Friday, March 29, 2024


 It is always an honor for me when an author allows me the privilege of sharing the cover of their book with the world. This time, I'm giving you a first peek at my friend Linda Phillips' new cover for the re-release of her YA novel, CRAZY

Isn't it stunning?

It's hard to believe that this poignant novel about mental health, family relationships, and art has been out for ten years.  Here is the review that I posted in June 2014. 

Recently I chatted with Linda on why Eerdmans decided to re-release CRAZY and her hopes for the book.


CRAZY won't be coming out until July but I'm starting the giveaway today. Linda will send a copy of her book to one fortunate reader when it comes out. Leave me a comment by March 27 and I'll enter your name. If you are new to my blog, please leave your email address; U.S. address only. Teachers, librarians, and home educators get two chances. 

If you want to make sure you get your own copy of this gut-wrenching peek into what life is like living with a bipolar parent, you can preorder CRAZY here:

Friday, March 22, 2024

PUSH-PULL MORNING: Dog Powered Poems About Matter and Energy

I wouldn't have believed that a book about matter and energy would be read by the picture book crowd, except that my third-grade and kindergarten grandkids are studying physics at school right now. Go figure. At their age, I would have had no idea that a catapult uses a fulcrum---or even what a fulcrum was--let alone build one for a class project! 

Eleanor's 3rd-grade catapult
(with some help from her dad).

Her younger brother, Caleb,
enjoyed the catapult too.

But I digress. PUSH-PULL MORNING (Astra Books for Young Readers, 2023) written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Serge Bloch is a fun-filled exploration of physics for young readers. And because the narrator's new dog is the star of the show, even kids who might not gravitate to science will be won over too. After all, who can resist a book with a dog that is physics-friendly? 


Using the unique vehicle of poetry, Lisa Westberg Peters tackles ideas that aren't easy to explain. 

Take the concept of Matter that is shown in the first poem, "Stuff in Common." The narrator comments on the fact that although he is different than his new pet, his dog's wet nose, floppy ears, and clicky claws are all made of

zillions of wiggly molecules and

jillions of jiggly atoms.

Me too!

My new dog and I 

are made of the SAME

wiggly-jiggly stuff.

From there, the reader discovers the Phases of Matter.

A dog is the perfect way to illustrate the concept of Motion. Whether she is chasing a squirrel, running back and forth, or panting and pretending not to care about the squirrel, the "Dog in Motion" poem says it all. 

Similarly, a dog clearly demonstrates the concept of Force in "Push-Pull Morning."  How?  Think about how your dog pulls on her leash to go outside or to greet another dog; how your dog has to be pushed inside the vet's office and how she pushes against your leg when she wants attention.

Clever, huh? 

There are poems about inertia (picture a dog who'd rather nap than go for a walk); gravity (will a dog go down a playground slide?); magnetism (a dog contemplates how a bone can be stuck to the refrigerator door); energy, friction, and electricity.

My generous dog

gives me electrons 

on cool, dry days.

She rolls around on the carpet

Her fur picks up electrons

until she is extremely negative.

Using activities that are familiar to young children and with the help of a super-smart, friendly dog, Lisa Westberg Peters brings physics into the realm of common everyday experiences. 

All I can say is that I would have liked my high school Chemistry and Physics classes if I'd had this book as a youngster. I'm thankful--and a bit jealous--of my grandkids!


It probably goes without saying that PUSH-PULL MORNING will be a fantastic STEM supplement in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. In addition, Lisa has ideas for combining science with poetry on her website. Since the concepts are not the easiest ones to master, the book would also be useful in middle school classrooms. Thanks to my friend, Linda Phillips, a former middle school teacher for pointing that out!

I am sorry but there's no giveaway this time. As you might have predicted, this book found a home in my grandkids' growing library.

Congratulations to Emily Weitz who won The Human Body: An Alien's Guide.

Don't forget to check out the other MMGM books featured on Greg Pattridge's blog!

Friday, March 15, 2024

THE HUMAN BODY: AN ALIEN'S GUIDE: A Graphic Novel Review by Guest Blogger Brooke Leela-Ann White

The human body… more like the heroic body!

The Human Body: An Alien’s Guide, written by Ruth Redford and illustrated by Leandro Cunha, is a graphic novel about human biology. This book features two aliens, Zag and Zog, who go on an adventurous mission to learn about the human body. 

I read it to my 5-year-old brother, Noah-Austin.


I recommend this book for kids in grades 3-4 since it is interesting, fun, and an easy read. Zag and Zog break down the human body into percentages:

The alien has three big eyes and the other guy looks like an oval!”- Noah-Austin White

The aliens fly through seven systems of the body on their spaceship.

