Book Review: It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk

It's Not Hansel and Gretel cover image

When hard times hit Hansel and Gretel’s family, their father takes them into the woods and leaves them there. The storyteller says it was part of an evil plot to get rid of the children. But the two urchins know he was just going home for blankets to keep them warm, and then he lost his way.

In It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, writer Josh Funk brings humor to the classic fairy tale, with the children challenging the narrator every step of the way. He insists there were breadcrumbs, they say no way. He says an evil witch lives in the house in the forest, they are quite sure she’s a sweet old lady. Gretel objects to Hansel always coming first in the telling; Hansel puffs up from a strawberry allergy. In the end, the children take over telling the story and create their own fairy tale finish.

Edwardian Taylor’s illustrations show two big-eyed innocents who look for the good in the people around them and love unicorns and rainbows. Pages are filled with lots of color and details that are fun to discover, like the mouse musketeer in the witch’s kitchen, and a cast of bad characters from other fairy tales lurking in the woods.

It’s all great fun for parents and children, who are bound to get a chuckle out of this inventive retelling of Hansel and Gretel for modern times.

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

Book Review: Limitless by Leah Tinari

Limitless cover image

When Leah Tinari completed portraits of the U.S. presidents for her son, she found herself frustrated that all the portraits were of men. That experience, plus her reflection on the life and death of actress Carrie Fisher, inspired her to create 24 portraits of American women who were trailblazers in many ways. Each portrait includes bio information that becomes part of the art. Tinari added quotes either from or about each featured woman to create Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts.

In a note at the beginning of the book, Tinari says she wanted to celebrate each woman’s vision, uniqueness, and perseverance, and share their achievements with a larger audience. She also wanted to show her son that women could be role models.

Tinari included women who broke ground in music, sports, acting, comedy, politics, fashion, and more. Each portrait is lively, colorful, and compelling. Biographical facts frame each face, which makes it easy to get an overall picture of the personality of the person featured. The oversized format packs visual punch while also making the facts quick to read.

Among the women featured are Louisa May Alcott, Rachel Carson, Shirley Chisholm, Ellen Degeneres, Carrie Fisher, Georgia O’Keefe, Dolly Parton, Gilda Radner, and many more. The book finishes with a brief note of each woman that includes birth and death dates as well as a notation on one powerful moment in each life. I highly recommend Limitless for readers aged 10 and up.

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

Book Review: Raising Humans in a Digital World by Diana Graber

Raising Humans In a Digital World cover image

As an educator teaching middle-school students the basics of “Cyber Civics,” Diana Graber has heard her share of stories where kids get into trouble using technology. Yet she prefers to focus on the positive things that technology brings to young lives and how kids can become digitally literate. It’s a necessary skill she believes will help usher the next generation into using their devices in positive ways while staying safe online.

Graber’s book, Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology, provides guidance for parents who are not sure what to do about such things as setting limits on screen time, delaying social media activity, nurturing relationships both on and offline, and more. She suggests activities parents can do with their kids to help them learn some of the same concepts she teaches. She also suggests responses to clear problems like online bullying, fake news, privacy, and other concerns that come along with using many of the popular applications.

Graber’s suggestions provide a great primer for parents on how to guide their children on using technology in a positive way while avoiding some of the major pitfalls. I can also see it being used by educators who want to advocate for digital literacy training in their schools. You can find out more about the author and download a discussion guide at her website:

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

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell

Patricia Hruby Powell

I’m thrilled to present a guest post by author Patricia Hruby Powell, who has written so many books I have loved, including Loving vs. Virginia. In this post, Powell talks about the landmark case and her decision to tell the story in verse. Here’s what she has to say:

My mother was an activist. I remember as a child picketing with her at the grocery store, carrying a sign, “Don’t eat table grapes,” in support of migrant farmworker rights to be fairly paid. As a family we fought for integration in our town. So it’s no surprise that I am attracted to various subjects of social justice such as the individual’s right to marry whomever they choose.

My book Loving vs. Virginia opens with a Virginia law entitled the “Racial Integrity Act,” dated March 1924, which states: “. . . there are in the State . . . near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood . . . enough to prevent them from being white.”

The document continues stating that these “near white” people are trying to enroll in white schools and intermix with white society in various ways. This is the law that forbade Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, from marrying in Virginia. And it’s a Health law! And it remained the law in Virginia until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of interracial marriage in the Loving v Virginia case in 1967.

So Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter got married in Washington, D.C. and returned home to rural Virginia. However, their problems were just beginning. They were arrested five weeks later, in their bed, simply for being married.

Studying the historical documents relating to the case, I was not only floored by the blatant racism, but surprised by the carelessness involved. Richard Loving’s arrest warrant is barely legible. Surely the person filling out that form never dreamed that authors, filmmakers, lawyers and students would be studying this document for decades. In the second warrant, Mildred is not even named, but is designated as “­­­­­_______Jeter” suggesting that a black woman was invisible in the legal system. Only the white man was fully named. Equality and freedom may be improving for people of color and for women, but there’s so much work yet to do.

I’m often asked why I wrote Mildred and Richard’s voices in verse. In researching this book, I viewed Hope Ryden’s 16mm footage of the Loving family, filmed in 1963. Mildred’s gentle nature and her Southern accent, combine to make poetry. Verse seemed the natural route to bring her voice to life. Richard is also soft-spoken but there’s an edge of defensiveness to his voice. I made his lines longer and slightly choppier, with less correct grammar than Mildred’s. You can view the footage of the Loving couple online, in Nancy Buirski’s documentary, The Loving Story (2011). Also worth watching is the movie Loving (2016).

I hope you read my book as well as watch the films.

I invite you to visit my website at

Book Review: I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali and Anna Pirolli

I hate My Cats cover image

I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) by Davide Cali and Anna Pirolli is a great picture book for anyone who has a cat or cats and loves them despite the trouble they may get into. The two cats in the story, Ginger and Fred, create mischief of various types, including leaving black fur on white towels, knocking vases off tables, and dripping water on the floor. Sometimes they cause a ruckus just to get their owner’s attention. But no matter how frustrated their owner gets at the havoc they cause, all is forgiven by the end of the day.

Anna Pirolli’s illustrations reveal Ginger and Fred’s personalities, with subtle expression changes to show the cats being at times playful, content, and fearful. Parents and children will fall in love with these two characters as they relate to the animals in their own lives.

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

Book Review: This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change cover image

The story of how 12 black students integrated a public high school in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956 is not as well known as other stories of children breaking down race barriers during that time. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality brings that event to life, as it is told by one of the 12 to experience it: Jo Ann Allen.

Told in verse and co-authored with Debbie Levy, This Promise of Change reveals an incredible story of the author’s resilience and determination to bring about change. She and her black classmates endured everything from shoves and jabs in the hallway to threats of worse physical violence on their way to and from school. Outside protesters whipped up anti-integration emotions among locals.

Throughout the threats and the violence, arrests and protests, Jo Ann and the other students stayed the course. Looking back from the perspective that encompasses 60 years of history since that time, it’s hard to imagine high school students having to endure what this group and others like them endured. They started out only wanting equal access to education and activities and ended up paving the way for those who came behind them. Often, their courage created a toll on their families as well as themselves.

This Promise of Change brings up lots of issues to discuss around the integration of schools, what it means to take risks for something you believe in, and so much more. I highly recommend it for readers aged 10 and up.

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

Book Review: From an Idea to Disney by Lowey Bundy Sichol

From an Idea to Disney cover image

From an Idea to Disney includes quotes from Walt, fun facts, and definitions and explanations of some of the more complicated concepts surrounding the Disney company, including what it means to offer public stock. The story goes past Walt’s life to include the current state of the corporation. It’s sure to be a hit with young readers who are interested in everything Disney as well as curious about how the world of business works. I recommend it for readers aged 10 to 12.

From an Idea to Disney by Lowey Bundy Sichol provides an interesting look at the story behind the Walt Disney Company, starting with the childhood of its founder. From the time he was young, Walt loved doodling animal cartoons on his classroom chalkboard and performing funny skits in front of his classmates. His journey from young illustrator to Hollywood icon and worldwide recognition included quite a few ups and downs before he found success.

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

Book Review: That Night by Amy Giles

That Night cover imageJess and Lucas each lost a brother when a mass shooting occurred at a theater. Their grief affects them and their families differently; Jess’s mother is depressed and unable to work, Lucas’s mom becomes overprotective. When the two start to work at the same job, they realize that talking about that night to someone who had a similar experience can help them handle the repercussions.

That Night by Amy Giles looks at tragedy and how it affects the whole family. The story explores feelings of grief, guilt, depression, and learning how to continue on and be happy again after a devastating loss. I recommend it for readers aged 14 and up.

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