Listen to My Latest Podcast Episode
Listen Here
Book Reviews

Celebrate National STEM/STEAM Day: Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons (A Book Review)

Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons by Dr. Arlyne Simon illustrated by Diana Necsulescu

Publisher: Bella Agnes Books
Format: Hardcover/Paperback
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5 – 8
Grade Level: Kindergarten- 3

In honor of National STEM/STEAM Day, I’m sharing an awesome children’s book with you entitled Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons.  Have you read it yet?

Tired of coloring with broken crayons, Abby invents the world’s first UNBREAKABLE CRAYONS. She even gets a patent to prove it! Through Abby’s failures and eventual success, she playfully introduces young readers to the scientific method. This book also contains a fun activity page, encouraging young readers to create their own unbreakable crayons.


Little Abby is tired of coloring with broken crayons and I don’t blame her.  It’s no fun to be in the middle of coloring only to have your crayon break and interrupt your creative flow.  She has an idea to invent the first unbreakable crayons after seeing a local inventor who looked just like her visit her classroom.

Abby gets to work and starts her research by heading to the library after school.  She learns what crayons are made of, the process used to make them and why they break.

Crayons break because they are not strong enough.  They are thin and long so if pressed too hard, they will break.

After having many failed attempts to test her unbreakable crayons, Abby starts to get discouraged and feels like quitting.   With help and encouragement from her teacher, Abby keeps going and eventually finds a solution to truly make her crayons unbreakable.

There are several things kids can learn from reading this book:

  • The importance of representation/windows and mirrors – Abby became inspired to be an inventor when an inventor who looked like her came to speak at her school.
  • STEM – This is a great book to introduce children to STEM (Science, Math, Technology and Engineering)
  • Diversity – There are several diverse characters featured throughout the book
  • The invention process – Children will learn the basics of the invention process: what it means to invent, asking questions, testing and receiving a an official patent from the government

I loved how determined Abby was to see her idea come to fruition and how she pushed through despite having failed attempts in the beginning.  She used affirming phrases to help keep her motivated, energized and focused on her goal:

I am a problem solver.  I am an inventor.  I solve problems, big and small because I have great ideas.

We should all be like Abby and give ourselves mini pep talks like this whenever we’re facing challenges.  Am I right?

This book is also a great way to help spark curiosity, wonder and imagination for little readers while introducing science and engineering.  The back matter features an author’s note, a small glossary of terms and a couple of questions for kids to ponder and express their own ideas.

Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons checks all the boxes of a great STEM/STEAM book.

It empowers children to:

  • Ask questions
  • Be curious
  • Problem solve
  • Think outside the box
  • Be innovative

About the Author

Honored as a trailblazing female innovator by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Dr. Arlyne Simon is a biochemical engineer, inventor, author and entrepreneur. She is originally from the Commonwealth of Dominica. Like Abby, many of her early experiments failed but she didn’t give up and neither should you! Visit her online at

Your turn: How are you celebrating National STEM/STEAM day?  What STEM/STEAM related books will you be reading?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave Blog Tour: Teaching Kids About Bravery

Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by Jessica Hische

Recommended Ages: 3-7

Tomorrow I’ll be all the things I tried to be today:
Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave.
And if I wasn’t one of them, I know that it’s OK.

Journey through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities–all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

As a parent, I’m always mindful to ensure I’m setting good examples for my kids while also teaching them valuable life lessons that will benefit them in their adult lives.  Like many parents and caregivers, I want my children to grow up and lead successful lives.  While there are many things that lead to success and happiness, I believe one of the most powerful things is courage.

During the average person’s lifetime, they will likely experience successes, failures, rejections, and many unexpected turns.  That’s why I think it’s important to instill courage in children from a young age and continuously expose them to safe opportunities where they can practice being brave in real life scenarios.

For example, my daughter sometimes gets anxious if she’s picked up a bit later than usual at school.  This is especially true at the start of any new school year or after an extended break from school.  It usually takes her about a week or two to get back into the school routine after being at home during school breaks.  If she’s picked up late she will cry non-stop until either myself or my husband arrives.  Whenever this happens, my husband and I reassure her that one of us will always be there to pick her up from school.  We also read lots of books about anxiety, having courage, and being brave like Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave.  It’s the perfect book to read to give kids the courage to keep going, to find a different way, and of course the courage to try and be brave in the first place.

