Saturday, November 26, 2022


Following up on last week's blog, I have two more picture books for you from Sleeping Bear Press for presents for a little reader in your life. Enjoy!



Written by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated (so very colorfully!) by Renee Andriani. 

This opening page sets the tone for the entire book:

Just before Christmas vacation, the first snow fell.

On her way to school, Miss Mary tested the snow for good packing.

She designed amazing snowmen and snow angels in her head. 

Excitedly, Miss Mary gave her students an extra long recess. 

Their little cold hands were frozen--nobody had any mittens!

Miss Mary would take care of that.

What was Miss Mary going to do? Her students needed mittens!

On the way home from school a piece of yarn from her hat came loose. That gave her an idea. She ran home and started unraveling her hat, scarf, and gloves.

Miss Mary worked at night--winding balls of yarn--and the next day she started knitting. With only two days before Christmas, she had to hurry!

Finally, she was done! She delivered her gifts to each student and on Christmas, her students were seen all over town--building snowmen, making snow angels, and helping to shovel snow. 

But the best thing of all appeared in Miss Mary's front yard.

Her students spelled out, "We love our Mittens in the snow outside her door.

Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens is more than a Christmas book. It's a story about a teacher's generosity and what it looks like when a person put others' needs before her own. And although the book revolves around an adult, (contrary to popular recommendations to writers that the protagonist must always be a child) Miss Mary is kid-like in her imaginings about playing in the snow. Plus, she had a problem and solved it in a very unique way. 

Back matter includes instructions on making a mitten ornament.


Written by Helen Foster James and with endearing illustrations by Petra Brown, this is the latest book in this family love series (my title!). I have reviewed Welcome to the World, Daddy Loves You in previous blogs. Every picture celebrates love within a family. 

Here is the opening page which invites Auntie into the rabbit's home and the reader into the bunny family:

We go together like ribbons and bows,
holly and jolly,
and tickles and toes.


Together, Auntie and bunny do make crafts, bake, decorate the Christmas tree, and make snow bunnies.

Family and friends with holiday wishes.
Mistletoe comes with big hugs and kisses.

Sugarplum sweetie, on this merry night,
we'll wish on a star and its twinkling light.

The book includes a place where the child's aunt can write a note as well as a place for a picture of the two of them.


Miss Mary's Mittens belongs in every school library and every aunt needs a copy of Christmas With Auntie.  If you are a librarian you will get an extra chance for Mittens and if you're an aunt, you get an extra chance for Christmas With Auntie. If you're both--I'll put your name into both giveaways. Just make sure you tell me in the comments who you are and what book you want. Please leave your name and email address if you are new to my blog. The giveaway ends November 30th.

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won Monster in the Briny, and to Emily Weitz who won Pirates Don't Dance from last week's blog.

Saturday, November 19, 2022


 If you're like me, you give books as presents. On today's blog, I have two fun books published by Sleeping Bear Press that will make great presents for a young pirate or sailor in your life. Both books use great wordplay which will tickle the ears of both kids and adults.



What happens when a young man (who loves to dance) signs up to be a pirate? Author-illustrator Shawna J.C. Tenney answers that question in this action-packed picture book.

More than anything, Jack wanted to be a pirate. 


When Jack heard the 
slosh slosh slap of the waves,
the flip flip flap of the sails,
the creak creak crack of the ship,
he felt the rhythm in his soul

But, he quickly found out that,

Jack danced without knowing it. At sword-fighting practice, he saw the pirates-in-training stumble and fumble. Jack couldn't help himself.

He showed his fellow trainees how to grand jete' over gullies during a treasure hunt. But that got everybody in trouble.

Finally, a feared pirate came on board. Jack and his friends hid and watched.

Jack couldn't just stand by and do nothing--he had to dance! 

It was a fierce battle. In the end, the Captain conceded. "Blimey! Keep dancing, Jack! KEEP DANCING!"

