Sunday, December 18, 2022

Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree Virtual Book Tour


Enter for a chance to win a copy of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree, autographed by Richard Wagner.

Needle, the Forgotten Christmas Tree Book Giveaway


Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Written by Richard Wagner

Illustrated by Sydni Kruger

Ages 3+ | 38 Pages

Publisher: Mascot Kids | ISBN-13: 9781645437086

Publisher’s Synopsis: The world is not always a perfect place. Needles, a scraggly little tree, must endure criticism, laughter, and setbacks to realize his goal of becoming a beautiful Christmas tree.

This is a story of dreams, desires, hope, determination, and never giving up. It also offers the observation that what others think is beautiful may not really matter. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder and paired with the spirit of Christmas, maybe we can make the world just a little more perfect!



Barnes and Noble

Author’s Website


No one wants to be forgotten at Christmas, not even the trees. Needles is a small tree with big dreams; he wants to become a lovely Christmas tree and share the holidays with a family. Even though the other trees mock him, he holds onto his goal. And when he is passed over time and again at the tree lot (picture the tiny tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas special), he still holds onto hope. Through all the ridicule and disparaging comments from fellow trees and humans, Needles longs to become a beautiful part of Christmas. This is a story of hopes and dreams and how hard they may be to achieve, or even to believe in, when everyone else belittles them. But it is also the story of how people may look at the same thing with completely different reactions. Emily sees a tree that has the perfect spacing of branches and even the perfect size for her. And when she hangs all her most precious items on it, neighbors see a beautiful tree in her living room window, even though some of those neighbors may have been the customers who overlooked Needles earlier. Acceptance and love are wonderful things to share, especially at the holidays. Reading a story like this could remind youngsters to be grateful for the blessings they have and to look for the beauty in everyone and everything around them.


Richard Wagner grew up in Southern California. When he was fourteen years old, a business friend of his father’s had a small Christmas tree delivered as a thank-you. Their family already had a large tree decorated in the house. Not being able to find anyone who needed a tree, that small Christmas tree stood outside by itself for the remainder of the Christmas holiday. Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree is a tribute to that little tree and what might have been, but more importantly, to all the beauty, goodness, and hope that Christmas brings to us all. Mr. Wagner continues to reside in Southern California with his wife and two children.

For more information, visit


Monday, December 5, 2022

The Children’s Book Review

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Me Two Books

A book activity to pair with Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Barbara Ann Mojica’s Blog

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Confessions of a Book Addict

A book giveaway of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Friday, December 9, 2022

icefairy’s Treasure Chest

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Monday, December 12, 2022

Book Zone Reviews

Author Interview with Richard Wagner

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

A guest article by Richard Wagner

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Heart to Heart

Author Interview with Richard Wagner

Thursday, December 15, 2022

J.R.s Book Reviews

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Momma Spot

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Fairview Review

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Review Wire

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Chatty Patty’s Place

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Crafty Moms Share

A book review of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree

Virtual tour in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Foreword Publicity.

Fall Reading 2022 Duck for Cover & Other Tales


Barbara Venkataraman has captured the imagination of fans with her Jamie Quinn mystery series and tickled their funny bones while also making them stop and think with her Quirky Essays for Quirky People. This latest collection of short stories offers a mix of humor with insight into human interactions that may have some readers laughing out loud while others wince at how close to home some of the observations land. 

For instance - there is the self-absorbed guy who complains all through dinner only to discover that his date specializes in the topic he has been bad-mouthing. He probably won't be getting a second date, right? Or the story of the juvenile offender who thinks he will just slide through his court-ordered restitution. 

Each story has a different cast of characters and setting, but they all are powered by human interactions. Whether it is the escalating disagreement between two neighbors, parents trying to protect their children from online dating, or an adult child trying to cope with a parent's dementia, every tale has a kernel of truth and some humor to take out some of the sting. 

My favorite in the collection is "See You at the Movies," about a grandfather and grandson who share a love of movies and often communicate in movie quotes. I have family members with whom I share that same bond, so the story touched my heart with those sympathetic feelings. 

Short fiction is such a great way to spend a few quiet moments. Readers can dip into a book for just one quick story, or settle down to read the entire collection. Either way they will have some laughs, maybe a few tears, and pause to consider a few observations as they work their way through these tales.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Fall Reading 2022 Pitch Perfect and Persistent: The Musical Debut of Amy Cheney Beach

Amy Cheney Beach was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1999. Have any of you ever heard of her? I took piano lessons for years as a child and none of my teachers ever mentioned her. But this wonderful picture book will introduce her to children and they will be amazed at her accomplishments.