This book teaches kids that bravery isn’t about something magical that happens inside us to make us ‘not scared’. It’s about something magical that happens inside us to make us push through fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and do the things that feel hard or risky or frightening. Sometimes, being brave only has to happen for seconds at a time – just long enough to be brave enough.  This book also reminded me about one of the most important parts of being brave: knowing that somewhere inside of you, ‘brave’ will be there when you need it, whether you feel it or not.

There is also a fantastic overall message that rings loud and clear in this book:

Tomorrow I’ll be all the things I tried to be today…and if I wasn’t one of them, I know that it’s okay.

Children get the reassurance that if they haven’t been any of the things they hoped to be today, there is always tomorrow, which is full of endless opportunities.  I think that messages give children space for imperfection which is a great growth staple.

In summary, there are so many great things I enjoyed about this book:

  • It teaches children they are strong, that they can cope, and that they are not as fragile as they might sometimes feel.
  • There are wonderful vocabulary words like: adventurous, curious, confident, brave
  • Kids understand brave is about doing what’s best for them
  • Encourages children’s sense of adventure

Check this one out if you’re looking for a picture book to help have a discussion about bravery and courage with your little readers.

About the Author
Jessica Hische grew up in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she works as a letterer, illustrator, type designer, and relentless procrastiworker. Clients include Wes Anderson, Dave Eggers, The New York Times, Tiffany & Co., OXFAM America, McSweeney’s, American Express, Target, Victoria’s Secret, Chronicle Books, Nike, and Samsung.

Book Reviews

5 Reasons Why You Should Read The Questioneers Chapter Book Series

I could hardly contain my excitement when I initially learned about The Questioneers Chapter Book Series, a clever chapter book spin-off of the popular STEM picture books based on the characters Rosie Revere, Iggy Peck and Ada Twist.  I am a huge fan of Iggy Peck, ArchitectRosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist so that automatically made me have high expectations for the chapter book series.  If you love Ada, Iggy and Rosie as much as I do, here are five reasons why you should read The Questioneers chapter book series:

1. Each of the original high achieving, STEM lovin’ bunch of kids are featured in the series: Ada, Iggy and Rosie.  Plus, there are a few new characters introduced (Mrs. Lu, the Blue River Riveters, Ada’s great-aunt Bernice) along with some familiar ones like Rosie’s great-great-aunt Rose.

2. There’s lots of fun, engineer-inspired artwork featured throughout that is easy for kids to understand.  I love the use of graph paper illustrations shown throughout.  I think they really capture the feeling of Rosie actually writing in her notebook and taking notes for her project.  The illustrations are drawn in black and white with some added pops of red (and of course, Rosie and Ada’s signature red and white polka dots).

3. Just like in the picture books, readers will learn great lessons of: teamwork, brainstorming, persistence, camaraderie, problem solving and STEM.  I always love it when readers can take away wonderful messages they can use in their own real-life experiences.

4.  Diverse female characters are shown as strong and positive role models.  The Blue Riveters who are portrayed in Book #1 are a group of smart, tough and hard working airplane builders who just happen to be females.  This shows children that women can do ALL types of jobs including build airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.  The scarf-wearing character Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II.  She recently passed away in January 2018 at the age of 96.  The hard work of the Riveters helped the Allies win World War II.  So there’s also a bit of history kids learn too about The Riveters in the back matter.  How clever of author Andrea Beaty to introduce a real-life historical element to the character in the book!  I’ve seen the Rosie the Riveter image for years and never made the connection of the red polka dot scarf to Rosie’s character until reading this book.

5. The chapters are short (there are 22 chapters in total) and contain lots of action words including a good amount of onomatopoeia that kids are sure to love: THUD, CRACK, BOOM, SPLAT, SLURP (these words are always so fun to say with kids).  An early reader could read this book easily on their own or with the help of a grown-up in a short period of time.  The chapters don’t drag out and they are fun to read!  Grown-ups will love reading these books just as much as the kids.  Makes a fantastic family read aloud book for story time at home!

Overall, the kids and I loved everything about Book #1 of The Questioneers series.  It’s perfect for science and STEM enthusiasts or budding entrepreneurs to read.  The back matter also contains factual science information about valves, a brief history of The Riveters, a “Think About This” question for kids to ponder, and author/illustrator notes.

We’re already looking forward to reading the second book in the series when it publishes in April 2019!

