Friday, May 25, 2018

Does The First Sentence In A Picture Book Need To Hook The Reader?

I thought it would be interesting to see what the opening lines are in some of the 2018 picture books I'm planning to review. As many of you know I've been reviewing in an effort to see what type of books are being published. I do it on this site and Picture Book Sleuth

Books Published in 2018 

Pete the Kitty And The Groovy Playdate
by Kimberly and James Dean
First Sentence:

"Pete the kitty jumps out of bed!"

- - - - - - - - - -

Grandma's Purse
by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

First Sentence:

"Today my grandma Mimi is coming to visit."

- - - - - - - - - -

Once Upon A Memory
by Nina Laden
First Sentence:

"Does a feather remember it once was . . . a bird?"

- - - - - - - - - -

I've Loved You Since Forever
by Hoda Kotb
First Sentence:

"I've loved you since forever."

- - - - - - - - - -
The Big Bed
by Bunmi Laditan
First Sentence:

"We need to talk about the big bed."

- - - - - - - - - -
The Digger And The Flower
by Joseph Kuefler
First Sentence:

"It was morning and the big trucks were ready to work."

- - - - - - - - - -

Bunny's Staycation (Mama's Business Trip)
by Lori Richmond
First Sentence:

"Mama is going away on a business trip...and Bunny doesn't like it one bit."

- - - - - - - - - -

Tilly & Tank
by Jay Fleck
First Sentence:

"Tilly was taking her morning stroll when she noticed something strange in the distance."

So how important are first sentences in picture books? Personally, I think they can be very important, but do they really have to be great sentences? If you're like me, some of these sentences are good, others don't really catch my attention. But I do have two distinct favorites, even though I haven't read any of these books.

Several months ago I asked this same question on Twitter. Below are the results:

Question: Are first sentences that important in picture books?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This Dragon Gone-Bad-To-Worse Problem Has A Solution Many Will Applaud!

- Can This Naughty Beast Be Tamed? -

The kingdom is faced with a problem. A super terrible, problem. A dragon-gone-bad-to-worse problem. The kind posts a sign for the brave knights. Whoever can tame the dragon will be rewarded with a gift. A nice gift. The knights line up to show off their skills and win the gift. But they all fail miserably. Unfortunately, the dragon grows more terrible, if that’s possible. He chases ducklings around the moat and TP’s the castle.

The villagers then post a sign for the brave people saying that if someone can tame the terrible dragon the king will reward them with a gift. Most likely a nice gift (they hope). Again they all fail, embarrassingly so. And the dragon grows even MORE terrible! He pops birthday balloons and draws funny faces on the drawbridge. But a boy wearing a feathered cap and a look of determination has also had enough of the dragon!  Will this boy be clever enough to tame the wild and crazy. . . and naughty dragon?

Cons: None

Pros:  Such a fun book! Kids will love the story as well and the colorful, funny, illustrations.

Teaching Aids:
Dragon Was Terrible.pdf
Teachers Pay Teachers
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrations: Greg Pizzoli
Publisher:   Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 23, 2016)  
  • Approx. Words: 514
  • Ages: 4-7
  • Pages: 40

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

9 Awsome Picture Books About Cooperation

Cooperation Would Be Much Easier

If Others Would Stop Being So Stubborn and Start Seeing Things My Way!

 - - -

Big Sister, Little Monster 

Though the outcome may seem familiar, the story is creative and just right for siblings. The bright illustrations dim to drab when Lucy realizes things might be too quiet and not as much fun.

Bye Bye Pesky Fly

This is a very good book to begin teaching children to verbalize their feelings. Although fly’s reaction to Pig’s statement is quite positive, the book will also open the opportunity to talk to children about the fact that verbalizing how you feel doesn’t always turn out the way you’d like it to. So other skills need to be put into practice at that time.

Davy’s Summer Vacation!

This is a book that most parents will want to share with their children.  It is about family, working together and being satisfied with what you have, regardless of what others have or do. Beautiful illustrations and a great story.

Give Me Back My Book!

