... yet!


Flight Day 3

In a letter to his mother, Clayton describes his excitement at liftoff. 

It was loud, it was scary, and the entire space shuttle shook like crazy...We went faster and faster, and then--everything went quiet. I started to rise out of my seat. I was weightless!

Flight Day 22

In response to a young fan who just got a puppy, Clayton writes,

We can't have pets in space. It would be neat to have a dog or a cat, but what a mess with no gravity! Where would it go to the bathroom?!

Flight Day 45

Clayton takes a space walk and tells his brother, We were out there for over seven hours and I rode on the robotic arm. I was like one of those guys who fix wires on utility poles. But in SPACE! Man, did I have some great views of the Milky Way and the space station!

Flight Day 125

Clayton shares his favorite foods in space. I love to start my meal with a can of stuff they call "appetizing appetizer." It looks kind of like baby food. Yum. After that I always love a nice can of lamb with vegetables or pork and potatoes. It looks a lot like cat food. Maybe it even smells like cat food But I swear it doesn't taste like cat food.

Flight Day 134

It turns out that when Clayton was little he used to read Superman comic books.  Now that he's in space...he is Superman every day!

Flight Day 148

Clayton is coming home and he's so excited that he's doing flips in space! He writes to his mother, The time has flown by up here (ha ha) and life in weightlessness has been really fun.

End Notes

The book ends with two pages of facts about growing food in space, training to be an astronaut (in a pool!), gravity, teamwork, and lots of other things you didn't know. 

A STEAM book, this will be a great addition to the K-3rd grade curriculum. Not only will children learn science facts, but as Astronaut Anderson says, "Kids LOVE THE LETTER FORMAT. It encourages reading AND writing." 

By the way, most of the names used in the letters are real people in Clayton's life. It was his way of paying tribute to his teachers, college professors, childhood friends, mission control, and his family.


Do you want this book for the child or student in your life? Leave me a comment by January 1 at 6 PM and I'll enter your name. Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog. If you share this on social media (and tell me what you did) I'll enter your name twice. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Letters from My Tooth Fairy: A Picture Book Review

 Congratulations to Susan Rice who won TAILS FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER.

Letters from My Tooth Fairy, is Brooke Hecker's debut picture book. Written with a great sense of humor, I'm sure it won't be her last. Deborah Melmon's lively illustrations enhance the text. Together, they have created a book that belongs in every home and dental office. 

I have worked in my husband's dental practice and appreciate the facts that are intertwined with an entertaining story of a child losing her teeth. By the way, these letters are based on real letters Hecker's daughters received from their tooth fairy. 


Natalie loses tooth #1, the bottom central incisor, and her tooth fairy congratulates her on good tooth brushing and informs her that as she places lost teeth under her pillow, she will receive a "bit of money" in return.

Tooth #2 is lost during a blizzard, but the tooth fairy finds her way to Natalie's house. Tooth #3 is knocked out when Natalie runs into a wall.

Natalie worries about how big her teeth will grow, but the tooth fairy reassures her that she will not look like a walrus forever.

Throughout the book, the thoughtful tooth fairy knows a lot about Natalie's life, so when her baby sister is born, the Tooth Fairy leaves a necklace for Natalie. When Natalie moves and is afraid the Tooth Fairy won't be able to find her, she leaves her a shimmery fairy night-light.

Natalie worries about swallowing a lost tooth, and the smart Tooth Fairy answers her fears.

The story ends when Natalie is twelve and has her primary molars removed to get ready for braces. "It's always sad for me to say goodbye, but I am so proud to have watched you grow up." The tooth fairy says as she flies away with Natalie's two last baby teeth.

But she'll be back. Natalie's younger sister has her first loose incisor.


Sorry, no giveaway this week. I gave this book to my grandchildren so they could learn more about losing teeth!

But, this would make a great gift for a child or grandchild who loses his first tooth--or for your family dentist! 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

TAILS FROM THE ANIMAL SHELTER: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Carol Nelson who won A Girl Like You.

