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Book Reviews

Book of the Week: This is Not a Cat! by David Larochelle

This is Not a Cat! by David Larochelle
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover
Age Range: 3 and up
Grade Level: Preschool and up
Pages: 40
Available for Sale: August 9, 2016

Welcome to Sunny Hills Mice School where the first lesson is recognizing DANGER! And that means CAT. So Miss Mouse shows her students pictures of things that are, and are not, a kitty. But the kids are a bit restless . . . until something enters the classroom that makes them all sCATter. But, is their unwelcome guest really a cat?

Learning that things aren’t always what they seem to be can be a difficult concept for small kids to grasp.  They’re so uneducated, totally inexperienced, and have underdeveloped, unseasoned brains with very little context for their thoughts.  I imagine mice are even more uneducated than tiny humans.

In this funny book, a group of mice are in mouse school and their first lesson is recognizing danger. The teacher, Miss Mouse, shows her students a series of pictures that are and are not: a cat, a carrot, a butterfly, an ice cream cone, a bunny.  The lesson is going as planned until an unwelcome guest enters the classroom via the open window. But is their guest really a cat?  On the opening page of this book, adults will be able to figure out who the “cat” really is.


Although this is a quick read, there are lots of things to notice in the illustrations: the goldfish in the fist bowl, the portraits of the mice hanging on the wall, the reactions and body language of the three students/teacher and the unwelcome guest gradually sneaking into the classroom.  I think the illustrations are brilliant and really help to make this delightful story come alive.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the plot for you because I want you to have fun with your little readers the first time you read it. Comprised of only 3 short sentences and 2 questions, this is the kid’s latest favorite bedtime book at the moment. It’s a rather short and simple story written using only the words in the title. The book teaches kids things are not always as them seem.  Check this one out with your little readers for some laughs.

About the Author
David LaRochelle is a former teacher who has been writing children’s books since 1988.  He has won a number of awards including the Sid Fleishman Humor Award, the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award, and the Minnesota Book Award.  David lives in White Bear Lake, MN.  Visit his website at

About the Illustrator
Mike Wohnoutka wrote and illustrated several books including Dad’s First Day.  Some of his other illustration work includes the Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota.  Mike lives in Minneapolis, MN.  Visit his website at

Book Reviews

Book of the Week: The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

The Thank You Book (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
Age Range:
3 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Hardcover: 57 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
On-Sale Date: May 3, 2016

Synopsis (from Amazon)
In The Thank You Book!, Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE. But Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone . . . someone important.

I was SO excited to purchase this book when it came out this Tuesday!  It was a bittersweet moment though knowing this is the last book in the series.  Not only do the Elephant & Piggie books make me and my kids laugh out loud, they also cleverly teach us lessons. Children’s picture books are a key component in helping kids connect to authentic learning experiences and Elephant and Piggie capture that authenticity so well as they teach, inspire and help kids grow.

I only discovered the Elephant and Piggie books last year.  Since then, we’ve read all 25 books in the series on multiple occasions.  They’ve helped me teach my kids so many wonderful lessons on friendship, caring, teamwork, patience, perseverance, creativity, sharing and being grateful just to name a few.


In The Thank You Book, Piggie starts off by saying he’s such a lucky pig who has so much to be thankful for.  He decides to thank everyone, but Gerald insists that Piggie will surely forget someone – someone VERY important.  Piggie starts his “thank-o-rama” speech by thanking various characters that have appeared in previous books from the Elephant and Piggie series: the squirrels, snake, the pigeon, the flies and more.  In the end, Piggie is embarrassed that he did in fact forget to thank someone – the reader!

I absolutely love the way Mo Willems decided to end this series…what a great ending!  Although this is the last book, Gerald and Piggie will continue to live on in our household.  We will still be reading these books time and time again for years to come.  I love that my daughter can kids can read these early readers on her own.  Each book is short with about 50 distinct words throughout.  My daughter feels successful when she gets to the last page because not only did she read the book, but she also understood the story and she can relate to the characters.  I’m sure my son will also follow in his sister’s footsteps once he’s ready to start reading independently.

I’d also like to personally thank Mo Willems for his amazing ability to capture everything an early reader book should be: easy to understand words and sentences, clear illustrations, lots of repetition used throughout and most of all fun!  I think each one of the 25 books in this series is interesting and laugh out loud funny!  Thank you for making my kids excited about reading your wonderful books!

And if you haven’t already heard, May is “Thank-O-Rama” month!  Check out the website to download, print, and fill out your own #ThankoRama speech bubbles.


Your turn:  Have you read this book with your children yet?  If so, did you enjoy it?  What is your favorite Elephant and Piggie book in this series?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

Book of the Week: What is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna

What is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna
Age Range: 3 – 8 years old
Book Format: Hardcover
Pages: 36
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Available for pre-order now, on sale (in the US) September 20, 2016!

Synopsis (from Amazon)
From the bestselling author of A Lion in Paris comes this beautifully illustrated celebration of what makes each child unique. Through bold and sensitively observed portraits and a thought-provoking text, Beatrice Alemagna inspires children, and adults reading with them, to consider their own identity. Destined to become a classic, What Is a Child? is a must-have for every school, library, and bedside table.

Wow!  I am completely in LOVE with this stunning oversized picture book!  It describes different traits and characteristics that make each child unique. It also compares children to adults in various ways using some of the most beautiful text that really makes you stop and think.

For example, it talks about how children are in a such a hurry to grow up so they can be free and decide everything for themselves.  I remember being a kid and having the desire to be a grown up.  The part of growing up that always excited me, was the freedom.  Most children are often blissfully unaware of all the responsibilities that come with the freedom they so eagerly seek – the mortgage, utility bills, and insurance to name a few.  Now that I’ve been a grown-up for many years, I long for the days of being a care-free kid again.  How about you?