This humorous story and illustrations are just right for young children. I like that it teaches cooperation and teamwork and as a side, I love that the basic parts of a book are included in the story.

Going Places

I really appreciated seeing two types of people, Author Paul Reynolds, who I hear is the organized, rule follower, and Author Peter Reynolds, Paul’s twin,  who is always creating and dreaming team up to write this book. And I loved that Rafael and Maya ended up working together on their project. Going Places is a wonderful example of personality types blending their talents. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and fun. I highly recommend this book which should open great discussions.

Les and Ronnie STEP OUT

This is a story of differences and cooperation told in a way that kids should find fun to listen to.

Me, Me, Me

The illustrations are very unusual and well done. This is a story of differences and cooperation told in a way that kids should find fun to listen to.

Not Friends

I absolutely love the colorful illustrations and the fact that this simple story can be such a useful tool in opening discussions about friendship, cooperation, and even the ending.

Too Much! Not Enough!

This is a cute picture book about what fun means (and cooperation). Young children are sure to love it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Looking For A Book That Makes You Think and Talk? Look No Further!

- Can A Rooster Make The Difference? -


There once was a village that was hustling and bustling with every kind of noise: dogs, engines, fountains making bubbly sounds, and lots of singing. All sorts of noise. So much, in fact, that the people couldn’t hear, sleep, or even think! So what do you do? Fire the mayor! It must be his fault. The village then hired Don Pepe to be mayor since he promised peace and quiet. Little by little the village changed. The first rule: there was no LOUD singing in public. Then no LOUD singing at home. And so it went until there was no noise at all allowed. Even the teakettle was too afraid to whistle.

After seven long years, a rooster wanders into the village. And we all know what roosters do! But will the brave rooster live to tell the tale if he makes noise?

Cons: None / (Suggestion though) I would suggest that this book is best suited for older children, maybe 6 - 9.

Pros:  Room for lots and lots of discussions after reading this little book. I recommend it for that very reason. Below are discussion thoughts/questions that immediately came to mind after reading this story:
  1. We have a rooster that is not afraid to stand for what he believes even if it means breaking the law.
  2. When is it okay to break the law or is it always better to vote the mayor out and change the law?
  3. Wasn't the new mayor enforcing the law the people wanted?
  4. Village people thought they wanted one thing, then decided it might not be what they really wanted, but no one would stand up to the mayor or suggest a change to current policy.
  5. It’s hard to complain about what you’re not willing to attempt to change.
  6. When the mayor threatens to make soup of the rooster, the crowd finally joins in with the rooster. "But a song is louder than one noisy little rooster and stronger than one bully of a mayor," said the gallito." As the whole town joins together with noise/song the mayor flees. But was he a bully? Did the town handle the matter correctly?
  7. Last (and there are many more things that can be discussed), it seems that the chaos and various noises represent very different ideas and thoughts and types of people- - the noise of life, but being without the noise seemed a bad alternative.
I've never added questions for a picture book review, but this one screamed for me to add them. (I had to for my mental health since I'm sure I interrupted the content different from many.)

The illustrations were bright and perfect for this type of book. However, the mayor is depicted as an evil villain, which I thought was fun, but after finishing the book I had to wonder why?

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy
Photography: Eugene Yelchin
Publisher:  Scholastic Press (January 31, 2017)   
  • Approx. Words: 813
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Pages: 48

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Failing For A Writer Is Spelled REJECTION

- Enough With The Failures! It's Time For Success -

It feels awful to receive rejections. Occasionally I start doubting myself and wondering if I even know how to write. But I do. 

After a quick pity party for one, I excitedly start working on revisions or my next creation which I'm SURE will be a best seller. 

If you're a writer you know what I mean; we can't stop. It's in our blood. I feel as though the computer is always drawing me back. I do housework at breakneck speed (or it can wait), then race to my desk to write.

I have two blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook accounts, plus I'm writing and sending books to agents/publishers. I love it! Unfortunately, the giveaway that I'm a full-fledged addict is my maiden name: Shakespeare. 