I hope you are enjoying hearing about the wonderful books that Sleeping Bear Press publishes; here is one for the young animal-lover in your home or classroom.


From the title, readers will immediately understand what this book is about. What they will find are poems on the left side of the page about animals who end up in shelters, and more details about these animals on the right.  Kid-friendly illustrations by Liza Woodruff draw the reader into the text.

The book invites the reader to meet the six and a half million pets who arrive at community animal shelters every year. Some are strays, some have been rescued from natural disasters, some are given up for adoption.  

The author, Stephanie Shaw, provides reasons why or why not a family might want to adopt a cat, dog, or another animal.  These pointers will help a child and family who are considering adopting a pet.

For example, would you want to adopt a skunk?

Or, a handicapped dog or cat that requires special medical attention?

There are also farm animals that need adopting. 

Personally, this wouldn't be my pet of choice, but along with turtles, lizards, and bearded dragons, some people want a quiet pet that doesn't have fur or feathers!

Rabbits and kittens are popular adoptees, but did you ever consider a bird? Since they have a long life span, sometimes cockatoos outlive their owners. A bird rescuer in Vancouver, Washington created a rehoming program for parrots as companions for veterans. 

Whichever pet a young person is considering adopting, this is a great book to consider all the options. Two end pages provide information on how shelters began, things to consider when adopting a pet, steps a child should take when thinking about adoption, and other resources.


Leave me a comment by 6 PM on Saturday, December 19 if you would like to be considered for this giveaway. PLEASE leave me your email address if you are new to my blog; I can't enter your name without that. Want an extra chance? Share this on social media and tell me what you did!

Monday, December 14, 2020

A GIRL LIKE YOU: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Cathy Ogren who won WINGED WONDERS.


Last year I reviewed Frank Murphy's book, A Boy Like You.  Today I'm showcasing the companion book, A Girl Like You (Sleeping Bear Press, 2020)  that is co-authored with his wife Carla Murphy. Both books are beautifully illustrated by Kayla Harren.


And the world needs a girl like you.

This is the opening of a book that affirms the unique contributions, attributes, and potential of every girl in the world.

The authors and illustrator show how the world needs girls who are strong, caring, brave, bold, and willing to try new things. 

Readers are encouraged to be diligent at whatever activity they try,

and to persevere through ups and downs.

Girls are encouraged to speak up because their thoughts and opinions matter.

Friends are important-- to share good times and to be there when a friend is hurting.

A Girl Like You encourages girls to show kindness, be thoughtful, take care of their hearts, seek help when necessary, and be themselves. 


This book will be useful in the K-second grade classrooms. It can be a great jumping-off point for important conversations in home or school. 


Leave a comment by 6 PM on December 16 to enter this giveaway. Remember to leave your email address if you are new to my blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

WINGED WONDERS: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Tricia Clark who won Fly, Firefly! from Monday's blog. She's an "old" friend, but a new follower to my blog. 

Author Meeg Pincus is a gifted author who I featured on my blog a year ago. I am new to Yas Imamura's work but as you'll see in the color palette she used in the illustrations, she is also very talented. This is another fine picture book published by Sleeping Bear Press.


In this way, Meg Pincus begins the story of how two Canadian scientists, many volunteers, a young married couple, and a village in Mexico worked together to solve the monarch migration mystery.

In 1976, the world finally learned the answer...with a groundbreaking discovery.

It began with Fred and Norah Urquhart, two scientists who spent 30 years studying the monarch mystery. In his lab, Fred tagged the butterfly's wings with--of all things--small price tags. Norah placed ads in newspapers throughout North and Central America asking for volunteers to tag butterfly wings. She kept track of every "tidbit of information" that was returned to her.

Thousands of science teachers, backyard gardeners, and other curious souls answered Norah's ads and became citizen scientists. 

Ken Brugger and his Mexican wife, Catalina, rode through Mexico for two years trying to track the butterflies' "twisting trail." 

Villagers in central Mexico directed the couple to look for the monarchs in their oyamel tree groves. 

