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ARC Review: I am Okay to Feel by Karamo Brown and Jason “Rachel” Brown

Publication Date: November 8, 2022


A father and son are caught in a storm and must learn to navigate the uncertainty together in this poignant picture book by talk show host and beloved QUEER EYE star Karamo Brown and his son Jason “Rachel” Brown, perfect for reassuring young readers in times of stress.

I AM OKAY TO FEEL empowers children to talk about their emotions and anxieties, with the reassuring message that “I am okay to feel and heal.” Paired with back matter and resources developed with psychologists, this picture book offers a loving framework for how to identify and express feelings in a healthy way, providing the tools to build emotional intelligence at a formative age.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is such a beautiful book!

The colors are vibrant and the illustrations whimsical and sweet. The story is told through a conversation between a father and child. As they go on a walk, the weather changes and they talk through several emotions and what they can do to feel better.

It clearly shows the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior and offers a compassionate explanation of those things and how we can keep our thoughts and feelings from leaking out into uncontrollable actions.

I can’t wait to show this to my kiddo (8) who struggles with his thoughts and feelings and behavior. I think he will really connect with it. I would definitely recommend it to any parent whose child is struggling and to elementary school classrooms where I suspect it could come in very handy.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Zando Projects for providing an e-arc for review.

Excellent Nonfiction Books for Kids read in October and November 2022 (ARC and non-ARC review)

I read some *excellent* kids’ nonfiction titles in October and November. They made perfect bedtime reading with my third grader, who devoured them with at least as much interest as me. Reviews of all three books below.

Explorers: Amazing Tales of the World’s Greatest Adventures by Nellie Huang

Publication Date: September 3, 2019


Live and see the world through the eyes of 50 of the world’s greatest explorers and their trusty companions!

This book for kids is brimming with first-person accounts of gripping adventures in explorers’ own words. Find exciting tales complemented by rare maps, specially commissioned photographs, and artworks that re-create history’s greatest expeditions. Get ready to take a leap into the unknown…

An adventure book that will surely rival even the most thrilling adventure movies! You’ll meet some of the most famous explorers and adventurers of all time in this exciting non-fiction storybook for children.

Great explorers have one thing in common – a desire to leap into the unknown, no matter the dangers it presents. This book will take you through Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the world 500 years ago to Barbara Hillary’s treks to the North and South poles while in her seventies, and beyond. This knowledge book documents the stories of men and women who rewrote our understanding of the world and inspired us by pushing the boundaries of human capability.

A kid’s educational book that looks at the towering achievements of more than 50 explorers from all walks of life in great detail. See sensational cross-sections revealing the amazing detail inside Spanish galleons, lost cities, and spaceships. Magnificent photographs highlight the artifacts and relics they found along the way, while hand-drawn maps reveal their intrepid journeys in such detail, you feel as though you could be walking in their very footsteps.

It is a glorious introduction to history’s most famous trailblazers – people whose courage opened frontiers turned voids into maps, forged nations, connected cultures, and added to humankind’s knowledge of the world by leaps and bounds. Packed with jaw-dropping fun facts about the world and written so beautifully it will get your heart racing. Explorers is the perfect kid’s book for any young mind with an avid sense of adventure!

Explore Unknown Waters – Take To The Skies – Investigate Our Planet!

For centuries, explorers have been unable to resist the secrets of the sea. We have looked toward the skies and stars since the beginning of time. Through dense jungles, dry desserts, and frozen mountains we have pushed the very limits of human endurance in the name of exploration and adventure!

These tales are not for the faint of heart – these adventurers faced challenges that threatened their very survival! Their courage has allowed us to collect a wealth of knowledge about our awe-inspiring universe.

Set sail to faraway frozen lands, defy gravity and take to the skies, and investigate our planet through the stories of those who came before us. Happy exploring!

Learn about the explorers who defied the so-called possibilities of their time in:

– Sea & Ice
– Air & Space
– And Land

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was an excellent book about explorers and their expeditions. Each explorer got a page or two-page spread filled with fascinating facts about them and what they discovered.

One thing I really, really liked about it is that it does not focus on the standard white / European explorers one learns about in school. Several of them are there, but there are also many non-European explorers, non-white explorers, and women explorers. There is also always a note at the end about the negative results of the expeditions. Like yes, it opened the new world up to Europe but it also exposed the indiginous peoples to new diseases and wiped out huge swaths of their populations, or exacerbated the slave trade, etc.

