Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Year, New Me! (Maybe, but Probably Not)

 It's been a couple months since my last life update and we're nearing the end of the year, so it's time to set my intentions for the next year. Why I think this is a good idea, I'm not sure, because it never works out as intended, but I've got plans and I'm working at a job where keeping them at least feels feasible right now. So let's get into it. 

For starters, next year I hope to get back into participating in some weekly memes. The one's I'm most hoping are still around are Top Ten Tuesday, Stacking the Shelves (Saturday) and the Book Bloggers Hop (Friday). Those were my favorite memes to participate in on a regular basis. But I know I need to do some serious hard work to rebuild my blog exposure, and those help. 

I also want to create more discussion question posts. This means I need to think about coming up with discussion questions while reading on a more regular basis. Some books really lend themselves to those questions, while others don't, but I know that having those posts available online can really help in a pinch if you're hosting a book club and are having trouble thinking of your own questions. Those have also been my most consistently organically popular posts. 

I'm also thinking about starting a B-movie Monday feature where I watch a low budget movie for review. It would be similar to my #31DaysOfChristmas movie reviews, but only one a week because the Christmas movie reviews make me feel overwhelmed before the month is over, and I'd really like the things I post to continue feeling fun and not so much like work. 

I also have goals for Netgalley. If you read my previous update post, you know that I set a goal for myself to get my feedback percentage up to 25% before the end of the year. Well, I did it!!! I officially hit 25% on December 27th, with days (and a few already written reviews) to spare. Sure, I did it by reading and reviewing a LOT of children's books, but I did it. Next year I'd like to get my percentage over 50%. I actually plan on continuing to read and review children's books to help with that goal, but I also intend to start knocking books off my list that have been there for a while. My current plan is to review one children's book a day, and then read longer works as they're coming up on their publication date or as I can fit them in between upcoming releases. We'll see how long I manage to stick to that. 

Now for my actual life outside of the blog. I've started working out again, at home, being a crazy person waking up early and working out before I go to work. It's not something I could have possibly done at the last job with my inconsistent schedule, but I've been pretty successful so far and it's been about three weeks. Because I had a pretty serious mental health induced backslide in my weightless progress, I have less than a year to lose a little over 60 pounds to meet my goal, which is still absolutely doable, but I know I need to do it with small changes that I can maintain. While I'm less physically active at this job than the last one, I'm in a position to eat less more often, which I'm hoping will help me reboot my busted metabolism. I don't actually know if that's how it works, but I have to believe convincing my body it doesn't need to hold on to every calorie because it's getting more in pretty short order would probably be beneficial. 

Now it's just a matter of finding a good balance between working, blogging, and being present with my family. I wonder if I can convince them to watch my B-movies with me once a week...It's certainly worth a try, but getting the kids to stick around for an entire quality movie is hard enough. It's almost like they're in middle school or something (they are). 

But that's where I'm at right now and what I plan for the new year. Feel free to make bets on how long I stick to all of these goals and plans in the comments. (Really, doing it out of spite for your lack of faith in me may be the only way I stick to things.) - Katie 

Review: Mighty Mara by Carina Ho and Jesse Byrd


Genre: Children's 4-7
Published: May 16, 2023
Pages: 48

Meet Mara: a vibrant and upbeat little girl living in bland and homogenous Sametown. She aspires to be a dancer (she loves to dance!) and knows she can be successful despite her disability. Amidst her town’s growing dissuasion and heckling, she practices and remains positive, culminating in a colorful, strut-your-stuff moment at her school talent show!

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review.

This is a story about Mara who lives in a town where everyone is the same and enjoys all the same things, but she's already a little bit different. She decides she wants to enter the talent show to dance. Almost everyone discourages her from doing it, except her mom, and she perseveres and does it anyway. In the end, everyone loves her dance, and yet she doesn't win the talent show, because apparently pulling an animal out of a hat like everyone else is way more impressive in her town. 

