Saturday, July 20, 2024

Operation Sisterhood - Middle Grade novel review

 From time to time I receive advance copies of new picture books and middle grade novels to review. I appreciate the publishers' trust in me! I read them all, but sometimes I don't post a review here. Why?

Well, my mom taught me that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything. And as a writer, I know how hard it is to put your work out into the world. So everyone who publishes a book deserves kudos! But sometimes I'm not the right cheerleader. Maybe I don't connect with the character(s) but other people would. Maybe I've read similar books I liked better, and I can't get that out of my head.

Sometimes, it's something specific I just can't get past. Earlier this year I received an early chapter book I was excited about. But the opening scene contained behavior that I couldn't condone. Maybe in an upper middle grade or YA, but not for the age reader I pictured. And I read the whole book, and really liked the rest. I returned to the book a few times, but decided there are plenty of other people who might be able to recommend the book without my reservations, so I moved on.

An early middle grade novel that I will recommend  (purchased myself) is Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Crown Books, 2022).

Like the characters in the story, I grew up in a blended family. The fears and necessary adjustments that arise from moving into someone else's house that is now supposed to be your home were totally relatable.  Even the menagerie of animals was something I encountered too! The girls in the story are adventurous and fun to spend time with. The story takes place in Harlem, and I was a suburban/country girl so I enjoyed seeing this locale through the character's eyes. In the end I felt like I'd love to live on their block! The publisher's description is apt: a book "about the difficulties of change, the loyalty of sisters, and the love of family."

I have several great picture books that arrived while we were on vacation that I'll be reviewing soon!

Until then--happy reading, everyone!

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Bird Rehearsal by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Stacy Innerst


A quick take on a new release!

The prolific award-winning author Jonah Winter Jonah Winter is back with a look at the birds in his Pittsburgh neighborhood. BIRD REHEARSAL is a nod to the variety of birdsongs. Some of the words used to mimic the featured bird’s song didn’t ring true for me—but I know that bird species have multiple songs and the Philadelphia flock may tweet in a different accent! Structured over the course of a day, the illustrations by Stacy Innerst are what I found most compelling. The vivid colors and chaotic composition mirrored the noisy cacophony I hear in our yard. I was a bit surprised to see the barnyard chicken included in the grouping – until I recently visited Kauai and the chickens were everywhere! I wish I hadn't seen the bred in the illustration by the duck pond that might encourage families to continue feeding inappropriate foods.

Summary: Kids will flock outside to practice their bird calls!

Bird Rehearsal, published by Cameron Kids, released May 14, 2024.

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.

Themes: Birds, musicality

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday suggestions - visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blognull!

Friday, April 26, 2024

The Day Fin Flooded the World by Adam Stower

We lived in the UK for four years and I spent a lot of time hauling books back from the local library to read to our kids. I don't know if it's because of that, but I find I have a particular affinity for books by British and other European authors. Today is one of them.

Title: The Day Fin Flooded the World

Author/Illustrator: Adam Stower

Publisher: Andersen Press USA, 2023

Themes: Humor, Forgetfulness, Point of View

Ages: Suitable for 2+

Opening Lines:

"In a house beside the sea lived a forgetful boy called Fin. Every morning he forgot to make his bed, brush his hair, and switch off his lamp."

Why I like this book: 

I'm a big fan of absurdity and I like to laugh. Honestly, a lot of real life is absurd! Fin's expressions and dialogue--his regretful truthfulness--resonated with my experiences with the young ones in my life. The colorful illustrations bring a make-believe world to life.


  • Talk about Fin's character. What do you like about him? What do you dislike? 
  • Pick one of the fish in the illustrations and write their story. Where were they going? What were they going to do?
  • Try to remember a time you forgot something. Did something good or bad happen as a result?
  • Compare the Bird Queen to Mo Willem's pigeon. How is it similar and different in appearance and personality?
  • Read about scuba diving and compare it to Fin's experience.
  • Make a Paper mobile with fish on it with Teacher Sheila!

I enjoy hearing if you enjoyed this book recommendation. My review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday created and hosted by author Susanna Leonard Hill. The opinion in the review is wholly my own.

Friday, March 15, 2024

The Truth About Dragons by Julie Leung (art by Hanna Cha)

Sometimes I don't agree with the books that are chosen as award winners. This is NOT one of those times! This School Library Journal Best Book of 2023 and Caldecott Award Honor winner has gorgeous illustrations, and it an equally gorgeous read. I'm a little late for a link to the lunar New Year celebrations that would be a great time to share this, but it's so good you'll want to bookmark it for next year!

Title: The Truth About Dragons

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, 2023

Author: Julie Leung

Illustrator: Hanna Cha

Themes/Topics: Identity, Heritage, Dragons

Suitable for age: 4+

Opening Lines:

"Lean in close, my darling bao bei, 

and I will whisper a most precious secret about a powerful magic that lives inside you."

Brief Synopsis:

A mother tells her son a bedtime story about two different types of dragons in two different forests that meet inside her son. A celebration of mixed cultural identity.


