Stephen Hawking: My First Stephen Hawking (Little People BIG Dreams) by Maria Isable Sanchez Vegara- ARC Review


Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on February fourth, 2020.

My toddler loves historical figures. His favorites are the U.S. Presidents (any of them: he has yet to decide his party), but he is interested in other figures as well. Not too long ago, I told him I had a secret to tell him. I whispered “I love you” and he whispered back, “Ibn Batutta.” I jumped at the chance to read this book about an important person with him.

I’ll start with the illustrations. They were adorable. They were simple, but brightly colored. My little guy liked pointing at them and saying “That’s Stephen Hawking” multiple times. They definitely held his interest.

The story itself was cute. It talked about Stephen Hawking in a way that would be easily grasped by youngsters. At times it seemed a little too simple: but it could just be because my toddler wants a wealth of information in his nonfiction books. He sometimes goes a little beyond the “normal” amount of information requested by that age group.

It was very difficult to find good nonfiction books when my oldest was a toddler, and I love that authors are changing that. Overall, my toddler liked it, and so did I. I’d buy this for any curious kid in the 2-5 year old range.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 2019- Middle-Grade Books


The other day I listed some picture books that would make fantastic gifts (you can find that post here.) In this post, I’m moving on to upper elementary and middle-grade books. After all, it’s good to continue to cultivate a love of reading.

The Origami Yoda Files by Tom Angleberger

My oldest has read this series multiple times. He loves these books! They’re fun stories, and have directions to make cute and simple origami Star Wars characters.
Cool side note: my son has written two fan letters to Tom Angleberger- and received two handwritten notes back! I’m more than happy to support authors who not only write quality books, but take the time to answer their fan mail. My oldest was over the moon.

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Not so long ago, in a middle school not so far away, a sixth grader named Dwight folded an origami finger puppet of Yoda. For class oddball Dwight, this wasn’t weird. It was typical Dwight behavior. But what is weird is that Origami Yoda is uncannily wise and prescient. He can predict the date of a pop quiz, guess who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and save a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, Tommy assembles this first case file in the blockbuster bestselling Origami Yoda series, hailed bySchool Library Journal as “honest, funny, and immensely entertaining.” (taken from Amazon)

Oddmire #1: Changeling by William Ritter

I’m hoping to grab this one for my oldest this Christmas. It’s the perfect blend of adventure and excellent character development. The story follows two brothers- one of which is a changeling- as they brave the Wild Wood to become magical heroes. What sets this story apart from many other fantasies is the subtle themes of friendship, loyalty, and learning to be proud of who you are. I loved it and I know my oldest will too (find my review here.)
Incidentally, William Ritter is also the author of the fabulous adult Jackaby series.


Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart, so he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. When they are thirteen years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave their sleepy town and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and uncover who they truly are. (taken from Amazon)

The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson

This absolutely wonderful book tells the hero’s journey from the perspective of a female. It’s charming, and has life-lessons subtly woven in. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good adventure. Find my review here.


When Lillian, the one and only heir to the throne, is cast out of her kingdom by malevolent forces, she accidentally wanders into the Forest of Forgetfullness, where she is rescued by wolves and raised by an eccentric old wise woman. When she comes of age, she is called by Destiny to return home. The trouble is, when Lillian steps out of the Forest, she has no memory of who she is or from whence she hails. Undaunted, the spirited, self-reliant young woman sets off into the unknown, determined to rediscover her long lost self and to reclaim her stolen birthright. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures. (taken from Amazon)

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Full of a delightful cast of characters, this madcap mystery/cover-up is great for any age. It’s perfect for upper elementary students as the macabre level is extremely low (nothing like a tasteful corpse, ha ha!), and this book is as far from creepy as a book can get. In fact, it’s pretty stinking funny. Find my review here.

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There’s a murderer on the loose – but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home – unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. (taken from Amazon)

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

My son loves this book! He devoured it and highly recommends it to anyone who likes Star Wars.
Interesting side-note: this author also wrote Kill the Farm Boy, an adult book that I really enjoy.


After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower – and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.

A planet of lush forests, precarious mountains, and towering, petrified trees, Batuu is on the furthest possible frontier of the galactic map, the last settled world before the mysterious expanse of Wild Space. The rogues, smugglers, and adventurers who eke out a living on the largest settlement on the planet, Black Spire Outpost, are here to avoid prying eyes and unnecessary complications. Vi, a Resistance spy on the run from the First Order, is hardly a welcome guest. And when a shuttle full of stormtroopers lands in her wake, determined to root her out, she has no idea where to find help.

