Tuesday, May 31, 2016

*Review* Eukarya by Cole W. Williams

Genre: Children's/Science
Published: September 21, 2015
Pages: 52


Allow your imagination to run wild with the poetry and images of Eukarya: A Child's Guide to Knowing Names of Nature by Cole W. Williams and illustrated by Ian Durneen. Eukarya is a children's introductory book to the biological world of creatures; exploring how humans name and classify living organisms while depicting the diversity of species. Eukarya explores our world and lets it come alive with exciting imagery and poetry that is accessible to all ages.


I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program in the hopes that I would leave an honest review.

Just one example of the forced rhyming. 
I had high hopes for this book. I homeschool my children so I'm always looking for good resources that make learning fun. Rhyming is typically a great way to hold the interest of young children in my experience, when it's done well. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this book. The rhymes had very little rhythm, and oftentimes seemed forced. I really felt like the information got lost in the attempts at rhyming. I had trouble making sense out of some of it, and I took and passed a college biology course. If I can't understand it, my five year old isn't going to be able to.

I liked the illustrations, although it would have been nice if all the different things (especially the protists) pictured had been labeled individually. That would make it easier to point at things and say "This is what a _______ looks like."

Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars because the idea is good, but I found the delivery lacking. - Katie 

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About the Author

The main thread that weaves my life is writing. It has been something that I always turn to and have always loved to explore.

Since I have decided to devote my energy to honing my writing craft and putting my work out there I have realized a couple things; there is no glass ceiling except the one you create yourself and everything you need is already inside of you; so get busy!

Life is too short to wait for an invitation, you can still be a writer today.

There are still unexplored niches.  

Cole W. Williams


*Review* The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: Into the Lead by Brooks Olbrys

Genre: Children's Illustrated
Published: April 19, 2016
Pages: 56


Dive Deep with Blue Ocean Bob as He Takes the Lead Protecting All Life in the Sea of Kerchoo

An earthquake has set off an oil spill on the ocean floor, and Blue Ocean Bob faces his toughest challenge yet. After seeking advice from the local sage, Doc the turtle, Bob musters the courage to dive down and repair the damage alongside his mentor, Mary Marine. Upon their return, Wallace the walrus alerts Bob that a great white shark has been beached. Calling on his island friends, Bob devises a creative plan to set the shark free.  

But when Mary is called away to a distant island, Bob has to put his fears (and those of his hummingbird guardian, Xena) aside and step into his mentor’s shoes. Some unlikely allies help Bob in his new role, but he soon realizes that he needs even more help. Thanks to a tip from his trusted friend, Earl the clam, Bob finds the perfect candidate in a young girl he meets on the shore.

The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: Into the Lead is the third installment in this colorful and inspiring early chapter book series that provides young readers with an introduction to timeless principles of achievement.


I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book has a few chapters, which I was not expecting because I apparently didn't read the description very carefully, but they came off more like short stories than chapters to me. It was a nice way to break the story up into a few different days of reading with my mini-me because her attention span is limited.

The whole book is written with rhymes, and they flow really well for the most part (there were a couple sections where the sentence structure was a little odd to make the rhyme work, but a kid isn't going to notice that.) I felt like the chapters passed very quickly because of the flow from the rhymes.

I liked the illustrations. They were colorful, bright, simple but dynamic. And it was cute to see a turtle wearing a vest and tie.

My five year old said the book was really good and her favorite part was when the sharks freed the dolphins. She didn't like it when the shark was stuck on the beach.

Overall I'd give this book 5 out of 5 stars. I would highly recommend it for people with small children and early readers. - Katie 

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About the Author and Illustrator

A graduate of Stanford University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Brooks Olbrys is the founder of Children's Success Unlimited and a managing director at investment bank Ion Partners. He lives with his wife and son in New York City and greatly enjoys escapes to the North and South American coastlines. 

From a young age, Kevin Keele has enjoyed creating artwork in many forms: drawing, oil painting, digital painting, even stained glass. His work has been featured in numerous picture books, magazines, board games, and video games. Though he lives far from any coastline, he has always been fascinated by the ocean and enjoys illustrating its various creatures. Kevin is currently an artist for Disney Interactive Studios. He lives in Utah with his wife and two sons. They are the caretakers of one cat, three chickens, and thousands of Italian honeybees.

*Joood's Reviews* Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

You may or may not know this already, but Joood - Hooligan of Platypire Reviews is notoriously bad at writing reviews after she finishes reading books. I'm serious, her to be reviewed list is almost as long as my Platypire Read-A-Thon list, and that thing is monstrous. So after much cajoling on Joood's part, I have decided to help her out and once a week I'm going to write one of her reviews for her because I'm a good friend like that, and there is no way this could possibly go wrong. I will be writing the reviews as if I actually am Joood.

This week I have selected Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. 

Genre: YA/Fantasy
Published: February 9, 2016
Pages: 444


If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. 

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. 

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. 

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

I gifted myself a copy of this book for my birthday because I deserve all the things, but can only afford a very few of the things (also, I had a gift card.) 

Glass Sword combines two of my favorite things, Star Wars and Greet mythology. Mare Barrow is basically a person with Zeus based midiclorians that allow her to control lightning. Just like Luke Skywalker, she runs off to find the resistance, and finds herself having to battle the lure of the dark side while she's doing it (and we all know that the dark side has delicious chocolate chip cookies, so the temptation is fierce!) 

While reading, I found myself desperately wishing that I could be like Mare with lightning bolt powers so that I could just zap people that I don't like and fry them to a crisp. I would totally have used that power on Katie just yesterday in fact, in retaliation for a photo she sent me on Facebook. Katie, if you are reading this, I wish you were dead right now! 

I really wanted to love this book, but in the end it felt too much like a really cheap land-based knock off of Star Wars, and if I wanted to experience Star Wars again, I would just watch it for the 47389278340274803rd time. So I didn't love it, but it was alright.

3.2 Platypires. - Joood - Hooligan

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About the Author

I'm a screenwriter/YA author who likes books and lists. This site is the nexus of my universe.

My book RED QUEEN will be published Winter 2015 from HarperTeen at HarperCollins. I'm repped by the incomparable Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. 

The genres I'm into include YA, Fantasy, Historical, Adventure, Apocalyptic - if people are dying, I'm buying.*

*From Goodreads*

Alternate Reviews

If you would like to read some legitimate reviews of Glass Sword, just click on any of the links below.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

*Review* Armada by Ernest Cline

Genre: YA/Sci-Fi
Published: July 14, 2015
Pages: 384


Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure. 
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe. 
And then he sees the flying saucer. 
Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.  
No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it. 
It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar? 
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.


If I were to imagine a precursor to Ender's Game, Armada would be it. This is the beginning of video game battle simulation training being used for real battle. The beginning of teenage gamers being used to beat an enemy.

This story had me hooked from the beginning. The main character, Zack, has a Captain America personality. He's very much against injustice and bullies, and that is made clear from the get go. So he's basically the perfect type of guy to be enlisted to fight an alien invasion. Thank goodness he's also super obsessed with one single video game (which seems a bit odd to me. I don't think I know any gamers that only play one game, or even just one game franchise). 

Like the alien invaders actions, I felt like this book was fairly predictable. Everything honestly happened very easily it seemed, but I was still anxious to make sure it did. I would have liked to have seen a few more risks on Cline's part though. 

Overall I give Armada 4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

*Copy received through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

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About the Author

ERNEST CLINE is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His first novel, Ready Player One, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, appeared on numerous “best of the year” lists, and is set to be adapted into a motion picture by Warner Bros. and director Steven Spielberg. His second novel, ARMADA, debuted at #4 on the NYT Bestseller list and is being made into a film by Universal Pictures. Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.

*Review* Porcupette Finds a Family by Vanita Oeschlager

Genre: Children's Illustrated
Published: October 1, 2010
Pages: 44


Porcupette Finds a Family, is a story about how a baby porcupine (called a porcupette) finds a new family after losing his mother. He wants to have an attachment to the bear family he finds, but is afraid his “bear” mother and “bear” brother and sister will leave him too. This causes him to act out his fears in ways that jeopardize acceptance from his adopted family. However, with the understanding and help of Mother Bear, Porcupette finally accepts that he is truly loved and wanted despite, or maybe because of, his differences.


I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a story about a baby porcupine, which is called a porcupette (I didn't know that!), who loses it's mother and decides to go looking for her. Instead, Porcupette finds a mama bear and her two cubs and decides to try to blend in with them. When the mama bear wakes up from hibernation, she doesn't make Porcupette leave. This isn't really a story about a porcupine at all (and I didn't figure that out until almost the end, and didn't read the synopsis prior to reading the book). 

This story would probably be ideal for children in the foster care system to help them adjust to the changes in their lives, but also to help them realize that just because their biological parents aren't around anymore doesn't mean they are unloveable. I was almost in tears by the end of the book. 

My 5 year old liked it when the mama bear went to find Porcupette after he ran away because then he was happy again. 

