Book Review: Counting Sea Life With the Little Seahorse

Counting Sea Life Witht he Little Seahorse cover imageWhat do you get when you combine a counting book with underwater sea creatures, rhyming words, and a touch of whimsy? Counting Sea life with the Little Seahorse by Sheri Fink and Derek Taylor Kent.

Kids will have fun learning about ocean life as they count up creatures, some that are well known and others less so. Whales, turtles, crabs and seals are included as well as narwhals, blowfish, and pipefish. Numbers go up from one to twenty, then provide kids with an extra challenge by skipping to 30.

The authors add alliteration (i.e., dandy dolphins, tuna in tutus, jolly jellyfish eating jelly), and a lot of whimsy. For instance, the oysters are performing Shakespeare, the pipefish are pirates, and the narwhals are ninjas.

There are also downloadable coloring pages (click on image to download and print) The Little Seahorse Coloring Page 1The Little Seahorse Coloring Page 2









and a way for kids to interact with the authors at the end. It all adds up to a fun way for kids to learn to count with the Little Seahorse as their guide.

For additional info, you may want to check out this interview with the authors:

The authors provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

Her Right Foot cover imageIconic images of the Statue of Liberty show her from the front, with torch raised high. So most people are unfamiliar with her feet, which are mostly covered by her long robe anyway. But author Dave Eggers wants readers to notice her right foot, which he says holds a timely message about what the statue represents: acceptance of immigrants.

Written with humor and candor, Her Right Foot tells the story of the statue’s creation in France and how it made it’s way to New York. It’s full of facts presented in a way to appeal to young readers. For instance, Eggers calls attention to the copper skin that “is about as thick as two pennies.” He also writes that for about 35 years the statue was brown, which is the color of copper before it oxidizes into a greenish-blue hue.

Facts about her height, how she was built, the symbolism of the seven spikes on her crown, and more build up to a little known fact about her right foot. Eggers uses imagery of that foot to offer a reminder about what the statue itself symbolizes, both to Americans and to people all over the world.

Art by Shawn Harris is sometimes playful, sometimes serious, and it helps the story flow. Her Right Foot is a great book to share with children aged 5 to 8 as a way to start a conversation about immigration and its historic role in the U.S.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Ada Lace, On the Case by Emily Calandrelli

Ada Lace cover imageAda Lace is new in town and her mom wants her to make friends before school starts. She meets Nina and the two of them start observing life in Juniper Gardens, which is their neighborhood. As the two get to know the habits of the people who live around them, they come to believe that someone has kidnapped a neighbor’s dog. It will take all their powers of observation, and then some, to solve the case.

Ada Lace, On the Case is a series about a girl who loves science and logic. She has pet turtles, an imaginative younger brother, and she uses technology to solve mysteries. While she doesn’t always come to the right conclusions at first, she’s open to reviewing evidence that will help her change her mind.

Renée Kurilla’s illustrations go along with the cute story perfectly. It’s a great idea for a series and it’s sure to inspire kids ages 8 to 11 to turn their observation skills to the world around them.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands cover imageMaya Lin was thrust into the national spotlight when her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., completed as a college project, won out over other entries. In her early 20s, she found herself in a struggle to keep the integrity of her vision during a national conversation in which powerful people demanded changes. The experience set the tone for major projects that would come throughout her career.

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin tells the story of Lin’s life in a biography accessible to young readers aged 8 to 12. While showcasing Lin’s work, the story also focuses on her groundbreaking role as an artist, an achievement even more impressive considering she began her career during a time when women and minorities had to work extra hard to be taken seriously. Photographs show not only Lin’s work, but how people interact with her installations, which include buildings, memorials, and places in nature.

The book’s release coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, which makes it a good time to reflect on the social changes that have occurred during Lin’s career.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion and Joyce Wan

Pug & Pig Trick or Treat cover imagePug and pig are great friends, but that doesn’t mean they like the same things. Pig loves to put on a costume for Halloween, go trick-or-treating, and have fun at a party. Pug hates tight costumes and doesn’t care about Halloween. Pig is feeling sad that she’ll have to celebrate all on her own until Pug gets a great idea that will make them both happy.

Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion looks at how friends can be different and still find ways to have fun together. Joyce Wan’s illustrations are adorable. Her simple lines depicting smiling and frowning faces convey lots of emotion so little ones can grasp the significance of each character’s actions throughout the story.

Parents looking to add a Halloween picture book to their bookshelf can’t go wrong with this ode to friendship and individuality.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with Deborah Lytton, Author of Ruby Starr

Yesterday I featured a review of Ruby Starr, by Deborah Lytton. Today, the author guests here to talk about writing for young readers and her plucky heroine.

Deborah Lytton photoHow did you get started writing?

DL:  I was a child actor and so initially I began with writing screenplays. I took a number of screenwriting classes and wrote a handful of scripts and television samples. After a few years, I realized that there was more I wanted to say than would fit in the pages of a script. So I started taking fiction writing classes. My favorite books have always been the books I read between the ages of 7-12 so I focused on writing Middle Grade fiction. It’s hard to believe that I wrote my first Middle Grade manuscript over seventeen years ago.

What do you like most about writing for young readers?

DL:  I have tremendous respect for young readers. They are very discerning and pay attention to even the smallest details. It’s an honor to write books for them. I love that young readers become so invested in the stories they read. The characters become part of the reader’s lives and that makes writing for this group of readers so incredibly rewarding. I also like the fact that stories for middle grade readers can have inspirational characters and happy endings. I really do love a happy ending.

What do you find the most challenging?

DL:  I find writing humor to be most challenging. It’s important to get the timing just right and if it isn’t funny, the young readers will be the first to let an author know. I try to find a balance so that the reader is in on the joke while it also comes as a surprise. My humorous scenes go through the most revisions.

You’ve written books for several different age groups; do you have a favorite age to write for?

DL:  I write stories that speak to me, and sometimes this leaves me switching from one age group to the other. JANE IN BLOOM was upper Middle Grade, SILENCE was YA, and RUBY STARR is Middle Grade. My favorite age group is Middle Grade, so no matter what else I might write, this is the age group to which I will always return.

Ruby likes to read and has a big imagination. Were you like that growing up?

DL:  I was very much like Ruby except that I didn’t get into trouble with a lower case t! I did love to read and imagined all sorts of scenarios for myself. My dad used to take me and my sister to the library every weekend when we were young. I would check out the same horse books over and over again. When I wasn’t reading horse books, I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries. I always had a book in hand. I preferred to read one book at the time, rather than switch back and forth. I still prefer to read one book at a time. I always had a big imagination and would create plays for my sister and me to perform for our parents. They had to watch a lot of performances!

Why do you think Ruby’s friends are so quick to follow Charlotte’s lead when she shows up in class?

DL:  Ruby’s friends are very interested in the new girl. Charlotte has a strong personality and she brings some unique ideas to the group, so she pulls the girls to her quite easily. Fifth grade girls tend to socialize in groups that can sometimes be very exclusive. Charlotte is able to reform the group with herself as the center because the girls are excited about getting to know her. The other girls hurt Ruby because they are making decisions based on what is good for them without thinking about how their actions might hurt Ruby. This happens so often with girls in school. They exclude a friend sometimes without really understanding how hurtful this is to the person left out. I wanted to open the door to a conversation about this and show one positive way to resolve it.

What helps Ruby most when she feels as though her friends are rejecting her?

DL:  Ruby relies on her family for help when she feels lonely. Her family is really supportive, if she shares with them. But sometimes Ruby keeps things to herself. Being a book person, she also turns to books. Her favorite characters have struggled during difficult situations but their courage helps them to persevere. This inspires Ruby. Ultimately, it is her own inner strength and compassion that helps her most.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers at Mother Daughter Book Club. com?

