Recent Tween Reads

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School has been busy but my tweens have still been reading up a storm.  Here is a look at some of the recent books that my 9 and 12-year-old children have been reading.  With summer vacation soon approaching, maybe some of these reads will interest your own tweens.

The 9-year-old:


Big Nate on a Roll by Lincoln Peirce
Published: HarperCollins, August 2011
Pages: 224
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the third book in the Big Nate series.  This series is similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series in that there are lots of cartoon-like illustrations mixed with the text.  In this book, Nate’s Timber Scouts troop is selling wall hangings.  The grand prize is a customized skate board that Nate really wants.  But he has major competition from new troop member Artur.  Who will win the grand prize?! As a fan of cartoons and comics, my son likes this series.  He’s read a couple of other books in the Big Nate series and thinks Nate is a funny character.


Bunny vs. Monkey: Book Two by Jamie Smart
Published by: David Fickling Books, August 2015
Pages: 64
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

This is the second book in the Bunny vs. Monkey children’s graphic novel series.  Bunny fights for good while Monkey fights for evil.  This book is broken up by seasons, with several comics for each month.  Each comic stars Bunny, Monkey, Pig and Squirrel along with some other woodland creatures. Monkey is always unsuccessfully trying to destroy the forest. My son found this book to be hilarious.


The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel adapted by Robert Venditti
Art by:  Nate Powell
Published by: Disney-Hyperion, October 2014
Pages: 192
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

My son and I read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan together a couple of months ago.  When he saw this graphic novel at the library, he of course had to check it out.  This book combines his love of comics with the great story of The Lost Hero.


Middle School Get Me Out of Here by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Published by: Jimmy Patterson, May 2012
Pages: 288
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the follow-up book to Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life.  Rafe is now in 7th grade and has been accepted into art school.  The family is now living with Rafe’s grandmother in the city, after there’s a fire in the restaurant where his mom worked.  His new school isn’t all that Rafe expected it to be and he deals with bullying and trying to make new friends and fit in.  There are plenty of illustrations in this book that help add to the story.  Fans of the first book will likely enjoy this book as well.


Stick Dog Slurps Spaghetti (#6) by Tom Waston
Published by: HarperCollins, March 2016
Pages: 240
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is the sixth book in the Stick Dog series. This is another series with lots of simple drawings. Can you tell the type of books my son enjoys reading?!   In this book after Stick Dog and his friends get a small taste of spaghetti, they go on a search to get more.  He enjoyed this book as much as the others that he read.


Zach King: My Magical Life 
Illustrated by:  Beverly Arce
Published by: HarperCollins, September 2017
Pages: 208
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 5/5 stars

Zach King is a social media star and magician.  My Magical Life is his debut novel targeted for middle grade readers.  Everyone in Zach’s family has a magical power, but he hasn’t discovered his yet. So, his parents decide to stop homeschooling him and send him to a regular middle school.  This book comes with a free downloadable app and it will eventually be coming to the big screen. Prior to reading the book my son was familiar with Zach King from YouTube.  He loved this book and thought it was a fun read.

The 12-year-old:


30 People Who Changed the World – Edited by Jean Reynolds
Published by: Seagrass Press, October 2017
Pages: 144
Source:  c/o publisher
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

This is a non-fiction book that includes 30 “bite-sized essay from award-winning writers.”  Biographies include Julius Caesar, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Park, Sally Ride, Queen Victoria, Malala Yousafzai and many more.  Each essay includes photographs and additional print and media resources to learn more information about the individual.  My daughter found this book to be very educational.  This isn’t a book that she read straight through, but rather would read an essay every now and then.  Her favorites include Sally Ride and Malala Yousafzai.


The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson
Published by: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 2016
Pages: 309
Source: borrowed from library
Rating:  4/5 stars

This is Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson’s first YA novel.  In this book, high school sophomore Charlie is training to be an Olympic gymnast.  But she really wants to do normal high school things like date boys and go to prom.   I read this book when it was first published.  I had to remind myself that it is a YA book, intended for younger readers.  However, the writing and story is appropriate for even middle school readers.  My daughter really liked this book.  She liked Charlie and found her double life intriguing.


Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata
Published by: Disney-Hyperion, May 2014
Pages: 288
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This middle-grade fiction book is about Kate Walden, a seventh-grade film fanatic.  She’s working on her breakout film Night of the Zombie Chickens starring her mom’s organic hens.  Then her best friend ditches her for the “cool kids” and Kate ends up alone at the loser table during lunch.  Kate ends up dealing with both family issues and friendship issues all while trying to finish her film. My daughter thought this was an okay book about perseverance.


Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, March 2010
Pages: 295
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 5/5 stars

11-year-old Melody has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk.  However, Melody refuses to be defined by her disability.  My daughter loves this book so much and has read it multiple times.  She finds it very inspirational and highly recommends this book to middle school-aged readers.


Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Published by: Jimmy Patterson, June 2017
Pages: 336
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3/5 stars

Seventh graders David and Michael are still stuck with the nicknames they received in preschool, “Pottymouth” and “Stoopid.”  When a new show on the Cartoon Network debuts, with the name “Pottymouth & Stoopid” the two become very popular.  Who is making the television show and how do they know so much about David and Michael’s life?  This book is a humorous take on the serious topic of bullying.  My daughter thought that this was an okay read.  She’s read several other of James Patterson’s series and this wasn’t her favorite.


The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe
Published  by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 2012
Pages: 268
Source:  Courtesy of the author
Rating:  3/5 stars

Poppy is born into a long line of witches and has inherited great powers. Even though she’s a talented witch, she really wants to be a baker. However, her parents disagree and will do anything to keep her away from baking.  That’s when Poppy decides to take matters into her own hands.  This is the first book of three books in the Poppy Pendle series.  Several recipes that Poppy makes in the book are included in the back of the book.  My daughter thought this was a good book.  She liked when Poppy stands up for herself and makes new friends.  She also enjoyed reading about all of the delicious things that Poppy made.



January 2018 Tween Reads

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Here’s another monthly review of some tween reads.  Each month I give a short summary of what my 9 and 11-year-olds have been reading.  These are the books that they read outside of school for leisure, not the books that they are required to read as part of their school curriculum.  If you are looking for new books for your own tweens to read, hopefully you can get some suggestions here.


The Complete Guide to Greek Myths by Heather Dakota
Published by:
  Sandy Creek, 2015
Pages: 144
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Price: starting at $7.62 used
Rating: 4/5 stars

My son’s teacher has been focusing on non-fiction reading and he was required to read non-fiction books for his daily reading homework.  He chose The Complete Guide to Greek Myths after reading Rick Riordan’s books (see below) and has become an expert on all things Greek mythology.  This book is a collection of many of the Greek Myths.