The book also touches up children’s inability to control their emotions.  Children immediately act based on their emotional response.  They cry when their stone has slipped into the water or because shampoo stings their eyes.  Grown-ups on the other hand, have learned how to control their emotions so they hardly ever cry even when shampoo gets up their nose.  Most grown-ups know how to keep their emotions in check when they become agitated and wait until an appropriate time in which they are calm and collected with the best setting to discuss contentious matters.

I think the author does an excellent job highlighting the fact that all children are unique and come in all shapes and sizes.  There is a lovely array of diverse children pictured throughout that I really appreciate.  In addition, I also love that the author mentioned that although children are small, that does not mean they have small ideas.  Children’s ideas can sometimes be very big and life-changing.  This is especially true today in a time where there are more children entrepreneurs than ever before in history.

I find the illustrations in this book to be simply stellar!  Each one is original, colorful, expressive, and intricate making each page a delight to look at.  When I initially received this book, I kept returning to it over and over to savor its visual delights.

Overall, I think this is a great read for both children and adults alike to enjoy together.  This is undoubtedly the best thought-provoking picture book of 2016 I’ve read thus far!  A gorgeous book that is a must-have for your home library or school.

About the Author
Beatrice Alemagna, grew up in Bologna and now lives in Paris.  She has created about thirty books which have been published all around the world.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.


Book Reviews

Book of the Week: Whoosh! by Chris Barton

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaking Stream of Inventions
by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Age Range: 7 – 10 years old
Grade Level: 2 – 5
Pages: 32
Book Format: Hardcover
On Sale: May 3, 2016

Synopsis (from Amazon)
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.

A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.


I have many fond memories of playing with Super Soaker water guns as a kid.  It was definitely one of my childhood favorites and undoubtedly a summer staple in our home.  Invented in 1982 by Engineer Lonnie Johnson, the Super Soaker remains one of the most popular toys for water play of all-time.

I hate to admit that I had no clue who actually invented the Super Soaker until reading this book.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was invented by an Black man named Lonnie Johnson!  Who knew?  From this book I also learned that Lonnie was a very innovative engineer.  As an adult he worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Galielo orbiter and helped to power the spacecraft as it explored Jupiter.  How cool is that?

Lonnie is a true problem solver at heart.  Ideas for other problems to solve constantly keep on flowing through his mind.  One day while testing out a new cooling system for refrigerators that didn’t use a chemical that was bad for the environment, Lonnie accidentally sprayed his entire bathroom.  That incident instantly gave him an idea for another invention – a high-powered water gun!  However, it took many years of trial and error and rejection before the Super Soaker was as successful as it is today.


The kids and I really enjoyed reading this book.  I find it to be both informative and entertaining with awesome illustrations to match. The kids especially liked saying the word “Whoosh!”  For some added fun, we read this book outside and I brought along our Super Soaker water gun and sprayed it every time the word “Whoosh” appeared throughout the book.

I also didn’t find this book to be too wordy as some nonfiction children’s typically books are.  In addition, I loved the fact that this book tells you a little about Lonnie’s family, his childhood, the college he attended, his life as an adult, and of course how the Super Soaker came to be.  My absolute favorite thing about this book is that Lonnie’s mother fully supported him and believed in him from the very beginning even when their kitchen caught on fire.  She didn’t make him stop, she just sent him to work outside.

This book teaches kids things like: creativity, problem-solving, tenacity, grit, patience, rejection, and hard work.  I’d highly recommend this book for kids who have a love for rockets, inventions, water guns, and a mind for creativity.  Also great for studying Black inventors.  I think they will enjoy learning about the many challenges Lonnie faced and how he solved his problems.  A fun summertime read!

Lonnie Johnson, Inventor of the Super Soaker

About the Author
Chris Barton is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of several books for children, including Shark vs. Train and the Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors.  He lives in Austin, Texas.

About the Illustrator
Don Tate is an award-willing author and illustrator of many books for children.  His illustrated books include: The Cart That Carried Martin and Hope’s Gift.  He is also both author and illustrator of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw as well as Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton.  He lives in Austin, Texas.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

Book of the Week: Lionheart by Richard Collingridge

Lionheart by Richard Collingridge
Age Range: 3 – 5 Years Old
32 Pages

This book has instantly turned me into a new fan of Richard Collingridge’s work.  I featured this book in my ultimate list of 2016 picture books and I knew back then just from looking at the cover and reading the synopsis it was going to be an amazing book – I was right!

I read this book myself first which certainly helped to make my reading aloud more entertaining and suspenseful for the kids (at least I think it did).



Lionheart introduces us to a little boy named Richard who hears something in his bedroom before laying down to go to sleep, but what is it? Is it a monster? Richard goes on a quest outside to find out walking through thick grass and trees until he reaches a magical jungle where there are animals all around. He keeps running and running until he encounters Lionheart – his Lionheart.  (Lionheart is Richard’s stuffed animal toy.)

With Lionheart, Richard is not afraid. In fact, he forgets all about the monster. When Lionheart , Richard and all the animals finally see the monster face-to-face, Richard looks at Lionheart and instantly he knows what to do…he roars!

This book is so well done! From the text, to the illustrations, to the heart pounding suspense. And the overall message of conquering your fears is terrific!  I love how Lionheart teaches Richard to be brave which in turn helps him to stop being afraid of monsters.

A few days after reading this book I heard the kids playing “monster” together.  My son was the monster chasing my daughter and then she turned around and roared and said, “I’m not afraid of you monster!”

I think this is the perfect book if your little readers are afraid of monsters, being in the dark, or if you want to teach them bravery and confidence.

You can watch the trailer for the book here.

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.