Jack's amazing dancing steps won the battle, the Captain's heart, and the reward of becoming an official pirate. From then on, everyone put their best foot forward.

Parents, grandparents, and teachers will enjoy the pleasure of reading this story out loud and children will enjoy the onomatopoeia and how an unlikely hero wins the day.

To read about Shawna's backstory for writing and illustrating this book, please see this post on Kathy Temean's blog.

Back matter includes an author's note, explanations of dance movements, and pirate speak definitions.


Lynn Becker's rhyming debut picturebook is about mythical sea creatures and the mayhem they cause when they meet up with a boat full of hardy, young sailors. Scott Brundage performs his magic with marvelous illustrations that are as funny and rollicking as the text. 

The first monster who appears even before the first page is a Kraken.

You would
Share some jokes and your best riddle,
Feed her cakes from Cookie's griddle,
Teach her how to bow the fiddle,
Kraken in the briny.
Just when the sailors successfully tame a surly, scruffly, sea goat, the ship gets a visit from a

The sailors 
Keep a bucket at the ready,
Mop his forehead if he's sweaty,
Tuck him into serpent beddy,
Serpent in the briny.

Next, the brave sailors meet a tearful turtle. They find innovative ways to cheer him up.

 Readers will be anxious to find out what sea monster is next. 

How about a hungry hydra?

"Yo! Ho! And up he's rising, Yo! Ho! He's quite surprising,

But wait. 

One of the sailors is sick of shipwrecking monsters.


Yo! Ho! And up we're rising,

Yo! Ho! We're all surprising,

Yo! Ho! We're harmonizing,

Monsters in the briny.

The back matter includes two pages about sea monsters and the music to "Monsters in the Briny" which is based on an old sea shanty about a drunken sailor. 

If you're interested in reading about Lynn's book journey, you can find it on Kathy Temean's blog

I recently took a webinar with children's book author Pat Miller. She encouraged picture book writers to look at different frameworks for their story idea. Using a song was one of her suggestions. Now I see how that can work so well--particularly with the imaginative team of Lynn Becker and Scott Brundage. This week Lynn and Scott will share some of the inside scoops behind this sea-faring creation in the Talking Story Facebook group. Don't miss the childhood game that inspired Lynn and some of Scott's drafts! (P.S. If you're not a member yet, just click on the link and request to join it.)


Please leave a comment by November 23 and let me know which book you're interested in winning. MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS IF YOU ARE NEW TO MY BLOG. If you follow my blog or sign up to follow it, I'll give you two chances

Congratulations to Theresa Milstein who won SUPERPOWER? from last week's blog. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022


Here is Elliott Kurta's first foray into reviewing nonfiction. He wants more opportunities--so I'm on the lookout for books to recommend to him. If you have a favorite nonfiction middle-grade, please leave the title in the comments.


If you could have any superpower, what would it be? In Elaine Kachala’s debut book, Superpower?,  (Orca Books: 2022) kids learn about wearable technology, or wearables, that make it possible to have super strength, flight, telepathy, and more! Distilling a complicated topic into an enlightening and profound book, Superpower? explains not only what wearables are but how they’re affecting our society.

Overall, Superpower? is the quintessential nonfiction book. Not only does it cover a cool topic—real-life superpowers—it does so with easy-to-understand explanations and eye-catching illustrations. Each of the chapters is rife with intriguing examples of wearables in use today, and will capture the imaginations of readers. This book is ideal for 9-12 year-olds kids, although it could be read to much younger kids. However, as new and challenging words and terms are occasionally introduced without contextual definitions, parental help may be needed either way.

Illuminating the world of wearables, Superpower? addresses the technologies that are turning science fiction into reality. Covering VR, prosthetics, fitness trackers, smart clothing, and more, the book addresses some of the obvious—and not-so-obvious—examples of wearables already in use today. The book also addresses not only the history of wearables and early examples of technologies but also a glimpse of what we can hope to develop in the future. Additionally, the book features interviews with young scientists and inventors working towards a brighter future. Below, you can see an example found on pages 22 and 23, in which Christina Mann demonstrates her invention, a sonar collar that encourages social distancing.