Creatures That Glow by Anita Ganeri
Published by: ABRAMS, September 1995
Pages: 30
Price: $19.95
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is another non-fiction book that my son borrowed from his classroom library for his non-fiction reading homework. This book describes different creatures that glow-in-the-dark with illustrations.  It includes everything from fireflies to angler fish.  My son found this book informative but, “it wasn’t the best book ever.”


Dog Man and Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey
Published by: Graphix, December 2017
Pages: 256
Price: $9.99
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the fourth and newly released book in the Dog Man series.  This graphic novel series is written by Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants.  My son enjoyed this book enough that he read it twice.  In this bookDog Man has a new side kick, Cat Kid.  The two must help find a missing movie star.


Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by: K.G. Campbell
Published by: Candlewick Press, September 2013
Pages: 233
Price: $6.99
Source: borrowed from school library
Rating: 3/5 stars

When Flora’s neighbor runs over a squirrel with her vacuum cleaner he develops superpowers.  Flora names him Ulysses, after the vacuum cleaner.  The two form an unlikely friendship and when Flora’s mom tries to kill Ulysses she must save him.  This book was the most recent selection for the school book club that my son attends.   Although it is a 2014 Newbery Medal winner, my son and the other book club members weren’t big fans of this book.


Inside the Whale and Other Animals by Ted Dewan
Published by:  DoubleDay Books for Young Readers, May 1992
Pages: 48
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Price: from $4.90 used
Rating: 4/5 stars

This was another non-fiction book that my son read. He enjoyed reading and learning about the inner organs of various animals.  He liked, “seeing the illustrations of the insides of the animals that we can’t usually see.”


The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)  by Rick Riordan
Published by:  Disney Hyperion Books, March 2006 (first published June 2005)
Pages: 375 pages
Price: $7.99
Source:  own the book
Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  12-year-old Percy Jackson discovers that he is a demi-god and is sent to Camp Half Blood.  Percy eventually ends up on a quest with Annabeth and Grover to find Zeus’ stolen lightening bolts and prevent a war between Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.  My son received The Lightning Thief  as a present and began reading this book after we had started reading The Lost Hero together (see below).  There are five books in this series and he has already started reading book two!  I also just discovered that this book was made into a movie, which we will hopefully watch soon!

The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan
Published by:  Disney-Hyperion Books, October 2010
Pages: 557
Price: $9.99
Source:  own the book
Rating:  4/5 stars

For the past several months my son and I have been reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan and finally finished it.  This is the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series, a spin-off of Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  In this book Jason, Leo and Piper are brought together on a quest to save Hera from Gaea’s potential awakening.  The book is told from the various points of view of the three main characters.  These books are thick with small print. However, Rioradan is a great writer and these stories suck the reader right in.  The book is filled with humor and lots of adventure.  Since reading Riordan’s books, my son has become very interested in Greek Mythology and has been reading non-fiction books about the Greek Gods.



Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
Published by: Feiwel & Friends, March 2017
Pages: 336
Price: $16.99
Source:   borrowed from the library
Rating: 4/5 stars

Callie June has Tourette Syndrome and is nervous about starting another new school. Even though she is teased by her classmates, she is befriended by her neighbor Jinsong.  He helps her feel comfortable in her new town.  This novel is told in verse from the two points of view of Callie and Jinsong.  My daughter liked this book because, “it showed the story of true friendship” and she learned about Tourette syndrome.


I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories About Real Life by various authors
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 2016
Pages: 304
Price: $17.99
Source:  borrowed from the library
Rating: 3/5 stars

This book is a collection of twelve short stories by different authors.  This book is a YA book geared for older teens.  Only after reading reviews of this book did I realize that my daughter probably shouldn’t have been reading this book, as it deals with abusive relationships, sexuality, pregnancy and addiction.  My daughter felt it was an okay book.  “There were such a wide variety of topics and only some of the stories were interesting.”


It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Published by: Point, October 2016
Pages: 288
Price: $9.99
Source:  ARC
Rating: 4/5 stars

Days before the prom Avery Dennis is dumped by her boyfriend.  Then her American History teacher gives the class an oral history final project in which they are to interview adults about an event in American History that they had lived through.  In her interpretation of the assignment Avery decides to conduct her own oral history to find out why she always ends up single.  Thus, “It’s Not Me, It’s You:  An Oral History of Boys” is written. This story is told as an oral history with each chapter consisting of Avery interviewing her ex-boyfriends. There is commentary from various friends and family members as well that offer different perspectives on the same events. The oral history format of this book  is different and fun.  Although the main characters in the book are seniors in high school, the content is mild enough for middle school readers.  Readers will be able to relate to the topics of friendship, romance and jealousy.  I received an ARC of this book last year to review for Kiss the Book and my daughter wanted to read it, after seeing it at her school book fair this past fall.  She enjoyed the story and the format of this book, as did many of her middle school friends.

The Tweens Read {December 2017}

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Here’s another monthly installment of the Tweens Read.  Each month I give a short summary of what my 9 and 11-year-olds have been reading.  If you are looking for new books for your own tweens to read, hopefully you can get some suggestions here.


This past month  my son did an author study at school on Roald Dahl.  Most of his outside school reading was of various Roald Dahl books.


Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
Published by: Penguin Group, February 1999 (first published 1984)
Pages: 176
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is Roald  Dahl’s first autobiography, in which he writes about his childhood in England.  I have not read this book.  My son, “kind of liked it because I don’t really like autobiographies.”


Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
Published by:  Puffin, June 1998 (first published 1975)
Pages: 205
Source:  borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 4 out of 5

Danny’s mother passes away when he’s a baby, so it’s just him and his dad.  He discovers that his father has a secret hobby, poaching pheasants.  Again, this is a book that I have not read.  My son liked this book and found it entertaining and funny.


Going Solo by Roald Dahl
Published by: Puffin, April 2001 (first published 1986)
Pages: 209
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 3 out of 5

Going Solo is the sequel to Boy.  It’s Dahl’s autobiography of his time as a World War II pilot.  Again, my son wasn’t the biggest fan of this book because he doesn’t enjoy reading this genre of books.


James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Published by: Puffin, April 1996 (first published 1961)
Pages: 144
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 4 out of 5

Although James and the Giant Peach is the sixth book that Dahl wrote, it’s one of his more well-known earlier works.  Even I’ve read and enjoyed this book and the movie with the giant peach and the talking insects! My son liked it because, “their adventures are extreme.”


The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets by Roald Dahl
Published by: Puffin Books, September 2010
Pages: 128
Source: borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 4 out of 5

This short book contains both fiction and non-fiction works.  It includes a chapter about Miranda Mary Piker, one of the children who didn’t make it into the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  There are also more tales about Roald Dahl’s life, a quiz and some recipes from Mr. Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  My son liked it because, “it has cool recipes  for truffles and butterscotch” (which I did not know about and we did not try making).

