Friday, July 31, 2015

Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell, Valeri Gorbachev

About the book: All Rufus Leroy Williams III wants is to go to school so he can learn to read his favorite book. But there's one problem: he's a pig and Principal Lipid says: “NO PIGS IN SCHOOL!” Rufus even gets a backpack, a lunchbox, and a blanket to prove he's ready. But Mr. Lipid won't budge. Is there ANYTHING Rufus can do to change his mind? Kim Griswell and illustrator Valeri Gorbachev have created a love letter to reading that's also a charming, original, and child-friendly first-day-of-school story.

My thoughts: Delightful Rufus is back again! Rufus really wants to go to school and he finds there is a "no pigs allowed" rule. He begins to persuade the principal that he really and truly is ready for school even if he is a pig. You see, Rufus dearly loves books. Turning the pages of his favorite books is a joy to him but he needed to learn to read the words - that's what school is for.

I just love the expressive, colorful drawings that capture the drool expressions and depict the scenes so aptly. The illustrations will provide ample opportunity during read-aloud sessions to engage the child in discussions that will increase his/her attention to detail.
What is "in" this book? I see a deeper, underlying theme of discrimination. "No pigs allowed" because of a variety of reasons. This isn't addressed, but can be during read-aloud sessions when ultimately the discrimination is set aside because the real reason to go to school is to learn. This is the strong ending and no one is discriminated against learning.

I see the theme of "having things" as a qualifier for attending school given a backseat by the truth that school is for learning - Rufus wanted to learn to read the words in his beloved picture book.

I see the story ending on the high note of students enjoying all aspects of school.

It is BACK-TO-SCHOOL time and this would be a good read at home for the kids starting school, in school libraries for read-aloud sessions, and for shelving at libraries everywhere. (rev. VG)

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review and the opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Summer will be over before you can say "Jack Robin" or quick as a wink and before the leaves turn red and orange. Mom will be buying backpacks, pencils, crayons and all kinds of goodies and tools of the craft of being a student. And for that first-ever-in-school-child there will be talks and instructions and all kinds of fear-allaying techniques.

Meet ALLY-SAURUS as she goes to her First Day of School.....

About the book: You can call her Ally-SAURUS! When Ally roars off to her first day at school, she hopes she'll meet lots of other dinosaur-mad kids in class. Instead, she's the only one chomping her food with fierce dino teeth and drawing dinosaurs on her nameplate. Even worse, a group of would-be "princesses" snubs her! Will Ally ever make new friends? With its humorous art, appealing heroine, and surprise ending, this fun picture book celebrates children's boundless imagination.

My thoughts: First a quick glance through the book at Richard Torrey's delightful drawings. He uses color sparsely and in just the right places. It emphasizes what is important in that drawing.

The children are sketched with lines for smiles and dots for eyes. And their teacher wears big, bug-eye glasses. There are lots of stripes on kids in their shirts, dresses, and leggings. Typical of kids. And drawings that make kids comfortable because they, too, can draw dots for eyes and lines for smiles.

Ally loves dinosaurs and her vivid imagination - so typical of the young child - carries the dinosaur on her very person. She is Ally-Saurus and she goes to school for the first time.

She meets the other children and find they, too, have vivid imaginations and their imagination has made them princesses, pirates, astronauts and other creatures and persons. Some don't want a roaring dinosaur around them, but soon they all discover that friends understand that each likes different things.

I just love Ally-Saurus. She will find her way into your, and your child's, heart and will help you to help your child enter their own first day of school. (rev.

Let's meet the author:

What gave you the idea for Ally’s “Saurus” identity and its relationship to her first day of school? 

First of all, Ally-Saurus was originally going to be about a boy. When my son was between the ages of 3 and 5 he often insisted that he was a giant black dog. He would then rattle off a litany of specific characteristics that he (as the giant dog) had, including sharp teeth, claws, and a spiked collar.
His description never varied, and if we ever interrupted him while reciting said attributes, he would have to start over—in case we had forgotten or missed one. In other words, while this was his imagination at work here, he was quite serious about it. Looking back on it, my wife and I concluded that he might have pretended to be this giant fearless dog to compensate for the fact that he was always the smallest child in any classroom he was in (he has Celiac Disease and before he was diagnosed and treated, was quite small).

I read a bit about your background and you began doodling as a child. Taking that talent to a professional level is amazing. Do you even feel you have lost your love of doodling and it has become a chore?

While I have never lost my love of doodling, I find that I don’t spend the same amount of time “just doodling”. Because I now do it professionally, and due to the constraints of time, I rarely just pick up a piece of paper or a pad and just doodle. If I do, I almost reflexively become aware of the fact that I need to be perfecting a character’s look, or expanding on an idea I’m trying to develop, and invariably that doodle becomes something else…. something with a purpose behind it. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love it just the same.

What advice would you give aspiring illustrators and authors of children’s books?

I would first ask them if they are really interested in creating children’s books or are they more focused on being able to hold that book up and say, “I DID THIS!”.
Those who will succeed are the one’s who are interested in the creative process. It is fraught with rejection and disappointment, but if they stay positive, and learn from the rejections or the mistakes, they will, in the end, make it. There is no one guaranteed path to success. There is one guaranteed path to failure, and that is quitting. As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Let's have some fun! Here is a link for downloadable activity sheets. These are sure to please. Word games, a maze, color, draw. Just sheer fun as a gift from Richard. CLICK HERE

HERE IS A GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY: Re-tweet the following & ATTACH AN ALLY-SAURUS PICTURE. (A simple cute & paste will do it.) Simple & you'll be entered in the giveaway. It MUST include the hashtag #Allys1stDay to be counted

Enter #Giveaway #Allys1stDay @richtorrey @SterlingKids ALLY-SAURUS 1st Day of School

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review from Sterling Publishing. Opinions are mine, alone. I received no compensation. The giveaway copy is also provided by Sterling who will send it to the winner.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If An Elephant Went to School by Ellen Fischer & illustrated by Laura Wood

About the book: Would an elephant learn the ABCs if she went to school? No way! She would learn to use her trunk as a nose, a straw, a hand, and a hose!