Your turn: Have I convinced you to check out the books in this series?  Have you read any of the popular picture books?  Which character from the series is your favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters: The Questioneers Book #1

Recommended Ages 6-9 and up

Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants: The Questioneers Book #2 (Available for pre-orders NOW!)

Publishes in April 2019, but you can pre-order it NOW!

Recommended Ages 6-9 and up

Book Reviews

New Bilingual Series Inspired by the Life of Latina Sensation Sarai Gonzalez

Viral video sensation and social activist, Sarai Gonzalez has teamed up with award-winning author Monica Brown to create a new illustrated chapter book series influenced by Gonzalez’s life.  Sarai initially became popular back in 2016 when she “broke the internet” with a music video for Colombian band Bomba Estéreo for the song “Soy Yo” (“I’m Me”).  The video has a contagious Latin rhythm and strong lyrics emphasizing self-love and diversity.  The video garnered over 30 million views and the New York Times called Sarai a Latina icon.

Sarai Gonzalez is AWESOME. Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business, Sarai’s Sweets.  Sarai is a spunky little girl with a kind heart and big dreams.

My kids and I truly enjoyed reading both of these chapter books over the course of a few weeks as read aloud stories.  We liked how much Sarai loves her family, her Peruvian and Costa Rican culture and her willingness to help her family and friends when needed.  We found this chapter book series to be very fun and upbeat to read!

I also appreciated having a few Spanish words sprinkled throughout both books as well as a few Peruvian references like the word “Tata”, which means grandfather.  Emerging readers would have no problem reading the text on their own, with some help needed from a grown-up every now and again.  Overall, we adore little Sarai, her friends and tight knit Latinx family.  A great series for emerging readers ages 7 and up.

Launching simultaneously in Spanish and English, the series kicks off with two books: Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome (9781338236682; 9/11/18; $5.99; Paperback) and Sarai in the Spotlight (9781338236699; 9/11/18; $5.99; Paperback).  Recommended for ages 7-10, Grades 2-5.

About Sarai Gonzalez
Eleven-year-old Sarai Gonzalez became an overnight sensation after appearing in Bomba Estero’s, “Soy Yo,” a music video about embracing yourself and loving your flaws. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is the first book in her new chapter book series inspired by her life. Sarai lives in New Jersey with her family.

About Monica Brown
Monica Brown is the award-winning author of super-awesome books for children, including The Lola Levine chapter book series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, and Waiting for the Biblioburro. She is Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Latinx and African American Literature. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and her dogs, Lola and Finn. Visit her at

Your turn: Have you checked out this series yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

Turning Pages: My Life Story (A Book Review)

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Turning Pages: My Life Story by by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Publisher: Philomel Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4 – 8
Grade Level: Preschool – 3

As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers. They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico, to deal with her diabetes diagnosis, to cope with her father’s death, to uncover the secrets of the world, and to dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.

In Turning Pages, Justice Sotomayor shares that love of books with a new generation of readers, and inspires them to read and puzzle and dream for themselves.

From the very first sentence right to the very end, this story captured my full attention.  Not only did I learn so much about Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her background, but I also read some of the most poetic and beautiful phrases about books and reading.  It was such a treat to learn how much books played such an important part in her life.

My story is a story about books – of poems and comics, of law and mystery, of science and science fiction.

Reading was like lighting candles, each book a flame that lit up the world around me.

Written words, I discovered, were electrical currents that jolted feelings to life.

Books, it seemed, were magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes.

Books were my loyal friends.  They made it so I never felt lonely.

Books were mirrors of my very own universe.

Throughout Sonia’s life, books brought her comfort in the darkest periods. She talks about being diagnosed with diabetes when she was seven years old and how she found courage by reading comic books.  The illustrations showing her injecting herself with needles are powerful.  Instead of insulin, she imagines injecting herself with a “magic potion” and being a brave superhero.  When she was nine years old her father passed away.  At the time, Sonia found comfort and escape at the nearby Parkchester Library.  Books helped her escape her reality and allowed her precious opportunities to experience wonder.

Almost every illustration in the book features books or reading in some way.  Sonia is seen reading at home, at the library and in college.  The back matter has a timeline of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s life and there are actual photographs in the end papers.  The thing I love most about this book is that Sonia wrote it on her own and she’s still alive to tell her own story – her own truth.  A delightful and informative book that is sure to inspire a new generation of readers, leaders, aspiring lawyers and social justice activists.