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl
Published by: Puffin, October 1988 (first published 1977)
Pages: 240
Source:  borrowed from classroom library
Rating: 4 out of 5

This book is a collection of seven short stories.  I had not even heard of this book before my son brought it home to read.  He really liked the title story, because, “it is cool that Henry has the power to (kind of) cheat at casino games.”



Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, October 2008
Pages: 322
Source: borrowed from the library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This middle grade fiction book is about three different teens Ally, Bree and Jack.  They are brought together by a viewing of a solar eclipse at Moon Shadow campground, which ends up changing their lives.  The chapters alternate being told from the perspectives of the three different characters.  My daughter has read several books by Wendy Mass and is a fan.


The School For Good and Evil (The School For Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani
Published by: HarperCollins, May 2013
Pages: 488
Source:  purchased from Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is my daughter’s favorite book series.  Having purchased the second book in the series earlier last month, she decided to re-read the first book.  Best friends Sophie and Agatha are kidnapped and brought to the School For Good and Evil.


To Look a Nazi in the Eye by Kathy Kacer with Jordana Lebowitz
Published by: Second Story Press, September 2017
Pages: 256
Source:  received copy from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Daughter’s Review:  This book was very interesting.  It is an account of a war trial against Oskar Groening, a SS guard in World War II. 19-year-old Jordana Lebowitz found herself being swept into the confusing and curious trial of Groening that claims he helped to kill more than 300,000 Jews. Jordana was ultimately not prepared for what she would encounter and see on her adventure. Jordana understood she would access knowledge by seeing history before her eyes and that she would have to pass this knowledge onto the next generation of learners. I recommend this book for ages 9+ because of the complexity.


Speed of Life by Carol Weston
Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, April 2017
Pages: 320
Source: received copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Daughter’s Review: This book was also an interesting book. It is about a 14 year-old-girl named Sofia who goes through the struggles of losing her mom, her dad getting a new girlfriend when she is not ready to get over her mom yet, and just being a teen. Her friends help her but when a long time goes by, they are concerned. When Sofia discovers Dear Kate, a column for girls, she now feels she has someone she can talk to for advice. When her Dad introduces her to his new girlfriend, who seems very familiar, Sofia’s life takes a whole new direction. I recommend this book for ages 10+ because of some rude humor, and awkward topics.


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Published by: Simon Pulse, February 2005
Pages: 425
Source:  purchased
Rating: 4 out of stars

I read this series over five years ago and enjoyed it enough to own the first three books.  My daughter decided to read this first one and liked it as much as I did.   This is a dystopian YA book where everyone is considered “ugly” until age 16 when they get a surgery to make them “pretty.” Tally Youngblood is about to turn 16.  But her new friends Shay and David show her the not-so-pretty side of being a “pretty.”

A World Without Princes (The School For Good and Evil #2) by Soman Chainani
Published by: HarperCollins, April 2015
Pages: 433
Source: we own
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the second book in The School for Good and Evil series.  Sophie and Agatha are back home but are whisked back to the school.  There they discover that everything has changed and instead of good vs. evil, it is now girls versus boys.

Three New Hanukkah Books for 2017

Check out these three new Hanukkah picture books for 2017.

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Hanukkah begins Tuesday, December 12.  My husband is part Jewish and although we don’t make a big deal out of celebrating, I find reading picture books with kids helps build holiday excitement. My kids are a little old now for picture book reading (their opinion, not mine!).  However, in the past we have read lots of Hanukkah books which I featured in this round up. Even if you aren’t Jewish, I think reading Hanukkah-themed books with kids helps them gain a better understanding of a different culture and holiday.  Here are three new Hanukkah books for 2017.


Little Red Ruthie:  A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster
Illustrated by: Sue Eastland
Published by:  Albert Whitman Company, August 2017
Pages: 32
Price: $16.99
Source:  borrowed from the library

Review:  This is a cute Hanukkah take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood.  Ruthie is a smart and brave little girl who even teaches the wolf about Hanukkah.  A recipe for potato latkes is included in the back of the book. This was a cute Hanukkah story.


Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg
Illustrated by: Anjan Sarkar
Published by: Farrar Straus Giroux, October 2017
Pages: 40
Price: $16.99
Source:  borrowed from the library

Review:  This book is about an Indian-Jewish family who is celebrating Hanukkah by making dosas.  The main character gets annoyed at his little sister because she climbs too much.  Luckily though,  little Sadie’s climbing comes in handy.  At the back of the book is a recipe for dosas and sambar.  I enjoyed the multi-cultural aspect of this book very much.  However, I found the plot to be a bit forced.


Way Too Many Latkes by Linda Glaser
Illustrated by: Aleksander Zolotic
Published by: Kar-ben Publishing, August 2017
Pages: 32
Price: $17.99
Source: borrowed from the library

Review:  Faigel makes the best latkes in all of Chelm.  But this year she has forgotten the recipe.  With her husband, Shmuel’s help,and using the rabbi’s advice, Faigel ends up making way too many latkes.  Luckily, the problem is easily solved.  Chelm is a fictional Jewish town and part of Jewish folklore.  There is more information about Chlem stories at the end of the book.  This was an okay Hanukkah read.


25 Children’s Christmas Books

Get in the holiday spirit by reading some of these 25 children's Christmas books!

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Last year, I posted a Christmas book daily for “25 Days of Christmas Books.”  This year, I decided to combine all of the children’s books into one post for a more useful resource.  Click on the link to go to the full review. I also added some new, recently published books to the collection.  Hopefully, this will help you add to your Christmas book collection or give you some new holiday reads to pick up at the library!


1. Clark the Shark Loves Christmas


2. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Dusky Rinker
Illustrated by:  Jake Parker
Published by: Chronicle Books, October 2017
Pages: 40
Price: $16.99

From Chronicle Books:  Which elf will build the coolest sleigh for the Christmas ride? SANTA will decide! 
When the elves discover that Santa’s sleigh is in a terrible state, they let their imaginations go wild—and soon there are sleighs of every kind, inspired by big rigs, motorcycles, zeppelins, and much more! The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and the celebrated illustrator of Michael Chabon’s The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man team up for spirited vehicular silliness and classic Christmas cheer in this turbo-charged read-aloud destined to become a holiday classic.

Review:  This book told in rhyme, has bright, colorful pictures.  Children will enjoy seeing all of the different sleigh designs that the elves come up with.  This is a fun holiday read that will entertain young readers.

3. The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold

4. Santa’s Underwear

5. Candy Cane Lane


6. The Christmas Boot

7. Gingerbread Christmas


8. Don’t Push the Button!  A Christmas Adventure by Bill Cotter
Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, October 2017
Pages: 22
Price:  $8.99

Review:  This board book is a companion to Cotter’s previous book, Don’t Push the Button!  This is a fun,  interactive book, with a Christmas twist.  Children will be pushing the button, shaking the book and more.


9. Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas


10. Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree


11. Babushka:  A Christmas Tale

Product Details

12. The Doll People’s Christmas

13. A Boy Called Christmas


14. The Christmas Eve Tree

15. The Great Spruce

16. Giselle The Christmas Ballet Fairy


17. How to Catch an Elf


18. What I Love About Christmas

Product Details
19. Only You Can Save Christmas:  A Help-the-Elf Adventure by Adam Wallace
Illustrated by: Garth Bruner
Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, October 2017
Pages: 40
Price: $16.99

Review: It’s Christmas Eve when elf discovers that Santa doesn’t have a present for Mrs. Claus.  He finds a list on Santa’s desk and needs the reader’s help in collecting everything on it.  This book takes a humorous and modern approach to the classic Twelve Days of Christmas.  It’s a fun, new holiday read.


20. Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey
Published by:  Scholastic, September 2017
Pages: 32
Price: $14.99

Review: This is the fourth book in the Pig the Pug series.  Pig is a bit greedy when writing his Christmas list.  He stays up waiting for Santa’s arrival.  Unhappy with the amount of presents he receives, Pig shows his displeasure by biting Santa.  While this book touches upon holiday greed, Pig doesn’t really learn a true lesson.  If your child is a fan of Pig the Pug they will enjoy this book.  Otherwise, there are better holiday reads out there.


21.  Young Scrooge


22. The Lost Gift

23. The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen
Published by:  Paula Wiseman Books (Simon Schuster), September 2017
Pages: 32
Price: $15.99

Review: A little girl befriends a lost reindeer on Christmas eve.  The two go off on a magical adventure, but the reindeer must return to Santa.  The illustrations are in black and white with pops of bright red color and cutouts on several of the pages. This is a sweet, enchanting Christmas story.


24. The ABC’s of Christmas


25. The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present

For more Christmas books, check out the 2015 Christmas Picture Books collection.

The Tweens Read {November 2017}


A roundup and review of the November tween reads of my two kids, ages 9 and 11.

I am blessed to have two children who have inherited my love of reading.  At ages 9 and 11, my children read so many books a week that I cannot keep up.  I wanted to start a new feature highlighting some of the best books that they have read each month. Although I cannot read every book that they do, I also wanted to add my input and review of some of the middle grade fiction books that I am able to read.  I hope this becomes a helpful resource for parents looking for book recommendations for their tween readers.  Here is the first November 2017, first edition of The Tweens Read.

Books That I Read:


The Friendship Code (Girls Who Code #1) by Stacia Deutsch
Published:  August 2017
Pages:  144
Source:  borrowed from the library
Mom Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Mom Review:  I heard about this new series and put the first book on hold at the library.  The book is created in partnership with the nonprofit, Girls Who Code.  In this first book in the series, Lucy has joined the Coding Club at school.  She is frustrated that the club isn’t moving as fast as she’d like and she is grouped with girls that she doesn’t know very well.  Then she ends up getting cryptic messages that she needs help to solve. Although the girls in this book are in middle school, it reads like a younger book. While schools have been teaching coding to kids as young as Kindergarten, you still don’t hear about many girls who are really into it.  Coding is introduced to readers in a fun and simplified way.


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Published: GRAPHIX,  September 2016
Pages:  256
Source:  borrowed from library
Mom Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Tween Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Mom Review:  Like my daughter, tweens might be familiar with some of Telgemeier’s previous books like Smile and Sisters.  Ghosts is a graphic novel with a telling title, since the book is about ghosts.  Catrina’s little sister Maya has cystic fibrosis.  Their family moves to Northern California for Maya’s health.  As they explore their new neighborhood they discover that there are ghosts all around them.  This book was inspired by Dia de Los Muertos.  This was the first children’s book that I’ve read that has a character with cystic fibrosis.  I thought the author did a good job of describing the illness.  There has been some controversy over the accuracy of how Dia de Los Muertos is depicted in the book. If this is a child’s first book about the Day of the Dead, they make get a skewed idea of what the day is really about. This book is different than Telgemeier’s other graphic novels, which are more realistic fiction based.  She has a large tween following and both my kids read and liked this book.



Creepin’ Through the Snow (The Creeper Diaries Special Edition) by Greyson Mann
Illustrated by:  Amanda Brack
Published by: Sky Pony Press, October 2017
Pages: 176
Source: borrowed from library
Tween Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

This is a holiday, Christmas-themed book where Gerald Creeper Jr. is trying to survive the holidays.  He spent all the emeralds his parents gave him and needs a way to make them back.  This series is told in diary format with lots of illustrations throughout.  I have not read any books in The Creeper Diaries series.  My son is a fan of Minecraft and I thought that he’d enjoy this book.  I discovered that this was the first book that he’s read in the series, but he enjoyed it enough that he wants to read the others.


Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey
Published by: Graphix, December 2016
Pages: 224
Source: borrowed from the library
Tween Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Dog Man series is written by Dav Pilkey, the same author who writes the infamous Captain Underpants series.  Dog Man Unleashed is the second book in the Dog Man series. In this book Dog Man tries to take down Petey the Cat, who has escaped from jail.  This is a graphic novel and my son loves this series.


The Getaway (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12) by Jeff Kinney
Published by: Amulet Books, November 2017
Pages:  224
Source: purchased
Tween rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is one of the few that my kids have to own every single book.  The Getaway was just published this month and of course we had to pick it up at the school book fair.  In this book the Heffley family takes a holiday tropical island vacation for some rest and relaxation.  Of course their Christmas vacation getaway doesn’t go as expected.  Both kids enjoyed this book a lot.


The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
Illustrated by:  Douglas Holgate
Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers, October 2015
Pages: 240
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is the first book in a three book series.  A monster attack has turned most of the people of Wakefield into zombies.  Jack Hunter is a 13-year-old who with some friends must battle the zombies.  This book has lots of illustrations.  It totally does not sound like a book that I’d enjoy.  My son thought the book was okay but isn’t interested in continuing the series.  However, I’m sure this story line will appeal to some middle grade readers out there.


No Better Friend

No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers,  May 2016
Pages: 304
Source:  borrowed from the library
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

This is  the adapted middle grade edition of Weintraub’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name.  This book tells the true story of air force tech Frank Williams and Judy, a pointer dog who meet as prisoners of war during World War II. Together, they help each other survive to freedom.  The book contains photographs and informative sidebars that help tell their story.  My daughter really enjoyed this book a lot and said it gave her a better understanding of World War II.