I thought the illustrations were very cleverly done. I didn't realize why the townspeople thought dancing was a weird choice for Mara until the talent show, and actually went back through to check if I'd just missed it. I hadn't. The talent show was the reveal. 

I'm pretty sure I'd be okay to read this book multiple times to children, especially because the message is that just because others think you can't do something doesn't mean you shouldn't try and that you won't be great at it. Overall I give this book 4.6 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Carina Ho is dancer and musician who performs under the moniker ONIKHO. Having trained in dance and music since childhood, Carina joined AXIS Dance Company, a physically integrated dance company that casts dancers with and without disabilities, shortly after sustaining a spinal cord injury. Over the next two years she toured the United States with them until she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, for which she relocated to Montevideo, Uruguay to teach at the national dance conservatory El SODRE. During this time, Carina also began developing her music project, which melds her influences of classical, blues, and electronic music. Today she primarily tours as a musical artist, often collaborating with other disabled artists to promote the visibility of diverse bodies in the arts.

Her work can be found at

Jesse Byrd is an international award-winning children’s book author and the youngest NPR Board member. At 6’8”, Jesse pivoted from playing basketball at UCSB to pursue his passion for storytelling. After working at Google in Silicon Valley and later EY in Dubai as Director of Communications for Middle East and North Africa, Jesse turned all of his energy toward his deepest love: making stories for youth and families with a focus on supporting diverse creators and #own voices material. He’s written six children’s books and helped produce over 40 others as an editor, art director, and publishing consultant. Jesse is based in Los Angeles, CA.

Review: How to Catch a Daddysaurus by Alice Walstead


Genre: Children's 4-8
Published: April 4, 2023
Pages: 40

The newest addition in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling How to Catch series―do YOU have the rad skills needed to catch the mystical Daddysaurus?

The Catch Club Kids are at it again! This time, they're out to trap the Daddysaurus―a mystical creature capable of such amazing acts of kindness, bravery, brilliance and humor. The kids try to trap the creature with all his favorite activities, but will they succeed? Maybe all they need is a little sweetness to make this awesome Daddysaurus appear! The perfect gift for children ages 4-10 to share with Dad at Father's Day, Christmas, and beyond, this fun dinosaur picture book is filled with silly rhymes and illustrations sure to delight young readers and educators alike with STEAM concepts and classic hilarity and chaos.

Have you ever heard of the Daddysaurus, known for his kindness and bravery too?

We're on a mission to catch him today, but we may need some help from YOU!

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a rhyming book, but I wish it wasn't. To make the rhymes work, the sentence structure was awkward and often didn't flow well. At times it felt almost like Yoda speak, but that feeling wasn't consistent either. I just felt so tripped up with this that I couldn't really enjoy the meat of the story. 

And about that, the main point of the story is to talk about all the things a daddysaurus does or teaches. The feminist in me has some mixed feelings about that, worrying that it may give the impression that a mommysaurus can't do those things too, but I know this isn't about me. I could see the message being problematic for kids who don't have a father figure in their life though. 

The illustrations are where this book really shined for me. They were bright and colorful, depicting all the things this group of kids tried to do to catch their daddysaurus. And the illustrations were detailed with a lot of fun little gems. 

I would struggle with reading this book to my kids multiple times because of the syntax issues I have with it, but I'd probably push through because the message is good overall. I give it 3.1 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Alice Walstead is a children’s book author who loves to make kids smile with her stories.

Andy Elkerton is a children’s book illustrator who loves to create creatures that are impossible to catch! He is known for his work on the New York Times bestselling How to Catch series and is based in the United Kingdom.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Review: Hooray for Spring by Kazuo Iwamura


Genre: Children's 4-8
Published: March 1, 2009
Pages: 32

What child doesnt love the first signs of spring? Its spring, and the world is full of new leaves, and cherry blossoms, and hungry baby birds. Mick, Mack, and Molly can see that caterpillars like to eat leaves, and bees like to suck nectar from the blossoms, but what can they feed a hungry young chick?

