Vol 2, Issue 1 January 2022

Happy New Year!!!!

January is always ripe for new goals, ideas, and stories. Have you had a story inside your head that needs to find its way onto the printed page? Has it lingered in your dreams for years or come to you recently as you've navigated through the strange unknown that is the 2020s? Many people have that story inside that beckons to be shared with others. And once a person decides to share it, there can be significant obstacles to doing so.

For 2022, we will be sharing more reviews of books from brave storytellers who chose to self-publish. Publishing, regardless of the avenue, can be complicated and unpredictable, and to do it all by oneself presents its own challenges. But these storytellers had a story that they wanted to share with children. Stories they felt could not wait until the next traditional publishing cycle.

We think there is room in the publishing world for various publishing styles, just as there is an array of people all over the universe. Diverse authors with diverse stories help children navigate life's journey- it's what we all hope to make available.

Shelley Oakley
Director, Children’s Literature review source

Subscribe to ChildrensLit Now Newsletter

ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

Love Me Gently: A Kid's Guide for Man's Best Friend
By: Lisa Wiehebrink
Illustrated by: Eleanor Harbison
Publisher: KDP for Tails that Teach
ISBN: 9781481026642
Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green

Adding a new puppy to the family is fun—a lot of fun. But it's also a responsibility. First-person narrator Henry, a child and new owner of puppy Cooper, explains that it requires learning a lot—for both puppy and owner. But the effort will have a big pay-off. Through loving the puppy gently, Henry knows he will gain the "best dog ever," who will be a terrific friend. The following eleven double-page spreads help readers to gain the knowledge they will need. Each spread is formatted in a pattern that is usefully predictable: The left page presents a dog behavior that could be perceived as a problem, as well as a remark about how the child might be tempted to respond and a reminder that such a response "might hurt!" The facing page then provides guidance for how the child should respond in a way that will "make [the puppy] happy." For example, a puppy has baby teeth and likes to chew. But sometimes, he might chew on toys or clothes. The child doesn't hit him. Rather, the child gives him a dog toy or puppy bone to chew on. Wiehebrink's refrains about "hurt" and "happy" will help to make these simple, essential lessons stick and guide readers' actions with their own pets. Harbison's soft-lined illustrations show Henry and Cooper as both floppy, curvy characters who are positioned too large on each page, drawing attention to their loving relationship. Readers will be drawn to learn about puppies' needs in this friendly, lessons-sharing book recounted through the eyes of a child-peer. Henry is a helpful friend, sharing information and learning alongside both his delightful puppy and the curious-minded reader! Highly recommended for any family who has a new dog or is considering getting a dog. This is a book that can—and likely will—be read many times, and it is one that will support new owners' understanding, patience, and love for their pet.

The Virus of Beauty- Book 1
By: C.B. Lyall 
Publisher: Hazel Publishing Co, LLC
ISBN: 9781736002704     
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Fifteen-year-old Wilf Gilvary wants nothing to do with magic. Despite being born a wizard, he prefers to spend his time playing soccer with his team in Hong Kong. When his father evaporates and leaves both his ring and access to his secret workshop to Wilf alone, Wilf becomes the only hope for the ailing Magical Realm. Traveling to Mathowytch with a powerful witch named Eventrude, Wilf must set aside his intrinsic biases to embrace his reality and save the Magical Realm from destruction. This first in its series introduces readers to a world based in magic realism, balancing familiar references to the Normal Realm with the power and dynamics of a more magical place. Alongside the fantastic elements are universal human emotions of pride, fear, love, and loyalty, and the relationships are more complex than the simple dichotomy of good versus evil. Excellent pacing and delivery keep readers engaged in the story as it unfolds, allowing them to observe the shifting alliances and to actively anticipate what will happen next. Occasional profanity and intense action sequences place this book in the middle of the spectrum of young adult literature, and is a good fit for confident readers who enjoy investigating the realities of the world through a fictional lens. A character list at the beginning of the book orients readers to the myriad participants in the story, reinforcing the worldbuilding established by the narrative itself. Told from several perspectives, this story gives readers more information than any of the characters have on their own, increasing dramatic tension from one chapter to the next. Well-designed, this book establishes a compelling foundation and encourages readers to discover what happens in the next installment. This is a dynamic addition to libraries for young adult readers.

The Art of Running Away
By: Sabrina Kleckner
Publisher: North Star Editions
ISBN: 9781631635779
Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan

Maisie lives with her parents at the family's art business. Dad is the painter, and Mom handles the business end of things. Maisie does the initial drawings and sketches for whatever portrait has been commissioned. Maisie's older brother, Calum, ran away several years earlier without so much as a goodbye to her. As far as Maisie knows, no one has a clue where he is. All of a sudden, Maisie's life is uprooted, and she's shipped off to Scotland to spend the summer with an aunt she didn't know she had. Once there, she discovers that Calum has been living in Scotland and now London, England, having nothing to do with art. He comes to Scotland to see her, and then she ends up running away from her aunt to stay with her brother and convince him to help the foundering family business. As usual, things don't go as smoothly as she'd hoped. And it turns out her brother has not ignored art but instead does artwork with his partner, Benji, by painting approved pictures on London walls. To add to all this is Maisie's slower physical changes than her best friend's changes. The story makes a number of good points about dealing with one's emotions and understanding that truth is what makes us different. Maisie and Calum end up with a plan to save the family business and heal the rift between Calum and their parents. Teachers can use the book to spark discussions about family relations and sexual preferences, and the changing dynamics of friendships.