Through a series of questions and answers, readers learn about animals and their unique behaviors. And in the end, you might find yourself asking just what would you learn.

My thoughts: I previously reviewed Ellen Fischer’s If An Armadillo Went to a Restaurant and found it to be fun to look at just what various animals and critters would eat at restaurants. Ms. Fischer has just released a second in this series and it is just in time for those little ones going to school – either for the first time or returning – If An Elephant Went to School. Frankly, I enjoyed this one even more than the Armadillo story. This is just plain fun.

Laura Woods is again illustrating this book just as she did the Armadillo book. These animals are full of life, expression, and just down right cute. I like that she uses different tones of color in her illustrations than we normally find in kiddie books. She deviates a bit from basic primary colors and incorporates teals, russets, and variations of browns, greens and oranges. The colors literally pop.

There are lessons to be learned for these critters going to school. Each learns what is best for that type of critter. Would the bee learn to read? No, the bee would learn to make honey.
The story is great as a read-aloud book for group settings such as library groups, classrooms, etc. as well as reading it individually to a child. It can also be  read by early readers, though the vocabulary right be beyond really early readers.

At the end, the question is raised, “If I went to school what would I learn?” Then the comparison of learning what critters learn and what a child learns is brought about ending on a happy note where the child is brought into the story himself.
Giveaway dates: May 21 - Aug 11, 2015
3 copies available
Countries available: US
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy by the Mighty Media Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.

Bedtime Devotions with Jesus My Daily Devotional for Kids By Johnny Hunt Published by Thomas Nelson

ISBN: 978-0718036454
About the book: Bedtime is a precious time to spend with your child.  After the busyness of the day is done before your child nods off to sleep, snuggle up to read God’s Word and daily reminders about how much He loves and takes care of us.

Bedtime Devotions with Jesus is a collection of prayers and devotions written by pastors and other church leaders.  In this book are lessons on such topics as thankfulness, obedience, trusting God, being kind, loving others, and many more. God’s Word comes alive using simple language and delightful illustrations.  This book will teach your child the value and joy of spending time with God each day.

Review: Bedtime Devotions with Jesus is a very nice children’s devotional book. It has 52 weeks of devotions – one for Monday-Saturday.  Each devotion is definitely short enough for quick Bible time, but yet allows the parent to go deeper in discussion of a particular devotional topic.  It is definitely age appropriate for 2-5 year olds.  I believe it is vital to begin devotions at infancy and this book can easily help parents with that goal.

The graphics are really quite beautiful.  They have a water-color effect and who doesn’t love teddy bears.  The size of the book is great even for children’s small hands.

Although the title says “bedtime,” this really can be an anytime book.  Bedtime Devotions with Jesus would make a wonderful gift for new parents or grandparents.  (rev. P.Howard)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided to facilitate this review by the BookLook Blogger Review Program on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review. See it here.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

"This Land Is Your Land" by Catherine Ciocchi & illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Hardcover: 9781628555578, $17.95
Paperback: 9781628555660, $9.95
About the book: Take a trip around the world to discover a wide variety of Earth’s landforms and geological features through the rhythmic verse in This Land is Your Land. On the journey encounter plains, plateaus, and rolling hills. Find out how a stream can make a canyon or lava creates an archipelago. Read aloud and discover new terrain with the flip of each page.

Review: When I saw the title of "This Land Is Your Land," I immediately thought of the wonderful song by the same title. Alas, it was not in anyway connected to the song. It was, however, a great beginning book on geographic details of this wonderful World in which you and I live. Each two page spread is illustrated with youthful animated-style by Cathy Morrison showing the featured geographic typography the text describes. In a small box off to the side of each, there is further information provided.

Catherine Ciocchi has written in rhyming cadence a sweet and simple geography lesson. Kids won't even realize that they have just had a lesson geography. This is educational entertainment done well.

At the back of the book, there are several pages of additional information geared toward the child's learning more about the subject. The child can use these additional pages for learning map skills, land masses, and the causes of movement of earth. Super good information. (rev. V.Godley)

Author: Catherine Ciocchi (pronounced “Chokey”) has a degree in geology and teaches physical and earth science. Catherine has published several short stories and this is her debut picture book. She lives in New York with her husband and three sons. Visit Catherine’s website at

Illustrator: Cathy Morrison may have started her art career in animation but she soon fell in love with illustrating children’s books and has been doing so for 20 years. Cathy has illustrated Daisylocks, Nature Recycles: How About You?, Three Little Beavers, Animalogy: Animal Analogies, Dino Tracks, and Dino Treasures for Arbordale. Other titles Cathy has illustrated include Ig nacio’s Chair, and the Young Patriots Series including Alexander Hamilton, Young Statesman; Frederick Douglass, Young Defender of Human Rights; and Juliette Low, Girl Scout Founder. Cathy works from her home overlooking a beautiful view of the Mummy Range, on the northern side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out Cathy’s blog at

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.