Monthly Archives: November 2015

2015 Christmas List for Picture Books

Best Book for Girls and Best Book for Boys
Click on book cover for Susan’s review, read more reviews on Amazon

   imanis moonYummy






Christmas Books
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Click on book cover for Susan’s review, read more reviews on Amazon

first bk of colors headtotoe trackscount











Ages 4-8
Click on book cover for Susan’s review, read more reviews on Amazon.

deweybobwherever you go










Click on book cover for Susan’s review, read more reviews on Amazon

Little Red Gliding Hood

littleRedLittle Red Gliding Hood
by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Troy Cummings
Random House, 2015

Little Red Gliding Hood takes a traditional childhood story and spins it into an entirely new, surprising adventure.

Little Red Gliding Hood’s (Little Red) ice skates are dirtied and white and she won’t be able to wear them much longer.  Worried how she will visit her grandmother, she passes a sign touting an ice skating contest.  But the contest requires a partner and she doesn’t have one.

Her grandmother suggests she asks one of the three little pigs.  When she calls out, “Little pigs, little pigs, let me in!”, someone taps on her shoulder and claims, “I think that was my line.”  Turning, Little Red shrieks in fear and sprints away.  The wolf yells, “Hey, glide back here!”  Suddenly Little Red’s skate falls off and she flies into the air, until the wolf catches her.  The wolf explains he had tried to tell her that her skate was untied.  Then he praised her saying she is a super skater.  Suddenly Little Red has a brilliant idea and we find the ‘team’ in the skating contest.

Children will enjoy following Little Red in this contemporary new adventure and have fun pointing out nursery rhyme and storybook characters nestled in the illustrations.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be













The Wonderful Things You Will Be
by Emily Winfield Martin
Random House, 2015

A sweet love poem to a child that affirms their perfectness for the world.

The brief poem includes affirmative, loving phrases including, “…play a song only you know how to play,”  “…tell a story that only you know,” and “…the bigger your heart, the more it will hold.”  Illustrations rendered in soft pastels show children surrounded in the joy of loving parents as they go through their day.  The poem encourages the child to become who they are meant to be:

“Then you will discover
All there is to see …
And become anybody
That you’d like to be.”

While gentle and thin in text, it showers a child in love.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.


My Very First Book of Colors

first colors












My Very First Book of Colors
by Eric Carle
Philomel Books, 1974

Another interactive gem from Eric Carle who really understands the youngest.

In a small size to fit toddlers hands, and as a board book to tolerate children’s mouths,s My Very First Book of Colors shows a color on the top half the page and is asked to find that color in a series of pictures on the bottom half of the page.  The first color shown is ‘blue’.  To find the blue picture, the child turns the bottom-page-half and finds a blue bird to match the blue above!  They get an instant win to reinforce the goal of the game.  Then the child is asked for find ‘white’, and must turn many pages to find a ‘snowman’.  Carle even includes a top page with 8 colors, inviting the reader to find the colorful butterfly.

Perfect for the 1-2 year olds who are learning colors.  Carle’s bright colors and simple illustrations draw the reader in.  A great gift for their first birthday; something they can grow into, depending upon the development of the specific child.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

The Monkey and the Bee













The Monkey and the Bee
by C. P. Bloom, illustrated by Peter Raymundo
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Written with only twelve different words and illustrated with plenty of bold action-filled characters, The Monkey and the Bee tells a friendship story brimming with humor.   With the illustrations telling more than half the story, even the youngest can follow along, and will likely soon be ‘reading’ the book to the parents!

Having just acquired a bunch of bananas, the monkey opens wide for his first bite—and a bee lands on his banana.  Monkey flicks him away.  Mad, the bee dives into the banana just as the monkey takes that first bite.  Monkey spits out the bee.  But then a lion appears and chases after the monkey.  The bee doesn’t like this and threatens the lion with his stinger.  Monkey offers the bee a banana in thanks and they soon become friends.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Turk and Runt, A Thanksgiving Comedy











Turk and Runt, A Thanksgiving Comedy
by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Frank Ansley
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002

A laugh-out-loud story about a family of turkeys at Wishbone Farm.

Turk, the star son of mother and dad, was groomed to be the best and the first.  Mom, sure he would be a famous dancer, made him practice each day.  Dad, sure he’d be a famous football player, made him practice each day.  But younger brother, Runt, was a bit smarter and knew the only future for Turk was a Thanksgiving dinner.  As visitors arrive to select their thanksgiving meal, Turk does everything he can to be chosen, while Runt does everything to nix his brother’s removal.