The narrative begins with Amy toddling around her family's farmhouse and singing pitch-perfect tunes - as one-year-old! It follows her musical development and her debut on the concert stage, despite her mother's objections to a career as a pianist. Several quotes from Amy herself are included, so that readers get a sense of her personality. Youngsters may be surprised that her mother did not want her to be a musical prodigy. 

Illustrations were created by Alison Jay, whom you probably remember from her work on A Lady Has the Floor and other titles. The crackle finish on the paintings have an antique feel. The musical notes floating around Amy as she creates her own songs or pouring from the piano as she plays give the sense of the melodies filling the air around her. One page shows the figures of famous classical composers standing on the sheets of music as if her playing has brought them to life.

Together the text and illustrations capture the time period and Amy's absorption with music. Back matter includes a 2-page author's note, several photos of Amy, a 2-page timeline, a musical glossary, and a selected bibliography. There is also a list of suggested websites and places to visit. Publication is scheduled for March 21, 2023. I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Fall Reading 2022 Simon the Hugger


This story is perfect for kids who are still learning about boundaries and personal space, as well as those who need some reinforcement about the importance of consent before touching others. Anyone who has been around a group of young children (such as a kindergarten class), understands that some kids just cannot seem to keep their hands to themselves. No matter how many times an adult requests that they keep their hands in their laps, they reach out and play with someone's hair, or try to hold their hand, or put their arms around a classmate. Teachers could easily use this book to begin a discussion about how to appropriately show affection for others while respecting their wishes about being touched. 

It could also be very helpful in affirming a child's right to refuse a hug or other touch when it is not wanted. Some children are just not comfortable with being touched by others. It might be a personal preference that is the same each day, or it might be just a temporary mood. Whatever the reason, the others all need to recognize and accept that choice. A class might also like to brainstorm how to show friendship and affection in other ways - such as the fist bump that Simon shares with Ricky the porcupine.

The book was written by a psychologist who also has experience as a special education teacher. She has included a discussion guide in the back that suggests questions and suggested responses. The illustrations show Simon as a sloth with long arms perfect for hugging, if anyone was in the mood for a hug. He has an expressive face that shows his dismay when his friends tell him "No." Young readers will be hoping that Simon finds a way to get along with his friends and reclaim that huge grin shown on the front cover.

Fall Reading 2022 The Most Magnificent Idea


Anyone who has read The Most Magnificent Thing (August 2013), knows that the protagonist of this book is a world class tinkerer and maker. In that earlier story she used perseverance and problem-solving to turn the idea in her head into an actual object. But this time she has a bigger problem - she is out of ideas! "Her brain is an idea machine. It's so full of ideas that her hands can barely keep up." So having a day where no ideas pop into her head, not even when she takes a walk, tries new activities, or holds her breath is distressing. "Without ideas taking up space, her brain fills up with sad instead."

Watching the girl try out swimming, dancing, and even playing the tuba (while her dog covers his ears), gives readers a sense of how to deal with a lack of inspiration by taking a break and doing something different for a while. The fact that she has already completed so many projects should reassure children that even those who are the best at something can have an off day. And, if that doesn't convince them, they can take a look at the project she puts together without a plan. "Well, let's just say it's not her best work," the author comments. 

In the end, just as one would hope - inspiration does strike and both the inventor and her neighbor (as well as the neighbor's cat) are pleased with the results. This is another great book to use with a STEM theme, to introduce the idea of tinkering and making, or to emphasize life skills such as persistence and patience.

Fall Reading 2022 How Birds Sleep


This fascinating look into the various ways birds sleep is gorgeously illustrated and full of facts for hungry young minds. The endpapers themselves showcase birds picked out as constellations in the starry sky. Each illustration shows the birds in their natural habitat as they prepare to sleep. The text talks about the different ways in which birds find a safe, warm, or cozy spot that suits their needs. They may line up on branch, or hang from it upside down. They may cuddle together in a big feathery ball in a nest, dive into a snowbank, or drift on an ocean wave. The common name, scientific name, and location for each species is noted at the bottom of the page. 

Several things make this a fun and informative book to share with youngsters. It showcases a variety of birds from around the world and the incredible ways they sleep (soaring over the sea, standing on one leg, even underground). The barn owl from the first page, who is just setting off for a busy night as everyone else settles down, shows up again on the last page returning to its nest as the other birds wake and begin their day. That circular feeling of coming back to where it all started is very satisfying. Back matter includes a discussion of what sleep is, the effects of climate change on birds, and a few resources for more information about feathered friends.

