Saturday, September 23, 2023

Summer Reading 2023 Bring Me Your Midnight

I am impressed with how Rachel Griffin can write several books that all feature young women who are witches, yet make each of them different. One creates a spell that is carried off by an owl and she has to retrieve it before it is too late. Another has magic that can actually affect the Earth's climate. And then we have Bring Me Your Midnight with its coven of witches who have exiled themselves to an island off the coast and maintain a fragile peace with those who live on the mainland. Tana's engagement to the son of the most powerful family of mainlanders should cement the truce and keep everyone safe, but there will be a price. Can she give up ties to another who has made her feel alive and powerful for the sake of the coven? Is the coven hiding dangerous secrets even from its own members? Whom should she trust with her heart and her magic?

The descriptions of how working with magic makes Tana feel, as well as the pull between her and the character of Wolfe make it easy to believe that her choice is a difficult one. Especially with her intended husband so sure that it is a marriage of convenience and benefit with no need to worry about hearts and messy emotions. The effects of the Surge of magic from the coven on the waters surrounding their island seem to parallel the effects of human activity on the climate. Will any of the leaders make the right choices to prevent further damage, or continue with the status quo? At times it was hard to turn the page and discover the answers along with Tana.

For those who enjoy romance, mystery, and magic all wrapped up in a complicated bundle of conflicted loyalties and desires - this is your next read.

Summer Reading 2023 The Last Devil to Die: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery


The fourth installment in the Thursday Murder Club mystery series once again has our stalwart cast of characters facing off against bad guys of all sorts, police officers from out of town trying to muscle their friends out of an investigation, and the steady march of time itself. Joyce has found a new resident of Coopers Chase to nurture. She doesn't wish to date him, but is concerned about a rapidly developing online relationship with a woman he has never met. Elizabeth is preoccupied with the increasing severity of Stephen's dementia. Ibrahim continues to visit drug dealer Connie in prison as her therapist. And Ron is on the outs with his girlfriend. 

Everything seems pretty much status quo, one might think. And then they hear that a friend of Stephen's has been killed and his business ransacked. The gang goes into action against an international smuggling ring, shady characters in the antiquities scene, officers from the National Crime Agency taking over the case from Chris and Donna, and all the usual obstacles they always work their way around. Between villains close to home and some flying in from overseas, the area becomes a dangerous place to tackle a mystery.

Four friends from a retirement community are solving something that the police seem stumped by. It seems incredible when you stop to think about it - but you never do actually stop to think. The characters with all their quirks and foibles and ties of affection seem so real that you willingly suspend disbelief and get pulled along with them for the ride. Joyce says that "Life continues, whatever you do. It's a bulldozer like that." Sometimes the murder club seems that way too, they keep going no matter what personal heartache or danger comes their way. Here's hoping that they will continue to do so, for the sake of our continued reading pleasure.

Summer Reading 2023 The Evers: Forever Twelve


Okay, I admit that it might sound like someone took the situation of the vampires in the Twilight saga and mixed it with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. What would you do if you looked twelve years old forever? How would you hide it from the world? Answer: move a lot and try to find safe havens that you can return to over time. But in the increasingly digital world of security cameras, facial recognition software, and folks from Child Protective Services on the lookout for unaccompanied minors - it gets harder every year to find such a place.  A boarding school makes sense because you can live there, get your meals there, and have a peer group to blend into as camouflage. If you can finesse your way through not having any parents around on move-in day and set up some fake accounts for the school to contact your guardians long distance, you just might succeed.

Unfortunately for this group,  a new student at their chosen home of West Archer Academy looks remarkably like a missing member of their family. She isn't the same person. She can't be a descendant because they don't age. So how is she such a match? Intrigue swirls as the group tries to find a connection or at least a reason for the resemblance, while the object of their interest is just trying to keep her head down and follow her planned path to reaching a Supreme Court appointment as quickly as possible. It doesn't help that another classmate from her former school seems to be developing odd powers and is determined to mix himself up in the situation. 

