Once Upon a Story
January 30, 2015

In Mary’s Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release date: March 17, 2015

Ages: 6-9

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

While the rest of her classmates were making pastries in cooking classes, Mary Nohl was making art—anything she fancied out of anything she could find. Inspiration struck Mary even when she wasn’t looking for it. Mary used common objects to make uncommon art. And one day, her garden was a gallery. 

        Mary Nohl passed away in 2001 at the age of eighty-seven. Her famous garden gallery is located in the front yard of her Fox Point, Wisconsin, home to this day.


About the Authors:

Tina and Carson Kugler both grew up in Milwaukee influenced by Mary Nohl’s garden of fantastical creatures. They blossomed into professional artists and created three rather loud creatures of their own. After years of dreaming about how to turn Mary’s wonderland into a book, Tina and Carson combined traditional and digital collage elements to capture the spirit of Mary’s art. The Kuglers currently reside in Los Angeles where Carson is a storyboard supervisor for Nickelodeon Animation, and Tina is a full-time children’s book illustrator. Visit Carson online at www.carsonkugler.squarespace.com , and Tina at www.tinakugler.squarespace.com.


My thoughts:

One of the wonderful things about social media is that you get to connect with people you might not get the chance to meet in real life.

Tina is one of those people. I “met” her on Twitter over a year ago (maybe? longer?) and have been admiring her art since then. You may recognize her  as the illustrator of The Change Your Name Store, which appeared here awhile back.

Now Tina is set to release her second book, a collaboration with her husband, Carson, and I’m so excited to be able to get an early sneak peek.  I know this book has been a work of heart for Tina, and it shows.

As with the best picture book biographies, this book focuses on Mary Nohl the way children will understand her best…as a child. Better yet, she’s a child with dogs. The Kuglers could have chosen to overlook this fact. It is, after all, Mary who ultimately creates these amazing garden sculptures, not the dogs. But the dogs were important to Mary, and so play an integral part of this story, too. Besides…what child doesn’t like a story with dogs?

It’s on an ordinary walk on the beach that Mary and her dogs first discover the little scraps of treasure. And then there’s more. And more. And more. Treasure most people would ignore, or throw into the trash, but that Mary uses to create her first piece of sculpture art. And after that piece, there’s more. And more. And more.

The text reads easily. There’s a smooth rhythm to it that parallels the day in and day out passage of time that leads us from finding that first scrap, to the magnificent sculpture garden that eventually surrounded the Nohl family’s lakeside cottage. The illustrations, like the sculptures, are a blend of colors, textures and mediums. We see what Mary sees: her scraps of paper with her big ideas, her colorful travels, her beloved lakeside cottage, her magnificent garden.

The garden where she always had room for “one more stone, one more shell, one more friend.”


You’ll have to wait a little longer to hold this book in your hands. But In Mary’s Garden is available for preorder now.


Have a wonderful weekend, friends.



January 19, 2015

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Published by: Schwartz & Wade

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled. 


About the Author:05_lauriethompson_PhotoByMaryBalmaceda (2)

Laurie Ann Thompson is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, a how-to guide for teens who want to change the world. An advocate for social justice, Laurie is dedicated to inspiring and empowering young readers. Emmanuel’s Dream is her picture-book debut. Visit her at lauriethompson.com.
A CCSS-aligned curriculum guide for Emmanuel’s Dream is available here

My Thoughts:
Happy Monday, all!
For those of us in the U.S., it’s also Martin Luther King Day. For many, it’s a day off of work, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on ourselves as a nation, and a man who believed that facing adversity did not mean ‘impossibility.’
Which also makes it the perfect day to share with you this story of not only diversity, but also plain ol’ hard work and strong spirit.
Emmanuel’s Dream is the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Today, Emmanuel is recognized as an athlete, an activist, and a philanthropist. His life (thus far, he’s only 37) has been made into a documentary (also entitled Emmanuel’s Gift), and he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
But before all that he was a kid in Ghana. A kid who wanted to do what the other kids did, and a kid whose mother believed he should do what all the other kids did. While this book contains moments that will make young readers gasp in surprise, or make round ‘o’s of awe, what also comes through is how normal of a kid Emmanuel was. Don’t most kids like to play soccer at recess, or ride bikes with friends?
I had the chance to ask author Laurie Ann Thompson what she would like her readers to take away from Emmanuel’s story. Here’s what she said:
What would you like to see children learn from Emmanuel?
I want children to learn that they, too, can be brave, creative, and determined enough to go after their dreams, no matter what challenges they may face in their lives or what other people might tell them along the way.
But we all know that picture books aren’t just for the young.  What would you like to see adults take away from Emmanuel’s Dream?
I hope adults take away that same message of empowerment for themselves, of course, but that they also understand the broader message of everyone having the potential to change the world. I think keeping that in mind would make us all a little more tolerant, a little more accepting, and little more supportive of one another. And that would be a very good thing.
I love her responses. Have faith, keep working, and be supportive of one another.
It does, indeed, seem like that would be a very good thing.