It is hard to believe that this is the first picture book from this husband and wife duo, and readers can only hope that more are to come. Whether this is used as a bedtime read-aloud, or as part of a class unit on birds or animal adaptations - it is sure to capture the attention and imagination of young readers.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher. Release date is scheduled for March 28, 2023.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Fall Reading 2022 Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock


The cover of this book captures the feeling that Arthur had - as if the shadow of his creation, Sherlock, was literally hanging over him and everything he did. It must be the same feeling actors have when they play a very popular role and then are typecast into similar parts over and over. We know now that other authors worry about one character or series coloring how everyone will respond to their work; even J.K. Rowling used a pseudonym when she wanted to write something other than Harry Potter. But back when the Sherlock Holmes stories were first wowing readers, it wasn't as common a problem.

The narrative explains Arthur's childhood influences, his education, and the many adventures he had. Young readers may not know about his trips on board ships heading to the Arctic Ocean and to Africa. Or that he was a struggling young doctor when he invented his famous character. Many will probably laugh at the idea of fans writing letters to Sherlock because they believed he was real. Orson Welles once referred to Holmes as "the world's most famous man who never was!"

The illustrations capture scenes of Arthur looking through a barrel of bargain books outside a shop (trying to find what he could afford as a student on a budget),  Arthur being rescued from the Arctic Ocean after falling in, and sitting at his desk while he works on a story. The illustrator also makes the feeling of being overwhelmed by Holmes obvious - in one scene the detective looms over Arthur as he tries to work, in another he plays his violin while Arthur covers his ears and fan mail blows off his desk. 

Back matter includes an author's note, a  photo of Arthur, and a  list of sources. A great book to introduce youngsters to this author and his most famous creation. I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Fall Reading 2022 Tell Me a Story, Please


I was pleased to read a new book in the Forest Friends series by Hara and Takahashi. This story features a new character to the series, a girl named Yuka. She loves for her mother to read to her from her favorite book of fairy tales, but once her new baby brother is born her mother is often too busy to read. Yuka takes her book and reads to herself in a wooded area near her home. Slowly the woodland creatures all come to enjoy the stories and even receive some inspiration on how to solve a problem by imitating the characters in one of the stories.

Older readers will guess what the problem is, even though the animals do not mention it to Yuka, and they will be pleased with the end result. It shows how literature may sometimes inspire solutions to real life problems. The book also shows how familiar stories may comfort a child when there are changes at home or a parent is too busy for quiet time together. Yuka even improves her reading so much that the teacher comments on it.

Even though winter comes and Yuka may no longer visit her woodland friends, she plans ahead for when they will be together in the spring - a good example of being patient. Yuka's older brother Kenta is not very kind to her, but she is determined to be good big sister to the new baby. She plans to read to him in the spring, too. 

This would be a great story to read to a child who has their own favorite books and will appreciate Yuka's love of her fairy tales. It is also a good book for a child dealing with a new baby in the family; it will help them see that parents will not always be too busy for special time with them.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Fall Reading 2022 Push-Pull Morning: Dog-Powered Poems About Matter and Energy


A child. A dog. A poetry collection about matter and energy? Yes, you read that correctly. Lisa Westberg Peters has put together poems on a variety of topics related to energy and matter. In "Stuff in Common" she compares the appearance of the child and pet; they don't have the same ears or feet, but they are both made of molecules. "Dog in Motion" uses repetition of phrases to describe the dog chasing a squirrel. The dog "can run straight to the tree and round and round the tree. The squirrel can run straight up the tree and round and round the branches." A pair of poems "What Will It Take?" #1 and #2 explore the concept of inertia.

Serge Bloch's illustrations capture the dog's anxious wait for the bone-shaped magnet on the refrigerator to fall off or the shadows proving that the dog is opaque to light. To accompany "Extra Electrons #2" child and dog rub noses and give each other a static electricity shock. For "Our Place in the Universe" the duo share the "story-time chair with Aunty Rosa" and become "the center of the universe."

"Dog-Powered Notes" in the back give more scientific details about each of the topics. Each poem's featured concept (inertia, paradox, etc.), is defined and then explained more fully.

The book's appeal comes in part from the antics of the child and dog. Chasing squirrels, having a bath, or trying out the super slide at the Totally Wacky Fun Park - they attract us like magnets. Combining science and poetry makes this an excellent mentor text for poetry units, especially for those teachers trying to convince students that poetry is not all mushy romantic verse. And, with the back matter for support, the poems can even be used individually to introduce a science topic and arouse curiosity.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher.