Wednesday, June 30, 2021



Author Mason Deaver indicates in his author's note he wrote I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST because it was the book he needed when he was younger. Readers can now have the book they need to be recognized as humans of value no matter how they think of themselves. Deaver's words will help countless youth looking for a special story with characters who learn to speak their truth.

Ben used to think he was gay, but reading online blogs and "meeting" others who felt the same, Ben realizes they are nonbinary. Briefly, this means they don't identify in a binary male vs female sense. Ben's descriptive pronouns are they and them. After this realization, it seems obvious that Ben should reveal this to their parents. 

The result of saying those three words, "I am nonbinary," ends with Ben's parents kicking them out. With only one semester of senior year left, Ben calls their sister Hannah. She left home ten years ago and they haven't spoken since.

Fortunately, Hannah and her husband Thomas come to the rescue. They invite Ben to live with them and help them enroll in the school where Thomas teaches so they can finish senior year and graduate. Reuniting with Hannah isn't easy. She's helpful, but since she hasn't truly come to terms with leaving home years earlier which left Ben to deal with their parents alone, she has her own ghosts to deal with.

A bright spot in Ben's new life is meeting Nathan Allan. He is the perfect person to be chosen to guide Ben around their new school. Although, Ben finds it difficult while hiding his true identity, a fast friendship develops between the two. 

Readers will follow Ben's story as they become reacquainted with their sister, start seeing a therapist, and deal with parents trying to get them to return home. It's not easy, but with the right support, coming to terms with a difficult situation may be more possible than Ben first realized.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

ALL ABOUT HORSES: A Kid's Guide to Breeds, Care, Riding, and More! by Kelly Milner Halls


If there's a horse-loving kid in your life, check out this soon-to-be-released book about the gentle giants. ALL ABOUT HORSES introduces elementary readers to all sorts of horsey facts. 

Who knew there are hotbloods, coldbloods, and warmbloods in the world of horses? Author Kelly Milner Halls explains the history of horses and breeding in her clear, easy to understand text. Also, included are facts about their behavior and appearance. Added illustrations by Jessie Willow Tucker make recognizing various breeds, sizes, and colors fun.
Readers will find chapters on care and riding that offer valuable tips and will convince eager readers that there's a lot to the upkeep of these large creatures. Halls does an excellent job of reminding readers that even if they love horses, keeping them is a huge responsibility.

Scattered throughout the text are random facts about famous real and fictional horses. Fun jokes and quizzes round out the reading as additional entertainment. A glossary and other resources for further reading are also included.

Thank you to Callisto Publishers for the review copy.

HALFWAY TO HARMONY by Barbara O'Connor


Author Barbara O'Connor hits it out of the park once again. HALFWAY TO HARMONY is full of humor, adventure, and downright fun.

Walter and Posey become a problem solving duo as they try to help an odd man named Banjo on what he describes as his "bodacious adventure." Walter misses his older brother Tank who was killed in action after enlisting in the army. Posey, addicted to facts and finding fun for the summer, takes Walter under her wing promising to teach him the rules for making new friends.

When a strange man shows up with a broken truck and a story about the colorful hot air balloon that needs rescuing, Posey and Walter decide to lend a hand. According to the man nicknamed Banjo, he needs to fix his truck and find his balloon before an event called the Macon County Key Grab. Banjo's great dream is to fly his balloon and successfully grab the key to a brand new pickup truck from the top of the goal post at the nearby high school.

There are many problems to solve before Banjo can reach his dream. Walter and Posey agree to help, but it will mean breaking some rules and daring some dangerous situations. Readers will be rooting for the duo and holding their breath as the fast-paced action of HALFWAY TO HARMONY begins to roll.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

REVOLUTION: The Sixties Trilogy #2 by Deborah Wiles


REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles may be part of a documentary novel trilogy focused on the 1960's, but it's like reading about 2021. The Freedom Riders are swinging through Southern communities speaking about Civil Rights and helping folks register to vote. Throughout the story of Sunny and her family, Wiles includes posters, speeches, quotes, and more that detail the unrest of the Civil Rights era.

People say Sunny's small town of Greenwood, Mississippi, has been invaded. The invasion is people both black and white and young and old who have come as part of a drive to register more black people to vote. They come from all walks of life, but many are college students spending their summer in the South to work for the cause.

Sunny must adjust to all these newcomers as well as the new family she inherited when her father remarried. She has a new brother and a new little sister. They seem ok, but she isn't used to sharing her father and her home with anyone since her mother left years ago.