Treasure Hunters:  Secret of the Forbidden City by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by:  Juliana Neufeld
Published by: Little, Brown and Company, September 2015
Pages: 448
Source:  borrowed from the library
Rating: 4 out 5 stars

This is the third book in Patterson’s Treasure Hunter series.  Co-author, Chris Grabenstein, is the author of the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series which both my kids really enjoyed.  In this book, Bick and Beck Kidd are taken on an adventure to Europe and Asia as they try to buy their mother’s freedom from pirates.  My daughter enjoyed all of the action in the book and the accompanying illustrations and plans to continue reading the series.



Children’s Halloween Picture Books Round-Up {Updated 2017}

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Halloween will be here soon!  To help get you in the holiday mood, we have rounded up a collection of Halloween picture books to share with you.   This collection includes recent releases as well as some oldies but goodies that we’ve read.  Stop by your local library or bookstore and pick some of these fun Halloween books!

The 13 Nights of Halloween
Written and illustrated by Rebecca Dickinson

A rhyming Halloween story follows a shy goblin boy who gives his sweetheart a special present on each of the thirteen days of Halloween, and eagle-eyed readers must find the presents hidden in the illustrations. 

A witch brews up a special potion to help a shy goblin propose to his sweetheart on Halloween night. She gives him thirteen nights of Halloween.  This book tells the story of the gifts he gives to his sweetheart each night.  It is most enjoyable when sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  We read this book several years ago, when my daughter and I took turns singing the lines aloud to our son.  I have to say, it got old for me around the fifth night but I was a trooper and finished the book with her.  The illustrations are really great and detailed.  Readers are challenged to find the presents that the goblin is giving and a tiny wizard mouse on each page.  As much as I wasn’t into this that much the kids really enjoyed this book.

*This book was borrowed from the library.  


Written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli

The inimitable Baby brings a humorous spin to the holidays in a cheerful board book fit for trick-or-treat bags.
It’s almost Halloween! How should Daddy carve the pumpkin? So many expressions to choose from! What should Baby be—a princess or pirate, ballerina or clown? When the jack-o’-lantern’s ready (looking suspiciously like Baby), it’s time for a little ghost to head out in the slightly scary night. But fear turns to excitement as the pumpkin fills up with treats. WOW!

Fans of Patricelli’s books will enjoy this Halloween board book.  Readers follow along as Baby gets ready for Halloween and picks out a pumpkin, chooses a Halloween costume and goes trick-or-treating.  The simple but colorful illustrations will appeal to the youngest readers.

*This book was read at a local bookstore.


Boo Who?
Written and illustrated by Ben Clanton

A shy little ghost who’s new to the group has trouble fitting in until his special talent comes to the fore. Boo is new. And even if the other kids are welcoming, it can be scary being new, especially for a shy ghost who can t play any of their games. (“You tagged me? Oh, sorry. I couldn’t feel it.”) Can Boo find a way to fit in and make friends with the rest of the group? From the creator of Rex Wrecks It! comes a funny story about feeling invisible and finding a way to be seen and appreciated for who you are.” 

This isn’t a Halloween book, but has a ghost as the main character, so it’s a seasonally appropriate read.  It’s a cute and simple story about making new friends and fitting in with others.

*this book was borrowed from the library.


CinderHazel:  The Cinderella of Halloween
Written and illustrated by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Filled with wonderful details and funny mishaps, this spin on the classic Cinderella fairy tale is the perfect Halloween treat.  Cinderhazel is a blond witch who loves dirt more than anything. When her stepsisters and stepmother fly oiff to attend the annual Halloween witches’ ball, where the elusive Prince Alarming will make an appearance, they leave Cinderhazel behind. All her attempted spells turn to dust — until her witchy fairy godmother appears and sends Cinderhazel off to meet the equally messy prince. Could this be the beginning of filthily ever after?

This book is a Halloween take on the traditional Cinderella story.  In this book, Cinderhazel’s stepsisters are going to the Witches’ Halloween Ball in hopes of seeing Prince Alarming.  But with the help of her witchy godmother she makes it to the ball.  The story takes a detour from the traditional tale because when the clock strikes midnight Cinderhazel meets the Prince, and of course there’s a fairy tale ending.  I didn’t like that the title of the book is CinderHazel but the character’s name in the story is spelled Cinderhazel, with a lower case h.  This definitely wasn’t one of my favorite versions of the tale of Cinderella but the kids seemed to like it and it was fitting for Halloween.

* This book was borrowed from the library.


City Witch, Country Switch
Written by Wendy Wax
Illustrated by Scott Gibala-Broxholm


Mitzi is a city witch.  She likes pizza and plays, crowded subways and noisy streets. Muffletump is a country witch. She prefers hayrides and fresh air, pumpkin picking and her pet snake. When the cousins visit each other, their differences come between them. How can they solve their problem? With a spell, of course But finding the right one isn’t so easy. The rhyming text makes this a wonderful read-aloud, while the vibrant watercolor and colored-pencil artwork contains fantastically funny details for kids to pore over.

This book isn’t technically a “Halloween” themed book but because of the witches I thought it was seasonally appropriate.  Prior to reading this book I was more familiar with author Wendy Wax’s novels for adults.  This book, told in rhyme, is a take on the classic tale The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.   Witch cousins Mitzi and Muffletump visit each other’s homes and discover that they each prefer their own homes better.  This is of course after they perform spells to create a more enjoyable visit. The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful helping to make this a fun read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.


Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Brown

Jasper Rabbit is NOT a little bunny anymore. He’s not afraid of the dark, and he’s definitely not afraid of something as silly as underwear. But when the lights go out, suddenly his new big rabbit underwear glows in the dark. A ghoulish, greenish glow. If Jasper didn’t know any better he’d say his undies were a little, well, creepy. Jasper’s not scared obviously, he’s just done with creepy underwear. But after trying everything to get rid of them, they keep coming back!

This isn’t a Halloween-themed book but it’s a “spooky” tale that will entertain readers. What child does not find humor in underwear?  Fans of Aaron Reynolds books will need to check out this latest of his.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Written and illustrated by:  Adam Rex

Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier?  Nineteen hilarious poems delve into the secret lives of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bigfoot, Godzilla, and others. In a range of styles that pay homage to everyone from Charles Schulz to John James Audubon, the monstrously talented Adam Rex uncovers horrific–and clever–truths you won’t want to miss.

This is not your typical Halloween book about trick or treating.  It does however feature all kinds of monsters, zombies, and mummies in poems.  Yes, this book is a book of poems about monsters and some of the poems also feature food.  The kids especially liked the Phantom of the Opera who keeps appearing and can’t get songs out of his head, which of course requires the reader to sing the words to that particular tune.  A lot of the humor is for older kids and adults but I think younger kids will still enjoy listening to the poems and looking at the detailed and funny pictures.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


Fright Club
Written and illustrated by Ethan Long

Each year, on Halloween eve, Fright Club meets to go over their plan: Operation Kiddie Scare. Only the scariest of monsters can join Fright Club-Vladimir the Vampire, Fran K. Stein, Sandy Witch, and Virginia Wolf have all made the cut. They’ve been practicing their ghoulish faces, their scary moves, and their chilling sounds. But when a band of cute little critters comes along asking to join in the fun, the members of Fright Club will find out who really is the scariest of all!  This clever, rollicking read aloud text and delightfully spooky illustrations will have young readers laughing, cheering, and begging to be the newest members of Fright Club.