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a short story about three young squirrels that are excited to leave their nest at the start of spring. They happen upon a baby bird that looks hungry and try to figure out what it would want to eat. But they do not know what baby birds eat until Mama Bird comes back with a worm for her baby. 

The story telling had a very "See Spot Run" feel to it. Fairly basic sentence structure with a repetitive feel, so probably a good book for a new reader. There were a few complex words, but not many. 

The illustrations had a soft, almost water color feel to them. But they gave me more of an autumn vibe than a spring vibe, with lots of orange and yellow rather than green. The details of the adventure were cute though. 

I could probably read this book a few times without wanting to rip my hair out. Overall I give it 3.7 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Kazuo Iwamura studies at the School of Fine Arts of Tokyo. He started his career as a illustrator for children's television programs and his picture books have been published around the world.

#31DaysOfChristmas: Christmas Cupcakes


Watched on: Amazon Prime
Duration: 1 hour 28 minutes
Originally aired: November 12, 2019
Directed by: Dylan Pearce
Starring: Cindy Busby, Erin Karpluk and Corey Loranger
Please see IMDb for full cast and crew information. 


When their family bakery may have to close its doors right before Christmas, rival sisters Kim and Gina must team up to win a national baking competition, save the family business, and perhaps even discover a bigger prize than they hoped.


This is another movie where the main problem is the bank is ready to foreclose, just before Christmas. In this one, the current owners of the debt are justifiably clueless because their father who just passed away didn't tell them or anyone. So now they're in a mad dash to save the family bakery and their mom's house. Lucky for them there's a local baking competition with a grand prize that will just cover their debt. 

This is one of those movies that is only a Christmas movie because of the arbitrary deadline. The baking competition doesn't even emphasize holiday treats for crying out loud. There is really no reason this couldn't have been set in like March. It was an enjoyable movie for what it was, but it was not a Christmas movie. 


Review: Finding Freedom by Maryna Kariuk

Genre: Children's 6-10
Published: November 30, 2022
Pages: 36

Inspired by the unity and courage of the Ukrainian people, Finding Freedom: A Ukrainian Tale of Home is a beautiful ode to Ukraine.

A young Ukrainian girl finds her beloved hometown in gloom and despair. She hears people crying out for freedom, and wonders where their freedom might have gone. To find out, she sets out on an uplifting journey through the landscapes and folklore of Ukraine.

"I close my eyes and feel the breeze.

I float through Black Sea shores.

Wind whispers through the willow trees,

and the mighty Dnieper roars."

Paired with a glossary and pronunciation guide, this timely picture book creates an opportunity for an important discussion about Ukrainian cultural heritage and the meaning of freedom.

Heartfelt rhymes and vibrant illustrations highlight the uniqueness of Ukraine-its beauty, land and pride-despite the years of oppression, and spark a strong message that will kindle any heart.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a cute little rhyming story that could help introduce children to the traditions of the Ukraine. There were a lot of words used that I didn't know what they are or mean, but the book provides a glossary that gives pronunciations and descriptions for them. So even I learned things from this book. 

The rhymes flowed really well in spite of my stumbling over the foreign words, so I'm guessing was written in English rather than translated to English. Although I recently read another children's book that the rhymes flowed really well and it was translated to English, so I could be wrong. It just had a nice melodic feeling to it. 

The illustrations were bright and colorful helping me to see the traditions and items mentioned, even when I wasn't familiar with them. I could definitely read this book more than once and probably still come away learning something the first few times. Overall I give this book 4.7 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Maryna Kariuk is a debut author, born and raised in Ukraine. The childhood memories of her motherland, especially summers spent in the countryside with her Babusia, have always inspired her to write. She resides in sunny California with her husband and two children.