Thanks to Schwartz and Wade, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls. (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Monday, February 2nd.

 Good luck!

Follow Emmanuel on the rest of his tour:

Mon, Jan 12
Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13
5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15
Fri, Jan 16
Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19 (MLK Jr bday)
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Jan 20
Wed, Jan 21
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22
Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23
The Fourth Musketeer AND  Kirby’s Lane
Mon, Jan 26
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27
Teach Mentor Texts


January 9, 2015

When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Published by: Harcourt Brace

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell’s life is mostly wonderful. He knows he’s loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that’s okay–Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a “grrr “form in his throat. Otis can’t make jalapeno flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell’s daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say “”Adios, ” Otis.” But what will happen if she doesn’t?


About the Author:Kathi Appelt photo

Kathi Appelt’s perfectly wonderful stepfather was a terrific storyteller, and she grew up to become a teller of stories, too. She is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her picture books include Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, and the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard. Her novels for older readers include two National Book Award finalists: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath, which was also a Newbery Honor Book. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To download a free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guide, visit Kathi’s website at kathiappelt.com.

Watch the WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA book trailer (created by Kathi’s own two sons!) :


My thoughts:

I’m a big advocate for books that handle the tough stuff. As parents, we often want to protect our children from life’s challenges. Sometimes we can get away with that, at least for awhile. But inevitably, that tough stuff comes up, and when it does, it’s nice to have those books we can read with our kids. The ones that show children peers, families and situations like their own. It normalizes tough stuff, and makes whatever that child’s thinking,feeling, and experiencing “okay.”

When Otis Courted Mama is the story of a blended (coyote) family. Right from the start, it’s made clear that Cardell, is a well-loved kid (um, coyote). Even though his parents live in different parts of the desert, and even though each household is different, Cardell’s life is “mostly wonderful.” He doesn’t mind sharing his “perfectly good daddy” with his stepmother, Lulu, and his stepbrother, Little Frankie. And he doesn’t even mind the other coyotes who have come to court mama. They never stay around long, and then Cardell has his “perfectly good mama” back to himself.

So it’s a bit of a shock when Mama doesn’t say “adios” to Otis, who arrives one day with flowers and cactus candy. Cardell is confused. And defensive (this coyote is not like his perfectly good daddy!). And even a little protective of mama.  All emotions one might expect to see in a child whose parent begins a serious relationship with a new adult.

And while those relationships don’t always work out, some do. The adults who, like Otis, work hard to win the child over and who include the child, and who wait patiently…sometimes those adults become someone special. Not replacing mama or papa, but in addition to. And that’s the message Appelt delivers.

Jill McElmurry, who also illustrated the Little Blue Truck series, captures the essence of the Southwest that she grew up in.  From the golds and browns of day, to the purples and blues of night, to the bright red bandanna themed endpapers, every page explodes with color. And her subtle use of expression allows the reader to feel the full range of emotions, both Cardell’s and his mama’s, without Appelt having to put it into words.

A special book, especially for children of blended families, but also for children in other kinds of families, as they explore the different family dynamics the world has to offer.

And now:

EVERYONE can find a full-color door hanger and other fun downloadables at kathiappelt.com.

 Thanks to Harcourt Brace, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA.  (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Friday, January 23rd.

 Good luck!

 Renee F., you’re a winner!

Follow sweet Cardell on all his tour stops!