Summer adventure for Sunny begins when she and her step-brother sneak into the local swimming pool one night. It turns out they aren't the only ones with that idea. Sunny brushes up against a black boy looking for the same adventure. With all the upheaval in town, Sunny isn't sure how her father will respond if she tells him the truth about their unapproved late night swim. Because of the tension of the times, Sunny's summer is not going to be a peaceful one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca


Reha feels like she inhabits two different worlds. At school she is Indian American. She doesn't always fit in with her handmade clothes and her vegetarian lunches. At home she is Indian and follows the customs her parents practiced in India. They came to the U.S. right after they married and then Reha was born. Visits to India and from her Indian relatives keep Reha in touch with the culture and ways of her parents' homeland.

In elementary school the differences between her two worlds weren't as noticeable. She was invited to birthday parties and other celebrations where she felt like everyone else. That changed with the start of eighth grade. The other girls began wearing makeup and shopping at the mall. They talked about boys in a different way and invitations to parties were less frequent. 

Just when Reha needs some guidance, her mother falls ill. When it is discovered she has a form of leukemia, Reha's world involves hospital visits, endless chemotherapy, and a mother she barely recognizes. There's a small ray of hope when the doctor mentions a bone marrow transplant, but no one is a match. Reha volunteers only to find that she is only a partial match which leaves her feeling even more helpless that she can't ease her mother's suffering.

Author Rajani LaRocca not only writes books for children and middle grade readers, but also works as a doctor. She brings some of her own Indian American experience to Reha's story. Reha's proud and courageous voice comes through loud and clear in this novel writtten in verse. It is perfect for readers feeling torn between two worlds and searching for a way to fit in.

Monday, June 14, 2021



Cora and Quinn were best friends forever, but they haven't spoken to each other in almost a year. Cora knows it's difficult to be friends with the person whose brother shot and killed her sister. Quinn knows it's difficult living with the knowledge that her brother became a person she didn't recognize when he shot and killed people at his school.

Both girls are living with their own feelings of guilt. Cora misses Mabel and deeply regrets an argument they had the day Mabel was shot. Quinn misses Parker, but is filled with guilt as she remembers seeing her brother opening their father's gun safe a few days before her killed four people and then himself. She tries to deal with her emotions by writing Parker letters she knows he will never read.

On Cora's birthday she finds a box from Quinn. When she finally gets passed her anger and opens it, she discovers articles about time travel, a topic that used to fascinate the girls when they were younger. Quinn stops Cora in school to talk about the box's contents and suggests that there may be a way to go back in time to stop Parker and save Mabel.

An uneasy friendship reforms as the two girls try to right the wrong they both feel responsible for. This new journey might help them confront their pain and find ways to live with the tragedy and carry on.

Author Jasmine Warga deals with love and loss after an unexplainably tragic event. THE SHAPE OF THUNDER will draw readers into the world of Cora and Quinn and keep them thinking long after the last page.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

19th CENTURY AMERICAN HISTORY FOR KIDS: the Major Events that Shaped the Past and Present by Kelly Milner Halls


If you are looking for a way to teach kids history, look no more. Get a copy of 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN HISTORY FOR KIDS and share it with every kid (no age limit) you know. Kids who are already fascinated with history will devour it, and picky readers will find the five easy to read chapters perfect for attention grabbing doses of the past.

This fact-filled volume covers 1801 to 1900. Using 3-4 page articles, it presents highlights from history in a well-researched, engagingly written style. Scattered throughout are small bit-sized tidbits about people and issues that expand on the information in the main text.

Topics include THE LOUSIANA PURCHASE, TRAIL OF TEARS, THE DRED SCOTT CASE, EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, and ROBBER BARONS & CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY just to name a few. Included at the end of the book is a glossary and resources for further exploration.

This reviewer was impressed that so much material could be packed into just over 100 pages. Events I remember learning about in history class were more clearly explained with facts I hadn't previously known. Kudos to author Kelly Milner Halls for making history come alive!

Thank you to Callisto Media for the review copy.



When Della wakes up to find her mother frantically picking black seeds from a watermelon while talking to some unseen person, Della knows her mother is slipping away again. Della also believes that this thing her mother has may have been caused because of her.

Della lives on a struggling farm with her mother, father, and little sister. Since her grandparents moved away, times have been tough. She helps as much as she can. She tends to the watermelons, picks produce for the roadside stand they share with neighbors, tries to keep the house clean enough to please her mother, and chases after Kylie. Della's goal is to make things as easy as possible for her mother. If her mother can just rest, maybe she won't get sick enough to have to return to the hospital.

