Book Reviews

I will share book reviews I have written on this page. Some of them will be full reviews, while others will be partial reviews with links to the rest of the review.

INSIDE YOUR INSIDES: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home
Posted 9/17/16

Author Claire Eamer takes young readers on a fascinating look at the world of microbes. Filled with delightful illustrations by Marie-Eve Tremblay, "Did You Know?" sidebars packed with interesting tidbits, and the sometimes dirty but always fascinating world of these microscopic critters.

The author includes a Glossary of terms and an Index. Also, scattered throughout the text are sidebars of "cell" jokes. One of the jokes is: "Not sure you'll like your microbes? Don't worry - they'll grow on you!" More jokes like this, a humorous, easy-to-read style, lots of references to "poop" (which is teeming with microbes), and awesome illustrations make this a very kid-friendly book. 

BTW, it's adult-friendly, too. I enjoyed reading it! I hope you do, too!

Posted 8/20/16: 

Two-time Newbery Honor winner, Patricia Reilly Giff, has written a simple and entertaining guide on the how to write fiction. She breaks the topic down into easy-to-understand steps, providing examples for each one.

The book is written for kids, kids who want to write but might not know how to put their ideas and thoughts into story form. Giff breaks down the process in these steps (these are chapter headings):
* First, You Take a Person
* Put Him In a Place
* Give Him a Problem
* Make Him Move - (action)
* Make Him Talk - (add dialogue)
* Juggling - (how to keep the action, dialogue and description all going at the same time)
* Make Him Worry about the Problem
* And the Problem Gets Worse and Worse - (keep adding obstacles)
And in the solve the problem
And Now... Begin on Page One (rewriting)

After each step, Giff shows kids how she did it in chapters titled Can You See How I Did It? Then, she encourages kids to do the same, by adding chapters titled Your Turn.

She finishes off the book with a couple of chapters about what do after you've finished your first book. She recommends that you do a lot more reading and then start writing another book!

Obviously, this book is written for kids. But, it wouldn't hurt adult writers to take a look at the book. Maybe they'll find some inspiration just by reading through the chapters.

BTW, the title comes from Giff's attempts to write while living with Rosie, her 70-pound golden retriever. 

Posted 3/16/14:

Do you like to write? Do you love children’s books? Do you love the artwork in children’s books? Do you ever wonder how some of it is created?

I just read a book that I love, Love, LOVE! Can you tell I'm excited about it? Well-known children’s book illustrator and children’s author, Lois Ehlert, has added another book to her wonderful collection. This one, called THE SCRAP BOOK, is like a mini biography written and put together like a scrapbook (hence the name).

It’s filled with very colorful pages and minimal text that explains how she came up with some of the ideas for her book. For instance, when a squirrel slipped inside her house, it gave her an idea for a book. She called it NUTS TO YOU. The inspiration for FEATHERS FOR LUNCH came when her sister's cat escaped out the door. You just never know when an idea might sneak up on you.

She also talks about her art, sharing ideas and techniques she uses to create the artwork for her books. If you're an artist, but not a writer, you might still be find some inspiration for crafts and techniques just by flipping through the pages of this book.

Whether you write children’s books, or illustrate them, or do both like she does, you should read Lois' book. I think you'll find the subject matter interesting, fascinating and inspiring.


Posted 1/5/14:

Everyone’s heard the nursery rhyme, The Three Blind Mice. It’s a short and simple rhyming verse about three blind mice who get their tails chopped off by a farmer’s wife. But, did you ever wonder what might have happened to the mice to cause them to be blind in the first place, or what might have happened to them after that bloody incident?

Well, wonder no more. Catherine Lewis answers these, and many other questions, in a whimsical, imaginative and very informative way, all the while teaching readers about literary concepts. She takes the story of The Three Blind Mice to a whole new level by creating an abundance of story matter about these three little rodents and their plight to explain such concepts as allegory, structure and red herring. She also includes some terms and concepts I had never heard of, like leitmotif and bildungsroman. Do you know what those terms mean? I do now, thanks to this delightful and informative book.

For instance, to explain the concept of “story”, Lewis writes simply: “Three blind mice ran after the farmer’s wife. She cut off their tales with a carving knife.” At the bottom of the page, in a section called “Snip of the Tale,” she adds: “On the most basic level, a sequence of events.” Of course, many of the terms and concepts in the book require much longer explanations than this, but regardless, all are very entertaining. She even writes her own “fairy tale” and “parable” to illustrate each of those concepts.

To explain the term “leitmotif” she writes: “Matilda Bethoon chop/chop/chops/ slender parsnips. She wields her Ginsu knife with precision, a steal at $19.95. It’s razor sharp, but neither it nor other kitchen toys – bamboo steamer, Teflon spoons – can assuage her agitation. She clenches a bunch of carrots and whacks of their green tops. Chop. Chopchop. Chopchopchop. An orange chip slaps the floor. Matilda stoops to pick it up. Yikes! Three mice charge her, trailing their dirty wigglers. ‘Hiyah’ //”/ She explains in the Snip of the Tale: “Something that reoccurs in a work (an image, object, action, word, phrase, etc.) that tends to unify the work and establish a theme.” NOTE: She has named the farmer’s wife Matilda Bethoon and the mice are named Pee Wee, Oscar and Mary.