Your turn: Which book(s) from your childhood played an important part in your life?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Coding Homework

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework by Frazer Wilson

Publisher: Sterling Publishing
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback

Facing the daunting prospect of helping your children with their coding homework?  Coding for Parents teaches you what you need to know . . . so you can teach your kids!

Unlock the mysteries of coding with this easy-to-follow and well-illustrated guide—and help your kids ace their coding homework! Organized by age and grade, It takes you by the hand and leads you through the basics, building your knowledge of key concepts, terminology, and techniques, and giving you the language you’ll need to explain it all to your child. Instructional diagrams and compelling illustrations appear throughout to enhance your understanding, and the book covers the most popular software, including Scratch, Python, and Java.

The introduction of the computer has changed the world forever, for better or for worse.  The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science.  President Barack Obama said it best when he said, “In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill.”

In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill.” – Barack Obama

And yet, computer science is not part of the required curriculum in many US public schools.  That means it’s up to adults to help their children get more familiar with computers, technology and coding when it’s not offered to them in their school.  With the help of great books like Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework adults can cultivate a child’s interest in computing, even if they’ve never written a line of code on their own a day in their life.

I like that this book is organized by age and grade level for different software like: Java, Scratch and Python.  It’s a compact and comprehensive introduction to all things coding broken down into digestible bites that are easy to comprehend.  There are also helpful diagrams with some added humor to help take a bit of the edge off if you’re new to the world of coding.  The book also contains a helpful glossary and index making it easy to find and reference information throughout.

Coding is all about learning by doing.  And the more kids feel like they can “do” computers, the more likely they are to pursue technical careers.  An added bonus is having a parent or adult who understands coding and can help a child easily understand it too.  That’s where  Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework comes into play.  Check it out if you want to be able to confidently help the special kiddo in your life with their coding homework.  Makes a great back to school gift idea for parents!

Your turn: Is Computer Science a part of the curriculum at your child’s school?  What other books would you recommend for adults to help children with coding homework?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Book Reviews

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse: Book Review

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse–the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.  But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.

Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

At first glance, one might think this is just a book about a boy and his horse.  But once you open it up and start reading, you are introduced to so much more!

First, little readers are introduced to Adrian Simcox sitting all by himself (probably daydreaming again) at the lunch table in the school cafeteria.  Off to the side you see a crowd of other diverse kids all sitting together having their own group conversations.  Right off the bat, you can tell Adrian is a loner who probably doesn’t have many friends.

Next, you find out Adrian has a horse that he loves dearly and will tell just about anyone who will listen how beautiful his horse is.  “It has a white coat and golden mane and the biggest, brownest eyes of any horse, anywhere…”

Everyone at school is convinced Adrian has a horse EXCEPT for Chloe.  She’s not buying Adrian’s story for one minute.  She know’s her friend Kelsey’s cousin has a horse and that horses are super expensive to take care of.  Besides, Adrian lives in small house, he gets free lunch at school and he has holes in his shoes so there’s NO WAY he could possibly have a horse, right?

After being sick and tired of hearing Adrian brag about his horse, Chloe can’t take it anymore.  One day at recess she yells out loud so everyone can hear, “He’s lying! Adrian Simcox does NOT have a horse!”

Shortly after, little readers meet the real star of this book, Chloe’s mother.  It’s through her subtle, yet powerful action of showing her daughter Chloe to stop being so judgmental that finally makes Chloe start to see Adrian in a different light.  Chloe’s mothers’ simple action at the end of the book tie in beautifully with a quote from Chloe’s teacher mentioned earlier in the book:

We must try to be understanding.  We have to be patient.

I love this book for so many reasons:

  • The gorgeous illustrations by illustrator Corinna Luyken will take your breath away!  (Look closely so you won’t miss the sightings of Adrian’s horse!)
  • The contrasts between Chloe and Adrian (Adrian’s messy desk, his run down neighborhood, holey shoes)
  • It has some wonderful messages of kindness, empathy, feelings, and friendship woven into it
  • It teaches children not to judge others based on things they have or don’t have
  • Adrian’s vivid imagination and his creative ability to see things in a different way
  • The way Chloe’s mom subtly shows her daughter about true kindness, respect and acceptance without saying a word.  It’s so beautiful to see how Chloe figured everything out on her own and realized her mistakes.