Life is wonderful when Della's mother is feeling like herself. She tells stories and cooks and helps out around the farm. That's what life is like if her mother takes her medication, but things are scary when she doesn't. 

When Della decides to ask the Bee Lady if she has some honey that will fix her mother, she doesn't get the answer she is expecting. The Bee Lady suggests that Della needs to change instead.

WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW by Cindy Baldwin explores mental health and the toll it can take on families. Readers' hearts will go out to Della as she struggles to come to terms with what is normal for her mother and her family.

Friday, June 4, 2021

UNSETTLED by Reem Faruqi


Nurah's father promises the move from Pakistan to Peachtree City, Georgia, will mean a better job, a better home, and better schools for the family. Nurah isn't convinced that leaving the only home she's ever known is for the best. 

UNSETTLED by Reem Faruqi is loosely based on her own family's immigration story. Written in verse, it reads quickly, but is filled with details about what it is like to relocate to a place so different and filled with people who don't always take the time to understand someone new.

As Nurah struggles to adjust to her new school, it isn't until she hears eight special words, "Do you want to eat lunch with me?" that she feels welcome. She watches her father work hard and her mother struggle after a miscarriage. 

Nurah finds some release as a member of the school's swim team. She and her brother have a bond when it comes to the blue water. He is much more accomplished at the sport and the shelves in his room are filled with trophies and medals. Nurah is often jealous of his talent and his good looks. 

Life in the U.S. in a challenge for Nurah and her family. Readers of all backgrounds can learn by reading about Nurah's experience.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

SAVE ME A SEAT by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan


Thank you to teacher and author Colby Sharp for bringing this book to my attention. I have read and enjoyed Sarah Weeks' books, but this one hadn't popped up on my radar until I listened to a podcast where Colby Sharp recommended it as one of his favorites. I will now be recommending it to readers I know.

Ravi is new to America and to Albert Einstein Elementary School. He is confident that he will impress the teachers with his excellent English and his awesome math skills, and he hopes to make a friend the very first day.

Joe has been diagnosed with APD - Auditory Processing Disorder, and he's hoping that Miss Frost from the resource room has given his new teacher the facts that will help him be successful as fifth grade starts. He doesn't really care about making friends. He just hopes that a kid named Dillon will stop picking on him.

The first day doesn't go smoothly for either Ravi or Joe. Part of the problem is Mrs. Beam who can't pronounce Ravi's name correctly and doesn't seem to notice how sneaky Dillon is when it comes to both Ravi and Joe. Ravi thinks Dillon looks like good friend material, but he will soon learn what Dillon really has in mind. Joe's frustration mounts when he discovers his mother is going to be the new cafeteria monitor which makes him an even bigger target for Dillon and his buddies.

SAVE ME A SEAT is a fast paced tale about two boys experiencing the first week of fifth grade. They will face challenges with teachers, fellow students, and family members who don't really understand what it is like to be different. This one is perfect for reading aloud and stimulating discussion about standing up for oneself and others when faced with difficult situations.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

FAT ANGIE: HOMECOMING by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo


Angie returns for some new adventures. Her earlier singing debut has ignited a passion she didn't know she had. When an accidental video goes viral, Angie is surprised to learn she may have something to offer the world that might get her as recognized as her famous, killed-in-battle older sister.

Watching their mother still mourning the loss of their favored sister, Angie and her brother Wang continue to deal with the ups and downs of their dysfunctional family. A film documenting Nat's life is the focus for Angie's mother, and it's the last thing Angie wants to deal with. She trying to move on from her relationship with KC and has hopes of connecting with a new girl-loves-girl crush, Jamboree. Whatever she does isn't enough to satisfy her mother so she's pretty much decided to just head off in her own direction which appears to be music.

With the help of local legend Lucas Waite and a few friends, Angie forms a band called Go Feral. If they can pull things together, write a few awesome songs, and play a gig, they might be able to enter a girl band contest that could earn them some real attention. Of course, that means Angie has to overcome feeling less than because of her weight and the low self-esteem generated by her "couldn't-get-it-together" mother.

A huge lesson Angie must learn is when other's put their trust in her she has to follow through. A series of mistakes and mess ups threatens to derail a budding romance and break up the band before they even get started.

Author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo takes Angie to the next level in FAT ANGIE: HOMECOMING. Angie is out to prove to the world that she has value and worth no matter the size of her struggles. Angie fans will be thrilled she is back, and as the cover says, "Ready to Rock!"