A Monster Like Me

Author: Wendy S. Swore
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Genre: Middle Grade
ISBN: 978-1-62972-555-0
Pages: 304
Price: $16.99

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Sophie believes she’s a monster because of the large hemangioma on her face. She’s also convinced there are other monsters all around her, based on the Big Book of Monsters that she carries with her everywhere. So when Harley-riding Kelsi starts dating her mom, she schemes to keep him away from her, knowing his monster secret.

Along with her new friend, Autumn, Sophie starts collecting items that she adds to a magic amulet. If only she can use it to make a wish on the night of a full moon, she’s sure she can turn herself back into a human. But what if the hemangioma goes away, and she hasn’t changed inside?

Just when it seems that Sophie’s behavior has gone completely wild, her world comes crashing down on her, and she needs to determine if she really is a monster after all. And when she makes an unexpected decision to use her amulet for someone else, she finally knows the answer in her heart.

A Monster Like Me is a fast-moving tale that will hold middle-grade readers spellbound. Kids will identify with Sophie’s questions about who she is, and how to make it in a world that can be cruel at times. But they’ll really love how she finds her humanity inside as she comes to accept herself at last. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children

Five Hungry Mice

Author: Frances A.B. Dunning
Illustrator: Heather Lynn Harris
Publisher: Crisscross Applesauce
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-942483-58-8
Pages: 30
Price: $16.95

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Five hungry mice spy a box of full of rice. But in order to get to it, they need to cross the kitchen while avoiding the family cat! Atop the table, they find a bag of oranges that they use to distract the cat. Soon they’re filling their bellies with tasty white rice.

This cute retelling of a classic nineteenth century tale is accompanied by adorable illustrations. Kids will cheer for the mice as they reach their prize while narrowly avoiding danger. Five Hungry Mice is a delight to read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, self improvement

Parker Plum and the Rotten Egg Thoughts

Author: Billie Pavicic
Illustrator: Susan Gaber
Publisher: Boys Town Press
ISBN: 978-1-944882-33-4
Pages: 31
Price: $10.95

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Parker Plum wakes up with a small green egg on his pillow. He’s used to strange things happening, so he puts it in his pocket. Then he gets grumpy when he finds out he’s not having his favorite breakfast, and the egg grows slightly. He misses the bus and arrives late to school. His grumpiness grows, as does the egg. As each thing happens that he doesn’t like, his mood becomes worse and worse, and the egg becomes enormous.

Finally, a lunch lady recognizes the problem, and explains to Parker that the egg is his rotten egg thoughts. He has the power to shrink it by changing his thoughts. She guides him by asking two questions: Can I change this? Are there any good parts hidden in the bad? After reviewing the miserable day he’s having, he sees that he can change his mood by changing his thoughts. And when Parker faces a new challenge later in the day, he is able to put these lessons into practice – BEFORE he causes a new rotten green egg to form.

Parker Plum and the Rotten Egg Thoughts explains how to handle disappointments in a fun and easy to understand manner. In seeing the oversized green egg, kids can laugh at the silliness of the situation, while also learning from Parker’s mistakes. This is a wonderful teaching tool for home and classroom.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, classics

William Sheepspeare (Wild Bios)

Authors: Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer
Illustrator: Benedetta Capriotti
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Classics / Board book
ISBN: 978-1-68412-619-4
Pages: 16
Price: $7.99

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In hilarious ovine fashion, William Sheepspeare introduces Shakespeare to kids. But this is no dry biography for parents to read to their toddlers. Instead, clever puns fill these pages.

For example: Sheepspeare was a master of tragedy, with classics like: “Lamblet,” “MacBleat,” “Julius Fleecer,” and “All’s Wool That Ends Wool.” … Sheepspeare had a sense of humor, too. His comedies, like “Taming of the Ewe” and “As Ewe Like It,” had audiences baa-ing for more.

Small children won’t get these enjoyable puns, but they will entertain parents who will be reading it over and over again. And at some time in the future, kids might remember this funny tale and seek out more information about the Baa-rd. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, classics

Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears

Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Julie Clay
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Classic
ISBN: 978-1-68412-760-3
Price: $12.99

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A big sleepy bear and a little sleepy bear are settling in for the night. One at a time, they each give a big yawn, a big stretch, and climb into bed. Heads on their pillows, they close their eyes and sing softly. And then they go to sleep.

This classic from Margaret Wise Brown encourages sleepy little ones to willingly climb into bed and mimic the bears’ actions. I especially liked the revised version of the bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” which has angels keeping watch and no mention of death.

Cute and cuddly bears, sweet words, and a soft and gentle rhythm make Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears a perfect addition to your child’s bedtime routine. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, nature

The Gift of the Deer

Author: Helen Hoover
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Genre: Nature / Outdoors
ISBN: 978-0816631285
Pages: 224
Price: $16.95

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Every so often I long to read a book simply about wildlife or nature in general. The book has to have good story, entertaining characters, and a satisfying ending. It is necessary that the tale comes alive in my mind and stimulates my imagination. The Gift of the Deer does all this and more.

Helen and Adrian (Ade) gave up life in the city to move to a remote cabin in the wilds of northern Minnesota. On one Christmas Day during a particularly brutal winter, they noticed a new visitor out among the usual birds and squirrels they feed outside. The fully mature buck was thin, blind in one eye, and obviously struggling to survive winter’s harsh treatment. Deciding to help this deer survive became a decision that would affect the lives of Helen and Ade forever. For four years afterward, they had the privilege to observe and get to know a growing family of deer throughout the seasons. Hoover’s vivid descriptions are presented with the eye of a seasoned naturalist, and her husband’s illustrations further bring the imagery to life.

By reading these personal accounts that cover four captivating years, the reader has the opportunity to see nature in its purist form and learn a side of deer behavior that is very rare indeed. The Gift of the Deer is a golden opportunity to absorb a good story and exercise the imagination. I recommend this book to nature lovers of every sort.

Reviewer: Gene Berger


Fish Sandwiches

Author: Troy Schmidt
Publisher: NavPress
Genre: Christian
ISBN: 978-1-63146-841-4
Pages: 196
Price: $15.99

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The feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand are two miracles of Jesus that we hear about often. Beginning with just a few small loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus was able to multiple a meager meal to feed all those men, not including women and children. But what do the stories mean to us today?

Unpacking the scriptures, Troy Schmidt demonstrates some of God’s promises: knowledge of our needs, provision, spiritual health, community, fulfillment, blessing, eternity, as well as others. While some folks find themselves in need of actual food sustenance, most of us are looking for more. We need “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:3)

Along with personal anecdotes and stories, Schmidt provides Biblical sustenance in a fun and easy to read manner. I highly recommend Fish Sandwiches to all who want to go deeper into God’s word.

Reviewer: Alice Berger