So, unless you feel taking a peek at my sites might be promoting an addiction, make me smile, click on a site and join me. 

Leave a comment about how you handle rejections.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Little Amy Scott May Have Made A Colossal Mistake!

The Only Fish In The Sea

- Birthday - Gift - Miffed -

Perhaps Little Amy shouldn't have hollered, "GOLDFISH ARE BORING!" when she received one as a birthday gift? And tossing it in the great big ocean, bag and all, may have been the icing on her birthday mistake!  Click for full Review

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What Do You Do If You're A Seal That Loves Cupcakes?

- But Will He Make The Right Choice? -

  • @AmandaDriscoll #PB #Kidlit
This story is told in second-person narration, so the narrator is talking directly to Klondike.“But you heard your mother: NO cupcakes until your sister’s birthday party.” Klondike is trying very hard to avoid eating the delicious-looking cupcakes, but it is hard for a seal that loves cupcakes to wait for the party.

The narrator tries to give helpful suggestions to Klondike such as pretending the cupcakes are squid sandwiches, tube worm tacos, or maybe even curried crab. But that doesn't work since seals love those things. The narrator then says, “My highly trained guard dog, Bruiser, will protect these cupcakes.” Unfortunately, he’s no help. So the narrator tells Klondike that a magician will help. Again, it doesn’t help. So now what? Klondike tells himself not to eat the cupcakes as he walks directly to them and gobbles up the pink frosted little cakes. Now what? Blame the dog? Blame the magician? Will his sister’s birthday celebration have to be canceled?

Cons: I was slightly disappointed that Klondike never apologized  . . . (continue below)

Pros: but he did care enough to problem-solve and make amends. The illustrations are fun, colorful and kid-friendly. And the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cupcakes by Klondike in the back of the book should be a great way for kids and adults to share time together. This book offers a good opportunity to talk about what the consequences of not listening might mean.

Author/Illustrator: Amanda Driscoll
Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 9, 2018)
  • Approx. Words: 259
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Pages: 32

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Did Nia Choose The Worst Pet Ever?

- Alfie And Nia Have Something Special In Common But Will That Be Enough?-

On Nia’s sixth birthday she gets a pet turtle that she names Alfie. The clerk at the store tells Nia that her new pet turtle is probably six years old also. Nia tries very hard to entertain and play with Alfie. She draws a picture of him, dances, makes presents for him, and tells him jokes. Unfortunately, the turtle seems uninterested in everything. Little by little Nia begins to forget about Alfie. But the night before her seventh birthday, Alfie disappears.

There are two white pages about a quarter of the way into the book. On the left, we see a small grayscale image of Nia and on the right a small grayscale image of Alfie. This is a sign that the preceding pages were told by Nia and the next few pages are to be told by Alfie.

Alfie sees something special in Nia immediately. And when she shares with him that they are both six he is happier than ever. The home she provides him is perfect. She introduces him to her animal friends (stuffed animals), she dances, gives him special gifts (of which he has never received), and she even makes him laugh. (Of course, it is a “feeling inside” laugh. The illustration shows that his mouth remains in a neutral position.)

So if Alfie is so happy, why does he disappear?

Cons: None

Pros: The illustrations are exceptionally well done with ink and watercolor. The story is sweet and can be a springboard for talks about different perspectives as well as attempting to understanding what others might be feeling. Though the story is simple, the coupling of engaging illustrations makes this a book I would definitely recommend.

Author/Illustrator: Thyra Heder
Publisher:   Abrams Books, October 3, 2017 
  • Approx. Word Count: 538
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Pages: 32
#PB #KidLit

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Will Something So Itty Bitty Ruin Pig's Day?

- Oops! Will Pig Have The Skills To Handle This Little Problem? -

#NetGalley   #ByeByePeskyFly   #PB 
Book will be available May 14, 2018

Pig is enjoying a beautiful day of sunshine and rainbows until a pesky fly shows up. The fly buzzes around his nose and ears until his beautiful day turns to rain and thunder. Pig is now feeling sad and mad. He considers several ways to handle his anger, but as he takes a walk and tries to whistle a happy tune, the fly buzzes around and lands right on his nose. Will that be more than he can take?