To survive, Vi will have to seek out the good-hearted heroes hiding in a world that redefines scum and villainy. With the help of a traitorous trooper and her acerbic droid, she begins to gather a colorful band of outcasts and misfits, and embarks on a mission to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu – before the First Order snuffs it out entirely. (taken from Amazon)

Are you planning on buying any books for your middle-grade reader in the next month? What are some middle-grade books that you’d suggest?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- Books that would make great gifts (picture book edition)

It’s getting to be that time of year. The time of year where, if you’re like me, you start to think about what book/s you’d like to give as gifts this year. I try to buy my children at least one book every Christmas. My youngest is a toddler, so I’m pretty well-versed in picture books. Here are a few that would make wonderful gifts.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluhm

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This charming story is about the magic of books, so of course I love it. The language is pretty, yet simple, and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I love sharing this one with my kids.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

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Our family loves the Pigeon books. There are several, but this one is my personal favorite. The words are simple and written largely, so new readers can follow along. All of Mo Willems’ books encourage participation from everyone listening, so story time is a lot of fun.
Frankenstein: A Babylit Anatomy Primer

All of the Babylit board books are adorable and fun. This one is no exception. There’s something funny about using Frankenstein’s monster to teach body parts. There are several other Babylit books that are equally great: The Hound of the Baskervilles Sounds Primer, and Dracula: A Counting Primer happen to be my three favorites.
U.S. Presidents: Oval Office All-Stars by Dan Green

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My toddler has a surprising interest: he loves historical figures. He’ll say he wants to tell me a secret, then whisper “Ibn Battuta.” His favorites are the American presidents. He likes all of them, even dressing up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween. He likes looking at adult history books and this is one of the few children’s books about presidents that passes muster for him.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

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This book is flat-out awesome. It’s perfect for transitioning from picture books to chapter books. As the title suggests, there are no pictures, but the letters are brightly colored and the entire book is about how the readers’ parents have to say whatever is in the book even if it’s silly and ridiculous. This story is always accompanied by giggles and requests to read it again.

Here’s a short list of books that are winners in our house. Are you buying any picture books for little ones this year? What are some that you like to give as gifts?

Leo’s Monster by Marcus Pfister- ARC Review

Thank you to Negalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on May 5th, 2020.

This little story is about two mice. There’s a country mouse named Zoe and, and her little buddy, Leo. Leo comes to visit Zoe, but discovers a terrifying monster. As he describes it to Zoe, she starts to suspect that the monster is, in fact, bovine in nature.

I thought the illustrations were cute, and the story was entertaining. My toddler, though had another opinion. He hated it. About three pages in, he looked at me and said, “It’s just a cow,” and the disdain with which he said it was actually a wee bit funny. I’m not sure what to make of his reaction. He gravitates toward history books anyway (seriously. This four year old has all the presidents memorized and can recognize them by face). Take his opinion with that in mind.

I guess that makes this review a mixed one. I liked the book, and think it would be great for toddlers. My toddler- the target demographic- seems to disagree. Take from that what you will.

I am Scary by Elise Gravel- ARC Review

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In this sweet little book, a monster tries to scare a young child. But the child insists the monster is not scary but actually quite huggable. (taken from Amazon)

                                  Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on March 17, 202

This book is so adorable! I requested it because I had a feeling my toddler would enjoy it. I read it aloud and he loved it.

The illustrations are charming in their simplicity. Told with very little dialogue, this book is about a monster who tries- and fails- to scare a child. He roars, growls, and shows off his horns and teeth. To the monster’s discomfiture, the child thinks he’s cute. What’s a monster to do?

What I liked best about this book was the ability to prompt my toddler to talk about the pictures and make conclusions based on what was happening. Because there isn’t much dialogue, my “little” made the monster sounds, talked about how cute the monster was, and had a lovely time. The book would probably be even more riveting to a slightly younger child, but my toddler still really liked it.

This would make a great baby shower gift. I recommend it for all little book lovers- in-training.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

It wouldn’t be October if I didn’t talk about Bunnicula. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I’ve passed the enjoyment down to my oldest. I’m looking forward to the day when my youngest reads them too.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is an easy chapter book. It’s told from the point of view of Harold, a pet dog. He’s shaggy, lovable, and rather gullible. He lives with his family, the Monroes, and a well-read cat named Chester. One night the Monroes go to a late-night showing of Dracula and bring home a surprise: a rabbit they name Bunnicula. Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire, sucking the juice from vegetables, and that only he can save the world from the evil machinations of the vampire bunny.