In the skeletal system, the curious aliens learn about the bones of the body, cartilage, how bones can heal themselves, and the joints' functions. 

I taught Noah-Austin about his funny bone.

In the muscular system, Zag and Zog learn about the different types of muscles and their location.


Why is an alien in the body? They should be on the moon right now!”

- Noah-Austin White


Zog talks like an alien: "That’s it? Do they ever just feel zorpy?” he says when the two learn how many muscles the face uses.

The two aliens discover the nervous system and learn about electric signals sent to the brain notifying the brain what action it needs to perform. They also discuss how nerves are needed in different places for different movements.

In the circulatory system, these cool little monsters learn about blood, blood cells, germs, blood vessels, arteries, the heart, and blood clots.


The cells mistake them for enemies and start to attack them! Luckily, the extraterrestrials escape. 

In the immune system, they learn about oxygen, carbon dioxide, lungs, mucus, viruses, and, infected cells. But real trouble awaits in the digestive system. 

“The stomach mush looks like poop.”-Noah-Austin White

In the digestive system, the one-eyed and three-eyed aliens are educated about the process of how the body digests food, the small intestine, the large intestines, feces, heartburn, stomach ache, urination, infections, and lots more! Then, the aliens start to get trapped by the stomach acid made when the human experiences heartburn, but they find a way out (phew!) without any chaos, or digestion drama in the mix.

      Why does he have so many arms?” Noah-Austin asked.

Lastly, in the endocrine system, the spacelings learn about puberty, hormones, the pituitary gland, the pineal gland, the parathyroid, the thymus gland, the pancreas, the adrenal glands, and the thyroid glands. I had no idea these were such things--I can’t even pronounce them! The octopus-like aliens also discover how emotions affect hormones.

I find this story fascinating because the facts are formatted in a way that’s easy to understand. This story differs from other biology books because it is a graphic novel and kid-friendly. I also enjoyed how in each system the aliens don’t only learn about the parts of the body, but they also have an adventure/exploration!

I recommend THE HUMAN BODY: An Alien's Guide to any kid who wants to learn about human biology. I love this book because it helped me learn a lot of important information quickly. The illustrations helped me better understand what the parts of the body look like, and the cartoony art style gave it a fun feel. 

Brooke Leela-Ann White is an 11-year-old 5th grader who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has written two books, “ Cupcake the Lying Unicorn” and “Cookie Cat and the Tagalongs”. When Brooke isn’t reading or writing you’ll probably spot her sewing, scootering, swimming, or studying. This is Brooke’s fourth book review, She has been dreaming about becoming a book reviewer ever since she could read!


If you are interested in adding this book to your home or school library, leave me a comment by March 19. If you are new to my blog, make sure you leave your email address. If you are a new subscriber to my blog or an educator or librarian, I'll put your name in twice. 

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's great MMGM blog every Monday!  

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Food, Memories, and Writing: Connecting Food & People

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I'm participating in Charlotte's Community Read for 2024. The "Food, Memories, and Writing" workshops are going well and I'm having a blast. The first event was held at Visart Video and the participants ate it up--excuse the pun. 

We talked about Buttermilk Graffiti, the showcase book for the event, and how chef Edward Lee appreciated the layers of food history with each dish he tasted. He made me appreciate how different cuisines-like  Peruvian food in Patterson, NJ, or Nigerian food in Houston, TX, has become a part of the American landscape. 

We quickly settled into tasting, smelling, and savoring food prepared by Visart Cafe.

As attendees recorded their associations with the food and drink, I challenged them to write like Lee and capture specific details. Then improvising on George Ella Lyon's "I am From Poem,'' everyone remembered, freely associated, and wrote. There were no right answers--each person's creation was their own.

The results were delicious. One participant remembered the spiky okra plants in her grandmother's garden; another wrote about Bourbon in his home state of Kentucky. Watermelon chunks, olives, and triangles of toasted cheese sandwiches (along with small cups of tomato soup--of course) generated a bowlful of memories. 

A woman of Mexican heritage remembered how grilled cheese sandwiches and apple pie and ice cream seemed exotic to her as a child. Growing up, she envied this all-American food instead of the tortillas that her mother made from scratch every day. One woman brought little containers of tapioca pudding because it had been a Pennsylvania childhood favorite. Prompted by the way Lee found the history of different dishes, she was surprised to discover that tapioca had South American heritage.

One of my hosts, Mason Bissett, the adult services librarian at the Independence Branch, enjoyed watching strangers come together and--over the camaraderie of shared food--felt safe enough to share personal stories. I was impressed with the result: haikus, rhyming, and free verse poetry complete with personification, interesting points of view, and mood-inspiring words. 