Ksenia Markevych is a freelance illustrator based in Ukraine. She draws both digitally and using traditional media (watercolor, colored pencils, MixMedia, graphics). She cooperates with publishing houses, independent authors and magazines. She also creates illustrations for calendars, games and postcards. Ksenia's inspiration often comes from the beauty of nature, traveling, people-watching, and constantly learning something new. Through her illustrations, she conveys lightness and movement, which adds dynamism and an inner childlike freedom to each story.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Review: I'm Not Scared No Way by Kimberly Pattison


Genre: Children's 3-7
Published: September 15, 2022
Pages: 27

Is your child feeling anxious over the idea of getting their hair cut?

This beautifully illustrated keepsake book, 
I'm Not Scared, No Way! helps calm a child's fear by preparing them for the new experience and walking them through the process.

You will find a keepsake certificate for their first haircut at the end of the book along with a place for a photo and a lock of the child's hair. What a great gift for an adult child with the lock of their hair and memorialized date of their first hair cut.

Grab your copy today - a great gift for a new mom, friend or family member with a toddler.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This was a cute rhyming story about a boy going to get his first haircut. He's clearly nervous about the experience, but tries to put on a brave face anyway. Kind of a fake it til you make it sort of thing. In the end, he realizes that getting his hair cut wasn't so scary after all, and he really likes his new hairdo. I never realized that getting a first haircut would be a scary event for a child because both of my children were barely one when they got their first cuts. My son's nickname wasn't Fabio for for nothing. But as the author is a long time hairdresser, I'm sure she's seen it all, so I trust she knows what she's talking about. 

The illustrations were unfortunately chopped up on my device and hard to view. From what I could see, they were colorful with soft edges and tones, not bold, brash in your face colors. I wish I could say more about them, but I can't. 

This is probably a book you wouldn't need to read to your kids several times, but kids can be weird so what do I know. Overall I give it 3.6 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Kimberly Pellerin Pattison has been a hairdresser for 35 years . She has witnessed first hand the fear young children can express at the thought of getting their hair cut .

Having been a mother to three and now a (Sweetie) to her grandchildren , she is reminded of the importance of talking to children about their potentially scary life events .

Kimberly was drawn to writing this book hoping to show children that it’s okay to feel fear but it’s even better to conquer those fears .

She also hopes this book reminds parents to teach their children “THERE’S NOTHING THEY CAN’T DO.”

This book will also be a great keepsake with placement in the back for a lock of your child’s hair and certificate of achievement .

#31DaysOfChristmas: Christmas in the Smokies


Watched on: Amazon Prime
Duration: 1 hour 28 minutes
Originally aired: October 1, 2022
Directed by: Gary Wheeler
Starring: Sarah Lancaster, Barry Corbin and Alan Powell
Please see IMDb for full cast and crew information.


Clinging to the only life she's ever known, a headstrong woman (along with her loving parents) finds herself on the verge of losing her family's berry farm in the heart of the Smoky Mountains to an impending retail expansion. Over one eventful holiday season, she tries every avenue possible to save the farm. But when the town leaders notify her that they will seize the property after the holidays, her last hope to unite the town is to throw a Christmas concert on the farm, headlined by her former love, a ne'er-do-well country music superstar. As the day of the concert approaches, they all must learn the value of family, faith and community before time runs out.


Why do banks always want to foreclose on treasured family homes just before Christmas? Is that like a Scrooge trope for bankers or something? And why is it always a surprise to the home owners? Did they just somehow forget they're behind on their payments and that deadlines exist? Have you figured out the theme of this movie yet? Do you think I can complete this review by only asking questions? Would it surprise you if I told you I'm going to try?

If your high school sweetheart who left you for a singing career returned to your small town, would you give him a second chance? What if your own father kept trying to push you two together? What if he said he'd do anything he could to help you save your family farm? Would he need to prove that he's serious to you?

Was there any holiday magic in this movie? Did I see at least some of the events I expect for a holiday rom-com? Would I even classify this as a Christmas movie? Would you be surprised if I told you the answer to all those questions is no? 