5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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*Review* A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oeschlager

Genre: Children's Illustrated/LGBTQ+
Published: September 1, 2011
Pages: 40


A Tale of Two Mommies is a beach conversation among three children. One boy asks another boy about having two mommies. A young girl listening in asks some questions too.

True to a child’s curiosity, practical questions follow. “Which mom is there when you want to go fishing? / Which mom helps out when Kitty goes missing?” To which he answers: “Mommy helps when I want to go fishing. / Both Mommies help when Kitty goes missing.”

A Tale of Two Mommies is intended for 4-8 year olds.

This book lets us look inside one non-traditional family, a same sex couple and their son. As the children talk, it’s clear this boy lives in a nurturing environment where the biggest issues are the everyday challenges of growing up.


I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I like how this story is told as a conversation between children about one of them having two mommies, and just what that means for his family life at home. The other kids are curious and want to know which mommy bakes cakes, which one coaches t-ball, and other typical parent activities. I think it's a good way to demonstrate to children of heterosexual parents that children with different backgrounds still have pretty similar home lives.

The illustrations were cute, colorful and varied, but simple enough to not pull too much attention away from the story itself.

My 5 year old really enjoyed it and is pretty sure that having two mommies would be amazing now (but she wants to keep daddy around too. If it lessened my household burden, I might be down to have a sister-wife. LOL.) 

Overall I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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*Review* Tomas and the Galapagos Adventure by Carolyn Lunn

Genre: Children's Illustrated
Published: June 7, 2016
Pages: 28


Join Tomas as he rides his beloved horse, Bonito, through his home of Ecuador and see the landscape from the banana plantations to the beautiful wooded hills. Travel with Tomas as he goes on a dream journey to explore the ocean and beach of one of the Galapagos Islands. From riding a green sea turtle and seeing a humpback whale pod and hammerhead sharks, to a lunch of fresh fruits and fish with pirates on the beach and escaping from a volcano eruption, Tomas goes on a grand adventure, and he s still home in time for dinner with his mama."


I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was an imaginative tale about a boy from Ecuador who wants to be a cowboy, or who is a cowboy really, I guess. He spends his days out riding his horse around the countryside. It uses a few Spanish phrases, but only a few that do not detract from understanding the story (and they are translated at the end of the story for further edification). I thought the story was a bit strange, but also informative. I particularly liked the facts at the end of the book. 

The illustrations were very bright and colorful, definitely eye-catching. They almost tell the story without words being needed. I do think that might detract from the words slightly.

My 7 year old read this book to me, and while he stumbled over a few of the words, it was fairly simple for him to read. He said it was a good book and his favorite part was the sea turtle. 

Overall I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

Carolyn Lunn has been writing since she was a child, starting with poems in birthday cards to family members. Her first published books were early readers inspired by her two children.

Carolyn graduated from the University of Oregon before spending a year at the University of Poitiers in France. She enjoyed several study breaks spent in Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
After graduating, she taught English in Tokyo, was a nanny in Germany, and lived in England for 
nine years. In all these places, she always sought out the best coffee shops and museums.

Carolyn lives in colorful Colorado where she would be lost if not for the mountains. When not writing, she is gardening, running, watching sports, or making home-made pasta. The only
traveling she does now is to coffee shops, or trips to dog-sit her "grand-children" : Boursin, 
the puggle, and shelter-dog, Osita. Both can find trouble, but are irresistibly adorable.

Carolyn hopes her books pique curiosity in children and make the world a little smaller because
children the world over are fundamentally the same. Though they speak different languages or
eat different foods, children are curious, need love and happiness, and gaze at the same stars.

*Review* Little Chickies/Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo

Genre: Children's Illustrated/Bilingual
Published: April 26, 2016
Pages: 25


"Los Pollitos Dicen," or "Little Chickies Squeal" is one of the most popular songs in the Spanish speaking world, akin to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in English. This English adaptation of the song is as catchy and lyrical as the Spanish version and sure to engage new audiences not familiar with the original song. The song is an homage to the demanding nature of babies and the unconditional love, care, and warmth given to them by their mommies.


I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first time I've read a bilingual children's book where the story is told twice, once in each language. Usually both languages are included on a single illustration, so you read a short line in one language, then the same line in the other (in my experience). I personally prefer that approach, but that might be simply because I'm used to it. 

This story was short and cute. The illustrations were crisp and colorful. I can't speak to the accuracy of the Spanish version though because I don't remember much from my high school Spanish classes. However, having seen that the story was originally a Spanish lullaby, I feel that it is probably safe to assume that it's accurate, although the English translation may have been adjusted slightly for rhyme and cadence (which are excellent in English. My Spanish pronunciations are a little rusty at this point too.) 