This  Halloween picture was an okay, cute read.  The kids enjoyed me attempting to speak in a vampire voice.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


Goodnight Goon
Written and illustrated by Michael Rex

Goodnight monsters everywhere, in this parody romp with its own special twist!  Goodnight tomb. Goodnight goon. Goodnight Martians taking over the moon.   It’s bedtime in the cold gray tomb with a black lagoon, and two slimy claws, and a couple of jaws, and a skull and a shoe and a pot full of goo. But as a little werewolf settles down, in comes the Goon determined at all costs to run amok and not let any monster have his rest.  A beloved classic gets a kind-hearted send up in this utterly monsterized parody; energetic art and a hilarious text will have kids begging to read this again and again.

This book is also not a “Halloween” themed book, but since the main character is a goon, I thought it seasonally appropriate.  This picture book is a spooky  parody of the classic story Good Night Moon that the kids enjoyed.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream
Written by Donna Davies
Illustrated by Rob Peters

Halloween author, Donna Davies has created an exciting Halloween mystery that will have your kids sitting on the edge of theirs seats. An action-packed tale of a Halloween Queen named Calliope who lost her scream right before Halloween. Meet an amazing cast of Halloween monsters from witches to zombies as they go on an adventure to help their Queen and save Halloween. Filled will stunning colorful Halloween illustrations by the very talented Rob Peters. This delightfully fun book is sure to become a family tradition.

Calliope, the Halloween Queen kicks off the Halloween Bash every year with a scream.  But this year, someone has stolen her scream. Told in rhyme, the reader follows the black widow Mina as she searches for clues to who stole the Queen’s scream.  We are taken on an adventure as she helps to gather the special ingredients needed for Witchy Wanda’s special potion to help the Queen get her scream back.  After reading this book I discovered that the author is a local Hudson Valley resident and owns/runs the publishing company.  Overall, this was a cute Halloween read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.


The Hallo-Wiener
Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Oscar is short, like all dachshunds and other dogs make fun of him. On Halloween he takes more ridicule than ever in his hot-dog costume, but one brave act makes him a hero. Color illustrations throughout. A “School Library Journal” Best of the Best of 1995.

Dav Pilkey is the author/illustrator of the famous Captain Underpants series, which my son loves.  In this story, Oscar, a dachshund is picked on by the other dogs.  For Halloween his mother gets him a hot-dog costume.  He doesn’t want to make her feel bad so he wears it, even though he gets made fun of.  He can’t walk fast in it and misses all of the treats.  The other dogs who have gotten all of the candy and who usually make fun of him have a change of heart after Oscar helps them out.  There is some hot dog humor in this book, that probably only older children and adults will get.  This was a cute story that the kids enjoyed.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

The Haunted Ghoul Bus

The Haunted Ghoul Bus
Written by Lisa Trumbauer
Illustrated by Jannie Ho

Of course children know about the big yellow school bus…but have they ever heard about the haunted ghoul bus? It’s wilder and way cooler, with a Mutant Mummy driver and a menagerie of monster passengers. But one Halloween day someone else gets on board by mistake: a normal little boy. Soon he’s taking a ride with a furry werewolf, a skeleton whose rickety bones go clitter-clatter, a grinning pumpkin head, a swirl of bats, and a friendly witch named Dolores. Told in fun and appealing rhyme, and featuring holiday-bright illustrations of a cast of unforgettable characters, this playful picture book has sturdy cardstock pages and embossing throughout. It’s perfect for celebrating a (not too) scary Halloween. Kids will want the ghoul bus to come to their neighborhood, too!

This Halloween book, told in rhyme, tells the story of a little boy who mistakenly gets on the ghoul bus.  He meets lots of different creatures on his ride.  The pictures are bright and colorful but overall, the story was just okay.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


I Dare You!
Written and illustrated by Nicole Maubert

This very scary, very silly book will have young children roaring with laughter as they dare each other to touch the hair of a spider, the belly of a monster, the sticky tongue of a snake, and many more icky parts of creepy creatures! But who will be brave enough to turn to the last page to see the spookiest monster of all? The truly courageous will be rewarded with a shockingly hilarious—yet eerily familiar—surprise!

This is a fun touch and feel board book for the youngest readers.  They can touch a spider, a witch’s wart, the teeth of a shark and more.  This is another seasonally appropriate but not Halloween-themed book.

*This book was read at the local bookstore. 


It’s Halloween
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Pictures by Marylin Hafner

Thirteen poems to spice up the holiday that ghouls and ghosts love most. “Prelutsky’s Nightmares tamed for beginning readers. They’re catchy at the most rudimentary level.”–Kirkus Reviews.

Wow!  This book was first published before I was born!  Definitely an oldie….but goodie!  This book caught my eye because Prelutsky is a well-known children’s poet.  We are a fan of his Scranimals and my daughter has read his  poetry collections A Pizza the Size of the Sun and The New Kid on the Block.  This book was a cute collection of Halloween-themed poetry.  He writes about everything from “Bobbing for Apples” to a “Haunted House” and a “Skeleton Parade.”  The illustrations have a classic, older look to them.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


Little Blue Truck’s Halloween
Written by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too? With the delightful rhymes and signature illustration style that made Little Blue Truck a household name, Blue’s new adventure is full of festive costumes, fall colors, and plenty of Halloween fun!

Many young readers are familiar with Little Blue Truck.  In this book readers follow along as he drives to a Halloween party.  On the way he stops to pick up his animal friends, all disguised in their Halloween costumes.  This is a fun lift-the-flap book told in rhyme.

*This book was read at a local bookstore. 

Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete
Written and Illustrated by Kimberly & James Dean

Pete loves Halloween and candy but not so much scary surprises. Follow Pete as he goes trick-or-treating from house to house and discover what is waiting behind each door. With over ten flaps that open to reveal fun spooky surprises, this book is sure to be spooktacular! 

Fans of Pete the Cat will enjoy this Halloween-themed book.  Pete enjoys trick-or-treating but doesn’t want anything spooky to happen.  As children lift the flaps of this book they will meet Pete’s friends and follow them on their trick-or-treating adventure.

*This book was borrowed from the library. 


Scary, Scary Halloween
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Jan Brett

Four pairs of eyes stare from the blackness to watch fearsome creatures trick-or-treat.