Full of one-liners, it’s a hilarious read


Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Hero Mom (A tribute to women in the military)













Hero Mom
by Melinda Hardin, illustrated by Bryan Langdo
Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013

Hero Mom features the jobs women do as today’s American soldiers.  From erecting buildings, to using dogs to search for dangers, to piloting helicopters, to driving trucks, and more.  While meant for children of American female soldiers, all children will benefit by learning the kinds of jobs women do in the service.  The book emphasizes that love endures even though mothers are far away.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!













National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry:  200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate
National Geographic, 2012

This book is perfect for every child’s library.  National Geographic’s gorgeous photos illustrate 200 classic and new poems about animals.  The first time through the book, I had to stop reading the poems, to enjoy the photos, they were so powerful.  Even readers not usually interested in poetry, will pour over the photos and want to read the short poems that accompany them.

The 185-page book, beautiful enough for the coffee table, introduces children to animals, birds, insects, and fish from all over the world.  It features poets that specialize in nature poems, like Janet S. Wong and Joyce Sidman; current children’s favorites like Jack Prelutsky, John Ciardi and J. Patrick Lewis; as well as writers of the classics, including Ogden Nash, Emily Dickinson, and Rudyard Kipling, among others.

It also includes information on writing poems, featuring Shape Poems, Haiku, Limericks, etc. and a selected bibliography of children’s books on word play.  A great book for a gift

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

JaNay Brown-Wood, Author & Book Promoter Extraordinaire!

JB Headshot (1)
I met JaNay Brown-Wood at a local book-signing and I was most impressed with her, her book and her promotional abilities.  She read her book, shared her story, fielded questions, and had all sorts of creative give-away opportunities.  The store quickly ran out of books!  She handled everything like a pro who had been up to this business for at least ten years.  Seeing her in other venues since then, I’ve discovered that’s JaNay—she sparkles a room!

My experience in sharing her book with others includes sharing it with a third-grade African-American/Hispanic girl I was tutoring in reading.  She never sat still for a moment.  However, when I read her Imani’s Moon, she was glued to her seat.  She loved it so much, I brought it in a second time and she practically “read” the book to me—from memory!  I knew at that moment just how powerful Imani’s Moon is, especially for young, African-American girls.

How did you come to write Imani’s Moon?  How did the Maasai tribe come to be a part of the story?
I remember one day, an idea bounced into my mind about a boy jumping to the moon. I envisioned him jumping next to a tree, and at each level of the tree were different animals that told him he’d never make it. I really loved this idea. Then, after chatting with my sister, she reminded me of the beautiful Maasai people known for their jumping dance, which I thought was a clear connection to my little jumping boy. From there, I researched and revised and researched and revised and researched and revised…and Imani was born. So, that silly idea of a boy jumping transformed into something that I am truly, very proud of.

What were your favorite stories as a girl?  What stories were missing for you?
I loved Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstien as a young girl. My parents would read them to me at bedtime, and I enjoyed the playful language they would use. And of course the rhyming. That stuck with me, and I often find my own author voice often coming out in rhyme. As for the stories that were missing, I don’t remember very many stories with little black girls on adventures and solving problems. I do remember reading some historical fiction that had black children as protagonists, but they were often linked to dark parts of America’s past. Sometimes, I just wanted to read something a little more lighthearted and magical that included a protagonist that looked like me. So, I used to write my own. For example, I remember writing this story about Detective JaNay who was a crime solver—my very own version of Nancy Drew. In other words, even though I didn’t find many stories like that, I was lucky enough to have an active imagination to make up my own.JB Cover

What has been the response from children to your book?
I think the response has been SO positive. Parents tell me how much they love my book. Teachers share this with me too. As a matter of fact, one of my colleagues shared my book with her child’s teacher, and the teacher said she stayed up late that same night researching moon activities because she wanted to use my book in her class the very next day! Talk about heart-warming. Children enjoy my book too. When I was reading at a local event, one of the parents told me that her daughter, who was playing across the way, stopped playing, found a bench, and listened to me read it until the story was done. My story and my delivery of the story was more engaging then the swing and slide set she was initially playing on and she was captivated from that point on. That made me smile!

In addition to all of that, Live Oak Media liked my book so much that they made it into a wonderful audiobook that is beautifully narrated which you can find on their website: . Lastly, my book has received many honors including being the winner of the NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award, a 2014 Distinguished Book with the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California, the recipient of an “excellent” rating from the Maine State Library, a Top 2014 Mighty Girl Book for Young Readers, and a Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) Multicultural Book pick for 2015. All of the love I have received has made me so thankful!