Catalina kept 40 notebooks of monarch data and "crunched through early morning snow, high in the Sierra Madre mountains" and was rewarded by being the first to spot them.

But who provided the proof that Fred Urquhart needed to announce the discovery of The Great Monarch Migration?


Winged Wonders ends with a plea to help save the diminishing monarch population. The last spread encourages readers to be a part of preserving landing spots and airstreams on which the monarchs depend. The back matter includes more about the migration discovery as well as ways in which everyone can help monarchs. I'm going to see about planting milkweed in my garden! Here are some links to educational activities


Since I'm always interested in an author's journey, I found Meeg's interview on Kathy Temean's blog to be inspiring. If you've ever been discouraged by what appears to be a dead-end in writing a picture book biography (as I have!) here's another way to look at a topic. 


Leave me a comment (with your email address, if you are new to my blog) by December 12 at 6 PM. Share this post on social media for an additional chance to win the book!

Monday, December 7, 2020

FLY, FIREFLY! A Review and Picture Book Giveaway

 Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won the autographed copy of JUST BETWEEN SAM AND ME from last week's blog.

With the holidays coming up, I'm going to review and give away a few more books than usual. I know that many of you give these books to your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. I enjoy passing them along and would love if you share pictures with their books on Facebook (please tag me and Sleeping Bear Press too) --as long as their parents don't mind!

Today I have another outstanding book written by Shana Keller and illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki. Shana is no stranger to my blog but this is the first time I saw Ramona's evocative illustrations. 

With a few pictures and quotes from this rhyming picture book, I hope you will glimpse the beauty and hear the music in this story.


                                   to see the sea.

Attracted by bright lights in the ocean, the firefly ends up being whooshed out to sea. 

A young woman and her niece see him sink.

The woman wades in and scoops him out from the wet sand. Her niece explains to the firefly he is seeing bioluminescence swirling and twirling in the great sea. 

Cradling him in her hand, she brings him back to the tree line. 

"Trust us, you'll see. That glittering there is from the sea.
The glowing HERE is your own family.





This lovely picture book not only includes a message about the importance of "staying close" to one's family, but the back matter includes how Rachel Carson inspired this story and information about bioluminescence. Pre-kindergarten through second-grade teachers could use this book in their classrooms. See Shana's website for LOTS of ways to use this book as a resource. 


Leave me a comment if you wish to be entered in this giveaway. PLEASE leave your email if you are new to my blog. If you are a new follower, I'll enter your name twice--just let me know! The giveaway ends on Wednesday, December 9 at 6 PM. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

JUST BETWEEN SAM AND ME: A Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Susan Rice who won Memoirs of a Tortoise from last week's blog.


Ever since August, I've been sharing Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell's co-publishing journey. Now, it's time to review this novel for 8-12-year-old girls and for you to win a copy of Just Between Sam and Me! 


Right from the beginning, the reader discovers the reason for the title.  As Olivia opens a brand new journal and starts pouring out her feelings about sixth grade, she writes as if she is talking to her cat, Sam. At the end of the first chapter she writes, "Remember Sam, it's just between you and me."

On the first day of school, Olivia meets the new girl, Candace, who makes it clear that she thinks Olivia's town of Spring Hope should be re-named Spring Hopeless. Although Olivia is put off by Candace's spangly sequined jacket and fancy phone, she has more empathy for her when she discovers Candace's realtor father works all the time, her parents are divorced, and she recently lost her beloved grandmother.

But problems start. Olivia, Candace, and Isabella, Olivia's BFF, string bracelets that Olivia plans to sell to save money to buy a new halter for her horse, Star, at the next Spring Daze competition.  Soon after Olivia consigns the bracelets, the ones which Candace made break.  The weak ties of friendship between the two girls fall apart too. 

The tension between the two girls escalates and Candace starts bullying Olivia. She begins doubting herself and her friendship with Isabella but refuses to confide her fears to anyone--except to Sam.