This is another oldie but goodie Halloween book.  Award-winning author Eve Bunting has written over 250 books and illustrator Jan Brett (a family favorite)  is also an award-winning author and illustrator of many books.  Written in rhyme, this book is told from the perspective of something with two green eyes, shining in the night.  It watches as children go trick-or-treating dressed up as goblins, witches, and ghosts.  Only at the end of the book is the identity of the narrator revealed.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


Tell Me a Scary Story…But Not Too Scary
Written by Carle Reiner
Illustrated by James Bennett

A little boy has an adventure in the scary basement of his mysterious new neighbor, Mr. Neewollah. 

A father tells his son a scary story about a little boy who meets his neighbor Mr. Neewollah and has an adventure.  Our book came with a CD in which Reiner reads the story.  While I was unfamiliar with comedian Carl Reiner, my husband is a fan.  This was another okay Halloween story.

*This book was borrowed from the library.


There’s a Monster In Your Book
Written by Tom Fletcher
Illustrated by Greg Abbott

Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has written a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!  This read-aloud, interactive picture book treat invites children to make magic happen page by page, tilting, spinning and shaking the book, and then seeing the funny results when each page is turned. A fantastic celebration of all the fun that can be had with a book, with a wonderful wind-down bedtime ending!

Again, this is not a Halloween book, but with a monster as the main character, I thought it fitting for the holiday. This is a fun, interactive book that has children doing all sorts of things to try to set it free.

*This book was read at a local bookstore.  


Trick Arr Treat: A Pirate Halloween
Written by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Jorge Monlongo

Charlotte Blue-Tongue, Peg-Leg Pete, Glass-Eyed Gabby, and their friends swashbuckle through the streets demanding loot and treasure from their neighbors in this Halloween pirate tale. As their world transforms from neighborhood to pirate’s lagoon, they shout, “We be pirates. TRICK ARRR TREAT!” But what’s lurking in the shadows? Are the pirates brave enough to defend their treasure?

This Halloween picture book was published in 2015. The story, told in rhyme, is about a group of children dressed as pirates trick-or-treating on Halloween. Overall, it was just an okay read for us.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Do you have a favorite Halloween book that you recommend we read?

Visit Philadelphia Through Children’s Books! {Family Armchair Travel}

Check out these children's books all about Philadelphia, the city of "Brotherly Love"

Philadelphia, nicknamed the “City of Brotherly Love” is the largest city in Pennsylvania.  This city should be on every family’s must-visit list!  Filled with historical sites as well as many museums and lots of great food, there is something for everyone in Philadelphia!  Whether you read some of these books before a trip or just armchair travel, visit Philadelphia through children’s books!

 Picture Books:


Journey Around Philadelphia from A to Z by Martha Day Zschock
Published:  2006, Commonwealth Editions
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Source:  borrowed from the library

Learn all about the city of Philadelphia in this A to Z book.  This book is targeted towards older elementary students and is chock full of information and facts.  Each letter page includes a short, alliterative sentence and three different illustrations. This was our first time reading one of Zschock’s Journey books.  However, she has several other books in the Journey series including New York, Cape Cod and Washington D.C.


Larry Gets Lots in Philadelphia by Michael Mullin and John Skewes
Illustrated by:  John Skewes
Published:  2013, Sasquatch Books
Price:  $16.99
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source:  borrowed from the library

Pete and his family take a trip to Philadelphia and bring along their dog, Larry.  Larry gets separated from Pete and the book follows the two as they go searching for each other.  On their search they visit many of Philadelphia’s famous landmarks, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Square, the Besty Ross House, Pat and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The book is told in rhyme, but provides a small informational description for each landmark.  This book is a nice introduction to Philadelphia for young readers.


Mrs. Millie Goes to Philly! by Judy Cox
Published:  2008 by Two Lions
Price:  $9.99 (paperback)
Rating:  3 out of 5 stars
Source:  borrowed from the library

Mrs. Millie is a very silly teacher!  She takes her kindergarten class to Philadelphia and uses animal words in place of other words, which her students have to decipher.  They wear name badgers (badges), ride the platypus (bus) and see the Liberty Bull (bell).  Each page is accompanied by a humorous illustration illustrating the silly sentence.  Readers will have fun trying to figure out Mrs. Millie’s “mistakes” and they will also learn about some of the sights of Philadelphia including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House.

Chapter Books:


Philadelphia! (Recipe for Adventure #8) by Giada De Laurentiis
Published: 2016 by Grosset & Dunlap (imprint of Penguin Random House)
Price: $16.99 (hardcover)
Pages:  160
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Source: borrowed from the library

This is the eighth book in the Recipe for Adventure series.  The series is targeted towards readers ages 7-9 (2nd-4th grade).  In the series, siblings Emilia and Alfie are transported to different cities around the world.  They get to taste all kinds of new foods as they help someone in the city solve a problem.  In Philadelphia! the whole Bertolizzi family is transported to the city.  They sample all kinds of Philadelphia food staples like cheesesteaks, pretzels, Italian hoagies and more and visit historic sites like the Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell, the Italian Market, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more.  They also work together to try to help their tour guide Emma and her family save their hotel.  Two recipe cards are included in each book of this series.  This book’s recipes are for Zia’s Steak Sandwiches and Emma’s Italian Pizzelles.  While we didn’t make these recipes, knowing that they are from Giada, I’m sure they are delicious!


The Philly Fake (Ballpark Mysteries #9) by David A. Kelly
Published:  2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Price:  $4.99 (paperback)
Pages:  112
Rating:   3 out of 5 stars
Source:  borrowed from the library

This is the ninth book in the Ballpark mysteries series, a baseball-themed mystery series targeted towards readers on a 2.6 reading level (approximately 1st through 4th grade, depending on reading ability).  In this book Mike and Kate are spending the Fourth of July in Philadelphia.  Kate’s mom is a sportswriter and her friend had gotten them tickets to the three game Phillies v. Mets series.  During the first game the players’ bats keep breaking and the team loses.  The team mascot the Phillie Phanatic is blamed and could possibly lose his job.  Mike and Kate try to help find out who’s really at fault and save the Phanatic’s job. The end of the book includes some fun and interesting notes about the Phillie’s ballpark.   This book was interesting and gave the reader information about some of the other famous sites in Philadelphia, not just the stadium.  This was the first book in the Ballpark Mysteries series that we read but won’t be the last. We are interested in reading #2, The Pinstripe Ghost since we are familiar with and have been to Yankee Stadium!

Books set in Philadelphia that don’t really tell much about the city:

Chapter Books:


Independence Hall (I, Q #1) by Roland Smith
Published: 2008 by Sleeping Bear
Price: $8.95
Pages: 312
Rating:  3 out 5 stars
Source: borrowed from the library

This is the first book in the I,Q series.  Quest, (Q for short) and his new stepsister Angela are traveling around the country in a luxury motor coach, while their newly married musician parents go on tour.  The book is told over a series of 6 days as the family travels to Philadelphia for the first stop.  While there, they discover that they are in a real-life spy adventure.  This spy/adventure series is aimed toward middle grade readers.