Did your passion for writing children’s stories draw you to your career in Early Childhood Education?
I actually do not think my love for writing pushed me toward pursuing a career in ECE. The two grew organically and separately, and it is very interesting how they have converged. What I will say that is shared across the two is my passion for giving children tools to be successful—that’s something that is present in both my love for writing and my love for teaching others how to work with children.  But I wouldn’t say one led to the other.

Are you excited about the recent focus on “diversity” in children’s books?  How does having the right book impact a child?
I am excited about the push for more diverse books. But really, I can’t help but to think: “It’s about time!” Everyone needs books with protagonists that look like them because this allows for readers to connect and realize that “if this character can overcome, so can I!” I hope children get that from Imani. She doesn’t let the bullies stop her. She keeps at it and she makes it. Also, I believe classrooms are enriched by diversity. Society is enriched by diversity! And I believe the books available to read should certainly reflect this.

You use a unique stamp with your signature.   How did that come about?
There’s a little story to that stamp. When I first started getting serious about trying to get published, I would go to different events with authors. One of the events I went to was a book launch party for Jim Averbeck and his beautiful book In a Blue Room. When I got my book signed by him, he stamped it with a moon that said something like “Good Night” and it was shimmery and silver. I loved that idea and I wanted to do something similar. So, I can’t take any credit for that. That was all Jim Averbeck. Thanks for the inspiration, Jim!

Successfully published authors say marketing is an investment in their writing business.  You seem to have a rich promotional plan for your book.  Can you share how you are promoting your book?  What has worked best for you?  Lessons learned?
Well, when Imani’s Moon was published, I held two book release parties to celebrate the publication. I spent time contemplating things that I thought children would like and shared them at these events including bookmarks, pencils, and even moon-shaped cookies. On top of that, I always try to think of creative ways to get the word out there as well as allow for my book to be accessible for use. With that in mind, I had a Teacher’s Guide and Reader’s Theater script created by the wonderful Marcie Colleen. You can see them both on my website . Additionally, some avenues seemed pretty important to pursue such as having a website, starting a Twitter (thanks Erin Dealey) and creating some promotional cards that could be passed out and shared. I also very rarely say “no” when an opportunity to share my work with others arises. But, I am still very new at this, and am continuing to learn new things as well as thinking of novel ways to promote my book.

You have a new book coming out in 2017, Grandma’s Tiny House.  With your large family, I suspect the ideas have been sparked from your family.  Can you share about that story?
I do have a new book coming out and I am so excited about it. Since it’s under contract, I can’t share too much. But what I can say is it’s a story inspired by my family’s holiday gatherings where we all come together in celebration. It’s a concept book and written in rhyme. 2017 can’t get her fast enough!

Thanks for taking the time to read about me. If you’d like to learn more, visit my website at, follow me on Twitter @janaybrownwood, and like my JaNay Brown-Wood, Author & Educator page on Facebook!

To read more reviews on Imani’s Moon, visit Amazon.

Imani’s Moon (2014 Best Picture Book for Girls!)

imanis moon












Imani’s Moon
by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
Mackinac Island Press, 2014
Children’s Book of the Year, Principal’s Award
NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award
2014 Mighty Girl Book for Young Readers
2015 Reading Is Fundamental – Multicultural Book

Imani’s Moon inspires young girls to reach for their dreams.   This is my pick for the best picture book for girls!

Set in Africa, Imani, the smallest girl in her tribe, is teased by the other children.  She is told, “…you’ll never accomplish anything!”  At night her mama lifts her spirits with stories.  One story was of Olapa, the goddess of the moon who fought a great battle against the god of the sun and triumphed.  Imani dreams of doing something great like Olapa and decides she will “touch the moon.”  The others laugh when Imani announces her dream, yet they follow her.  For two days she attempts two creative ways to touch the moon, but they fail.  Greatly disappointed, she returns home where young warriors were performing the adumu, the jumping dance.  Inspired, she knows that’s how she will reach the moon.

Beautifully written and illustrated Imani’s Moon is rich with love, bold colors, and one young girl’s determination.  The story ends with Imani telling her mother a story, The Tale of the Girl Who Touched the Moon.

When I read Imani’s Moon to a very active third grader, she sat quiet for the whole story.  When I brought it back later to re-read, she ‘read’ it to me—from memory!  Imani’s Moon is a powerful story.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.