I met author Stacy McAnulty at the Children's Festival of Reading in Knoxville, Tennessee this summer. She was delightful to talk to and her session on middle grade fiction was very enlightening, but she was careful not to let any spoilers slip. I couldn't wait to get a copy of the book and find out the answers for myself. Your middle grade readers who enjoy stories based in a school setting and those that involve mysteries or mysterious powers should have a wonderful time with this book.

Summer Reading 2023 Murder in the Book Lover's Loft

Jane Steward and Edwin Alcott are off for some time alone, away from the cares of Storyton Hall and the Daily Bread Cafe. Leaving Jane's sons and their poodles (Merry and Pippin) in the care of Jane's aunt and uncle and all the faithful staff at the inn, the couple visits Oyster Bay. As Ellery Adams fans know, the bay is home to Olivia Limoges (from the Books by the Bay mystery series), who had visited Storyton and then invited Jane and Edwin to visit her when they had the chance. Sadly, their rest and relaxation is not meant to be. Edwin steps on a stingray and Jane discovers a dead body with a Storyton keychain nearby. Is this death linked to the inn somehow?

No matter where Jane and Edwin go they are always involved in some sort of mystery. And when they return home, the mystery follows along as they try to find out how that keychain fits in with everything they have learned. All the suspects in the murder were people whose life stories the victim had made his career out of fictionalizing and making a profit from. Could Jane have been his next target for a new book deal? Every family has secrets - the Stewards more than most.

It was entertaining to see Jane and Edwin without the buffer (or interruptions) of everyone at the inn for a short while. And with the tie between the characters from Storyton and Oyster Bay (see Murder in the Cookbook Nook) reinforced by this second murder investigation, fans may hope to see even more crossover between the characters from the two series. A satisfying murder mystery with plenty of book references. As Mrs. Pratt says, "Books can't solve all our problems, but they can always help us escape them for a little while." I hope readers find this an engaging escape from their own concerns. After reading the description of the book lover's loft that the couple stays in for their getaway, I want to find a similar spot to vacation.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Summer Reading 2023 The Wild Journey of Juniper Berry

Imagine that you have lived your whole life off grid in the woods with your parents, older sister, and younger brother. Then you suddenly have to stay with your uncle and cousins in an apartment in the city, attend public school, and deal with bullies and social pressures that you don't even understand. That is where readers find Juniper Berry. An emergency has her family returning to the town her parents left behind and she has no idea how things function at school or even in the apartment. Her parents have always said that "society" puts too  much pressure on everyone and it is impossible to be happy there. Is that really true?

As Juniper explores middle school, fashion, the concept of money, the mysteries of microwaves and cell phones, we get the chance to see the world through her eyes. I especially enjoyed her comparisons of students in her school to creatures in the forest. Her explanation that you can choose to be helpful (like a bee working for the good of the hive), or you can be beautiful but destructive and mean (like a mink killing just for sport), was especially apt for the girl she was describing.

This is a great story for those who enjoy realistic fiction, looking at everyday events from the viewpoint of an outsider, and strong female characters who refuse to give in to "society's pressure" and remain true to themselves.

Summer Reading 2023 The Secret Sisters

Master storyteller Avi returns to his Roaring Twenties setting of The Secret School to continue the story of Ida Bidson.  As she moves from her family's farm to the town of Steamboat Springs to attend high school, Ida is excited and nervous. She has never attended a school other than the one-room schoolhouse she and the other kids out in the county shared. Now she is boarding with a school system employee and taking classes like Latin. Ida also learns many lessons that are not academic, things like - some people expect rural kids to fail, some people don't like progress, and some judge you by the friends you keep or by outmoded social standards.

Ida makes a group of friends who form a club and name themselves the Secret Sisters. I enjoyed the way each girl has her own personality and backstory, but they could all support each other. A flapper, a miner's daughter, a girl from a sheep ranch...they all have strengths and can help each other succeed. They can also make each other brave enough to stand up for what is right.