Mason was glad that each person left with the realization that they could express their voice through writing. And even though they might not have thought of themselves as writers, for ninety minutes on a Saturday morning, this diverse group dug into a soup pot of memories and found delectable morsels that they served to the rest of us.

Edward Lee would have been proud. 

I didn't collect their papers so I can't share their work here. But Elliott Kurta, one of my talented teen book reviewers, agreed to share two of his poems with you. 


Watermelon Children

by Elliott Kurta


I am from heat

My tendrils spiral into the soil, sipping its moisture

Fat on dew, I am swollen with the spirit of summer.


You slaughtered me in the kitchen

Cracked my green skull into pieces.

You sucked pulp and marrow from the rinds,

Spilled my seeds across the marble countertop.

Hands sticky with sin

You cleansed yourself with chlorine and sunblock

Took fireflies hostage so they couldn’t share what they’d seen.

Greedy children.


But I shall have my revenge

For I have lodged a dark afterthought inside your body

Planted a seed in the folds of your stomach.

Green with youth and chlorophyll

You shall know what it is like to be full with the spirit of summer.



Ode to Olives

by Elliott Kurta

Athena’s promise

Briny as the Aegean Sea

Swollen crabapples.


A Note on this Haiku

            According to an ancient Greek legend, the citizens of Greece were once in conflict over what to name their newest city. Athena, goddess of wisdom and combat, and Poseidon, god of the seas, both wanted to be the city’s namesake. Poseidon offered the people a well of salt water as a gift, but as it was so salty, they were unable to drink from the well or water their crops with it. Athena gifted the city an olive tree, explaining that the wood could be used to build ships, the oil could be used in lamps and to heal wounds, and the olives could be eaten. Athena won the competition, and the people named their city “Athens” in her honor.


Elliott at work.


Do you wish you could have been there for all the fun? It's not too late to sign up in these Charlotte branches. Here is the schedule:

North County. March 18, 12:30-2. Register here.

Matthews. March 26, 6:30-7:45. Register here.

Main at The Market @7th Street. March 27, 10:30-12. Register here.


You can adopt this activity for use in your home, classroom, or library. Keep it simple. Pick non-messy foods that kids can pop into their mouths. If you want a copy of the "I Am From" poem which I adapted, please email me

Congratulations to Heather Skinner who won Underwater World from last week's blog.

Monday, March 4, 2024

OUR UNDERWATER WORLD by Sue Lowell Gallion: A Nonfiction Picture Book and a Giveaway

Some of you may remember a few years ago when I shared Sue Gallion's unique board book, OUR WORLD (Phaidon, 2020).  Since that book came out, she published OUR SEASONS: THE WORLD IN WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER, and AUTUMN and now has another book in the series. OUR UNDERWATER WORLD: A FIRST DIVE INTO OCEANS, LAKES, and RIVERS (also illustrated by the talented Lisk Feng) is a poetic exploration of our natural waterways. 

Open the book--and you have a globe!
Photo courtesy Sue Gallion


The book opens with a gentle invitation:

Rivers run, oceans flow, 

Ever wonder what's below?


Let's explore, take a dive....

                    (page turn)

                   The underwater world's alive!


With soft pastel illustrations and sensory poetry, young readers will be drawn into the world of fish, mangrove trees, sharks, kelp, and coral.  

Although the poems are simple, each word packs a punch. Consider this illustration:

paired with these words:

Mountain streams

in liquid motion

Rivers stream into the ocean. 

 Readers discover:

Sea life thrives 
In layered light,

                   (page turn) 


In deepest ocean,
Always night.

The book concludes with a global perspective and a simple plea for conservation.

A world deserving,

Our protection

                    (page turn)


Around the globe,

Our blue connection.

For older readers, each page has a text box with more in-depth information. Having read the book, I can unequivocally say--I didn't know there were more volcanoes underwater than on land and that whales swallow thousands of krill in a single mouthful!

Sue Gallion is a masterful poet whose love for our earth caresses every page. This book will be a "treasure trove" -- like a precious coral reef -- for home and school libraries. I picture art and language art units culminating with bulletin boards stocked full of underwater scenes inspired by OUR UNDERWATER WORLD. It will become a kindergarten through second-grade classroom favorite. Activities related to the book will be on Sue's website in April. 


Do you want to win a copy of this book? Leave me a comment by March 7. Let me know if you are an educator or librarian, or if you sign up to receive my blog. I'll put your name in the hat twice. U.S. addresses only. If you are new to my blog make sure you leave your email address.

By the way, Sue has another book coming out in the fall from Phaidon. We can look forward to hearing all about it!


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