Mon, Jan 5
5 Minutes for Book
Tues, Jan 6
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Jan 7
Thurs, Jan 8
Unleashing Readers
Fri, Jan 9
Once Upon a Story
Sat, Jan 10
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 12
Geo Librarian
Tues, Jan 13
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog AND NC Teacher Stuff
Wed, Jan 14
Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Jan 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 16
The Fourth Musketeer


November 14, 2014

 Snowman’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

Published by: Two Lions

Release date: November 2014

Ages: 4-7

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

One wintry day, a hat lands on the head of a newly made snowman and brings him to life. Hiding inside the hat is a rabbit, who listens to the snowman read a story to some animal friends. When the snowman falls asleep, the rabbit hops away with the book. But the snowman isn’t about to let his story or the mischievous rabbit get away. The chase is on Filled with charm and fun, this wordless picture book from a beloved illustrator lets kids tell their own version of the story, even as they delight in the action-filled pages.

About the Author:WillHillenbrand2012 (2) - Copy

Will Hillenbrand has illustrated many beloved picture books, including Kiss the Cow by Phyllis Root; and Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!, and Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! by Maureen Wright. He has also written and illustrated a number of picture books, including Down by the Barn, the Bear and Mole series, and Mother Goose Picture Puzzles. Will enjoys visiting schools to talk about the creative process involved in making a picture book. He lives with his wife, Jane, and their son, Ian, in Terrace Park, Ohio. For more information, visit his website: http://www.willhillenbrand.com.


My thoughts:

(PSST! Once you’re done reading, scroll all the way down to the bottom for some free goodies, and a giveaway!)


I’ve written before about how much we enjoy wordless picture books. It’s a chance for my emergent reader to “read” the story, in her own words. And they’re often so richly illustrated that that story can change with every reading.

Snowman’s Story opens with an inquisitive bunny who discovers a top hat in a winter field. At this point, the reader already has an idea where this story might be going. Sure enough, a strong wind whips the hat up and onto the head of a nearby snowman, constructed by the forest animals. Immediately, the snowman comes to life, but instead of leading everyone “down the streets of town”, he opts for reading his newfound friends a story. When the story ends, bedtime looms and the sleepy animals depart, waving goodbye to the yawning snowman. But wait. Has anybody remembered the inquisitive bunny? Out he pops, grabbing the book, and suddenly the chase is on. Through the woods, over a gorge, ducking snowballs, Snowman and his friends eventually find the sneaky bunny, who has a surprise of his own.

 In our current Christmas collection, we have two copies each of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, and the Golden Book version of Frosty the Snowman.  In each case, one copy is so well-loved that the binding has split and the book falls apart in your hands. One of the Frosty books is from my parent’s childhood, so it’s on its third generation. Knowing that tiny hands don’t always equal gentle hands, we packed our old copies away somewhere safe a few years ago and bought newer copies to replace them. Thank goodness, because our children love both classic stories as much as we did.

 Snowman’s Story feels like a blend of the two. It has the warmth and richness of The Snowman, with the adventure and kid-appeal of Frosty the Snowman. Usually when I receive picture books for review, I immediately read them with my own pint-size reviewers. Who better to offer an honest opinion? This time, though, I’ve hidden the book. Every year, in the 24 days leading up to Christmas, the kiddos and I unwrap a seasonal book to share after dinner. The selected books are a mix of classic and contemporary, books we’ve had for years (or even from my childhood), and books I buy new. This year, I look forward to adding this one to the rotation. I’m anticipating frequent reads.

Check out this book trailer:

And now…



Congratulations, Maureen B.!


Want to win a copy for yourself? Two Lions/Amazon has generally offered a copy to give away. Enter below by 11:59m on Sunday, November 30th.  (U.S addresses only, please)



Even MORE Fun!


Help Snowman Find his Story (free downloadable game!)
Snowman’s Story Coloring Sheet
Follow all the stops on the SNOWMAN’S STORY blog tour!
Mon, Nov 3
As They Grow Up
Tues, Nov 4
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Nov 5
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Nov 6
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Nov 7
Momma Drama
Sat, Nov 8
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 10
Just a Little Creativity
Tues, Nov 11
Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Nov 12
Children’s Book Review
Thurs, Nov 13
Displaced Yinzer
Fri, Nov 14
Once Upon a Story
Unleashing Readers






October 29, 2014

My Yellow Balloon cover My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge, illustrated by Erwin Madrid

Published by: Minoan Moon

Release date: October 2014

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

It all started at the carnival…That’s where Joey makes a new friend: a bright yellow balloon. Joey and his beloved balloon do everything together, until the balloon accidentally slips off Joey’s wrist and flies far, far away. What will Joey do without his special friend?

Honest, unflinching, and ultimately reassuring, My Yellow Balloon ™ will resonate with anyone who has endured the darkness of grief, while offering hope for brighter days ahead.