This book also doesn’t focus solely on conquering expeditions. There are scientific expeditions, deep-sea and outer-space expeditions, mountain-climbing and arctic exploration expeditions… There’s a huge variety of information in this book and my kiddo (8) ate it up.

It also avoids standard history-book pitfalls by having great writing that sucks you in and makes you want to know more about each expedition and explorer.

ARC Review: History’s BIGGEST Show-offs by Andy Seed

Publication Date: November 1, 2022


Some people just can’t resist showing off… and this BIG book introduces readers to some of the biggest braggers and loudest show-offs throughout history. 

This book takes young readers on a tour of some of history’s greatest show-offs, from wealthy kings and queens who loved to splash the cash to masterful musicians who weren’t shy about their talents or brilliant artists who could not stop telling others how great they were.

Some of the showoffs in this book include:

Queen Marie Antoinette of France, who arrived for her wedding with 57 carriages pulled by 376 horses, 

Alexander the Great, who named more than 70 cities in his vast empire after himself,… and one after his horse!

The Montgolfier brothers, who showed off their flashy new invention, the hot air balloon, in front of huge crowds and even the King and Queen!
Andy Seed’s hilarious text brings these crazy but true stories to life, as he tells readers tales about massive palaces, fast cars, monster banquets, immense armies, frilly outfits, dazzling bling, musical masterpieces, epic artworks, outrageous inventions and much, much more!

Featuring long-dead leaders, artists, musicians and more, from all around the world, the snappy facts are paired with humorous character illustrations from the brilliant Sam Caldwell for maximum hilarity.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a super cute and fun book and has a surprising amount of easily digestible information about a variety of historical figures (and they’re not even all white guys!). There are a range of famous leaders, artists, scientists, writers, engineers, and entertainers that include a number of women and people of color.

The illustrations are whimsical and playful and the expressions on the people’s faces are hilarious. There are also many puns and funny comments that elementary- and middle-school-aged kids will love.

I actually love the way they have reframed the famous people included as “show-offs” because of how rich, talented, clever, powerful, and/or imaginative they were. It gives the whole book an irreverent air so you feel like you’re rebelling against staid and boring history professors everywhere.

It’s also an interesting point that some famous historical figures are pretty much just famous because of how rich they were. I mean, really rich people are still famous today. But if you think about it… they didn’t actually do anything to deserve that fame, unlike those famous for being talented and clever. I can see it spurring some interesting discussions.

I think it will really appeal to kids in the 7-14 range and plan on getting it for my 8-year-old for Christmas. I might read parts of it with him but I can also see him reading it on his own and enjoying it.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Quarto Publishing Group, and Francis Lincoln Childrens Books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Lore of the Land: Folklore and Wisdom from the Wild Earth by Claire Cock-Starkey

Publication Date: October 18, 2022


Unearth the secrets of our natural world with the Lore of the Land, a richly illustrated compendium of folklore and wisdom from the land, skies, and seas.

From thundering rivers to shady groves, flickering marshes to lightless caves, and from snow-capped mountains to the depths of the ocean, discover the folklore of Earth’s wildest places. Stories and spirits abound in these land- and seascapes, where traditional wisdom and mysterious magics have intertwined over centuries.

Each of the six chapters covers a different natural landscape, revealing the worldwide folklore surrounding Woodlands, Seas & Oceans, Wetlands, Mountains, Rivers & Streams,and Hills & Caves. Beginning with tales from cultures spanning the globe, each chapter then dives into the legends of how these places were formed, their place in the human imagination,and their natural and otherworldly denizens.

Learn how the forests hold up the sky in Māori tradition; how in Ireland, seaweed was once thought to predict the weather; and that the ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna housed the fiery forge of the gods. All this and more is accompanied by beautiful artwork based on real folklore, uncovering the secrets of our natural world as never before.

A treasury of fascinating tales and ancient wisdom, the Lore of the Land is sure to fire the imaginations of young nature-lovers, and delight anyone who has ever wondered whether there is more to our natural world than meets the eye.

Also in the series:
Lore of the Wild: Folklore and Wisdom from Nature

My Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is a charming collection of myths, legends, and folklore about creatures and plants living in various environments (oceans, rivers, marshes, mountains, forests) and the natural features and environments themselves.