 A bubble ball? A spiked collar? Finally, a 3-D printed prototype. Christina Mann constructed and tested different designs to spark discussion about COVID-19 and social issues and create practical technologies to keep people safe while protecting their privacy and sensory rights.
Photo credit: Steve Mann and Christina Mann

However, the wearables in development are only half of the story. Superpower? also delves into how wearables have affected our lives, our interactions, and most importantly, our privacy. Despite being a children’s book, Superpower? isn’t afraid to talk about the ethical concerns regarding these new technologies. In between describing what fitness trackers and brain-computer interfaces are, Kachala takes a moment to remind readers what might happen if corporations have unlimited access to our data or if an AI “goes rogue” and takes over. In order to spur further thought, at least once or twice per chapter the book also includes sidebars reminding the readers to “slow down and think human.”

Overall, Superpower? sets itself apart in how it addresses the dilemmas surrounding controversial new technology. While the material is adjusted to a younger audience, quality is not compromised. The photos and illustrations throughout the book expedite the process, renewing engagement throughout each of the chapters. All in all, Superpower? is a great way to introduce middle-schoolers to non-fiction, encouraging the use of critical thinking while remaining an enlightening, exploratory book.

Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres who is more than happy 
to share his opinions on books.
In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running. 
       He is a 9th-grade student in Charlotte, NC.  


CAROLHow did your science background feed your interest in writing this book? 


ELAINE: I have a science and social sciences background. Back at the University of Toronto,, I took a Sociology of Health and Illness course, which hooked me and led me to a new career path. I'd worked as a medical technologist, made my way into hospital management, and considered doing a master's in health care administration. This sociology course started me thinking about the social, economic, and environmental issues that affect our health, well-being, and quality of life. 


CAROL: Did you write the book first or contact a publisher with a proposal?


Outside of picture books, writers usually develop a proposal for nonfiction. But crafting a nonfiction proposal is pretty intense! I had to do a lot of research to write the proposal. It included several elements:


  • An overview with a captivating hook and summary, noting the genre, key concepts, target age group, who would buy the book, and word count.
  • How the book compares to, and is different from, other books in the market.
  • Table of Contents, followed by a detailed outline of each chapter.
  • Three sample chapters (I had to do three because this was my first book so the publisher would see my writing style and voice).
  • Bibliography.
  • Marketing and promotion plan.
  • My bio.


Ted Staunton critiqued it. We made some tweaks, but overall, he thought it was great and recommended that I reach out to Kirstie Hudson at Orca Book Publishers. As luck would have it, Superpower? was a perfect fit for Orca Think, a new nonfiction series that looks at issues making headlines to give kids the tools to think critically. I am beyond grateful for Ted's support and Kirstie's interest in the book! Then, the research and revising continued!  

CAROL: Superpower? is remarkably up to date—including Covid in 2020. Was this a challenge?


Yes! It was my biggest challenge. As time went on while writing the book, I learned of new devices and made some replacements. Covid wearables are a perfect example. I did not have this in my nonfiction proposal, but since I wrote the book throughout Covid, I ran into fascinating information which demanded to be included.   


CAROL: Out of curiosity, did you meet the Manns?


ELAINE: No, not yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Because I wrote the book during Covid, this wasn't possible. But we corresponded regularly, and Dr. Mann graciously took an incredible amount of time to answer all my questions and send many fabulous photos. Also, he was one of the experts to fact-check the manuscript. I hope we'll meet up soon.   


Want to know how Elaine got interested in wearables? On Monday, I'll 

post her answer to that question on the Talking Story Facebook 

group. Not a member? Let me know in the comments and I'll send you

an invitation. 


To enter this giveaway leave a comment by November 16. If you are new to my blog, please include your name and email address. For each time you share this post on social media I'll give you another chance; just let me know what you do. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, you can email me with your contact information.