This series, of which Bunnicula is the first, is very special to me. I read it with my sister when we were younger and it was a wonderful way for us to bond. We’re still very close to this day, and we talk about those Bunnicula books from time to time.

This book is hilarious. I have no idea how the authors managed to come up with so many funny situations, but it had me in stitches when I read it, and my son reacted the same way when he read it. He’s reread the entire series several times, and will probably read them again this month.

This book is perfect for reading aloud (maybe a chapter or two a day?), or for readers just gaining confidence in their skills. My oldest and I took turns reading pages aloud the first time he experienced Bunnicula. It is one of my favorite memories. There are illustrations every few pages, but they are few enough that children are required to paint the pictures in their minds. I highly recommend this book, and October is the perfect time for a not-spooky “spooky” read. Enjoy!

Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William AE Ford, illustrated by Marcelo Simonetti

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Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to buy now.

Little Timothy Mean (his name is well-deserved) gets bored one day and builds a time machine out of old boxes and some glue. It’s all very technical. What follows is a trip to a different time-with a different prank played- for each day of the week.

I read this book with both my kids (a toddler and an older elementary child), so I guess you can say that I was pretty thorough. All three of us loved it. It’s told in rhyme, but the cadence always works, and it never feels forced (a pet peeve of mine). The places and times Timothy Mean travels to are adorable. There’s the dinosaur time, of course, but he also visits vikings, and sees Neil Armstrong on the moon. It’s so clever! This book is a lot of fun to read, and perfect for ages three to five. My toddler happily followed along, and named all the background characters discussed and pictured (he loves King Joe and Queen Sally the most).

The illustrations are charming and add so much to the book. When it comes to children’s books, if the illustrations are lousy, I’m less likely to buy or read it to my kids. However, these were wonderful.

This imaginative book is a perfect one to read aloud, and I highly recommend it.

Simon, My Pet Dragon and Our Unusual Adventure: A Children’s Seek-N-Find Book by David D. Cree

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I was given this book by the author, in exchange for my honest opinion.

My toddler has very unique taste in literature. At this moment, he only likes adult history books about historical figures (try having a kid who isn’t toilet trained telling you the presidents in order: it’s mildly disturbing) and search-and-find books. He owns several Where’s Waldo books, and one Find the Sloth, so I had to read this to him and get his viewpoint.

He loved it. The dragon was challenging for him to find, but not impossible, and he happily paid attention to the story-line, which was very cute. It’ follows a timid dragon as he overcomes his fear and learns that trying new things can lead to many fun new experiences.

The illustrations were adorable, and the message was positive but not heavy-handed. I highly recommend picking this up for your young children.

Little Big Nate Draws a Blank by Lincoln Pierce- ARC Mini Review

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It’s available on September third.

My oldest loves the Big Nate books. He’s read all of them. So when I saw a little reader version, I just had to grab it to read to my Toddler Tornado.

This book is cute. It’s very simple: each page has an illustration of something little big Nate thinks to draw, but then changes his mind about, and the reason why (“A Penguin? Too chilly”). The pictures are fun and engaging. This is the sort of book that’s perfect for encouraging communication from your little one.

Short and fun, this would be perfect for one and two year olds. Pick it up, and while you’re at it,  grab one the older kid counterparts for big brother or sister.

Fairy Tales for Fearless Girls by Anita Ganeri- ARC Review

This inspiring collection of 15 stories from around the world showcases narratives that celebrate strong, independent women. These heroines aren’t reduced to being wives or witches! They run free and possess the qualities we would hope for in our daughters and friends: self-confidence, strength, wits, courage, fearlessness, and independence. They live freely, happily ever after, without restraint or narrowly defined roles. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

I adore fairy tales. I grew up on them, and firmly believe that you’re never to old for them. So, of course I was excited to read this collection. Some of the stories I already knew, such as Feng Mian, the Head of the Family, but many were new to me.

Alas, while I liked this book, I didn’t love it. I think the reason I enjoyed it but don’t feel the urge to gush is simply the arrangement of the stories in the book. The first two or three are incredibly similar, which diminished my enjoyment a bit. If they’d been spread out among other, different types of tales, I would have liked each one much better.

There were a few tales that I felt were much more interesting than others: Unanana and the Elephant being one. It follows a mom, first of all, and she’s both clever and determined. I could relate to her willingness to do anything to protect her kids. I also really liked Tatterhood and Dacia, which teaches a lesson about the importance of personality over looks.

Where this book really shines is in the gorgeous illustrations. After I finished the book, I went back through just to see them again. Khoa Le captured the feel of each story in a fascinating and original way.

Even though I didn’t love it, this book is still a worthy addition to any fairy tale collection.