My five year old really liked the little chickies and thinks that they're cute. 

Overall I give Little Chickies 5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

Susie Jaramillo is an artist, creator, brand builder and mom raising 2 bilingual children. Jaramillo majored in painting and illustration at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and recently left the advertising world after a successful 15+ year career to apply her brand building and storytelling skills to the world of family entertainment and education. 

"As a Latina mom exposed to songs and traditions from both the US and my native Venezuela, I've had a hard time finding books and apps of the nursery rhymes I grew up with," says Brooklyn-based author-artist Susie Jaramillo. "In talking to people in both Latino and non-Latino communities, I realized this was missing from bookshelves and digital platforms everywhere."

To bring to life all the things she loved about her Latino culture, she created Canticos so kids of all ages can enjoy these nursery rhymes and songs.  "In addition to promoting bilingual/multilingual learning," she adds, "we hope the books, apps and videos also promote a sense of community and connect kids, especially Latino kids, to their culture."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

*Review* High Dive by Jonathan Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 8, 2016
Pages: 336


In September 1984, a bomb was planted at the Grand Hotel in the seaside town of Brighton, England, set to explode in twenty-four days when the British prime minister and her entire cabinet would be staying there. High Dive not only takes us inside this audacious assassination attempt—a decisive act of violence on the world stage—but also imagines its way into a group of unforgettable characters. Nimbly weaving together fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, the story switches among the perspectives of Dan, a young IRA explosives expert; Moose, a former star athlete gone to seed, who is now the deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter, trying to decide what comes after high school. Over the course of a mere four weeks, as the prime minister’s arrival draws closer, each of their lives will be transformed forever. 

A bold, astonishingly intimate novel of laughter and heartbreak, High Dive is a moving portrait of clashing loyalties, guilt and regret, and how individuals become the grist of history.


I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

In an epic demonstration of American ignorance of recent world history, I never knew about this Margaret Thatcher assassination attempt. I was alive when it happened. I was only an infant, but I was alive. I bet most of the world knows about the failed attempt on President Reagan's life in 1981 (not because the U.S. is just more important, but because the rest of the world is better informed about world politics in general). Anyway, I had to check to see if I was reading a fictionalized account of a real event, or if it was pure fiction (it's the first one!)

I liked the approach to the story, the way it was told from several different perspectives. I particularly liked Dan's and Freya's viewpoints (which make up most of the book). I even actually kind of wanted Margaret Thatcher to die in the explosion; seeing the fictionalized account of events in Ireland, I totally get why they'd do that and it even seems justifiable to me (and I'm a HUGE pacifist). But that is just how deep in Dan's head I was. 

I did find myself having trouble understanding what was going on during dialogue sometimes. I think it's likely a case of cultural differences, but there were times where the conversation seemed to be only half the conversation, as if I were eavesdropping on a telephone call, but both sides of the conversation were accounted for. This did impact my enjoyment of the story. How could I fully enjoy the story when part of the time I couldn't even understand what exactly was going on? 

Overall I give High Dive 3.5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

JONATHAN LEE is a British writer whose recent fiction has appeared in Tin House, Granta, and A Public Space, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the United States. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is a contributing editor for Guernica and a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily.

*Review* Sexiest Couple Alive by M. Clarke

Genre: New Adult/Romance
Published: May 23, 2016
Pages: 229


MOVIE BOOK TRAILER: https://youtu.be/loLaqma2-kg 

Nathan Cross is living his dream. Not only is he modeling for Knight Fashion Magazine, recently voted “sexiest man alive,” but he is dating a beautiful photographer who could be his new future. When he unexpectedly reunites with his past love, his world crashes around him. Two loves. The past or the future: which one will he choose?

Olivia’s past choices come back to haunt her and could ruin everything she has worked so hard to build. Troy has the power to destroy any hope of happiness. She will do everything to keep that from happening, even if it means giving up her second chance with Nathan. Lies. Revenge. Scandal. Olivia could lose it all.


I was hired to proofread this book. Ms. Clarke is probably aware that I would be posting a review because she has hired me in the past, but it was not part of our agreement. I just review every book I read. If you feel that my connection to the book makes my review untrustworthy, so be it, but this is my honest review. 