The next part of the book shows the feelings and thoughts of the fly.  And the last of the book has notes for the adult reader about frustrations, coping skills, etc.

Cons: It was a little bothersome to read the words Pesky Fly so many times during the story. And if it’s not fly’s name (which I guess it is because it’s always capitalized), it would have been less noticeable and disruptive to see just the word fly occasionally.

Pros:  This is a very good book to begin teaching children to verbalize their feelings. Although fly’s reaction to Pig’s statement is quite positive, the book will also open the opportunity to talk to children about the fact that verbalizing how you feel doesn’t always turn out the way you’d like it to. So other skills need to be put into practice at that time.
The illustrations are very kid-friendly and should make little ones smile.

Author: Lysa Mullady
Illustrator: Janet McDonnell
Publisher:   Magination Press  (May 14, 2018)
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Pages: 32

Friday, May 4, 2018

This Cool Inventor Just Made A Cat-A-Palt / But Where Is The Cat?


#NetGalley #AudreyTheAmazingInventor #PB #RachelValentine
Available June 2018
Audrey, a cute redhead, wears her hair in pigtails tied with measuring tape. She is inquisitive, always asking questions, and likes to discover how things work. When her teacher asks everyone what they want to be when they grow up, Audrey beams when she announces, “I want to be an inventor!” That evening she begins drawing plans for inventions she’d like to work on. But after she completes her egg collector and cat-a-pult inventions, she is disappointed that the egg collector is a failure and that the cat is not excited about flying through the air. In fact, all of her inventions don’t quite work for her dad and cat, which to an inventor is fairly devastating. When Audrey declares herself a failure her dad has a talk with her, but will that be enough to put her back on the right track?”
Cons:  A small “con” would be that I don’t care for the eyes, or lack of eyes, on the characters.
Pros:  I especially enjoyed the detailed illustrations, plus the imagination that Audrey used to come up with her unique inventions. This book should excite many children who have big dreams and even those who don’t since it might cause them to think outside-the-box.  
Illustrator: Katie Weymouth
Publisher:   Words & Pictures (June 2018)
  • Ages: 4 – 7
  • Pages: 32

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Prepare To Laugh Regarding Rejection, And Learn

- Is It Possible To Be Okay With Rejection? -

After reading my rejection post, a friend recommended that I look at this YouTube. While this video can apply to writers, it is really about all forms of rejection, so watching this should be worthwhile for everyone. After all, who hasn't shuddered at the thought of rejection or the reality of receiving a rejection? I know every time I open my email and get a "Thank you for your query but..." from a publisher or agent, it tends to cause me to doubt myself and my writing.

Believe Me, This Will Cause You To Laugh, Think, and Conquer . . . maybe.  

Click: What I learned from 100 days of rejection | Jia Jiang

This humorous presentation helped put my thoughts into perspective. I hope it will yours too. And who knows, maybe you'll get something free out of it, like a hamburger! lol

Monday, April 30, 2018

Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Importance Of Reading To Your Child

-  Books, Books, Books. But Why? -

As a bookworm, I’m convinced that all books hold a degree of magic. When I allow myself to delve into the fictional world created by an imaginative author, it allows me to see life through different eyes. When I pick up an informative book, I grow excited as I learn new things.
Did you know that according to The Children’s Literacy Foundation’s website that, “68% of America’s fourth graders do not read at a proficient level? How about the fact that one out of six children who do not read at age level by the end of third grade will not graduate from high school?” They also point out that studies show that when kids read more often for fun, they have a better chance of becoming strong readers.
For further information check out the site the above statistics were taken from:

 Be sure to look at these interesting sites, especially Want To Raise Successful Kids? Neuroscience Says Read To Them Like This (But Most Parents Don't). Even if you disagree with some of these suggestions, the articles below will give you ideas to think about.

Sites Of Interest:

Are You Doing This?