Springtime brings Spring Daze and an essay contest. When Candace makes fun of Olivia's essay, their teacher steps in. "We have zero tolerance in this school for children who make fun of others or who are cruel in any way." Although Olivia appreciates her teacher's kindness, she refuses to snitch and reveal all the ways Candace has been tormenting her.

She finally divulges Candace's bullying to Isabella. "I figured if I didn't talk about them [the mean notes she had received], it would be like they weren't real and never existed."

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Olivia finally confronts Candace. Although she feels like blowing up, she realizes that she would end up sounding as mean as Candace. Instead, she quietly tells her, "No more lying. No more bullying. I've had it with you, Candace. Everyone is on to you. You won't have any more friends in Spring Hope unless you stop."

It takes a tornado tearing through the town for Olivia to learn a lesson about priorities and for the truth to come out about Candace. 

My other favorite part is the last chapter. But, no spoilers here. Buy this book for the 8-12-year-old reader in your life and read it with her. I think you'll agree that Sam is the real Star of the show. 


The back matter not only includes directions for making friendship bracelets and a recipe for queso dip (mentioned in the book) but also excellent notes to the reader about ways to handle bullying and websites for more information.


To enter this giveaway, please leave me a comment or send me an email. If you are new to my blog, make sure you leave me your email address. U.S. residents will receive an autographed copy; overseas residents will receive the e-book. Giveaway ends at 6 PM on Friday, December 4. For an extra chance to win the book, share my blog on social media or start following my blog. Just let me know which you do in the comments. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Lions & Cheetahs & Rhinos OH MY! Animal Artwork by Children of Sub-Saharan Africa: Picture Book Review


Today I'm sharing another unique book published by Sleeping Bear Press, Lions, & Cheetahs & Rhinos OH MY!. Sorry, no giveaway this time--I'm keeping this one for my grandkids. 


I love the concept behind this book. Each stellar drawing was made by a young African who participated in John Platt's non-profit program, How to Draw a Lion. 

Here is the program's mission statement from their website:

How to Draw a Lion is a program founded to provide art classes for children, raise money for their education with shows around the world, and to create awareness about child welfare and conservation.  The program has taken shape around art classes for under-resourced youth in sub-Saharan Africa, and now the US.  Each piece brings with it the spirit and personality of the artist who created it and the sale of the work raises funds for the organizations that support their education. All proceeds from the book are donated to the program to support these and future artists. 


Do you like wild animals? Would you like to paint one? How about a LION?

Young readers are invited into this gorgeous book with information about this ferocious hunter.

Each page leads naturally to the next. Maybe the reader won't want to get too near to a lion to draw her, so he might want to draw a gentler animal, like a zebra.

The text provides interesting information about each animal. Did you know that you can tell zebras apart because the pattern of each zebra's stripes is different, like fingerprints?

Cheetahs with all their spots are FAST! You better draw a cheetah before it dashes away...It can race at 65 miles per hour.

[Giraffes] are covered in spots too. Like the zebra's stripes, the pattern of posts on the giraffe's fur is special to each animal. 

Like the giraffe, here's another animal that loves to eat vegetables.

An animal that spends its day in the water and feeds on the grass at night is pictured here.

An elephant can drink 50 gallons a day--that's 800 glasses of water!

Female lions raise the cubs and are the primary hunters for the pride.

An animal this majestic inspires everyone. Let's all draw a lion and then paint it!

Other facts I learned reading this book:
  1. Impalas are a type of antelope.
  2. Leopards are shy.
  3. Some gorillas live in tropical forests but others hang out in the mountains. 


How to Draw a Lion concludes with information about endangered animals and habitat loss. By learning about African animals and their endangered status, you can help protect them.

Of course, this book would not be complete without directions on how to draw a lion; and these are included. If you don't get a copy for your child, grandchild, or classroom, you can follow this tutorial instead.

A cross-curriculum book, students in grades K-4th grade will enjoy the artwork and information about African animals. I hope many readers will be inspired by the art of other young people and attempt to draw animals also. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go draw a lion.


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