Review: The Pig Who Loved Gluffles by Tony Philips


Genre: Children's 4-8
Published: November 14, 2022
Pages: 42

For fans of Dr. Seuss and The Lorax, two brilliantly illustrated, environmentally-conscious stories for young children from an award-winning, master storyteller.

Pigs's favorite food is gluffles. He adores gluffle toast, gluffle stew, gluffle bread and gluffle treats. But the gluffles have lately become harder and harder to find. When pig stumbles across the very last one, he has to decide whether to eat it or protect it, so there can be gluffles for another day.

When the birds discover something is eating their eggs, they have to figure out what is it and how to stop it. A busybody rabbit offers to help them, but is he really helping? Find out how the birds solve their egg-eating problem.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This book was a double feature, so I got two stories for the price of one (although in my case that was free as it was an advanced review copy). The first story was about a pig who loves gluffles, which based on the illustrations are essentially mushrooms it looks like. This story had some strong Lorax vibes in that the pig was eating the gluffles to extinction, like the truffala trees. He needed to change his ways to prevent that from happening. 

The second story was about birds trying to keep a pig from eating all their eggs. The birds were super incompetent, even with a bunny trying to help them by giving them tips, they just couldn't figure out how to do it until one of their young ones comes along. 

The illustrations in these two stories were awkward. I had a hard time telling the difference between the pig and the bunny in the first story (and didn't actually realize it was a bunny until the second story where the difference between bunny and bird was a bit more pronounced). I wasn't really a fan of the drawings. 

I also don't think I'd really want to read this book to my children more than once if they were still at that age. Overall I give this book 2.7 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

When he is not doodling on donkeys or writing silly poems on bathroom walls, Tony Philips is trying to answer the pressing questions that confound experts the world over, like who left the toilet seat up? He grew up in a suburb in Pennsylvania near a turkey farm. Every so often, frantic turkeys, escaped from the farm, would show up in his back yard, and he and his siblings would try to hide them. Have you ever tried to usher a crazed turkey behind a bush? It’s not easy. He attended art classes at the Baum School of Art and got a degree in Creative Writing from Haverford College. He tried writing for television, but found nobody wanted to hear his stories about freaked out turkeys. Or about how an unhinged turkey once bit his younger brother on the toe. It’s true, really. Tony lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. He can be found online at

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Review: Giving Gal and the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza by Stephanie L. Jones


Genre: Children's 3-9
Published: August 12, 2022
Pages: 36

When Giving Gal hosts her annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, she is excited for her new friend, Tianna, to join in on the fun. Initially, the day doesn’t go as planned. But Giving Gal persists in giving encouragement, showing kindness, and making sure her friend feels included.

This beautifully illustrated, heartfelt story reminds us of the power of our strengths and how, when we come together, magical moments happen.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

I've got to start by saying that this book portrays a much better way to make a whole bunch of cookies than how I did it. A group of friends getting together to spread out the work. Genius! Unfortunately for the characters in this book, one friend, Tianna, doesn't have a job because she just doesn't think she's good enough to do any of the main cookie making jobs like rolling dough into balls or frosting cookies. Giving Gal encourages her through everything, telling her that lumpy dough balls would still taste delicious and things like that to let her know that it's the effort that really counts. But they finally find the perfect job for her, helping her feel confident that she's able to contribute in a meaningful way. 

I'm sad to report that the illustrations were all chopped up in pieces on my device, but what I could see was colorful and fun. And the added seek and find would probably have amused even me if I could have done them. The way the illustrations came through in the ARC on my phone just wasn't conducive to that though. I probably wouldn't want to read this book to my kids too terribly often, but once a year around Christmas might not be awful. Overall I give it 3.9 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Hi! I’m Stephanie

I love giving. I gave a gift every day for over 500 days and it changed my life. During my giving journey I received the Cisco Humanitarian Award and volunteered 100+ hours in one year. Check out my book, The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life.