My thoughts:

This week, I had a conversation with two others regarding books that deal with loss.

It’s a subject I have some personal experience with. A year and a half ago, my then almost 4yo lost her grandmother. As we often do, we turned to books as part of our grieving process and as a gateway to child-led conversation.

There are books about loss. Many, in fact. We read several of them. And yet of all the ones I weeded through, and of the ones that we read, there was only one that I really felt I would recommend.

I can now add a second book to that list.

This duo knows their stuff. Tiffany Papageorge comes from a theater background, as well as work with CBS and Disney. Erwin Madrid has worked for both Dreamworks, and in the video game industry.

The text is pretty straightforward. A young boy receives a balloon at a carnival from a balloon handler that is on the surface a kind old man, but the adult reader gets the impression that perhaps the gentleman is a bit something more, as he selects a ballon specifically for Joey, without looking and without pause. It is, of course, the perfect balloon for the child. Joey and his balloon then do everything together, and the balloon stands watch over the boy while he sleeps.

And then the balloon slips away.

Joey felt angry.

Joey felt confused.

Joey felt sad.

It seems that heavy feeling of sadness will be his new normal. Until, slowly, color comes figuratively (and, as beautifully demonstrated by the illustrations, literally) back into his life.

The ending is predictable, perhaps bordering on cliched. It’s a challenge to do a loss book that doesn’t have a predictable pattern. Joy, loss, grief, renewal. You WANT that pattern, to let the child know that the emotions, all of them, are real and normal. And that, at some point, the sadness eases. In a world where the picture book trend is “less is more,” My Yellow Balloon is unique in its longer word count.

But y’all, the illustrations. Madrid’s exquisite use of color and light, of saturation and lines, take the reader on an emotional journey even without the text. The story appears to be set in an earlier time period, giving it a classic feel. The illustrations begin bright and bold, moving to sepia-toned and shadowed as Joey enters a period of grief, then slowly warming again over time. Dramatic? Yes. But effective. And there is a foldout spread in the middle that is both beautiful and heart-wrenching.

Nobody wants to read the stories about loss, especially to young children. But it’s good to know, when the situation does arise, there are books out there.



October 1, 2014

1423183851 My Bibi Always Remembers by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Published by: Disney Hyperion

Release date: September 2014

Ages: 3-5

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Little Tembo, a baby elephant, is thirsty and her herd cannot find any water. But Bibi, the matriarch, “remembers the way to wet.” As Bibi leads them across the parched savannah, Tembo happily follows, every now and then getting distracted by her own memories of games she loves to play. With touching family moments interspersed between Tembo’s playful actions, this tribute to grandmothers will make a perfect read-aloud.


My thoughts:

When this book first arrived on my doorstep, I was getting ready to go out of town for the weekend with my eldest.  So after unwrapping it, I set it next to the reading chair upstairs, intending to get back to it the following week.

Upon my return on Sunday afternoon, it was my 2yo who followed me around, declaring we read the “e’phant book.” Knowing his attention span (about 3.5 seconds, on a good day), I gave him the book to flip through, but picked another one for bedtime.

Nice try, mom.

He accepted it that night, but the following day was chasing me again, “Read me e’phant book!” So that afternoon, I sat down and we started with the first page.

And read the whole thing cover to cover. And then he asked to read it again.

Perhaps it’s the lovable baby elephant as the main character, or the wide variety of African animals to identify, or the repetition of

When Bibi calls

everyone comes–

aunties, sisters, Mama–

one by one.


Searching for wet

which somehow has the slow, plodding feel of an elephant’s gait. Doesn’t matter. He was enthralled.

If you’ve read Stay Close to Mama or Just Like My Papa by this author-illustrator duo, you know that Buzzeo has a passion for the the animals of the African savanna. My Bibi Always Remembers, like its two predecessors, blends the wilds of this part of the world with tender family relationships, in this case a grandmother matriarch. Wohnoutka’s color palette is broad, taking us from the bright yellows and golds of morning, to the sharp blue skies of afternoon, and into the reds and purples of sunset. Through it all you have Little Tembo, a smiling, rambunctious, not-quite-obedient (elephant) toddler.

The sense of family comes through strongly. The elephants appear to smile, as they progress through their day–marching, resting, bathing–led by Bibi, larger, more wrinkled, more serious in expression than the others. Yes, it’s a story about elephant relationships, but it’s not a far leap to see one’s own human relationships in these giant animals.