When Freedom Comes (Hope’s Revolutionary War Diary #3) by Kristiana Gregory
Published:  2004 by Scholastic
Price: $12.95
Pages: 112
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source:  borrowed from the library

This is book number 3 in the Revolutionary War Diary series.  Told in diary format, the book details Hope’s experience with the Revolutionary War in full swing.  British soldiers are living in her house, she is cut off from her best friend, whose family are Loyalists and her family learns that her father is weak and sick in Valley Forge, fighting in the war.  Hope’s family lives in Philadelphia, however not much reference is made to the actual city.


New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure, #4) Review


New Orleans! (Recipe for Adventure #4) by Giada De Laurentiis
Illustrated by:  Francesca Gambatesa
Published: 2015 by Grosset & Dunlap (imprint of Penguin Random House)
Pages: 144
Price: $6.99 (paperback)
Source:  Borrowed from library
Rating:  4/5 stars

This is the fourth book in Giada De Laurentiis’ Recipe for Adventure series.  Most of us know De Laurentiis as a chef and judge on the Food Network and from her cookbooks.  With the Recipe for Adventure chapter book series she shows us new talents.  These books are not award-winning works of writing.  However, De Laurentiis presents engaging stories that introduce children to the world of food and travel.  The series is targeted for readers ages 7-10.   In the series, siblings Emilia and Alfie are transported to different cities around the world.  They get to taste all kinds of new foods and visit famous sights as they help a new friend solve a problem.

In New Orleans!, Alfie and Emilia are transported to the city via a bowl of their Zia Donatella’s gumbo.  There, they meet up with the La Salle kids, who play in a jazz band and run their family restaurant.  Alfie and Emilia help their new friends try to save their family’s restaurant.

While in New Orleans Alfie and Emilia get to try all kinds of food including blackened catfish, red beans and rice, collard greens, grits, beignets, Po’boys and more! Cooking terminology like the holy trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper) and roux is introduced as well.

Children also learn about the city of New Orleans as they read.  The Louisiana Purchase and the history of the city is mentioned, as well as Hurricane Katrina and the importance of jazz. While there, Emilia and Alfie visit many popular sights including the French Quarter, the Mississippi River, the Garden District and the bayou.

This book, like the others in the series, has an element of fantasy.  Emilia and Alfie magically appear in New Orleans and later are then transported back home.  Other parts of this book, like the La Salle children living on their own while their parents travel with their riverboat gigs seemed unbelievable.  Also, none of the children really questioning the absence of Alfie and Emilia’s “aunt” whom they mention they are staying with but is never seen, is a bit suspect.

Two recipe cards are included at the back of each book.  In New Orleans! recipe cards include Zia Donatella’s Gumbo and Bananas Foster.  My kids and I made both of these recipes.  Knowing that these are Giada De Laurentiis recipes, I knew they were going to be good!

Zia’s Gumbo:  Both kids helped me make this gumbo.  Adult assistance is a must with this recipe, as there is quite a lot of vegetable chopping involved.

The kids helped remove the andouille sausage from the casing.  My daughter cut the celery and pepper (as pictured above) and my son was in charge of stirring the ingredients in the pot. Andouille sausage is a bit spicy and I was surprised at how much heat this dish had.  It was very tasty and the kids ate it, but they did comment on the spice.  I want to point out that this gumbo takes close to an hour to make!  I did not realize this when we decided to make this on a weeknight.  I highly recommend saving these recipes for a weekend activity.

Also important to note, this dish does NOT reheat well, as seen in the first picture.  When reheated, this gumbo remains thick and chunky.  When we first made it, as seen in the picture above, it was nice and liquidy.

Zia’s Bananas Foster: A traditional Bananas Foster has dark rum and banana liqueur that gets ignited.  I think part of the enjoyment of this dessert is the table side flambe.  Obviously, Zia’s Bananas Foster is kid-friendly and alcohol-free!  Due to time constraints, I ended up making this dessert on my own for the kids.  This recipe was much easier to make in terms of ingredients and time.  As seen in the picture, I mistakenly bought mini kisses, thinking they were tiny.  They were indeed smaller than a typical Hershey’s Kiss, but a little larger than I had wanted for this dessert.  The family loved this Bananas Foster.  The kids often have ice cream for dessert, but this was an extra special treat!

Overall, New Orleans! is a fun book that introduces readers to both the food and sights of the city.  The recipe cards add a nice touch and are a great way to get kids cooking in the kitchen.  It’s also a great way to motivate them to try new foods.  I recommend this book as well as the others in the Recipe for Adventure series!


Nowhere Girl {Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review}

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle,Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation,Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag#ReadYourWorld.


Nowhere Girl by A.J. Paquette
Published by:  Walker & Company (imprint of Bloomsbury), September 13, 2011
Genre:  Children’s Middle Grade Fiction, Asian culture
Pages: 256
Price:  $16.99
Source: Provided by the author/publisher for a review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day

From Bloomsbury:

Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.

My Review:  13 year-old Luchi was born in a prison in northern Thailand, where her American mother was imprisoned.  This prison is the only life Luchi has known.  When her mother passes away, Luchi decides that she needs to leave the prison.  With her mother’s ashes sitting in a small canister  tied to her back and an old list of names of people in Bangkok, Luchi is escorted to the city by the Chief warden’s nephew.   Luchi with her blond hair and gray eyes looks American but has only known Thailand as her home.  She’s always, “felt like a monkey in the middle” but feels it even more so, as she discovers the world around her for the first time.  When she sees Thailand for the first time she is amazed by all the sights and sounds.  We as the reader, get to experience Thai culture along with Luchi as she tries new foods and sees the sights of Bangkok.

As Luchi’s journey unfolds, we learn secrets about her mother’s past and her family back in America.  Luchi realizes that she can reinvent herself and be anyone she wants.  We accompany her as she heads to America to find her grandmother, the only family that she has.  Will Luchi be successful in finding her mother’s family?

Having never been to Thailand before, (but hoping one day to visit!), I thought that Paquette captured the Thai culture well.  I also liked how Thai words are interspersed throughout the text but are understandable in context.

Luchi is such a likable character who shows such resilience and perseverance on her journey.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I found it to be a little rushed at the end to tie up all the loose ends.  (**Possible spoiler alert ahead!)  And I’m still left wondering what happened to Helena when she went missing for four days.

This book is such a  great read and I highly recommend it.  It is unfortunate that this book has been published for over five years now and this is the first time that I have heard of it.  I really appreciate the efforts of Multicultural Children’s Book Day to bring awareness to diversity in children’s literature.  I am happy to be passing this book along to my ten-year-old daughter to read.

Overall Rating: Recommended Read.