The folklore is arranged into sections based on environment rather than nationality, so that you get stories from around the world about rivers, or forests, etc all together. This is a wonderful way to arrange it because it makes it easy to compare different myths about the same features.

I really like how each bit of folklore is condensed into a short paragraph and is accompanied by illustrations. There are a few longer stories sprinkled throughout as well, which break up the reading nicely.

The illustrations are colorful and vivid and intriguing and make each bit of folklore come alive in the imagination. They add a lot to the book. The cover is also gorgeous.

My only complaint is the font chosen for this story. It would have been great if confined to headings or similar, but trying to read the entire book in that font was headache-inducing. It would be nearly impossible for a child learning to read or struggling with reading to make any sense of it.

**After some thought, I have decided to revise my rating. The godawful font chosen for ALL of the text is nearly impossible to read without going cross-eyed. It will prevent many people from being able to read it – including children who are learning or struggling to read. Since the book seems to be aimed at children, it’s basically sabotaging itself. I can’t in good conscience recommend it unless a different font is chosen.

I look forward to sharing this with my kiddo (8). I think he will really enjoy learning about the varied mythical creatures.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wide-Eyed Editions for providing an e-arc for review.

August Kids Books ARC Review Roundup

The Rainbow Fish and His Friends by Marcus Pfister

Publication Date: October 11, 2022


Five Rainbow Fish titles in one collection! 

Five Rainbow Fish favorites are now available in one place in this collection that includes—The Rainbow FishRainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale; Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea; You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish; and Good Night, Little Rainbow Fish. The Rainbow Fish and his friends experience the happiness of sharing, discover how to resolve an argument, and how to be a good sport. It is these everyday but important situations that every child experiences and from which they can emerge strengthened.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had previously read some of the rainbow fish books to my 8-year-old when he was younger (and to my younger brothers growing up), but I hadn’t encountered all of these stories and it was nice to have them all in one volume for ease of reading.

The stories have great messages (that only occasionally shade towards being a bit heavy-handed) and are perfect for introducing many difficult concepts to young children in a fun and memorable way. Messages like sharing and being a good sport and being willing to reach out instead of attacking others out of fear and misunderstandings.

The illustrations are colorful and cheerful and do a great job conveying the message and mood of each story. The text is perfect for reading aloud to children, and also great for kids with a 2nd-to-3rd-grade reading level to practice reading, though they may need help here and there.

I really enjoyed reading through this collection of stories and sharing them with my child. I also really liked the included activities and author’s note at the end, where the author talks about the inspiration for Rainbow Fish.

*Thanks to NetGalley and NorthSouth Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Rainbow Fish and the Storyteller by Marcus Pfister

Publication Date: October 11, 2022


A sparkling book about tall tales!

When Rainbow Fish meets a new friend, Humbert, he isn’t sure what to think. Humbert tells all kinds of strange stories: Somewhere at the bottom of the ocean there’s a plug!

There’s a blue whale living near here . . . and he’s going to eat up all of our food.

But before Rainbow Fish and his friends panic, they realize that Humbert just likes to make up tall tales. Rainbow Fish and his friends soon come up with an idea that might make them all happy—even Humbert. 

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such a cute book! It had a great message about making friends and not telling lies to get their attention. The illustrations were beautiful and I absolutely loved all the bright colors. It was a really fun read and I think it would be great to have in a classroom library.

Kiddo (8) read it with me and enjoyed it a lot. He thought the illustrations were beautiful. He read the text out loud to me and had no problems with understanding it. He also found the idea of a plug at the bottom of the sea very funny.

I especially liked how Rainbow Fish realized Humbert was lonely and worked with him to find a way for him to use his storytelling abilities for good to make friends rather than pushing them away with lies.

*Thanks to NetGalley and NorthSouth Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Mouse and Mole Have a Party by Joyce Dunbar

Publication Date: August 31, 2021


Every day holds a new surprise for Mole. He just can’t help getting into scrapes – whether picking the first daffodil of Spring, or trimming his lopsided whiskers. But with the help of his friend, Mouse, things generally turn out for the best – especially when he least expects it!

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was really cute and funny. I read it with my 8-year-old, and he found it amusing. It reminded me a lot of the Frog and Toad books – it has that same bumbling silly vibe. In fact, many of the adventures were reminiscent of ones that Frog and Toad would have gone on. It’s a perfect quick and entertaining read for kids.