  • Talk with listeners about their racial and cultural identities. Older readers may want to write a bedtime story about something from their heritage.
  • Ask listeners if their parents cheer for different sports teams - why or why not
  • Have listeners describe their favorite outfit for exploring a forest. What would they take with them?
  • Make a dragon craft - then make a second one! (Google 'dragon crafts for kids' for ideas)
  • Read other books about dragons. How are the dragons similar and different?
  • Read other books about being biracial. Mommy Evolution and Goodreads have lists with books depicting multiracial families.
What I like about this book:

This book reads like a love letter to a child's multiracial heritage--without being preachy. It's now my go-to book for this topic. It's a great story chock full of bold interesting illustrations to study. Kids can go back and spot the two grandmas and other forest creatures. I have to admit that I'm partial to the shiny green lettering on the cover too!

I'm always interested to know if you've read this book and what you think!
This review is being shared as part of Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday. For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Review by Wendy Greenley of How To Count to 1 written by Caspar Salmon, art by Matt Hunt

 There are some picture book titles that make me laugh. The book I'm reviewing today is one of them!

And the bright colors on the cover--ahhh--I had to take this one home.

Title: How To Count To 1

Publisher: Nosy Crow, 2022, Concept book

Author: Caspar Salmon

Illustrator: Matt Hunt

Suitable for Ages: 2+

Themes: Numbers, Humor

Opening Lines: Note: These deadpan lines do NOT show the broad humor that had me laughing


Welcome to a fun new counting book.

Are you ready to start counting?"

Brief Synopsis: The narrator invites kids to count images on each spread. But the images become wilder, and the items you're being asked to locate and find are more clever with each page turn. If you're a rulebreaker--you might even be able to count higher! Note: The library edition of the book has the endpapers partially covered, and this makes the "final" count for industrious kids more difficult.


  • Read this book on the 100th day of school, then ask the listeners why the book is appropriate for this day. 
  • Pair the book with other 100th day of school titles. Suggestions are on the Just Reed blog and Read Brightly website here
  • Practice free printable counting activities from Fun Learning for Kids
  • Have readers create their own "tricky" counting lesson using drawings or items collected
  • Ask readers whether they think the author really wants them to follow directions. WHy do they think this?

Why I like this book: 

While it certainly can be used for math lessons, I'm all about the humor in this book. The narrator's insistence to follow the rules, and the encouragement to spot the specified items meld perfectly with creative, dynamic over-the-top illustrations. 

I'm always interested to know if you've read this book and what you think!
This review is being shared as part of Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday. 

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

If You Find a Leaf by Aimee Sicuro - Book Review

     My favorite place to be is outside. Even in winter, I bundle up and go out for my walk.

    Spending this much time outside, and growing up in a plant-loving household means I know the names of the local trees and the book I'm reviewing today is perfect for kids who are like me.

Title: If You Find a Leaf

Author/Illustrator: Aimee Sicuro

Publisher: Random House Studio, 2022, Concept book

Best for ages: 2+

Themes:  Nature, Creativity, Art

Opening Lines

    If you find a leaf

    You could dream the day away.

    It could be a hat on a chilly day."

Why I like this book:

    The way this book sparks a reader's creativity makes it appropriate for a wide age range. The leaf parade would be perfect for little ones and older reader's can make their own leaf-incorporated drawings. While the child and her dog have a dreamy quality, the leaves in the illustrations and vibrant, realistic representations. Using the endpapers, kids can learn to identify leaves as well as take inspiration from the suggestions in the text. What I like best of all is the way the book puts reader's in charge of their ideas. YOU can create whatever you want!


    There are TONS of leaf activities available on the web, so I'll let you choose your own this time!

    The book includes an activity at the end for preserving leaves. I was always a press-between-paper or iron between two sheets of wax paper parent, so I learned something new! If you need more inspiration to create your own leaf drawing, illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi is one of my favorites for drawings that include pieces of nature as well as other 'found objects'. 

Let me know if you enjoyed this book recommendation in the comments! 

My review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday created and hosted by author Susanna Leonard Hill. The opinion in the review is wholly my own.

Friday, January 26, 2024

YOU RULE by Rilla Alexander - reviewed by Wendy Greenley

 Today's book review isn't a "story" book although it would make a good read aloud. It's a book that's a tool for learning about how to express your emotions, vibrantly illustrated by the author/illustrator Rilla Alexander


Publisher: Chronicle Kids, 2023, Nonfiction concept book

Author/Illustrator: Rilla Alexander

Themes/Topics: Emotions, Language

Suitable for age: 3+

Opening Lines:

"How ready are you? 

    not at all    thinking about it    just another minute    preparing    ready and willing . . ."

Brief Synopsis:

The author uses lists describing ranges of emotions appropriate in different situations, with an arc on each page suitable for the moment (slower to faster, smaller to bigger etc).


What I like about this book:

Little kids have BIG emotions, and sometimes they're hard put to name them. This provides a great resource for a variety of situations, and if an adult uses one of the expressions in a question they can help a child feel empowered to say Yes, THAT'S what I'm feeling! The book left me rarin' to go to recommend it. *wink*

I'm always interested to know if you've read this book and what you think!
This review is being shared as part of Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday. For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.