A book to share between generations, a bedtime story, or, according to my own little reader (who continues to request this book) an anytime story, My Bibi Always Remembers is a beautiful addition to Buzzeo and Wohnoutka’s previous collaborations.


August 26, 2014

Watch Out Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child cover Watch Out, Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon

Published by:HarperCollins

Release date: August 2014

Ages: 8-12

Pages: 224

From the publisher:

Hilarious tween heroine Charlie C. Cooper—reformed bully, misguided fashionista, and so-called middle child—is back! This sequel to Confessions of a So-called Middle Child will delight fans of Louise Rennison, Mean Girls, and Harriet the Spy.

Charlie’s adventures offer a fresh look at middle school, bullying, and mean girls. In Book Two, Charlie navigates sudden celebrity and auditions for a television series, but a little white lie may endanger the one friendship Charlie can truly count on—and her connection to swoon-worthy crush Bobby! Poignant and seriously funny, Charlie’s account of her dilemma is one all tweens will relate to.

Charlie knows what it feels like to be stuck in the middle, but it’s finally her time to shine. After saving her friend Marta in the old Houdini tunnels of Los Angeles, Charlie’s become a local hero, gained sudden celebrity, and *MIGHT* just become a TV star! But will Charlie let her newfound fame go to her head? Watch out, Hollywood!


Note about today’s special guest post:

I have been sharing books here on this blog for several years. When reviewing picture books, I’ll often include the thoughts and reactions of my own young children, but when reading middle grade or young adult books, I’m on my own…my children are not yet old enough for those titles.

I read the first book in this series a while ago, though never reviewed it here. What I enjoy most about Charlie is her flaws, her brutal honesty. A reformed bully, yes, but not sappy-sweet. Charlie has learned a lesson or two about compassion towards others, but she’s still a teenage girl, one struggling with her desire to fit in while standing out, loving her family while rolling her eyes at their lameness. Charlie cannot be categorized. She is real, and complex, and, well, a pre-teen.

A couple of months ago, I shared Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child with with a friend’s daughter, Allison. She finished it almost immediately, and asked if there would be any more.

As a matter of fact…

Not only was there another one releasing, but it was releasing soon, and I happened to have a copy at home. I handed the book over to her the following week, and she finished it within two days, and then agreed to guest post here on Once Upon A Story.

So today, I’m pleased to have my first guest post by a young reviewer, right in the middle of those “middle grade” years.  I give you…

Allison’s thoughts:

In Spring of 2014 I read Maria T. Lennon’s book entitled Confessions of a So-called Middle Child and enjoyed it cover to cover. She writes with a very unique style, both straightforward and detailed at the same time. From the perspective of a teenager in middle school, she captures perfectly the essence of growing up and adds an unusual twist to it.

In Ms. Lennon’s second, Watch out Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the same techniques are applied and the storyline is as exciting as ever. When Charlie, our “hero”, has become very popular with the media, an offer is made to her from an agent who promises her own TV show. But what Charlie doesn’t know, is that telling a tiny little lie to get the part can result in big social troubles with potentially everyone at her school. All the people she considered as friends are quickly turning on her. Now, Charlie has to fix what she has done and make up for her mistake before it is too late.

Ms. Lennon has brought the story to life. The challenges that Charlie face have become bigger than ever, and she has done an excellent job of illustrating that for the reader. This book has used amazing storylines to point out that doing something bad early on won’t help your situation; it will just expose more and more problems later on. As a 6th grader, I would recommend this series to my friends, and I hope that there is a third book!


Thank you, Allison, for taking the time to stop by!

Want to know more about Maria?Maria Lennon photo_credit Chiara Berruto
Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café, or a library, writing novels, travel articles, or just passed out. To learn more, and to download a free curiculum guide, visit her website: http://confessionsofasocalledmiddlechild.com/.
Follow all of the stops on Maria T. Lennon’s blog tour!
Wed, Aug 13
The Hiding Spot
Mon, Aug 18
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tues, Aug 19
The Book Monsters
Wed, Aug 20
The Children’s Book Review
Thurs, Aug 21
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Aug 22
Booking Mama
Mon, Aug 25
Read Now, Sleep Later
Tues, Aug 26
Once upon a Story
Wed, Aug 27
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Thurs, Aug 28
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Fri, Aug 29
Beauty and the Bookshelf

And now…


One lucky winner will receive both books featuring Charlie C. Cooper–CONFESSIONS OF A SO-CALLED MIDDLE CHILD, new in paperback, and WATCH OUT, HOLLYWOOD! MORE CONFESSIONS OF A SO-CALLED MIDDLE CHILD, in hardcover! (U.S. addresses only.)