I think this is such a great book to read during the back to school season (or anytime of the year).  Messages of kindness ring out loud and clear.  Don’t miss this one!

About the Author

Marcy Campbell lives in Ohio with her family and menagerie of rescued pets. Her writing for adults has been published widely in journals and magazines, including Salon. She grew up on a farm filled with cows, chickens, cats, and dogs, but she never had a horse. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is her debut picture book. You can visit her at

About the Illustrator
Corinna Luyken grew up in different cities along the West Coast, and after studying at Middlebury College, she settled in Washington State, where she draws inspiration from nature, her family, and the human form. Her debut picture book, The Book of Mistakes, received four starred reviews and has been praised by Entertainment WeeklyThe Wall Street Journal, Nerdy Book Club, and more.

Book Reviews

Fiona the Hippo Review+ A Giveaway!

Disclaimer: We’re thrilled to partner with Zonderkidz for this adorable giveaway based on the true life story of internet sensation Fiona the Hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo!  Enter for your chance to win a copy of the picture book Fiona the Hippo, a Team Fiona plush and sippy cup.

About Fiona the Hippo
Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling artist Richard Cowdrey of Bad Dog, Marley fame, tells the story of Fiona, the adorable internet sensation from the Cincinnati Zoo who captured hearts around the world with her inspiring story and plucky personality.

Born prematurely, at 29 pounds, Fiona was not expected to live. But her spunk and determination helped her thrive and become a happy, healthy hippopotamus. With every challenge she faced, Fiona let out a snort, wiggled her ears, and said “I’ve \got this.” And she did! In this delightful story, inspired by the real adventure of this heroic hippo, join Fiona and her lovable animal friends at the zoo as she is introduced to the world in this whimsical and inspiring tale of perseverance and friendship.

I remember hearing about Fiona the Hippo last year and seeing her photo all over the Internet.  She’s the lovable little hippo who made her grand entrance to the world at the Cincinnati Zoo.  Born prematurely, and cared for with the assistance of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Fiona is the first Nile hippo born at the zoo in 75 years!  No wonder why she’s so irresistible to people of all ages.

I was surprised at how valuable lessons of determination, grit, overcoming challenges and family came through in this book.  I was expecting to just read about Fiona’s background and journey, so the lessons sprinkled throughout the book was an added bonus!  It definitely helped me come up with a few discussion questions to talk to the kids about after the story ended which was great!


About the Author

Richard Cowdrey’s favorite things to draw and paint are the common things seen everywhere in nature. He especially enjoys capturing the expressions, eyes, and gestures of both humans and animals. Drawing and painting Fiona was challenging as the hippopotamus is a very unique yet beautiful creature! Richard’s bestselling children’s books include Legend of the Candy CaneBad DogMarley, and A Very Marley Christmas.

The Giveaway!

One (1) US-based resident (age 18 and over) winner will receive:

Fiona the Hippo Prize Pack Sponsored by ZonderKidz

Book Reviews

Grandad Mandela (A Book Review)

Grandad Mandela by Ambassador Zindzi Mandela, Zazi and Ziwelene Mandela, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Publisher: Quarto Kids
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4 and up
Publication Date: June 28, 2018

Nelson Mandela’s two great-grandchildren ask their grandmother, Mandela’s youngest daughter, 15 questions about their grandad – the global icon of peace and forgiveness who spent 27 years in prison. They learn that he was a freedom fighter who put down his weapons for the sake of peace, and who then became the President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, and realise that they can continue his legacy in the world today. Seen through a child’s perspective, and authored jointly by Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren and daughter, this amazing story is told as never before to celebrate what would have been Nelson’s Mandela 100th birthday.

Born on July 18, 1918 Nelson Mandela is best known for promoting messages of forgiveness, peace and equality.  He spent 27 long years in prison, but when he was released he became the first Black President of South Africa and eventually won the Nobel Prize for Peace.  In 1994, Mandela successfully brought down the Apartheid government abolishing the original ruling of separating White people from Black people.

Grandad Mandela is a beautiful and important story told from the perspective of Mandela’s two youngest great-grandchildren and daughter.  The story begins with little Zazi and Ziwelene approaching their grandmother (Mandela’s youngest daughter, Zindzi) to tell them about their great-grandfather after finding a photograph of him around the house.  Mandela’s daughter goes on to her grandchildren the story of why Mandela went to jail when she was just eighteen months old.