This book is the sequel to Sexiest Man Alive, so this review may contain spoilers for that book, the book definitely does. Continue reading at your own risk if you have not read Sexiest Man Alive yet. I do think it is possible to read these books out of order, but I really wouldn't recommend it. You will have a  better sense of Olivia and Nathan's history if you read them in order.

When I started reading this book, I had forgotten how the previous book ended, and it picks up right there, so I had an immediate shock. Also I felt stupid for having forgotten where the story left off. It wasn't that long ago that I read Sexiest Man Alive

I felt like the story was fairly predictable at times, although it did throw me for a loop a time or two as well. The romantic element was satisfying, although I felt like it happened very easily (but the two do have a past together, so I guess it's not too unrealistic). 

Overall I give Sexiest Couple Alive 4 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

International Bestselling, Award Winning, Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children's chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

Ways to keep in touch with the author:

Newsletter Updates: http://eepurl.com/YMyCn

Website: www.authormaryting.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryTing
Twitter @maryting
Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11283685-crossroads
Blog http://www.marytingbooks.blogspot.com/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/authormaryting

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

*Review* A Secret by Lucille Hull

Genre: Children's Illustrated
Published: March 25, 2016
Pages: 28


What is it that Curly Worm knows about God's world that makes him such a happy creature? Furry Caterpillar, Striped Honey Bee, Mr. Centipede, and Lovely Butterfly all want to know.

So will you.


I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program in the hopes that I would leave an honest review.

This book annoyed me, so it's a good thing I'm not exactly the target audience (although I am a mother of young children, so I'm kind of part of the target audience). First of all, the story sets forth the premise that a worm is a lesser creature because it doesn't have fur, legs, or pretty wings, but he's happy because of a religion based secret. But yeah, let's tell kids that if they are different than other kids, then they really aren't as good...but oh, that doesn't matter because god loves EVEN you. (Insert epic eye roll). That's really not the message I want to be telling my kids. Also, the illustrations are childish, like I feel I could easily duplicate them, and drawing has never been my creative strong suit.

Now my five year old said the book was good and she liked the butterfly best because of it's pretty wings (the pretty wings are already more important to her than the character of the butterfly. Hopefully I can teach her better than that in the future.)

My seven year old read it to me and only stumbled over the word "centipede" (the soft c is tricky). He also said it was a good book and he liked when the worm got friends (which isn't actually part of the book. We're working on reading comprehension). 

Overall I give this book 3 out of 5 stars because in spite of my feelings, my children enjoyed it. - Katie 

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About the Author

Lucille Hull was a beloved mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, wife, aunt and friend. She taught school for thirty years, most often first grade. She loved teaching. It was something she was born to do. After retiring at age 70, she read to children as a Friend of the Library, and tutored for several years. Lucille also had a passion for writing and it was her desire to have her stories and poems published. Sadly, she passed away before that happened. This book has been published to honor her and to make her dream come true.

*Review* Willow's Smile by Lana Button

Genre: Children's Illustrated
Published: April 5, 2016
Pages: 32


“Sometimes Willow smiled without even trying. But sometimes when she wished she could and knew she should, her smile slipped straight off her face.” So when her teacher tells the class that Picture Day is coming, shy Willow starts to worry. What if she isn't able to smile for the camera? How can she have her picture taken without smiling? But then on Picture Day, Willow gets the opportunity to watch the other children being photographed. She sees that all of her friends' expressions are unique, and perfect in their own way. And by the time it's her turn, she's realized that she doesn't need to worry about smiling for her picture. She just needs to be herself. 

In this sweet picture book, author Lana Button has created a relatable and reassuring story that offers children a terrific model for how to deal with a difficult experience in a socially and emotionally competent way. The simple illustrations by Tania Howells beautifully capture the story's focus through the range of emotions so clearly expressed by Willow and her classmates. This book provides opportunities for character lessons on self-respect, empathy and resilience. It would work for a classroom introduction to the annual ritual of Picture Day as well, a subject not often covered yet very significant to young children. It could also lead to a conversation about why we take pictures and what makes a great picture, and to activities such as making a class photo album.


I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program in the hopes that I would leave an honest review.

The topic of this book seemed a bit strange to me. Granted it's been a while since my first school picture day, but I don't remember ever being nervous about it like Willow is. That led to a lot of eye-rolling on my part. It also makes me wonder if there is really a need for a book to help kids come to terms with the idea of school picture day.

My kids both enjoyed it. They liked how Willow helped everyone smile by being silly, and my 5 year old requested it for bedtime five nights in a row. She gets really excited when the pictures start being taken and the illustrations say "Flash". 

Overall I give Willow's Smile 4 out of 5 stars. 

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