Explaining Away the Spooky

Grace, the main character in Ella Bailey’s No Such Thing*, is a clever young girl who explains away anything that might be perceived as spooky. Without hesitation and with great confidence, she identifies the culprit when objects go missing or are moved around.

No Such Thing is the perfect book for young kids who enjoy uncovering mysteries. Not to mention the amazing vocabulary! From savy sleuth to  presumed, suspected and pilfered, this book is great for word work with young readers. Using context clues and sentence structure to help determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.

No Such Thing is a wonderful read for kids ages 3-7. The illustrations are colorful and engaging. Ella Bailey invites the reader to revisit the pages, jam packed with realistic details, to find the ghosts on each!

Click here to purchase a copy of No Such Thing (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of No Such Thing in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

“We’re not all the same. Thank goodness we’re not.”

Nancy Tillman’s newest book You’re All Kinds of Wonderful is another magical, empowering picture book for young children that teaches an important lesson. Written in beautiful couplets, the story celebrates differences and the fact that we are not, in fact, all the same.

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful digs deeper than more picture books that explore differences, focusing on our different personalities and abilities as individuals. The story embraces the idiom of “bells and whistles” and says that when we are born, we’re each supplied with our own bells and whistles to set us apart. The bells are what we do best, but for some people it takes practice to make those bells ring. Sometimes figuring out what that bell is takes patience, other times getting good at ringing it does.

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful teaches the reader that not only are we all good at something, that the journey of uncovering what that something is can sometimes be long and challenging but to stick with it because in the end it’ll be worth it.

The powerful impact of this story reaches readers of all ages as it beautifully promotes resilience and perseverance. You’re All Kinds of Wonderful is a must have in any home or school library. As a classroom teacher, books like You’re All Kinds of Wonderful are invaluable in that they open up the dialogue for celebrating what makes us unique individuals.

Click here to purchase a copy of this book.

*I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

 

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke is an adventure filled retelling of the childhood classic Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack’s little sister Maddy was carried into another realm by an ogre. Jack and his friend Lilly bravely follow them through a portal into an unknown world of magic and terrifying creatures.

Though they begin the journey together, Jack and Lilly are quickly separated. Jack must choose whether to follow Lilly or to continue his pursuit of the ogre that kidnapped Maddy. The reader follows both characters through their parallel stories in their quest to save Maddy and themselves.

The character Lilly was a personal favorite as I read Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. It quickly becomes apparent that Jack is an impulsive and brave character, and if the two stayed together, Lilly would be the more cautious sidekick. The decision to separate the duo allowed Lilly to evolve as a character and to shine in an unexpected way. She is clever and emerges a leader.

Left to his own devices, Jack learns to be less of an act now, think later kind of character. He is protective of his sister Maddy who is on the Autism spectrum.

Ben Hatke skillfully blends adventure and fantasy in this second installment of an awesome graphic novel series. He continues to tackle important social issues including diverse family structure as well as different abilities.

Click here to purchase a copy of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

First Day of School Jitters

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex is a wonderful first day of school picture book read aloud for lower elementary school grades. The main character is Frederick Douglass Elementary School, a newly built school building that is experiencing first day jitters.

The school learns, through a conversation with the janitor, that children will soon be arriving and begins to feel nervous. Though the school observes all the students and their different interactions, it pays closest attention to one young girl in particular. A little girl with freckles who has to be carried into the school building by her mom. The school’s feelings are hurt when the children say they don’t like school or that they don’t want to be there.


The day goes on and slowly the different characters begin to relax and even have fun, including the school. At the end of the day when everyone has left except for the janitor, the school asks him to invite the children back the next day.

School’s First Day of School is the perfect book to read to young ones to get them ready for the first day of school. It captures and normalizes the nervousness that all kids, and even school staff and teachers experience each year as they prepare for the first day of school.

Click here to purchase a copy of School’s First Day of School (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

 

A Powerful Picture Book About Standing Up for What’s Right

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton is a wonderful picture book about curiosity and exploration. Erin Pike lives with her mom and dog in a big fishing town. Erin yearns to go out to see but it’s just too dangerous, especially the legend of Black Rock. Erin is a brave girl and all the warnings and cautionary tales do not diminish her desire to venture out to sea.

Erin devises the perfect plan to stowaway on her mom’s boat. Things don’t go exactly as she planned and Erin ends up in a very dangerous situation. Just then Black Rock wakes up and lends a helping hand. It is then that Erin realizes that Black Rock is not dangerous, it was in fact a very misunderstood creature. People fear Black Rock because they don’t understand it. In reality, Black Rock provides shelter for many different sea creatures.

 

Erin returns home to help reveal the truth about Black Rock, but the grown ups are so lost in their own misconceptions, they don’t take the time to listen to her. They are intent on viewing the creature as an enemy. Will Erin be able to change the way they see Black Rock?


The Secret of Black Rock is the perfect picture book for teaching kids to stand up for what they believe in and to advocate for others. It takes a girl with curiosity and courage to see something or someone for what it really is, rather than for what everyone else has told her it is. The diverse family structure portrayed is an added bonus along with the subtle yet impactful environmental message.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Secret of Black Rock (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

A Stunning Take on a Norse Myth

Joe Todd-Stanton’s Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Arthur and the Golden Rope is a remarkable blend between a graphic novel and a picture book. Here is the tale of young Arthur who joins forces with the Norse god Thor to take down Fenrir, a huge wolf who has terrorized his town and extinguished the great fire.