1. Fill out the form below

2. One (1) entry per household

3. U.S Residents only, please.

4. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 8th.

Good luck!


August 8, 2014

You Are Not Small You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Published by:Two Lions/Amazon Publishing

Release date: August 2014

Ages: 2-6

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Two fuzzy creatures can’t agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all!

The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size—it all depends on who’s standing next to you.

My thoughts:

We received this book a month ago. Which means, for the last month, I’ve been biting my tongue, trying not to say too much, because I knew I had this blog tour stop coming up.

You Are (Not) Small was an insta-hit in our house. The book arrived in the afternoon mail, we opened it right after naps. We read it once. Got to the end. And read it again. Both the 2yo and the 5yo, one on either side of me, demanding another read.

First, I love the play on perspective. I have a 5yo who, compared to her peers, is “small.” But if you ask her, she’ll tell you she’s “big”. She’s five, after all. Five year olds are big kids. “Small” is her 2yo brother, nevermind that he’s only a few inches shorter and a few pounds lighter. This books takes the idea of big and small and turns it on its head, with an ending that had my preschooler both thinking and giggling.

The text is simple, another reason this book was perfect for both my children. My youngest may not have understood the message about perspective, but he followed the simple plot. My oldest, who is just learning to read, recognized several of the words, and was able to read parts independently, something that’s hugely satisfying for an almost-kindergartener. Pair this with bright, bold illustrations and plenty of white space, and both kids were captivated.


I asked Anna and Christopher to share a little bit about themselves by answer a few questions. Here are their responses:

Chris Weyant and Anna Kang

You Are the best at recalling random and useless facts; nagging (according to my daughter).

You Are (Not) a fan of wet socks; shopping.

You Are happiest when reading.

You Are (Not) afraid to try new foods.


You Are the best at being able to identifying any actor just by their voice in commercials and radio.

You Are (Not) a fan of chalk.

You Are happiest when drawing or being with my kids. Or even better, drawing with my kids.

You Are (Not) afraid to try fixing stuff (even though I may make it worse).

Thank you, Anna and Chris, for taking the time to visit!
Want to know more?
Christopher Weyant’s work has been published worldwide in books, newspapers, magazines, and online. His cartoons are in permanent collection at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Anna Kang received her MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL is their first children’s book; they are currently at work on a sequel. They live with their children in New Jersey.
Be sure to visit all the stops on their blog tour!
Mon, Jul 28
Cracking the Cover
Tues, Jul 29
As They Grow Up
Wed, July 30
Susan Heim on Parenting
Thurs, July 31
5 Minutes for Books
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Children’s Book Review

And now…


Two Lions/Amazon has offered to give away one (1) copy of You Are (Not) Small to a lucky reader. To enter:

1. Fill out the form below

2. One (1) entry per household

3. U.S Residents only, please.

4. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Friday, August 22nd.

Good luck!

Congratulations, Courtney W.!


June 17, 2014

The Change Your Name Store by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kugler

Published by: Sky Pony Press

Release date: May 2014

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 32

From the publisher:

Who am I? It’s a question a lot of children seem to ask themselves, at which point being “them” simply isn’t enough. They want to be someone better. Many kids want to change their names. This is what happened to Wilma Lee Wu. One day, Wilma decides she no longer likes her name, and she sets off for the Change Your Name Store to find a new one. Once at the store, the possibilities seem endless. Mrs. Zeena McFooz, the storekeeper, says that Wilma can try out any new name she wants with one catch: she must “go for a ride” to discover what it means to be that name. Will being Babette Bijou from France be better than Wilma Lee Wu? What about Dominga Delfino from Belize?

My thoughts:

I’ve had to do it. Twice.

You stress over it. You make lists. You discuss. You scratch out. You add. You discuss some more.

Sound familiar?

Naming my unborn children felt like this huge responsibility. It’s important, that name. It’s how they will be identified for the rest of their lives. You want to do it right.

And you do. Eventually, my children received names. And honestly, I can’t imagine them as being called anything else. Maybe it’s because I’m used to calling that name 1,467 times a day, but the names just fit.

