A book I put in my LFL (Little Free Library) in not-so-gently-used condition, owned at one point by someone who wrote his name, “MATHIS” on the inside cover, has just been returned after being borrowed/taken. Since its  condition showed that boys had actually  read it, I decided to read it myself in order to recommend it to “reluctant readers,” who so often are of the male gender.

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian, complete with “cartoons by Jake Tashjian.” was a fun read as well as a subtle vocabulary builder. Instead of having definitions of challenging words in the margin, it had cartoons illustrating the meanings of the words.

The book’s opening lines, ” I DON’T WANT TO READ THIS BOOK”! would capture any reader’s attention, especially a male, reluctant one. Mystery occurs in this book as the first-person narrator, Derek, discovers an old newspaper clipping about a teen girl’s drowning off Martha’s Vinyard. What he discovers is not what he or his mother expected, and makes a life-changing difference for him and his family. The author inhabits the mind of Derek well, and the cartoonist expresses a young boy’s impatience, curiosity and thought processes with stick figures and labels.

It is a great read!

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS (On Sunday), Grownup edition

A Celebration of Beatrix Potter looks like a children’s picture book, but indeed, appearances can be deceiving. The Stewards of Fredrick Warne & Co. have collected more than 30 of today’s favorite children’s book illustrators’ personal celebrations of Beatrix Potter, both in words and drawings to help observe the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth. Acknowledging that “…Beatrix Potter changed the world of children’s literature forever,” and “…has influenced generations of authors and illustrators, intertwining her legacy into their own,” the editors have completed an amazing compilation of full-page images.

Reminiscences of reading and “looking at” Potter’s tales as a child from such notable illustrators as Melissa Sweet, Peter H. Reynolds, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Brian Pinkney, Brenden Wenzel, E. B. Lewis, Betsy Lewin, Chris Haughton, David Ezra Stein, John Agee, Kelly Murphey, and Esther Krosoczka, which deal with The Tale of Peter Rabbit (published in 1902) alone, persuade the reader to recognize that many of our illustrators’ first desires to “draw” were formed by perusing the tiny details of Potter’s woodland creatures.  In this section, the masculine “take” on the evil farmer, Mr. Mc Gregor was enough to crack a chuckle from even the most serious-about-illustrations-and-art readers.

Since I have never formally taught below sixth grade, many of the names above were not as familiar to me as they are to those of you who follow and enjoy children’s books in a professional capacity; however, even I recognized the kinds of drawings and names like Tomie Paola and others, whose picture books appeal to children and grownups alike.

This is a fabulous read for one who likes “interesting details” about interesting artists and how they got their start, specifically the influence Beatrix Potter had on their art.


Today’s selection is a delightfully illustrated story, Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina. It won the Pura Belpre Award and was a 2019 publication.  The author, who was born and grew up in Bogota, Columbia, often was reprimanded in school for drawing cartoons of her teachers. This book, however, is a pure delight of cartoons, lovingly drawn and labeled of Juana and her dog, Lucas. The plot alone is engaging when Juana must learn a very hard language–English in order to earn the reward of going to *SPACELAND* (the equivalent of Disney World).  She describes her difficulties to her abuelo, (grandfather) “No matter how hard I try, there’s always more to learn and to practice. It all seems so pointless. When it comes to the English, it never seems to get any easier.”

Will Juana earn her trip? Will she get over her dislike of learning English?

A second book, also published in 2019, Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas, finds Juana dealing with life-problems bigger than learning English. Her mother has a new friend, Luis, who likes her mom and maybe Juana very much. Will Luis want to take her father’s place in Juana’s heart? Will she have to leave Bogota, the only home she has ever known? How will Lucas adjust if they have to move?

This is a real story about real problems faced by a real girl who has a real friend in her loyal dog.  Read this new author and enjoy, as I did, meeting Juana and her dog, Lucas.


If you or your young ones have not read the “Arthur the Aardvark” series, finding these helpful, amusing, humorous-at-times books, should be the first priority on your child’s reading list. Written by Marc Brown, the series teaches family values, as it reinforces a child feeling good about himself/herself.

I have recommended these books at the primary school where I volunteer, and yesterday, a lovely young fourth grader, Liliana, donated to my Little Free Library her whole collection of 18  hardback,  “Arthur” books published by Advance Publications.  She has moved up to “The Baby Sitter Club” series and other age-appropriate stand-alones.



Mouse Soup, by Arnold Lobel, was published in 1977 and is a children’s version of Scherazade or A Thousand and One Nights.  In Lobel’s version, an adorable (I do not use the term loosely) little mouse is caught by a mean weasel who intends to make mouse soup. How this mouse saves himself is familiar to those who have read the earlier tales; he tells adventure stories. The delightfully illustrated Table of Contents lists the stories as “Bees and the Mud,” “Two Large Stones,” “The Crickets,” and “The Thorn Bush.”

The mouse’s recipe for a perfect Mouse Soup involves the weasel gathering items from each story, and the reader supposes the mouse is doomed.  Read this book and see the way the mouse avoids becoming soup. It is best as a read-aloud first, then a book you and your children/grandchildren can read to each other. It is over fifty pages, but there is a stopping place, which often involves a cliff-hanger, at the end of each story/chapter.  Much of each page is taken up by the delightful illustrations.

With assistance, first or second graders should be able to read this book.