I love speaking. I got the bug in college when I spoke at local churches, sharing experiences from a Honduran mission trip. At 25, as Indiana Director of Victim of Services, I spoke at conferences, on television, and radio. I haven't shut up since. See my speaking page for details.

I love writing. My writing career started as a grant writer for the Indiana State Police, bringing in over $37 million dollars. I learned written words have power and can change lives. I blogged about my 500 days of giving, which led to my first book, The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life.

I love aiming and shooting. In 2000, I showed up at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy to become a State Trooper. After thirteen weeks of grueling training, I was devastated when I failed firearms. I had no plan B, but God had a plan and three years later, I would marry a fellow recruit.

I love those in law enforcement. I was raised by a police officer and learned to respect these people. I became an officer in 2007, graduating as president and top of my academy class. Remember I failed firearms in 2000? Well, in 2007, I qualified as a distinguished expert! I’m also a police wife. My unique experiences put me in a position to be an advocate for police officers, and their families.

I Dream, Discover, and Do! I not only love dreaming, but I love taking action, making my dreams a reality and helping others to do the same. I’ve traveled to 46 states, attended Oprah’s Oscar show in LA, auditioned for my own TLC show in NYC, and the list goes on.

I want to help you live your Dream, Discover your gifts, and Do amazing things.

#31DaysOfChristmas: Klaus

Watched on: Netflix
Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes
Originally aired: November 15, 2019
Directed by: Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martinez Lopez
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, JK Simmons and Rashida Jones
Please see IMDb for full cast and crew information. 

When Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) distinguishes himself as the postal academy's worst student, he is stationed on a frozen island above the Arctic Circle, where the feuding locals hardly exchange words let alone letters. Jesper is about to give up when he finds an ally in local teacher Alva (Rashida Jones), and discovers Klaus (Oscar® winner J.K. Simmons), a mysterious carpenter who lives alone in a cabin full of handmade toys. These unlikely friendships return laughter to Smeerensburg, forging a new legacy of generous neighbors, magical lore and stockings hung by the chimney with care. An animated Christmas comedy directed by Despicable Me co-creator Sergio Pablos, KLAUS co-stars Rashida Jones, Jason Schwartzman and JK Simmons.


Why I watched two movies in a row about the origin of Christmas, I do not know. Thankfully, they have very different story lines so they aren't all mixed up in my head.

This movie features a spoiled shipping heir that has intentionally done badly at the academy so he can return to his life of luxury. His father isn't having it though, and sends him to the worst village in the kingdom to set up a successful post office. The problem, this village is full of feuding families and they do not want to send letters. 

He manages to stumble on the workshop of the village hermit that is just chock full of toys. One thing leads to another and he convinces the village children that writing letters to Mr. Klaus will get them a new toy, and somehow convinces Klaus to go along with it. 

Drama ensues because the older generation is not pleased with the fact that the young's have stopped fighting each other and they refuse to let their feuds die. It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that older generations tend to be averse to change. 

While this movie doesn't have rom-com level Christmas magic, it does feel magical. As the villagers stop fighting each other, they start interacting and in some ways creating the traditions that provide the magic in Hallmark movies. This is definitely a good family movie night choice.


Review: I Don't Want to Move by Carolyn Watkins


Genre: Children's 4-8
Published: October 4, 2022
Pages: 35

Yikes! Mom and Dad said we are moving!

When Charlotte's parents announce that the family is moving to a new home, Charlotte is scared.

She does 
not want to leave her friends - or go to a "silly new school."

Join Charlotte on her journey as she discovers what it's 
really like to be "the new kid" in school and how she goes from the new kid to helping others adjust to her new school.