Beginning Readers:


Happy Reading,

Friday, April 27, 2018

Can The Squeaky Robot Be Okay With Being Different?

- A Story That Helps Kids Embrace Who They Are -

“He squeaked in the daytime and squeaked through the night. / He squeaked so much it gave him a fright!” Rusty doesn’t like his squeak so he can’t like himself. Belle, who is also a robot but shaped like a bell, is happy but she has a “dinging” sound that she deals with. She assures Rusty that she will try to help him with his squeaking. She then asks him to follow her.

They head off with a DING and a SQUEAK. They meet Hoot who is also happy but dealing with a HONK.  “Let’s all loosen up, have fun and play. / Enjoy yourself, Rusty. It’s a much better way!” says Hoot. Together they travel on with a HONK, DING, and SQUEAK. But will Rusty ever find the help he needs to be happy with his squeak?

Cons: At times this rhyming text felt hard to read.

Pros:  While Rusty wasn’t able to change, he was able to own his individuality and embrace diversity. It’s a story of friendship, empathy, diversity, and understanding. Young kids will no doubt enjoy making the sounds each robot makes. 

  Author/Illustrator: Neil Clark
Publisher:  words & pictures (April 19, 2018)
  • Approx Words:  289
  • Ages: 3 - 6
  • Pages: 32

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Story To Ponder And Talk About


From the PublisherBrazilian writer and illustrator Roger Mello gained international recognition when he won the coveted Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014. According to the jury, “Roger Mello’s illustrations allow the child to be guided through stories by their imaginations. The stories demonstrate a broad international understanding. The illustrations are both innovative and inclusive, and incorporate images that promote tolerance and respect between individuals from different cultures and traditions.” In You Can’t Be Too Careful!, Mello explores an idea he had as a child: that one small action can have marvelous consequences. Through wordplay, dreamlike images, and a playful lightness of touch, You Can’t Be Too Careful!expresses serious questions about the dangers of greed and the importance of kindness.
My Synopsis:
The first part of the story is about a barefooted gardener who keeps careful watch over a white rose. We learn why he has no shoes: because the cat, who was given to him by his youngest brother, hid them. We learn his youngest brother’s wife inherited the cat from an uncle. And the story continues to what happened to cause her uncle to die.  For each event, we get to know what the cause is. The story is then retold in the opposite direction, but distinct because this time many acts of kindness are included. The story hinges on the compass rose that has vanished off the map. “Who’s hidden the compass?”
Cons: Not really a “con” but more of a warning for people who are used to picture books being for younger children. While this might be a fun read for young ones, it really is a thought-provoking story for older readers.
Pros: This is an interesting story that will cause multiple readings and conversations. The illustrations are also quite unique.
Author/Illustrator: Roger Mello
Translator:  Translated from Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
Published by:   Elsewhere Editions (April 4, 2017)
  • Ages: 8 – adult
  • Pages: 40

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Tragedy & Recovery Most Can't Imagine

- A Remarkable Family! -

#NetGalley    #Unshattered
Available June 2018
“On June 10, 2008, Carol Decker walked through the hospital doors a healthy woman with flu-like symptoms and early labor contractions. Three months later, she returned home a blind, triple-amputee struggling to bond with a daughter she would never see.”

This book takes us through the deep feelings that Carol Decker experienced while trying to cope with an unimaginable loss in her life. It is a very honest look at working through the emotions of what-will-never-again-be to acceptance and in fact thankfulness for each day of her life.

Cons:  I definitely wanted the introduction by husband Scott Decker included, but I would have liked it to have been at the back of the book. It felt like it shared too much in advance of reading the story.

Pros:  This is one of the most inspirational books I’ve read. Yes, as one reviewer stated it is sad in places, very sad. And her recovery is tough. So if that doesn’t appeal to you, you may need to skip this book. But Carol Decker and her husband are amazing. This story should help each of us see life through a clearer lens. I would highly recommend it to all.

Author: Carol Decker and Stacey Nash
Published by:  Shadow Mountain (June 5, 2018)