Valentine's Day Jitters
By: Julie Danneberg
Illustrated by: Judy Love
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 9781623541583
Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung

As Valentine's Day approaches, Mrs. Hartwell has the case of the jitters. She wants to make the day extra special for her students to show them how much she cares for them. In the days prior to the event, she asks for some help and suggestions from her students. She inquires about craft projects, games, and treats that the class would like. Based on the suggestions, Mrs. Hartwell prepares for the party and creates a special cake for the class. The festivities get a bit messy with the glue & glitter and chaotic with the variety of games. Unfortunately, the cake that Mrs. Hartwell made becomes a "surprise" that she did not plan. However, in the spirit of caring, the students take over and turn the day around by fixing the cake and making the day special for their teacher. The colorful illustrations show the antics of the Valentine's Day party. Children who are familiar with the Jitter series will probably enjoy this story. Visit the author's website for reading and writing tips, along with a list of her books.

Adventures in Architecture for Kids: 30 Design Projects for STEAM Discovery and Learning
By: Vicky Chan
Publisher:  Rockport Publishers
ISBN: 9781631599729
Reviewer: Judy Liu

Educators often encourage kids to make a bridge between academic content and real world applications in their core subjects, but what about exposing kids to the bones of the bridge metaphor? The goal of this book is to introduce architecture as an applied fusion of art and science. The author divides the subject into five sections that connect various branches of architecture to real-world issues. For instance, the section on general construction includes activities such as designing mobile buildings using materials like toilet paper tubes; it teaches kids how this can be effective for environments that are more prone to natural disasters. Additional examples include how the history of architecture, landscape architecture, sustainable architecture, and city planning are intertwined with climate change, pollution, social inequity, housing, and energy shortages. Importantly, all activities also place an emphasis on limiting the amount of waste they produce by encouraging the use of natural elements and recycled materials, including materials from previous projects. That being said, some of the materials required, though findable, are very specific. For example, one project requires green bean seeds, several require a box cutter, another asks for grass textured paper, and one even requires incense that produces visible white smoke. Additionally, it should be noted that many activities will need to be adjusted for students' ages, class size, access to materials, and available time. Luckily, each activity includes helpful "notes to adults," such as suggesting sugar cubes as a substitute for ice cubes. Overall, this book presents an innovative, modern, and creative approach to introducing kids of all ages to the world of architecture and is highly recommended.

Pancake Dad!
By: Ken Gordon
Illustrated by: Dorothea Taylor
Publisher: Palmetto Publishing
ISBN: 9781649905918
Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green

This family has a Saturday morning tradition that is both delightful and delicious: the children wake Dad, and they all work together to make a pancake breakfast for the family. Mom gets to sleep in because "she works hard all week long." Gordon's text does double-duty, as the first part leans towards showing Dad's Saturday morning interactions with Kristian, Leah, and Griffin, and the second part explains why each step matters. Taylor's joyful illustrations visually celebrate the children independently and the family as a whole, although Mom is virtually absent from the illustrations. (Eagle-eyed readers will spot a hand stretched into the lower region of one image that must be hers.) The day begins with a prayer of thanks to God for waking up in the morning. Next, they brush their teeth, wash their faces, make their beds, and head to the kitchen. On this morning, the father asks the children to take turns sharing Bible verses each has chosen. Then, selecting ingredients from the cupboard and fridge, the team gets started. Math skills are engaged as the children count how many breakfasts they'll need to make and how many pieces of bacon they will need. Social-emotional learning and parent-child bonds are supported by positive feedback for each child along the way. Teasing is sprinkled, and love and respect seasoned liberally throughout this story. The book has a strong educational goal—for both parents and children. At one point, it prompts parents to pause reading aloud and have their children calculate a story-related math problem. And it clearly states that the time should be offline for parents, noting that Dad "leaves his mobile phone, tablet, and laptop in his office so he can totally focus on his children." The text avoids being too didactic, even as it reminds parents that this Dad-children time is more than a cooking exercise: It is an opportunity for them to discuss topics that are important to the children, problems they are having, and more. Other times during the week may be hectic, but this is the time Dad mindfully focuses on encouraging and educating his children. This first in a planned series of 12 "Dad" stories (to include Bible Dad, Homework Dad, Christmas Eve Dad, and more) encourages fathers to think about their particular role in caring, educating, and modeling good behavior in their families. An excellent resource for father-child book clubs and parenting programs, as well as community and home libraries.