Wilma Lee Wu would disagree with me. Wilma is, in fact, so dissatisfied with her name, that she sets out to find the Change Your Name Store. Not easily located, Wilma trudges around town, finally arriving at her destination tired and messy, but confident in her ability to find the perfect new name.

Babette from France? Dominga from Belize? Nuru from Kenya?

Author Leanne Shirtliffe takes the reader on a global adventure, as Wilma Lee Lu tries on name after name, until she does, in fact, find the perfect name for her. A name that sends her running, rushing, leaping home to her anxiously awaiting parents. Written in verse, the text demands to be read aloud. But when the read aloud is over, put the book in the child’s hands and send them on an exploration of their own. Because artist Tina Kugler has hidden names throughout the illustrations. Names from the traditional, to the unusual, from North America to Asia to Africa to Europe. I found all four of our family members, plus the dog. It’s that little added bit of fun that kids will love. What’s better than finding your own name in a book?!

And because once you find your name, you’ll want to keep that book forever, I have a copy signed by Tina herself, as well as some fun swag,  to give away!



And the winner, according to random.org is…

Betsy T.!



1. Fill out the form below

2. One (1) entry per household

3. U.S Residents only, please.

4. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Tuesday, July 1st.

Good luck!



May 19, 2014

Annika Riz, Math WhizAnnika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills, illustrated by Rob Shepperson

Published by: Farrar Straus Giroux

Release date: May 2014


Pages: 128

From the publisher:

Annika Riz loves math more than anything, so when she hears about a sudoku contest at the local public library, she is determined to win it—maybe then her friends Kelsey Green and Izzy Barr will see that math is just as cool as reading and running. When the school carnival, the biggest fundraiser of the year, comes around, Annika realizes her class booth is losing money by selling their lemonade too cheaply. Annika embraces her math skills, saves the day, and shows her friends that math can be useful and even a bit of fun, too.



About the author: Claudia Mills, Philosophy claudia.mills@colorado.edu photo by: Larry Harwood

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of fifty early-chapter and middle-grade books, including 7 x 9 = Trouble!, How Oliver Olson Changed the World, and Zero Tolerance. Claudia was a professor of philosophy for over twenty years at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she received many teaching awards, before leaving the university to write full time. She has two sons. To learn more, visit her website at claudiamillsauthor.com.
Check out the downloadable curriculum guide for the Franklin School Friends here!



My thoughts:

Last fall, I read and shared Claudia’s middle grade, Zero Tolerance. I found her style to be simple and straightforward, but striking right to the heart of a very real issue.

Now, Claudia is bringing that same clear voice to a new series,  Franklin School Friends. The first book, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen released last year.  In Annika Riz, Math Whiz, we meet one of Kelsey’s best friends.  Kelsey, Annika, and their third “musketeer”, Izzy, do everything together. But there’s one area where Annika stands out: Math. Annika loves math. You could say she’s born into it. Her father is a high school math teacher. Her mother is a tax accountant. And Annika is convinced that she can teach her dog, Prime, to count.

Annika’s two best friends, however, hate math. So when the opportunity arrives for Annika to enter a Sodoku competition at the local library, she jumps at it. Not only will it be fun, but she’ll show her two best friends how wonderful math can be. In the end, though, it’s not a competition that wins her friends over, but a real life application that shows Izzy and Kelsey just how valuable Annika’s math skills are.


Just as Claudia Mills found the voice for the middle grade student in Zero Tolerance, so too has she found the voice for elementary students in Franklin School Friends. Her tone is light, her pacing quick, but the dilemmas Annika and her friends face very real. From unique interests to burnt cookies to classroom rivals to school fundraisers, she has captured what it is to be a “big kid”. Moreover, I appreciate that this series supports the idea that every child has a unique gift or talent, be it reading, math, sports, etc. One of those talents isn’t more valuable than the other and each child’s talent deserves showcasing.

Isn’t that a message we want all kids to hear?



One lucky winner will receive a copy of the first two books in the Franklin School Friends series–KELSEY GREEN, READING QUEEN (paperback) and ANNIKA RIZ, MATH WHIZ (hardcover). U.S. addresses only. Giveaway closes at 11:59pm on Monday, June 2nd.

Giveaway Closed!

The winner, according to Random.org is….

Rachel B!


Congratulations, Rachel!

Please respond within 48 hours to claim your prize.



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