Readers who are unfamiliar with the era may appreciate the glossary of flapper terms, as well as the author's note about the 1920s. A touch I especially liked was the way musical lyrics from songs of the day were worked into the story. Just published August 29 - don't let your middle grade readers miss it!

Summer Reading 2023 - new from minedition

 Astra Publishing House's imprint, mineditionUS, has some delightful new board books coming out this fall. All of them are interactive in some way, have colorful illustrations to catch the eyes of very young readers, and sturdy pages for little hands.

Hello, Tiny Bear! is the first in a new series featuring the cuddly and curious little bear cub from Japanese creator Yosuke Yonezu. As you can see, he loves to climb things. The problem is that he doesn't always choose the best place to do so. Readers will have fun guessing before they turn the page to see what Tiny Bear will find. He encounters a flamingo, an elephant, even a hungry snake! A final lift-the-flap reveals that climbing safely into mama's lap is the best thing of all. (pub. date August 29, 2023)

Where Do You Sleep? by Italian author Agnese Baruzzi features tabs to pull and reveal the best place for each baby animal to go to sleep. Even the front cover has a winking owl that appears in the hollow of the tree. Other animals include a bat in a cave, a hedgehog under a pile of leaves, and finally a baby asleep in a crib. There is a fun mix of animals and the tabs vary in location from one page to another to keep things fresh. (pub. date November 7, 2023)

The Rabbit Magician by French author Adeline Ruel uses lift-the-flap action to reveal the contents of a magician's top hat. What could be in there? A rabbit? A scarf? Some confetti? Each item is shown under the flap, then it takes up a position on the left-hand page and awaits the next reveal. Those left-hand pages become more and more crowded with flowers, rings, doves, a magic wand...until the final reveal of all. The last page encourages readers to clap now that the show is over. They will probably do so and then beg to read it again. (pub. date December 5, 2023)

If you have any very young readers in your life, or need books for an upcoming baby shower or holiday gift for tiny tots - these would be perfect.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Summer Reading 2023 How This Book Got Red


Red and Gee are pals and enjoy doing panda things together, but when they read a book about pandas they make a terrible discovery. There are no red pandas in the book!

So Red sets out to write her own book, where she and other red pandas can see themselves. It is hard and frustrating and it doesn't seem good enough. But when others discover her abandoned manuscript, they clamor for it to be finished. Maybe the world is ready for red panda representation after all.

The illustrations capture all of Red's many moods and Gee's friendly support. Everyone needs a pal who will take them out for bamboo bubble tea when they are having a bad day. And if you can also find a friend to illustrate your book for you, bonus!

End pages share red panda facts such as "We hang out in treetops to sunbathe and hide from snow leopards." and "We do a wiggle dance to mark our turf." 

This book addresses lack of representation in a kid friendly way, making a good title to use in a lesson on how book publishing has tried in recent years to do a better job of including all groups. But for younger readers who love the movie "Turning Red," this will satisfy their red panda cravings in a delightful way.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2023 This Book Is Banned


As you can tell from the cover, this picture book takes on the topic of banned books in a humorous way. We may never know what the original title was, since it has been covered by a BANNED sticker. The friendly directions that tell us "Turn Here" are crossed out, and someone has added the admonition "DO NOT!" There is even a X crossing out the unicorn's horn. Gasp!

A foreword explains what a banned book is. "It's when one group of people decides that no one should be allowed to read a certain book, and they try to remove that book from libraries and schools." The story then goes on to show dangerous banning books can be. What if there are giraffes in a book, but the hippos object? Out with the giraffes. Or what if there is delicious avocado, but there is "someone who thinks avocaos are GROSS?!" Okay, no more avocados. 

On and on go the examples, absurd and hilarious, of things that might need to be banned. Robots on rollerskates? Birthday cake? (Someone might not get the slice they want.) And if the horses are offended by the unicorns' horns...You guessed it. Banned! 

If your library or school is dealing with book challenges, this might be just the touch of humor you need to make it through. And if you have students asking you what a book ban is, let them try this on for size.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. And I truly appreciate the dedication: "This book is dedicated to all the librarians & educators around the worl who work tirelessly to ensure that kids & grown-ups have access to the books that matter to them." Thank you!

Summer Reading 2023 The Bear and Her Book


"The world is big, and there's much to see, and a bear must go where she wants to be." That seems like a pretty good philosophy for anyone, especially a reader. This particular bear has a book that she carries with her on her adventures, Bear's Big Book of Being Wise. Armed with the knowledge in her book she sets off to the sea, the jungle, the desert, even aboard a ship. At each new place she finds a creature in need and advice for how to help them in her handy book. Although she enjoys her new friends, something always pulls her onward looking for more. Perhaps her journey will take her to a place that has everything she needs.

Tosdevin's rhyming text carries readers gently along in Bear's wake as she sees far-off lands and makes new acquaintances. O'Connor's illustrations capture the starlight shimmering on the sea, the vibrant green of the jungle, and the golden yellow of desert sand. I was curious about how the images were created, so I looked up information on the book: "illustrations are hand-drawn using mixed media such as ink, gouache, oil pastels, and more" is what I found. 

Taken together, as all picture books should be, the text and illustrations weave a delightful spell of curiosity, kindness, and the confidence to keep looking until you find the perfect place for yourself. A lovely read and sure to be a favorite at storytimes as little ones chime in with the repetitve phrase.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2023 Eagle Drums

"Eagle Drums by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson is part cultural folklore, part origin myth about the Messenger’s Feast – which is still celebrated in times of bounty among the Iñupiaq. It’s the story of how Iñupiaq people were given the gift of music, song, dance, community, and everlasting tradition." That is the description offered on Amazon and it is a good elevator pitch for this book. 

I would add that Eagle Drums tells the story of a boy who has watched his parents suffer due to the disappearance of his older brothers. He says of his father, "His silence became something you could almost see, a depth and heaviness in the air."  So when he is confronted by an eagle who can transform into a human, he chooses to be wise and not run or fight. His mother has advised him about animals like these,  "Respect them as you would any strong spirit, and never challenge them." 

What follows is an adventure that tries his patience, his endurance, and his determination to someday return home. He is taught many skills and commanded to share them wtih others. He is also instructed in the way to teach other humans these skills and share what he has learned. If he can cling to his memories of home and master these new skills, he may just survive and bring something new back to his people.

Readers will be amazed at the incredible details of the environment, the homes, the foods, and the new instruments that he must master - both to play and to construct. The folklore figures of the animals who can "take off their parkas. And then they are human for a while" are also intriguing. And the portrait of a family grieving for loved ones who are gone - with no closure to that grief - rings true.

Recommended for those who enjoy retellings of legends and mythology, as well as those who appreciate a good survival story. I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt's Voice for the Vote Virtual Book Tour


Dare to Question Book Giveaway


Dare To Question: Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote

Written by Jasmine A. Stirling

Illustrated by Udayana Lugo

Ages 5+ | 48 Pages

Publisher: Union Square Kids (2023) | ISBN-13: 9781454934578

Publisher’s Book Summary: Jasmine A. Stirling, author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, delivers a powerful, poetic picture book biography about suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, perfect for fans of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark and the Rebel Girls series.

As a child, Carrie Chapman Catt asked a lot of questions: How many stars are in the sky? Do germs have personalities? And why can’t Mama vote? Catt’s curiosity led her to college, to a career in journalism, and finally to becoming the president of The National American Woman Suffrage Association. Catt knew the movement needed a change—and she set to work mobilizing women (and men) across the nation to dare to question a woman’s right to vote.

On August 18, 1920, Catt pinned a yellow rose to her dress and waited while lawmakers in Tennessee cast their deciding votes to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. After a seventy-year campaign, had women finally won the right to vote? 

Stirling’s suspenseful retelling of the dramatic final “yea” that changed the history of women’s rights brings the past to life for young readers.




Barnes and Noble


Ask anyone to name a famous suffragist and they will probably come up with Susan B. Anthony (she did get her face on a coin after all), but there were many other women who worked hard to get voting rights expanded. Carrie Chapman Catt was one of those intrepid ladies. This picture book biography looks briefly at her early life, but concentrates on her commitment to the cause of universal suffrage. The language of the story reflects the sense of fun Carrie and her coworkers tried to infuse into their efforts. “Mothers and shopgirls and teachers and ladies who lunch questioned the boxes they had been placed in and began to climb out.” I also enjoyed the alliteration in phrases like “they worked in factories, making switches and suits, tanks and trucks” that described the work women did on the homefront during WWI. Illustrations show Carrie and the other suffs in their yellow sashes waving flags, carrying banners, and persevering in the face of disappointment as they were denied again and again. The scene of the vote in Nashville ratifying the amendment captures the jubilation at their long-awaited victory. (And as a native of Tennessee, I love the story of Harry T. Burn being included in the book.) An author’s note, additional information about Carrie, and a photo of her are included in the back matter. Whether readers are looking for books specifically about the suffrage movement or simply want to offer more titles featuring female role models, this is an uplifting piece of history.


Jasmine A. Stirling is the author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021), named a Best Book of the Year by A Mighty Girl and Book Riot, and winner of the IPNE Book Award. It is currently being translated to Mandarin.

Her new book, Dare to Question, Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote (Union Square & Co, 2023, Booklist starred review), tells the story of the queer power couple who transformed the suffrage movement. Her third book, about Jeanne Barret, the botanist who disguised herself as a man and became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, comes out in 2025.

Learn more about Jasmine.

Follow her on Instagram at


Udayana Lugo is a self-taught illustrator of mixed heritage. Having worked as a designer of many varied things, from jewelry to auto-parts and from furniture to whole interiors, she still does that but in children’s books which are her true passion. She and her husband have lived in Mexico, Italy, and England, but they call British Columbia their home, along with their two kids. When not working on a book, you can find her walking her dog or baking something with her children.


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Children’s Book Review

Dare to Question Book Tour Kick-Off

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Fairview Review

Book Review of Dare to Question

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Reading is My Superpower

Book Review of Dare to Question

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Tiny Activists

Book Review of Dare to Question

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Vivian Kirkfield

Author Interview with Jasmine A. Stirling

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Dad Suggests

Book Review of Dare to Question

Monday, July 17, 2023

Feminist Books for Kids

A Booklist Featuring Dare to Question

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

icefairy’s Treasure Chest

Book Review of Dare to Question

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Barbara Ann Mojica

Book Review of Dare to Question

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Momma Spot

Book Review of Dare to Question

Friday, July 21, 2023

Twirling Book Princess

Book Spotlight of Dare to Question

Saturday, July 22, 2023


Book Review of Dare to Question

Monday, July 24, 2023

Daddy Mojo

Book Review of Dare to Question

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Heart to Heart

Book Review of Dare to Question

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Lisa’s Reading

Book Review of Dare to Question

Thursday, July 27, 2023

My Reading Getaway

Book Review of Dare to Question

Friday, July 28, 2023

Me Two Books

Book Activity Paired with Dare to Question

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb

Author Interview with Jasmine A. Stirling

Monday, July 31, 2023

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Book Review of Dare to Question

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Cover Lover Book Review

Book Review of Dare to Question

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Because I Said So

Book Review of Dare to Question

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Shooting Stars Mag

Book Review of Dare to Question

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Fictional Café

Author Interview with Jasmine A. Stirling

Monday, August 7, 2023

Glass of Wine, Glass of Milk

Book Review of Dare to Question

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

A Blue Box Full of Books

Book Review of Dare to Question and Little Free Library Drop

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Crafty Moms Share

Book Review of Dare to Question

Thursday, August 10, 2023


Book Review of Dare to Question

Friday, August 11, 2023

One More Exclamation

Book Review of Dare to Question

This post is sponsored by Jasmine Stirling. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.