Review: Night Owl Night by Susan Edwards Richmond

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Sova’s mom is a scientist who studies owls. During migration time, she works at night, catching and banding saw-whet owls before sending them on their way. Sova wants to go with her, but she must be patient and wait until she’s older. When the night finally comes for Sova to go into the forest with her mom, she learns about many creatures who live there, including the owls.

Night Owl Night by Susan Edwards Richmond captures the magic of learning about wild things and how they live while also introducing young children to scientific methods. Maribel Lechuga’s illustrations have a dream-like quality to them. The soft colors and flowing lines make readers feel they are on an adventure along with Sova on a fall night.

The story is sweet, too. Sova wants to know more about her mom’s work, and as she learns about it, she also understands the importance of it. The back of the book features more information about types of northern forest owls as well as a not on owl banding.

Night Owl Night is a great book to help young readers learn about owls and the natural world.

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

Review: Schonzzer & Tatertoes Take a Hike!

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Schnozzer & Tatertoes are two pup buddies who decide to set off on an adventure to find Tatertoes’s mother. They know the name of the farm where he was born, and they have a map. But they lose the map and must rely on getting directions from characters they meet along the way.

In Schnozzer & Tatertoes Take A Hike! by Rick Stromoski, those characters happen to be familiar ones from well known fairy tales. There’s a wolf and a little girl in a red cloak, two children dropping breadcrumbs, a witch with a cauldron, and more. In each case Stromoski adds a twist to the usual story that will certainly be fun for young readers to discover.

There’s also a small mystery. Everyone keeps telling the duo to follow their noses. They don’t understand what that means until they arrive at their destination in Buzzard’s Breath. It’s all lots of fun in a graphic novel form. I recommend this adventure for readers aged 6 to 10.

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

Review: Hands-On Science: Matter by Lola M. Schaefer

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Young children love science, even if they don’t know that’s what to call their experiments. Hands-On Science: Matter, by Lola M. Schaefer, can help bring the science concept to life with the introduction of a chemistry lab in a way that’s easy to understand.

Hands-on refers to the way young readers are expected to handle the book, as well as how experiments are conducted. Readers are told to smash the drawing of clay on the page, squeeze drawings of cherries to get juice, tilt the book to pour the juice, and more. Illustrations by Druscilla Santiago have a muted-tone retro look with pops of color that really catch the eye.

The steps outlining how solids can turn to liquids and then to gas are easy to understand and fun to think about. And it’s easy for parents to gather a few ingredients and follow of the steps at home with real cherries. Hands-On Science: Matter is a great combination of fun and educational.

Books As Night Lights: Helping Children See In the Dark

In her books for young readers, author Kimberly Kenna addresses big topics, like environmental stress, censorship, and child sexual assault. Kenna has said, “As a former fifth-grade teacher, I know how important it is to have discussions with children about relevant life issues, especially the challenging ones.” In this guest post, Kenna talks about how books can help bring about meaningful conversations about the hardest topics.

Books As Night Lights: Helping Children See In the Dark

Abuse. Mental health. Grief.

Kimberly Kenna photo

Ugh. Do we really have to talk about that?

We do. Especially with children.

If we don’t, feelings and actions related to these topics remain hidden. It’s no secret that kids, like adults, push down hard emotions or ignore them, trying to be strong. Many children live with these challenges daily, proving their resilience, but they’ll become even stronger by acknowledging their feelings. Books can help the traumatized reader feel less alone; the curious reader can experience scary things from a safe distance. Books offer a jumping-off point for rich discussions about empathy, hope, and healing.

Consider Charlotte’s Web. It’s a classic. It’s also a tear-jerker, whether you’re an adult or a child. But readers adore this story, and it’s due in part to the fact that E. B. White is honest in portraying death, a topic that many kids are nervous about and have possibly experienced within their own family. During tough times, it’s a comfort to read about someone else who feels the way we do. That book becomes our companion, a staunch protector who respects our capacity to feel deeply. At the end of Charlotte’s Web, children have survived something they might have seen as insurmountable, and they’ve experienced death in a way that’s enough removed from reality to make their exploration of it feel safe.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark McGinnis is a middle-grade novel whose protagonist, a trauma survivor, has been shuttled between foster homes for years. Her only comfort is her birth mother’s Field Guide to Birds. She immerses herself in the book, learning all she can about the creatures that can up and fly away whenever they like. Extraordinary Birds excels in its age-appropriate handling of themes such as abuse, bullying, and the role therapy can play in healing. But there are children (and I was one of them) who might find it hard to actually speak about these things. Not to worry, because there are other ways to discuss a book. We can go beyond words by engaging a reticent child with art projects or writing diary entries for a particular character, allowing them to respond to the book in a non-verbal way that is less anxiety-provoking. Using puppets or props to represent a character and then reenacting or improvising scenes allows kids to give their words to someone else to speak. By stepping back a bit, these activities may provide the bridge that’s needed to carry on an actual conversation about the topics in the future.

