Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

The other night, my 7 year old asked me to read her a few books that we had on our shelf that we hadn’t read yet. For those who don’t know, I’m an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More, so whenever new books come out, I purchase them, but I don’t always find the time to actually read them. One of the books that she chose was Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles. I really didn’t know much about this book other than it was about a little girl who didn’t want to wear her glasses. That’s true enough, but so much more!

0022024_avas_spectacular_spectacles_300 Continue reading →


Let’s Hear it for the Girls! Picture Book Biographies of Amazing Women

May is Women’s History month, so I wanted to get at least one post out with great books about great women. There really are so many to choose from that it can be hard, but the amazing thing is that people are putting out spectacular nonfiction picture books that are a great way to get young readers excited about making a difference in the world, following their dreams, and understanding that there are so many different talents out there.

women bios Continue reading →

Refugee by Alan Gratz

There are times when books and history or social studies lessons go hand in hand. Refugee is one such book. This should be on required reading lists for middle graders, and adults might learn a thing or two from it as well.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 9.59.43 PM

I first heard of Refugee as it was coming out last summer and pre-ordered a copy (side note – it really helps authors when you pre-order their books for a wide variety of reasons). We became big Alan Gratz fans with The League of Seven series and have enjoyed his works. More recently, I heard an interview with Alan Gratz on the Kit Lit Drink Night Podcast. In it, Gratz talked about how he had originally planned to write a book about the Holocaust but wound up writing about refugee situations in 3 distinct time periods. I finally managed to read the book and all I can say is wow. Just wow.

If you haven’t already heard about the book, here is the basic rundown from the jacket:

Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE. Continue reading →

Tide Pool Secrets

As a child, I loved visiting the tide pools. The wonderful sea anemones were always my favorites. I was very fortunate. I grew up in Los Angeles and I’m pretty sure that we took field trips to the Leo Carrillo State Park frequently and to learn about the amazing marine life that lived in tide pools. Living the rural south, I don’t have many opportunities to expose my kids to the wonders of tide pools, but, of course, that’s where books come in.tide pool secrets cover

Tide Pool Secrets, by Narelle Oliver, is an ingenious lift-the-flap book published on slightly thicker stock than your average book. The flaps help the book be interactive while also showing how sea life can camouflage itself and how changes in the tide impact tide pool life.

IMG_3943 Continue reading →

Battle of the Books


Today my 5th grader participated in the North Carolina Elementary Battle of the Books. I love these competitions. They gather a group of kids who love reading, have them read a list of books that are both in and outside of their comfort zones, and then challenge them to a battle quiz bowl style. It is very much like the bookish March Madness. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but there are some similarities.

The philosophy behind the competition is “to encourage reading by all students at the middle school level. Students, regardless of ability, are exposed to quality literature representing a variety of literary styles and viewpoints by prominent authors in the area of young adult literature. The game format creates interest and excitement in reading. Through the fun and excitement of the competition, students improve reading skills, mature in their choices of reading materials, and acquire a broader knowledge base. Even during the height of the competition, students and coaches should remember that the goal is to READ, not necessarily to win!

One of the harder things for the students to comprehend that even when you bring your A game, you might not walk away the “winner,” but that by participating and doing your best, you are definitely ahead of the crowd. The school with the most points “wins,” but there are so many variables that go into getting those points, including sheer luck of the draw on questions and the various teams you are up against (if one team gets the answer wrong, the other team has the chance to get a few extra points on redirect). Our team came in third place today, but I couldn’t be prouder of them! Continue reading →

How to Coach Girls – Blog Tour

Welcome to the How to Coach Girls Blog Tour!

When I was younger, I enjoyed playing sports. I was on a soccer team, baseball team, and considered being on swim team and also simply loved to play. These were the days when recess time at school was spent playing tether-ball and handball rather than having climbing equipment. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t like being on a team as a young child. That said, I also vividly remember when I was the only girl left playing on a baseball team and how it felt to be the only girl invited to a boy’s birthday party. It wasn’t a good thing. I also can tell you exactly when I stopped playing team sports – the day that I was told I had to pick between acting and sports.

I will admit that I haven’t been one to push my girls into sports. My younger daughter has shown something of a desire to play, but when she was 5 or 6, the options were pretty pathetic and the fact that the teams were co-ed didn’t help much. Not only that, there were no practices, just games, so they weren’t learning skills. E would stand on the basketball court twirling her hair because none of the boys would ever pass her the ball. But she still wants to play and now I have to start looking into teams for slightly older children.

Keeping our Girls in the Game | HOW TO COACH GIRLS Blog Tour!

So it was with great interest that I heard about a new book from fellow blogger Mia Wenjen and her friend and coach, Alison Foley. Mia is a parenting and education blogger at PragmaticMom and mother of two daughters. Alison Foley is the Head Coach of Women’s Soccer at Boston College and the mother of one daughter. The combination of Mia’s voice of parental experience coupled with Alison’s professional expertise provides an innovative and highly accessible approach to considering potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Coaching girls is different from coaching boys. Many might argue with this, but the reality is that girls as a general principle respond to different forms of encouragement and often they play sports for different reasons. Looking at a variety of articles on the subject, you can see that many coaches share these feelings. I know that when J played coach-pitch baseball in first grade, her only motivation was to be playing with her friends, not for competition. But the benefits of an active lifestyle and of playing sports are so vital, I would love to see us come together an encourage girls to play sports and to stay in sports. Continue reading →

Bravo to the Bees!