In true childlike fashion, the kids continue to probe asking a series of 15 different questions about their great-grandfather.  They are curious and want to know more like:

Why did grandad go to jail?
Why did the white people start making everybody’s lives sad?

I love how Mandela’s daughter carefully responds to each question in a way that’s easy for smaller children to understand.

He went to jail because he was fighting against apartheid.  Apartheid was a law in South Africa that separated black people and white people, and said that white people were better.  Grandad was fighting for us all to be equal.

It’s because white people were taught under colonization and apartheid to hate.  They were taught that they were better than black people.

I think each question and answer response is well thought out and easily digestible for little readers.  The illustrations beautifully capture each memory and the time period so well.  You’ll see pictures of Winnie Mandela silently celebrating Mandela’s birthday each year he was in prison.  She kept the wedding cake they never had a chance to cut when they got married.  Every year on Mandela’s birthday, she would bring it out, light a candle, and say a prayer for him.  Be still my heart!

In the end, Mandela is finally released after spending nearly three decades of his life behind bars.  Everyone in South Africa is seen rejoicing, White and Black people.  What an amazing day that must have been for the people in South Africa who spent so many years living under apartheid!

I remember seeing some of the television coverage on that glorious day back on February 11, 1990.  It seemed like the whole world was rejoicing and celebrating.  It was as if Nelson Mandela’s release set us all free in a way.  His release helped set people free from anything they may have been  struggling with at the time.  His release gave me a renewed sense of hope and optimism.  From that day on, I held Nelson Mandela in such high regard often looking to his words for guidance in coming to grips with the ways—the sometimes brutal ways—in which the world works.

To say that I am grateful for Nelson Mandela’s example doesn’t suffice.  That’s why I’m so glad this picture book exists so I can keep his legacy alive by reading it with my children and for new generations to come.  His legacy lives on and we can all learn valuable lessons from him and his humanity.  Grandad Mandela is sure to inspire readers to achieve anything they want in life.  It inspires me to keep showing up daily, to keep writing, to keep fighting, to keep forgiving, and to keep loving.

Your turn: Are you planning to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s upcoming centenary (100th birthday)?  If so, how will you be celebrating?  Feel free to share in the comments.

For more information about Nelson Mandela’s forthcoming 100th birthday celebration visit The Nelson Mandela Foundation website.

Book Reviews

Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams (A Book Review)

Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Everyone knows the names Venus & Serena Williams. They’ve become synonymous with championships, hard work, and with shaking up the tennis world. This inspirational true story, written by award-winning sports journalist, Howard Bryant, and brought to beautiful life by Coretta Scott Kind Award and Honor winner, Floyd Cooper, details the sisters’ journey from a barely-there tennis court in Compton, CA, to Olympic gold medals and becoming the #1 ranked women in the sport of tennis. Here is a worthy ode to Venus and Serena Williams, the incredible sister duo who will go down in history as two of the greatest athletes of all time.


Every time I read this book it moves me to tears. Not because it’s a sad story, because it fills my heart with so much joy and inspires me to keep on pushing and grinding despite any odds, haters or obstacles I may face.

Venus and Serena’s tennis careers began before they could even hold a racquet properly at the tender age of 3. Their father, Richard Williams a former sharecropper from Louisiana, knew from the day he put tennis racquets in their hands they would be known as the greatest tennis duo in the world. Others laughed whenever Richard would talk about it.

Sisters and Champions gives you an inside glimpse into the lives of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. You learn about some challenges they overcame (like racism and health issues) and their many impressive victories.  Floyd Cooper’s vivid and gorgeous illustrations really complement the story so well.

I love how the girls’ parents took a gamble by putting everything they had on making tennis stars out of their daughters. All of their hard work and dedication eventually paid off…big time! In February 2002, Venus was ranked number one in the world. Six months later, it was Serena’s turn to be number one. It is the only time in history two siblings were ranked first and second in the world.

Check this one out if you want to read about Venus and Serena’s story, if you need a dose of inspiration, or if you have any aspiring little tennis players in your life. Makes a nice addition to any home or school library. Now available wherever books are sold. Recommended for ages 4-8 and up.

“It’s not about winning today, it’s about winning tomorrow. You’re building your game.” -Richard Williams

Book Reviews

Llama Llama Loves to Read (A Book Review)

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher as part of the Llama Llama blog tour.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Llama Llama Loves to Read
by Anna Dewdney, illustrated by Reed Duncan

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3 – 5
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten

Anna Dewdney’s Bestselling Llama Llama series continues with Llama learning to read!