Grab this book and learn how Charlotte becomes the new school ambassador.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a story about a young girl who has to move to a new house. Now I must confess I'm a little confused about how far from the old house she's moving because in the story, it seems like it's close enough to continue seeing her current friends, but it does land her in a new school. That's a somewhat foreign concept for me because when I moved as a teenager, I couldn't still see my old friends regularly. And yet if we moved three miles away from where we live now, my kids would be in an entirely different school district. In any case, she isn't going to have friends in her new school and that makes her sad. One girl at the new school shows her around and tries to be her friend from the get go, but Charlotte is still sad until another new girl joins the class. Then she makes sure to make her feel welcome so she won't feel the same way Charlotte did. 

The illustrations were bold and Charlotte had beautiful, vibrant red hair. That's what really stood out to me overall from my short time reading the book about the illustrations at least. It was really well done I thought. This book would definitely be worth a read for anyone with smaller children that are facing a move to maybe help ease their fears some. Overall I give it 4.1 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Carolyn Watkins has a Masters degree in education and is a former elementary teacher and Special Education Assessment specialist. After retiring, Carolyn became a full-time realtor, as well as an accomplished author. Her first book, The Knock, is the recipient of numerous awards.

Carolyn resides in New Hampshire with her husband and three grown sons. Writing continues to be her passion. Her day job is working for Keller Williams Coastal and Lakes & Mountains Realty.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

#31DaysOfChristmas: A Boy Called Christmas


Watched on: Netflix
Duration: 1 hour 46 minutes
Originally aired: November 24, 2021
Directed by: Gil Kenan
Starring: Maggie Smith, Isabella O'Sullivan and Joel Fry
Please see IMDb for full cast and crew information.


An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible.


This movie has kind of a Princess Bride feel to it. It starts with a grandmother babysitting her grandchildren near Christmas time and telling them about how Christmas started. While this movie doesn't have the kind of Christmas magic I get from Hallmark movies, it was a feel good story, at least in the end. 

This kid grew up with his mom telling him stories of Elfhelm, a magical place, and the stories tell him exactly how to get there. When things are starting to look bleak for his homeland, the king tasks everyone with finding something to bring back hope. Nikolas' dad sets off with a crew of explorers to find Elfhelm, leaving Nikolas with his awful aunt. 

Going into any more detail would involve far too many spoilers, but I can say the story is plausible, as least as far as anything related to Christmas traditions is plausible. And there was a nice touch at the end that had me exclaiming "oh my gawd!" I'm honestly disappointed with myself for not watching this one sooner. 


Review: Pete's First Playdate by Ann Harrell

Genre: Children's 3-6
Published: October 25, 2022
Pages: 32 

A sweet story about being true to yourself and making new friends. For superheroes ages 3 years and up.

Pete wants to go on a playdate. He waits, and he waits, and he waits for an invitation. But when new neighbors move in, he reveals his superpowers and makes things happen! 

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is an adorable little story about a young boy who just wants to have a playdate like his sister gets to. He asks several different friends at school, but nothing comes of those requests. Then one day he's playing in his yard when a new family moves in next door. They have a girl who is about the same age as Pete and she is also very much into super heroes. In 12-14 years, these two could star in their own YA romance. They spend most of the day playing in her yard and have a blast protecting the city from evil. 

The illustrations were fun and imaginative. They had bright colors without being overly distracting and they provided a lot to look at to go along with the story. This is another book that I'd be okay reading to kids a few times, not all the time, but a few re-reads wouldn't suck. Overall I give this book 3.9 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Ann Harrell believes in the power of story. As a licensed counselor, she listens to stories; as a certified dance therapist, she expresses stories through movement; and as a children’s author, she creates stories. Ann writes picture books that relate to a child’s social-emotional voice. Some of her stories reflect her upbringing in Turkey. Ann lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys family time, dancing, and taking walks with her golden retriever, rescued from the streets of Turkey.

Renate Vermeulen-Potter (Tilburg, 1982) is a self-taught illustrator (and aspiring author) from the Netherlands. She used to work as a (history) teacher at primary and secondary schools and always got inspired by her students. Her love for history, art, nature and teaching make her the person she is today. Full of dreams and energy to fill the world with more love and confidence in a brighter future.