As spring starts to head our way, we notice the important changes. The temperatures begin to warm, plants that had gone dormant during the winter months are beginning to sprout new growth, and in many places a yellow pollen covers the ground for a few weeks. While most people appreciate the colorful flowers and greenery of spring, we take for granted that all of this happens. One player that is especially important in the annual cycle is the bee. Bravo to the Bees!

It is a proven fact that we need bees. Without bees, we wouldn’t have the variety of fruits and vegetables that we are used to. Bees are important in the chain of life of flowers and vegetables, let alone in the production of honey. But over industrialized lifestyles are killing off bees. Since knowledge is power, there are fortunately a number of books trying to show the next generation, and their parents, just how important bees are and what we can do to help them. Continue reading →

Payback on Poplar Lane

Thank you to @kidlitexchange and Viking Books for the preview copy of Payback on Poplar Lane. All opinions are my own.


I will admit that I tend to gravitate toward realistic fiction, historic fiction, and fantasy. But I also think that reading outside of you or comfort zone is important, which is why I encourage kids to participate in Battle of the Books style competitions. So, while I don’t typically read humorous fiction, I know a lot of kids who do and I wanted to expand my horizons. When I first read the description of Payback on Poplar Lane, it sounded like a fun book and one I was willing to test out. While I did not personally love the book, it was a very well written book that I can easily see a large group of middle grade readers enjoying.

ABC’s Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when a pair of sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block.

Twelve-year-old Peter Gronkowski prides himself on being a professional businessman. Tired of the clichéd lemonade stands that line his block, he decides to start a better business with the help of an intern. But his intern of choice, the quiet and writerly Rachel Chambers, turns out to be more than he bargained for. Rachel is innovative, resourceful, driven–and when she’s had enough of Peter’s overbearing management style, she decides to start a competing empire next door. As their rivalry and sabotage tactics become more outrageous–Slander! Espionage! Lemonade threats!–Peter and Rachel ultimately learn the hard way that “nothing gold can stay” and that friendship is more important than money. Continue reading →

The Social Butterfly

Do you know a little boy or girl who likes to talk all the time? It is a great skill to be social, but all children also need to understand that there are times that we have to stay quiet. That is the lesson that Beth Bracken is putting out in her book, The Social Butterfly.

* Thank you to NetGalley for the digital review copy of this book in return for my honest review.


Charlotte loves talking, singing, and playing. What Charlotte doesn’t love is sitting still, being quiet, and listening, which is a big problem at school. Charlotte’s overly social ways interfere with her friendships and her learning. Will Charlotte be able to modify her behavior and learn when to be social and when to be quiet? A sweet picture book with a story that shines a light on social behaviors.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 10.29.30 AM.png

My Review:
This was a sweet book for the preschool set and kindergarten. We all know those kids who just can’t stop talking and have a need to be surrounded by friends. Charlotte is just that kind of friend. Unfortunately, she is young and doesn’t always know when she needs to reign it in.

Beth Bracken does a good job of getting the message across that when you are in school, you have to focus on school work. Charlotte understands that just because you have finished your work doesn’t mean that everyone else has, and it is important to allow them to have a quiet space to get things done. She unfortunately has to learn this message the hard way when he friends stop talking to her, but sometimes that is reality.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 10.30.03 AM

The book has beautiful images that will help make it great as a read-aloud in the classroom. The bright colors and whimsical bugs lure a child in. There is also something nice about the fact that all of the characters represent a diverse array of bugs to gently also push a multicultural theme. While a tad didactic at times, if you can get kids to sit still and listen to this story, it can be worth the time.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Exploration

Teachers and parents are all hoping onto the STEAM bandwagon. Seems like people have gotten the message that if we want to be world leaders, we have to raise creative thinkers and innovators. In years past, tinkering and creating were things all kids had to do to keep themselves occupied, but in our fast-paced world, all of the technology that has been created is keeping today’s kids from creating their own. There is a wealth of great books out there, but today I’m going to focus on three new books from National Geographic Kids to encourage our future creators.

* Thank you to Media Masters Publicity and National Geographic Kids for providing me with review copies of these books. All opinions are my own.

astronautJennifer Swanson has created an amazing mashup of information in her new book Astronaut/Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. While we often think of space and sea exploration as being incredibly different, the reality is that much of the experiences people face in these two fields are similar. Both deep space and the deep ocean are filled with mystery and only accessible to people who have gone through years of training and research in order to get there. From gravity/buoyancy issues, darkness, pressure, and temperature, sea and space are a lot more similar than we might think. This book goes through a wide range of information hoping to encourage young minds in both of these fields of study. Additionally, at the end of each chapter there is an experiment to help make sense of the heady topics that have been discussed. Kids often learn about space and oceans in school, but seeing the two together in this light was very effective. Continue reading →