Category Archives: Uncategorized

Eavesdropping on Elephants, How Listening Helps Conservation

Eavesdropping on Elephants, How Listening Helps Conservation
by Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press, 2018

Patricia Newman has done it again.  She’s written another compelling science story, this time on elephants. A must read for elephant lovers.

The story opens in a tropical forest in Central African Republic where readers learn the many ways in which elephants are “a keystone species…that helps the forest flourish.”  Readers also learn about an elephant’s “infrasound”, communication so low it is not detectible by humans.  And they learn about forest elephants’ behaviors, through studies conducted over decades. Exploring the difficulties scientists faced, Patricia invites readers to almost participate in the thinking used to resolve challenges experienced while learning about elephant culture.  Readers are invited to walk through science technology used, hypothesis set and studies that led to strategies to help save elephants. Readers learn to think like a scientist.

The book also includes several QR codes readers can use to help readers practice their elephant-sound identifying skills, watch a rarely seen birthing celebration, and watch a standoff between two male elephants.

The book is sure to inspire in many readers a passion for elephants as well as a deep curiosity and appreciation about the science of studying animals in the wild.

Ms. Newman’s 2017 book, Sea Otter Heroes, The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem, received the Sibert Informational Honor Award for Non-Fiction, an honor rarely given to science books.

Read more reviews and order on Amazon.

Monster & Son












Monster & Son
by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Joey Chou
Chronicle Books, 2016

Written in rhyme, lavished in humor, and set in monster land where ghoulish friends abound, monster & son enjoy a boundless day of fun together.  They transform into a new kind of monster on every page. They become sea monsters swimming in the ocean, skeletons playing bone in the cemetery, alien monsters with their dog, waiting for the spaceship.  They have tickle fights, tackle fights, and battle castle knights; they enjoy doing guy things together.

Illustrator Joey Chou uses muted, child-like haunting colors in the background, but the monster faces are always playful, laughing or loving.

From a wild day of fun clear into quiet bedtime, where the two hang like vampire bats, this is a fun book to share with dad.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog!

Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog!
by Hilde Lysiak
Scholastic, 2017

Author Hilde Lysiak, a real-life reporter since she was seven, now, at age ten, turns her reporting adventures into early reader chapter books. In real life, local reporters, police and other professionals don’t take her seriously, but her neighbors, who watch her meticulously follow through on clues, do!

In the first of the Hilde Cracks the Case series, Hero Dog!, We follow the adventures of Hilde as she is told of seemingly unrelated actions happening in her neighborhood.  Stolen eggs.  Smashed cupcakes.  Broken plates.  Are they related? Why would anyone do these things? Are there suspects?  Readers follow each clue as it’s discovered and think through the clues to help solve the mystery.  Will Hilde figure out the mystery, and will she get the story out on time?  A riveting read!

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!











Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!

Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood
collected by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017

“Our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices,” says Patricia C. McKassack who collected dozens of hand clap songs and jump rope rhymes, hymns, parables and even performance pieces inspired by African American writers.  Each one comes with a history, some Patricia’s history and most others of where and when they came from or how they came to be.

Her research shows that Aesop is thought to be an Afro-Greek storyteller who lived as a slave more than twenty-five hundred years ago.  The book shares how original songs were reshaped while people were in slavery.  Spirituals originated in the fields and slave quarters of the plantation South.  She writes how the songs came to be written down and are still enjoyed today, songs like Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.  The song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, was taught to runaways to help lead them to freedom.

A rich collection of history brought together in one book.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

The Monstructor












The Monstructor
by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Melissa Goodman
Clear Fork Publishing, 2017

A silly story of monsters who are so un-monster-like, the school brings in a professional “Monstructor” to teach them monsterly ways. She teaches them to boo, to hiss and be messy.  She teaches them to roar, float to the ceiling and splash paint until at last they get it! With chaos, disruptions and dripping in messes, the monsters learn to be monsters.  Written in not-so-perfect rhyme, for how un-monster-like would perfect rhyme be? Readers will delight with outrageous monsters and their disaster messes, perfect for LOL Halloween fun.

Read more reviews and purchase at Amazon.

Have you Seen my Trumpet?












Have you Seen my Trumpet?
by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, 2016

It’s a treat and surprise to discover what creature lurks in every word when each page poses a question that contains the answer, like, “Who is playing frisbee?” The illustration shows a bee riding a frisbee.  Then a girl appears asking the creatures if they have seen her trumpet.  Together the girl and creatures ask more questions while looking for the girl’s trumpet, until they ask, “Who is robbing the elephant?” and the girl finds her trumpet.  A clever play on words book with a heartwarming ending.  The artist is very creative in telling other stories with all the animals throughout the book.  For who has seen an alligator water ski?  One of the kid’s favorites will be seeing a bat sitting on a toilet in the bathroom.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Dog Rules










Dog Rules

by Jef Czekaj
Balzer + Bray, 2016

Two dogs fall for a cat’s wild goose chase when they find an egg in a nest with a note, directing them to ‘teach baby to be a good dog’. Baby (bird) calls (boy) dog ‘mama’.  The dogs try hard to teach their baby to be a good dog.  They teach him to growl, roll over and bark, but all the baby does is tweet.  The cat finds all this hilarious.  Find out what Baby does to defend his family.  A silly book for fun reading and lots of laughs.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

The Monster Next Door

The Monster Next Door

By David Soman
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016

A boy builds a tree house in a great field and a monster builds a tree house nearby.  They play well together until the monster’s tuba playing is louder than the boys flute playing.  When the boy asks him to stop, the monster continues to play.  They call each other names, have a water balloon fight and become enemies.  The boy writes a note, “Not Friends” and goes to the monster’s house to deliver it, when he notices things.  You’ll have to read the story to find out what he learns and how the two become friends again.