More and more children’s books grapple with difficult themes, and they are often written by authors who have experienced these issues themselves. I’ve been moved by the author notes in some recent middle-grade books where they bravely share personal truths. When children in similar situations read these notes, it’s not only a declaration that they are seen but also an open invitation to share their own truths with someone. By creating an environment that fosters understanding, empathy, and open dialogue, fiction becomes a powerful tool for navigating life’s challenges.


Bio: Inspired by writing and performing plays with her fifth-grade students, Kimberly returned to school for her MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. Her debut middle-grade novel, Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade (Fitzroy Books) is the first book in her Brave Girls Collection. The second book, Jett Jamison and the Secret Storm, is forthcoming from Black Rose Writing and has been nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Born, raised, and still living on the Connecticut shoreline, Kimberly now writes children’s books full time, always inspired by the power of play, thoughtful questions, and a lifelong belief in nature’s ability to heal. Connect with her at

Review: We Dug Up the World by Alexandra Stewart & Kitty Harris

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Most kids, and lots of adults too, like digging. There’s something about putting a shovel or a trowel into the mud or a sandbox or a garden bed and seeing what’s beneath the surface. And what about the people who turn that fascination into a career?

Alexandra Stewart and Kitty Harris created a book for young readers that tells all about what archaelogists, palaeontologists, and geologists look for when they dig into the ground. It’s called We Dug Up the World: Unearth Amazing Archaeology Discoveries. The book starts with a list of tools these professionals use. Things like trowels, and picks, and gloves and wheelbarrows. Then it goes on to tell about amazing discoveries people have made over the years. And some of them were just everyday people who were curious and started to dig.

Take for instance Mary and Joseph Anning of England who discovered the fossils of several sea-dwelling dinosaur fish near their home. Or Jacobus Brits who found a meteorite on his farm in Namibia. And George McJunkin of New Mexico who dug up an extinct bison.

The stories of each of these adventurers unfold with whimsical illustrations that sometimes curve and wrap around the drawings. Each two-page spread reveals something about how things from the past can solve mysteries and lead to more understanding about Earth’s history.

Young explorers will find a lot to love in We Dug Up the World, which has a tall format, making it easy to find on the bookshelf for reading again and again.

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

Book Review: Glitter Everywhere by Chris Barton

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Anyone who’s ever used glitter (and who hasn’t?) knows how even just a little can go a long way. And it keeps turning up long after your project is finished! But most people don’t know much about the background of this widely-used sparkling bit.

Glitter Everywhere! Where It Came From, Where It’s Found & Where It’s Going by Chris Barton aims to change that. More than a picture book, Glitter Everywhere talks about why people like shiny things, and how people have used various things over the ages to create that sparking look. For instance, glittery bits of beetles were used to adorn King Tut’s tomb. And the mineral mica has been used to make artwork and fabric and other creations sparkle.

Illustrations by Chaaya Prabhat are colorful and fun, showing lots of things where glitter is often found, like greeting cards and ornaments. Young readers will find interesting facts about the history of modern-day glitter, too, like a World War II product called flitter. Glitter Everywhere! doesn’t shy away from the controversy of the product, either. Glitter is a microplastic, after all, and microplastics are littering the ocean and hurting wildlife. But it also talks about what responsible companies are doing to create sustainable alternatives.

Glitter Everywhere! will have young readers thinking in new ways about an everyday product that children may use frequently. I recommend it for readers aged 6 to 9.

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

Book Review: Graceland by Nancy Crochiere

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A grandmother’s dying wish to see Graceland one more time. Her pink-haired teen granddaughter driving her there from New York in an old Volkswagen. Her daughter protecting a long-buried secret, trying to prevent them from reaching their destination. A cross-dressing cousin traveling with the daughter through the south. What could go wrong?

In Nancy Crochiere’s funny and touching Graceland, a lot goes wrong. Connections get missed, plans go awry, obstacles appear. Much of the story takes place during the journey from New York to Tennessee, when readers find out things the main characters hide, sometimes from themselves as well as each other. When they finally get where they are going, things unfold differently than they expect.

Throughout the story, truth unfolds a little at a time until all the pieces of the puzzle come together. Graceland provides and interesting glimpse into fraught mother-daughter relationships, and it shows how truth ultimately has the power to heal grievances.

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

Review: Malala Activist for Girls’ Education by Raphaele Frier

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Say the name Malala, and most people know it refers to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who was shot by a member of the Taliban in 2012 because she was outspoken in favor of education for girls. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, and she has continued to advocate for children’s education.

An illustrated book by Raphaele Frier, Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, tells the story of how she became so dedicated to her cause, and the ways she has spoken out over the years. Colorful, detailed illustrations by Aurélia Fronty add richness to the tale, which also helps readers learn about the history of Pakistan and the people who live there.

The last several pages of the book contain photographs of Malala and her family while detailing important events in her life and highlighting her quotes. It also provides more history about the controversy in many parts of the world over educating girls. Short bios of some people who inspire Malala, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., are also included.

While Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education has the size and look of a picture book for younger children, it’s more meaningful for ages 6 to 9, as it discusses concepts and ideas that help children that age understand life in different parts of the world. It’s an interesting story as well as a good reference book to keep in a home library.

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

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