Only in America!: The Weird and Wonderful 50 States
By: Heather Alexander
Illustrated by: Alan Berry Rhys
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
ISBN: 9780711262843
Reviewer: Abby Maiwald

Did you know that you can mail a coconut in Hawaii without a box? Just write the address on the coconut and off it goes! Did you know that 90% of disco balls made in the United States are manufactured in Louisville, Kentucky? This colorful text is packed with fascinating, funny, and just plain weird facts about each of the fifty states in America. Readers of all ages will enjoy learning about the fun facts that make each state unique. Each state is depicted in a two-page spread that contains Fast Facts, including the capital, state slang, state quarter, fantastic foods, cool inventions, and books. Each state also receives a section for State Favorites that notes some of the favorite foods enjoyed in each state. The rest of the spread is filled with interesting facts and whimsical illustrations that readers ages six to ten and caregivers alike will be sure to love. Only in America would make a fantastic gift for a curious reader, a fun family read-aloud, a great addition to a classroom library, or an excellent coffee table book.

Are you an author of a children’s or YA book and in need of a professional review? Find out more about Children’s Literature’s Indie Author Promotion Service at https://www.childrenslit.com/indie-authors

Booking Service Highlight

Children love meeting the authors and illustrators of the books in their school library. Whether new or a household name, any author or illustrator is a celebrity to a child. Author Brittany Thurman shares what it means when an author meets readers:

"As a former children's specialist who is also an author, one of my favorite memories is of one particular child who always asked, "Is your book ready yet?" each time she came into the library.  My answer was, "No, not yet. Sometimes these things take time."  Her response, "That's ok, I'll wait." Children of all ages are waiting. They are waiting on stories to be written, to be told, to be read. They know there are worlds beyond theirs and that through a book, they will enter them. When children meet authors face to face, there is a recognition that these stories were written by a real, tangible person who is just like them. Full of wonder, waiting, truth and possibility. I cherish this memory because I hope this young library patron recognized that if I could do it, go for my dreams, hers will always be possible."

COVID-19 has provided challenges for authors and illustrators to meet students. Luckily, for the safety of all, more authors and illustrators are providing virtual visits. Many of the authors and illustrators who use the Children's Literature Booking Service to connect with schools offer virtual visits with an array of presentations. Hosting a virtual visit could be a great way to get students energized about reading.

Brittany J. Thurman

Brittany J. Thurman is the author of picture books and middle-grade novels. Her debut picture book is FLY, which releases on January 11th, 2022. She is a former children's specialist, having read hundreds of stories to thousands of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers across Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her focus remains on representation and early literacy, ensuring children's literature truthfully reflects the world in which we live. Brittany currently lives in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, where she holds tight to her elders, her roots, and her childhood home. Brittany is a cohort member of Amplify Black Stories presented by The Brown Bookshelf and Highlights Foundation.

Brittany is available for both in-person and virtual visits. Brittany presents up to four sessions per day and travels throughout the United States. 

Stephanie Calmenson

Stephanie Calmenson's books for children have been called "marvelous" (Publishers Weekly), "lyrical" (School Library Journal), "hilarious" (School Library Journal), "sweet, funny, and right on the mark" (Booklist). A former early childhood teacher and children's book editor, Stephanie has written many popular books, including Dinner at the Panda Palace, a PBS StoryTime Book; Ollie's School Day, a Children's Book-of-the-Month Club selection; May I Pet Your Dog? a Horn Book Fanfare selection and ALA Notable Children's Video; and the new Our Principal! Series. With Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole, she has co-authored many anthologies and funny chapter books, including the new The Adventures of Allie and Amy series.

Stephanie is available for both in-person and virtual visits. Stephanie presents 45-minute sessions and travels throughout the United States. 

Connect with Brittany and Stephanie through Children's Literature's Booking Service.

Booking Service

Children's Literature's Booking Service provides direct contact with each listed author and takes no commission fees from authors or event coordinators.


Book Awards You Need to Know

Jean Little First-Novel Award

The Canadian Children's Book Centre established a new book award in 2021 to honor the late prolific author Jean Little. Author of more than 50 books, Little's books feature characters who realistically live with physical and psychological challenges. Little herself had vision challenges and worked as a teacher for differently-abled children.

While the Jean Little First-Novel award winner must be a first-time Canadian children's middle-grade novelist, the winning novel can be published in any country. Middle-grade is defined ages 8-12 for this award. Visit https://tinyurl.com/u79hbxbt. for more information. 

2021 Winner

No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen

Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn't eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman's dream, but at least it's an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel's housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer. She spends her free time helping Kate's grandmother make her famous grape pies and begins to face her fears by taking swimming lessons in the motel's pool. But when it becomes clear that only a miracle will save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she's worked so hard to build.


Do you know a school librarian or public librarian who would benefit from our newsletter? Pass it on!
© All rights reserved.