DL: My daughters are 13 and 16 and we have a book club of our own. We read the books out loud and switch off chapters so that each of us has a chance to read and to listen. I think it’s a wonderful gift to be able to share the love of reading with my daughters. Reading and discussing books together has definitely created special memories for us. On my website, I have book discussion questions that you can download for your own book clubs. I hope you enjoy reading RUBY STARR. Thank you for having me here today at Mother Daughter Book Club!

Book Review: Ruby Starr by Deborah Lytton

Ruby Starr cover imageIf there’s one thing Ruby Starr knows, it’s books. She loves to read and has her own book club with her best friends at school. She also knows that when a new character appears on the scene it often means trouble. So when new-student Charlotte arrives, Ruby is pretty sure she’s trouble; she just wonders whether she’s trouble with a capital “T” or a little “t.”

In The Fictional and (Sometimes) Fabulous World of Ruby Starr author Deborah Lytton has created a lovable character with a big imagination. Just like the fiction she loves to read, Ruby often imagines scenes from her life where she rides on dragons, fights a sorceress, and gets to be a hero. She has a close group of friends and a loving family.

So she’s surprised and hurt that the new girl has so much power over her friends. Charlotte says she hates to read and even convinces Ruby’s friends to turn book club into drama club. Acting on advice from her mom and grandma Ruby reaches out to new friends and even gets to understand more about Charlotte.

Ruby Starr offers lots of issues for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 8 to 11 to discuss including navigating changes in long-term friendships, forging new relationships, being true to yourself, recognizing when your own actions make a situation worse, knowing how and when to say “sorry,” and more. Plus, anyone who loves to read will certainly love reading about a character who loves to read too.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author Josh Funk Talks About Updating Old Fairy tales With Humor

Yesterday I reviewed It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, a  classic fairy tale with a twist (don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a copy). Today I’m featuring a guest post where the author, Josh Funk, provides a funny look at why he choose to write the story the way he did. Here’s a bit of info about Funk:

Like Jack, Josh Funk loves telling his own stories. He is the author of the popular picture books Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and its sequel, The Case of the Stinky Stench, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; Dear Dragon, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo; and the upcoming How to Code a Sandcastle illustrated by Sara Palacios in partnership with Girls Who Code. Josh lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at, and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.

You can find a book trailer, collector’s cards, and more at

Why did I choose to take a familiar old tale and inject it with humor?

A guest post by It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk author Josh Funk

Josh Funk photoFive beans?

Jack traded his cow for five beans?

Jack, a poor boy, with no father, traded one of his few possessions for ONLY FIVE BEANS?!

Apparently, the answer is yes. And amazingly, Jack selling his cow for a handful of beans is the most sensible thing that happens in the traditional tale of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Because next:

  • A giant beanstalk grows to the heavens overnight (a little magic never hurt a fairy tale).
  • Jack decides to climb the beanstalk (cause that’s definitely what I’d do if a mutant beanstalk grew in my backyard while I slept).
  • Jack decides to break into a huge house in the clouds (despite the fact that the inhabitants are clearly a hundred times his size).
  • Jack decides to steal from the giant homeowners (at this point, what else is there to do?).
  • Jack manages to outrace the giant DOWN the beanstalk (physics, shmysics).
  • Jack takes his axe (which must be his only possession left), chops down the beanstalk (should he apply to be a woodsman with these skills?) and kills the giant (hooray for death!).

And after committing three counts of grand larceny and murder, Jack lives happily ever after.

Are you as perplexed as I am?


I wondered what would happen if Jack had keen sensibilities and a sharp wit? The story probably wouldn’t get past page 2—at least, not without Jack giving the storyteller a piece of his mind.

And that’s why I wrote It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk—a picture book where Jack talks back to the narrating storyteller. Reluctantly he sells his cow. He doesn’t climb the beanstalk without a hefty argument. And breaking into a giant’s house? Spoiler alert: that’s a terrible idea!

In It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack is no longer the lucky fool. No, no, no. In It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, the fool is played by the story’s reader—who actually expects Jack to follow the irrational, albeit traditional, story.

And it’s my hope that children get huge laughs at seeing their parents, teachers, librarians, and caregivers look utterly foolish while trying (and failing) to tell the familiar old tale.


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