Watercolor, charcoal and colored pencils offer spacious drawings, allowing plenty of space in which to dream.  The music is expressed with splashes of color that fill the page and excite the eyes.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Top 10 Picture Books of 2016

I easily read more than 1,000 picture books a year to find the very best which I share with you.  The one’s that make this list are those, that at year’s end, I’ve verbally promoted to dozens of people, that I purchased, or that still bring a smile or make my heart skip a beat when I just look at the title.  These are the ones that have stuck with me.  Looking over the titles, I see some are chosen because of the story’s words, some are chosen because story’s art.  Either way, they are my favorites.

Click on the title to read the review.

dadcat     ella





How to Cheer Up Dad                     Little Night Cat                    Ella and Penguin Stick Together





Edgar’s Second Word             Henry wants more!                        Chimpanzees for Tea!

chef2piratenorthstarMountain Chef                     Pirate’s Perfect Pet                     One North Star, A Counting Book






The Best Bear in All the World,
A new collection of Winnie-the-Pooh stories

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Interview with Author/Illustrator Rich Lo

I was contacted by Charlesbridge last fall about illustrating the book. They liked the watercolor technique used for Father’s Chinese Opera. It was a technique I had used on a couple of projects commissioned by Great Books Foundation 2010. It took about two weeks to create the sketches from the manuscript and about 30 days to complete the finished art. The media are pencil and watercolor composed digitally.

Q. What do you mean when you say the publisher used ‘spot varnish’ on your illustrations?  Where was it used on your book, Mountain Chef, and how does it help ‘pop’ the illustrations?

Spot varnish is a printing process used to highlight areas of emphasis. In the book Mountain Chef, the varnish was used on the artwork. If you look closely, you can see a slight sheen over the illustrations. The publisher also used quality semi-gloss white paper stock. The combination resulted in rich colors throughout the book.


Q. As an accomplished artist in your own right, how did your journey take you to illustrating children’s books?

In 2012, I was emailing out samples of my work one night on the internet. One email was answered. It was from Anna Olswanger, a literary agent working out of NYC. She asked “I know you can do great art but can you write text?” Without hesitation, I said yes. I had no experience. In about 6 months, she chose 1 of 9 vignettes loosely based on childhood memories when I lived in Hong Kong. Layouts were created into a presentation. She sent the text with three color illustrations to the editors. We agreed on the terms with Sky Pony Press in 2013 and Father’s Chinese Opera became my first published book in 2014.

Q. For your first book, Father’s Chinese Opera, you won the 2014-2015 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book Category.  How did you come to write the story?  How has that award on your first picture book impacted your life?

I lived in Hong Kong for the first 6 years of my life. Father was a famous opera composer and a conductor. I was too young to be in school, so he often took me to work. I met all the actors and acrobats and sat in on rehearsals and performances. Those were happy times, so it was easy to visualize. I used my imagination to create the scenes and wrote text to describe them. It was the right process for me.

The award was unexpected. It is an accomplishment like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It gave me confidence to write and illustrate more children’s books. At a book talk at the Chinese American Museum Chicago, I honored my parents as heroes of my life. It also validated for me that miracles can happen.

Q. How is creating picture books changing your life?

It adds another dimension to my repertoire. The picture book industry provides a stage for creativity. As a professional artist, you want to extend and build skill sets to be better. I was fortunate to be invited to the ALA (American Library Association), participated in an award ceremony in San Francisco and the Book Expo in Chicago in the last two years. These are incredible experiences and are not to be taken for granted.

Q. Your first book was inspired by your father’s work as a composer, so you were born into a creative family.  Was your artistic interest always supported by your family?  How has their support helped?  When did you know you were going to be an artist?

Growing up in a pragmatic Chinese American culture, the arts are not always looked upon as valued professions. I followed my passion and worked hard to develop an artistic life and career. Raw skills are refined and imagination cultivated. With strong fundamentals and a lot of luck, I was able to make a living and raise a family with the earnings from the artwork.

Q. Do you do classroom visits?  If so, what is the response of the children?

Yes, I do. The children are more fascinated by the illustrations than by the story itself. I am learning how to make the artwork even more interesting for children.

Q. Earlier, you were commissioned to illustrate stories by Ray Bradbury and Langston Hughes, among others.  What was it like for you to create visuals for some of these great writers? Did you immediately see images as you read their words?

It is a privilege to illustrate for any author, but the great ones are icing on the cake. I do see imageries as I read. Keywords are used for initial ideas. Compositions are refined and techniques chosen to fit the story. I am blessed to be able to explore and then perfect techniques on projects.

Q. Do you have any more books coming out soon?  Where can people find out more about you?

A picture book titled New Year, published by Sky Pony Press, will be coming out in November 2016.

Rich Lo’s work can be viewed on his websites:

Review Rich Lo’s books on Amazon.  Mountain Chef, Father’s Chinese Opera, New Year

Originally published online at Manhattan Book Review