Congratulations to Hewi Mason who won MEOW! from last week's blog. 

For more great middle grade books, check out Greg Pattridge's blog on Monday. He features lots of fine books!

Monday, November 7, 2022

MEOW! The Truth About Cats a STEM Picture Book Review, Mini-Author Interview, and Giveaway!

 Last May I reviewed Annette Whipple's fourth book in the "Truth About Series," RIBBIT! Reycraft Books has just released the fifth book in the series, MEOW! I'm delighted to share some snippets and a brief interview with author, Annette Whipple


In keeping with the kid-friendly format that Annette began with SCURRY! The Truth About Spiders, MEOW! answers the questions kids ask most about cats. Written for the 7-10-year-old crowd, these questions form the backbone of the book. Questions like, "Do cats need people?" (obviously, we know people need cats);  "How do cats communicate? (the reader learns the difference between meow, hiss, and believe it or not--a growl!); and "How do cats land on their paws?" (can you believe their ears are part of their acrobatic skills?) will keep kids turning the pages. The photographs, information, and kitty cartoons are also very engaging. 

In this sample page, did you notice "Kitty Corner?" Different kitties take turns illustrating the information shown on each page. For example, the siamese cat above says, "If I fit, I sit! My whiskers told me this box is the purr-fect size."

Here are a few cat facts I learned:

  • At birth, cats don't breathe until their mothers lick them.
  • A cat's whiskers can detect temperature, feel vibrations, and help them "see" in the dark.
  • The position of a cat's tail will tell you how he is feeling.
  • A female cat chooses a male as a mate who has the strongest odor. (do you think that works with people?)
  • A cat's tongue is rough because of curved barbs called papillae. This enables it to can clean dirt and dander from its fur and skin.


True to Annette's passion for inspiring curiosity in children, the back matter includes common cat patterns, pictures of common varieties, fascinating feline facts, an experiment, a glossary, and helpful websites. The hardback's cover opens up to become a poster. Teachers, librarians, and home school educators make sure you check out the free resources on Annette's website.


CAROL: Why cats? Was it your idea or Reycraft’s?

ANNETTE: I brought the idea of writing The Truth About...wild cats, but Reycraft got very excited about domestic cats. Plus, readers have been asking about cats since Woof! The Truth About Dogs came out!

CAROL: Did you have any input on the terrific photographs?

ANNETTE: The designer chooses the photographs for the books. For MEOW, I didn't share many art notes, and didn't need any for the photographs. I wanted to make sure the illustration on page 25 wasn't going to be off-putting to any reader since the cat caught a mouse. For the science experiment, I took a picture of my chart so the designer could include something similar. I also showed an example of the cat population diagram that I wanted included in the back matter.

CAROL: I know you’re a cat lover—has this been a life long addiction or are cats new additions to your family?

ANNETTE: I had pet cats as a kid...and my husband and I have almost always had at least one pet cat. Now we have Kiwi and Soka!

CAROL: What did you learn that surprised you?

ANNETTE: A lot! I learned the importance of socializing kittens very early, tail communication, and how cats can show affection in surprising ways. I also learned my Kiwi kitty is right-pawed!

CAROL: What’s next? 

ANNETTE: Keep your eye out for Chomp! The Truth About Sharks for the next book in this series from Reycraft. I also have Quirky Critter Devotions: 52 Wild Wonders for Kids releasing in 2024 with Tyndale. 

Annette is holding two copies of her book. The hardback book has two covers: 
one is under the hardback's book jacket.

Check out this trailer from Reycraft to learn about the entire series! 


Leave a comment with your name and email address by November 10. If you want to send me an email instead of leaving your email on the blog, that is fine. This week, if you are new to my blog (or decide to subscribe) you will get an extra chance to win MEOW! If you are a teacher, librarian, or home school educator, you will get an additional chance. U.S. addresses only. 


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