The reading level isn’t difficult either, and my 8-year-old had no trouble reading it aloud. So I would recommend it as a fun read-aloud for a 2nd-3rd grade reading level and also as a fun story to read to younger kids.

The illustrations have a sketchy, old-fashioned feel reminescent of the original Winnie the Pooh books, with warm colors that draw you in. There is a lot of humor in the expressions of the animals as well as in the movement of the lines of the illustrations. The illustrations match the tone of the text perfectly and enhance the impact of the story being told.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Star Bright Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Let’s Draw Dragons by How2DrawAnimals

Publication Date: August 16, 2022


With Let’s Draw Dragons, you can learn to bring your mythological drawings to life, guided by realistic illustrations and step-by-step instructions for a variety of these amazing fantasy creatures.

The easy-to-follow visual and written instructions in this book make it achievable and fun to draw lifelike dragons. Each drawing lesson begins with basic shapes and progresses, step by step, to a finished piece of artwork, making it easy to follow along. You just need to grab a pencil, a piece of paper, and your copy of Let’s Draw Dragons, and then flip to the mythological beast you want to draw. The drawing projects include:

Dragons in different poses
Elemental dragons
Fire-breathing dragon
Flying dragon
Swimming dragon
Sleeping dragon
And more!

The detailed written instructions in this 48-page book also provide tips for placement of details, how to create realistic scales and wings, how to shade, and much more. If you’ve never drawn before, don’t be intimidated. Just start with a few basic shapes and follow the illustrated steps—you’ll be creating your own amazing mythological masterpieces in no time at all! And each time you draw, you should see an improvement in your artistic skills.

Also available from the Let’s Draw series:Let’s Draw Cats, Let’s Draw Dogs, Let’s Draw Favorite Animals, Let’s Draw Wild Animals, Let’s Draw Birds & Butterflies, Let’s Draw Sea Creatures, and Let’s Draw Dinosaurs.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My experience with how-to-draw books has always been along the lines of “draw 3 circles. Now draw the rest of the dragon and shade it” – resulting in much frustration and a tendency to distrust other how-t0-draw books.

This book, in contrast, has detailed steps that make sense and actually break down the entire drawing process so I feel like I could actually draw the dragons and have them look like … well, dragons.

That doesn’t sound like much – ‘it does what it says on the tin’ and all that – but for me it’s a revolutionary concept. I’m actually very excited about it because I LOVE dragons but have always had difficulty visualizing them and drawing them.

This book breaks the entire body down into easily managed pieces in a way that makes sense to me. I will most definitely be using it and am looking forward to lots of dragon art in my future.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Walter Foster Jr for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Why Do I Feel So Worried? by Tammi Kirkness

Publication Date: March 22, 2022


An interactive way to calm kids’ anxiety and promote better mental health with simple illustrated activities
Children need mental health days, too. There are lots of stressors in today’s world, from the global pandemic, to economic recession, to global warming, and kids aren’t exempt from the effects that these issues have on our minds and emotions. What’s worse, letting worry and stress get out of hand can turn short-term feelings into long-term states of mind like anxiety and depression. We all need help tackling these issues, but a lot of the time, we just don’t know where to start.
Why Do I Feel So Worried? is an interactive book for children ages seven to twelve (and their parents/caretakers) to help them kick anxiety to the curb and create a common language to help both generations understand feelings together. Incorporating evidence-based methods like breathing techniques, visualization, and pattern interruption, Tammi Kirkness helps bring calm into stressful times. This book abounds with illustrations, games, and exercises to empower kids to take control of their emotions, and to teach parents the importance of facing mental challenges head-on.
From yoga to psychology, Kirkness educates children on mental health and teaches parents how to set an example for their kids and raise a more mindful generation. Through mutual healing, both parents and children can use this book to acknowledge and conquer their longstanding fears.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an excellent guide to helping your kid work through some worries. My kid worries – a LOT – and I will definitely be reading this with them. I can definitely see how some of the exercises could really help them.

The information is presented in a clear, easy-to-understand, and visually appealing way. It is easy to work through the entire book or just the section that is relevant to the child’s current worry. There are incisive questions to ask the child and exercises (meditation, etc) to help deal with each specific type of worry.

*Thanks to NetGalley and The Experiment for providing an e-arc for review.