Lewis also includes an Appendix at the end with each term explained in greater detail.

This is one of the most entertaining, imaginative, and yet very informative books about writing that I have ever read. I loved it! The writing is lively, and the chapters are short, so I was able to finish it at one sitting. However, I intend to keep a copy of it handy in my office to refer to when I have a question about a particular literary term.

If you're a writer, run to your nearest library and pick up a copy of this wonderful book. After you read it, you will probably want your own copy, like I do. 

Posted 12/13/13:

On Christmas Eve, when Santa checks his list of who’s “naughty” and who’s “nice,” he discovers that all the children in the world have been “naughty,” so none of them will get toys this year. Instead of toys, he loads his sleigh with lumps of coal.

It is a cold, windy, stormy, dreary night and the people around the world have shuttered their windows and doors and sealed up their chimneys with boulders and boards to keep out the cold. Santa, of course, can’t get down the chimneys.

But, there is one chimney open, so Santa lands on the roof and slides down the chimney where he lands in Molly’s fireplace. Molly greets him with a plate full of cookies. Santa rechecks his list and discovers Molly is the only child who has been good the past year. Somehow he had missed her name the first time around.

When Santa asks her what she wants for Christmas, she asks Santa to forgive all the naughty boys and girls and give them presents, as usual.

You can read the rest of the review on the CCBR website by clicking on this link.

Posted 11/9/13:

I recently finished reading this book. I had heard about Malala, but I wanted to read more about her. I'm glad I did. This is truly an inspiring story, one I think everyone should read.

This book is about Malala Yousafzai, as the title says, she is “the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.” The story was written by Malala with the help of Christina Lamb. This is Malala’s biography, a brief one to be sure, but one that is unprecedented in terms of all that she has seen and experienced in her young life.

You’ve probably heard of Malala. She’s a Muslim girl who was born in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Being born into a Muslim family generally means that a female life is not highly valued. But, Malala’s father does not think like other Muslims. Her father is a teacher, and he has always instilled in her a belief that everyone is entitled to an education, including girls.

When the Taliban took control of her valley, Malala was furious. The Taliban insisted that any school that taught girls should be shut down. Since her father ran the school she attended, she continued going to school and became very vocal, speaking out against the Taliban, even when her life was threatened.

On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head, at point-blank range, by a member of the Taliban. She was fifteen years old at the time. Three bullets were fired at her, but only one hit her. The other two struck two of her friends. They were not seriously wounded, but Malala nearly lost her life. The would caused her blindness in her left eye, and the left side of her face is not quite fully functional. But, she is alive and she is still speaking out against the Taliban and anyone who says girls should not be educated.

Since the accident, she has left Pakistan and has traveled around the world, sharing her story, making a stop at the United Nations in New York. In part, she said:

"So here I stand... one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated."

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, the youngest person ever to have that honor. She did not receive the prize, but she has gone on to inspire others. She started the Malala Fund, a non-profit agency. Its mission is to provide education to every girl around the world. “Education empowers girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change. The Malala Fund’s solutions are grounded in inspired innovation: they are girl-centric approaches to education that support the Fund’s goal of creating a world where every girl reaches her true potential.”

Malala believes, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First.”


 The Greatest King: A Christian Adventure, written and illustrated by Jerry Yu Ching and Mike Onghai, is a cartoon-styled picture book telling the story of a prince who was “proud, arrogant and mean.” He wanted everyone to worship him and he wanted everyone who didn’t to be punished. He got so obnoxious his father, the king, banished him from the kingdom. He told his son not to come back until he had found “the Greatest King.”

 You can read the rest of the review on the Christian Children's Book Review website.


Ethan Conway’s father has disappeared. Ethan has a pretty good idea of what has happened to him, but he needs the help of his two friends, Jake and Spencer, to search for him. Ethan’s father is a scientist who has invented a time travel machine. He had tested it several times by sending objects and animals back into time and retrieving them. Now that his father is no where to be found, Ethan suspects he has traveled back in time on his own and might need help coming back.

You can read the rest of the review on the Christian Children's Book Review website.


Rosita Valdez has always had a vivid imagination. Her mind has a tendency to wander to far-off places when she’s supposed to be doing other things like listening to her parents or working on her homework. Rosita has also been raised to tell the truth. So, when she starts telling her family and friends about riding a giant sea turtle in the cove, no one believes her.

You can read the rest of the review by going to the Christian Children's Book Review website.


Children ask lots of questions about everything imaginable. Sometimes, as parents, we rack our brains about how to explain grown-up concepts to children. Author Cindy Pertzborn makes it easy to talk to children about Heaven and how we can get there. Her book, How Do We Get to Heaven? was written in response to her own five-year-old’s question, “Mom, how do we get to Heaven?”

You can read the rest of the review by going to the Christian Children's  Book Review website.

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