Llama Llama learns at school. 
Counting, writing, reading, rules. 
Friends and school — there’s nothing better. 
Llama learning all the letters!

Anna Dewdney’s beloved Llama Llama is growing up and learning to read! Throughout the school day,the teacher helps Llama Llama and the other children practice their letters, shows word cards, reads stories, and brings them to the library where they can all choose a favorite book. By the end of the day, Llama Llama is recognizing words and can’t wait to show Mama Llama that he’s becoming a reader!

Llama Llama Loves to Read Blog Tour

It was a sad day for book lovers of all ages when the inspiring author of the beloved Llama Llama series, Anna Dewdney, passed away nearly two years ago from brain cancer. Anna was a champion of children’s literacy and learning who was probably best known for her Llama Llama series.  Llama Llama books are centered around a precocious young Llama navigating his way through childhood.  Undoubtedly, that series has touched many lives and helped put countless kids to sleep over the years. Thankfully Llama Llama’s story is not quite over yet.

Of course it goes without saying, I love the overall concept behind this book – literacy and reading.  Just like all of the of the other Llama Llama books we’ve read, Llama Llama Loves to Read has a relevant theme, lilting rhythms, and great illustrations.  This book is sure to inspire a love of reading in every preschool and kindergarten mind that is blessed to hear/read the rhythmic story about Llama’s reading adventure.

In true Anna Dewdney style, this book is written in fun, catchy rhymes.  It starts with a simple life problem and proceeds to solve it, with lessons learned along the way.  In this book, Llama Llama is faced with the problem of not being able to read some harder words.  He learns to do his best and take his time to sound words out.  In the end, he’s so proud of his newfound reading skills and can’t wait to tell his mother all about it.

My kids and I are so happy Anna Dewdney and Llama Llama will continue to live on through this book and the remaining ones yet to be released. Check out Llama Llama Loves to Read if you want to inspire little people to love reading and conversing about literature.

Llama Llama Loves to Read blog tour

Anna Dewdney passed away in September, 2016, at the age of fifty from cancer. A teacher, mother, and enthusiastic proponent of reading aloud to children, she continually honed her skills as an artist and writer and published her first Llama Llama book in 2005. Her passion for creating extended to home and garden and she lovingly restored an 18th century farmhouse in southern Vermont. She wrote, painted, gardened, and lived there with her partner, Reed, her two daughters, two wirehaired pointing griffons, and one bulldog. Anna was a warm-hearted, wonderful, wise soul who will be forever missed, but whose spirit lives on in her books.

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

Book Reviews

Front Desk by Kelly Yang: A Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided with an advanced review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Front Desk
by Kelly Yang

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12
Grade Level: 3-7

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

I will never know exactly feels like to be an immigrant who was not born in the United States. It’s simply not a part of my story. However, I do know what it’s like to be a Black person and at times feel discriminated against because of the color of my skin, the texture of my hair or my full lips. I guess that may feel what like to be an immigrant although they are not exactly the same thing.

I think Front Desk is an amazing middle-grade book that wholeheartedly deserves a five star rating, let me tell you why.

First of all, it’s loosely based on the author’s life, the daughter of first generation Chinese immigrants. The author lived this tale so the writing is gripping and very authentic based on some of her own life experiences.

Second, it outlines the struggles and hardships many immigrants have to face daily. The book is set in the 1990’s timeframe so I found myself relating to it on so many levels. Having an immigrant-born Jamaican mother, my sister and I were often teased and heard terms like “fresh off the boat” even though we were both born in the US. My heart ached for little Mia and her family at times. But then my heart sang to see how they overcame any roadblocks that were in their way.

Lastly, I loved all of the themes and lessons this book provides to readers: perseverance, racism, social justice, teamwork, hard work, gratitude, family, friendship and so much more. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this one!

I walked away from this book feeling so full and blessed which was unexpected. I felt like I took my kids on an amazing read-aloud journey to experience what it feels like to live in an immigrants’ shoes. If you woke up this morning, have food to eat, and clothes to wear give thanks and be grateful.

Kudos to author Kelly Yang for penning such wonderful and powerful debut novel! Front Desk publishes May 29, 2018. An absolute must-read for 2018!

Your turn: Do you plan to read this book when it comes out?  Feel free to share in the comments.