Though Arthur has had many adventures, the other townsfolk consider him a nuisance and doubt his ability to actually help them.

Instead of letting their harsh words get to him, Arthur decides to go find the god of storms.

It turns out that all of his previous adventures and experience collecting strange objects works in his favor. Arthur does not allow anyone or anything to get in his way, and when all seems hopeless conducts research and gets creative. A great lesson and skill for readers of all ages!

Arthur and the Golden Rope is an action-packed book with wonderful illustrations to accompany the text. The illustrations depict an ancient Viking land with magical objects and mythical dangers. It teaches that even the unlikeliest of characters can be the hero.

Click here to purchase a copy of Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Arthur and the Golden Rope.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

An Awesome Book About Friendship and Acceptance

Zombelina: School Days by Kristyn Crow is an awesome picture book about celebrating differences and being welcoming of a new student. Zombelina is an enthusiastic, friendly and quirky protagonist. She loves to dance and share her talent with her classmates.

One day a new student named Morty joins Zomeblina’s class. At first he has some trouble fitting in. Zombelina and her best friend Lizzie do their best to make him feel welcome and included.

 

There are so many things I love about Zomeblina as a character. She is an extrovert and confident. She embraces her weirdness and doesn’t allow her differences to bring her down. This allows her to make real friends and make the most out of each experience. Not to mention that Zombelina is a zombie and she is constantly chasing after different body parts and struggling to keep herself physically together, which adds the perfect comical element to the story.

The story is written using a fun end rhyme scheme and there are lots of clever puns throughout. Click here to purchase a copy of Zomeblina: School Days (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

We’re All Wonders

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio is the perfect companion picture book to Wonder. As a teacher, I’ve never seen a book capture the attention of a more diverse group of readers as Wonder. I was delighted to see that it’s powerful message has been perfectly captured in a picture book for younger readers.

Auggie is a young boy who is ordinary in all ways except for his appearance. Even though his mom thinks he’s a wonder, but many people cannot see beyond they way he looks to see him for who he really is.

We’re All Wonders is not only about accepting the differences of one child, but acknowledging that which makes us all unique and embracing that.

We’re All Wonders is a must-have for every home and school library to teach kids from a young age that we are all different whether that is our appearance, our religion, the languages we speak, etc. and that is not only okay, it is wonderful.

Click here to purchase a copy of We’re All Wonders (affiliate link).

 

The Challenge of Sounding it Out

I was immediately drawn to Phoebe Sounds It Out by Julie Zwillich when I read the synopsis. This is the perfect book for any child whose name isn’t easy to pronounce or to spell. My husband’s last name is 13-letters long and contains several silent Hs. It’s very rare for someone to pronounce it correctly. I cannot help but worry how our daughter will respond when posed with the challenge of spelling her last name when that time comes. I think Phoebe Sounds It Out will be the perfect addition to her library to encourage her to try her best.

When Phoebe’s teachers announce that the class will be practicing writing their names, Phoebe does her best to avoid the task. She sees her name which has been stitched onto her backpack by her mom, but that name starts with a P and she knows her name starts with the “Fff” sound. She figures that her mom made a mistake.

Phoebe’s teachers encourage her to try her best and to sound it out. The classroom environment is one that allows her to take risks and to try her best as she stretches out the letter sounds and slowly writes each letter. Her efforts are celebrated and her work goes up on display along with all her classmates’.

Phoebe Sounds It Out is a wonderful picture book for reluctant writers. It encourages kids to take risks and to take pride in their work. The illustrations by Denise Holmes perfectly capture the mood of the story, from Phoebe’s nervousness to the calm energy in the classroom. This book is relatable and accessible to readers of all ages.

The Caterpillar Corner and Owlkids Books have partnered in a very special giveaway of Phoebe Sounds It Out. For additional details please click here.

Click here to purchase a copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out in exchange for my honest review.

When Small Gestures Become Great Gifts

Sidewalk Flowers was conceived by Jon Arno Lawson and beautifully illustrated by Sydney Smith. This picture book is a wordless wonder. A young girl dressed in a red is walking along the busy sidewalks with her distracted father.

The young girl is curious. While those around her are focused on where they are going, she notices the smallest of details. She suddenly she discovers two small yellow dandelions growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk and so she picks them. As they continue walking together she picks many different types of weeds and wildflowers, creating a beautiful bouquet in her hands. On their way through the park, the father and daughter pass a dead bird. She is compelled to leave some flowers to honor the small creature. Then slowly, she gives away the rest of the flowers. From a man sleeping on a bench to a neighborhood dog.

Sydney Smith’s pen and ink illustrations are composed primarily of white, black and grays. At first the girl’s jacket and the flowers are simple splashes of color, but each time she gives her flowers away, more color is added to the world around her. The story is told using a series of panels with varied perspectives.

Sidewalk Flowers is a stunning book that invites the reader on a journey along with a humble and empathetic protagonist. We are encouraged to slow down and notice our surroundings. We are inspired to be intentional in our actions and kind to others.

This picture book is perfect readers ages 3-10. Younger readers will enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations and talking about what is happening in the story. Older readers can explore the more complex social issues that arise across the pages as well as the author and illustrator’s craft moves. What I love about wordless books like Sidewalk Flowers is that they are accessible to all learners.