Today’s recommendation is not a book kids can read, but one which adults will love to read to their kids or grandkids.  It is 288 pages, so it should be taken on as a long-time project, but adults will be tempted to read ahead.  The Odessa Chronicles by Carolyn Shelton and Colin Chappell (a blogging friend) is a must-read for adults who remember childhood on a farm and for children who are fascinated by animals. The main characters, Oddessa, “a Barn Owl with an attitude”; Jaxton, a magical Jackalope; Dewey, a cat with”the usual cat characteristics;” and the man-servant, Joshua Pebblestone are unforgettable. The adventures that transpire are warm, funny, and provide “teachable moments” for adults and “life lessons” for children.

I enjoyed reading the book and highly recommend it. Look for a longer review on this blog soon.


Today’s choice, a winner of the Newberry Medal in 1977, and nominated for the National Book Award, is a “classic” I’d heard about and even recommended to my junior high students during the 70s. Ironically enough, I’d never read it until this week. Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry bears a cover that would attract anyone, child and adult alike.  There is a young African American girl in bib-overalls holding tightly to two younger boys as flames and fire threaten the place where they are standing, their house.

I have just begun reading, enjoying the author’s fine writing style as she describes the three Logan children joining other children on their long, dusty trek to their first day of school.  Once there, by “showing, not telling”, she makes clear the inequality of education of the black and white students. The cover blurbs inform me that the story is set in the Great Depression in the deep South. I hope to read it tonight and tomorrow, then place it in my Little Free Library. The sun is supposed to come out Sunday after several days of cold, rainy and overcast weather. Perhaps families will be taking “after-Sunday-dinner” walks and will stop off to get choose a book for the evening.


It is Friday again, and time for First Line Fridays. Today’s first line is from blogging friend, Colin Chappell’s and CarolynShelton’s Odessa Chronicles, which I plan to start tonight.

Introduction    We’re Going to be in a Book!

“There was a familiar whoosh-whoosh sound as Odessa flew down from her roof beam, and landed on the floor very close to Jaxon. ‘Where are the others,’ she asked.

Jaxon rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I told them to be here for an important meeting at seven o’clock this evening.'”

The characters in the book are gathering to discover that Colin and his partner, Carolyn have been observing them and are going to write their stories/Chronicles down for children and their parents everywhere. Colin describes the book of stories about a Barn Owl, Odessa; a magical Jackalope, Jaxon; Dewey, a cat, and a “Manservant,” Joshua, as “a collection of short stories for children of all ages.”

Having followed Chappell’s blog, for several years now, and purchasing both Who Said I Was Up for Adoption, (Ray’s story told in alternate chapters from the German Shepherd/Rottweiler’s point of view and Colin’s), and Just Thinking, (Collin’s lovely book of poems that make one do just that–think), I was really ready for his children’s book. I have barely opened it, but I am already excited about what is obviously going to be a really good read.

THE STORY OF CHARLOTTE’S WEB by Michael Sims : A Review

This was a post made previously on PWR. Because it is Christmas and the time for giving–BOOKS–to children and grandchildren, this book emphasizes the importance and significance Of E.B. White’s life and contribution to children’s literature and word-smithing, in general.  ‘There are more recent biographies of E.B White, even a children’s version, but this one is the most complete. It includes the detailed story of how the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web came to be written and published.  All the information came from huge research into the primary sources of White’s letters, trips and  to his childhood home, and interviews with many other researchers into the life and works of this wonderful man.

The details of White’s boyhood are fascinating and foreshadow many of the things that appear in Charlotte’s Web, but for me, when I hit the middle of the book, things got very interesting.  As a long time subscriber to the New Yorker magazine an  aficionado of all things journalistic, I could hardly put down the book’s description of White’s earliest publishing jobs, his romance and marriage to a famous New Yorker editor and the publication of his earliest columns.

The author knows his subject and it became apparent to me that only E.B. White and his experiences in life could have written Charlotte’s Web. The book was a wonderful read, a complete and encompassing exploration of all things E.B. White.”


In a box of books donated to my Little Free Library, I found and read You Have a Girlfriend, Alfie Atkins? by Gunilla Bergstrom, which was published back in 1988. I hope it was a young boy who owned this book, and his parent or grandparent donated it, for the “lesson” that Alfie, the protagonist learns is one young boys everywhere should learn. Friendships with girls are not “unmanly” and something to be avoided at all costs, but certain girls like Milly, Alfie’s friend are “not exactly a girl.” When the other boys tease Alfie for playing with Milly, and even write “Alfie loves Milly ” on the bathroom wall for the whole school to read, these same boys end up envious of Alfie and Milly’s tree fort which has many ingenious features and inventions thought up by Milly.

My favorite parts are the pages with the illustrations of how girls are, and how Milly is NOT like a girl, and then the page where Alfie lists how Milly IS like a boy:

” Milly almost never cries./ She invents things./ Right now she is making a mailbox, with a rope pulley for the fort./ (Milly never tells anyone about the fort. She knows how to keep a secret.)/ Everyone says that Milly is a REDHEAD./ Alfie doesn’t think so. / Her hair isn’t red; it sparkles like gold–at least when the sun is shining./ And she even wears a heart of gold around her neck!/ Milly is a good friend because she knows…

How to make candy and bake cakes…and build a toy circus…and do a handstand on one hand. She’s not afraid of jumping off the garage roof, and she can make really disgusting faces. Look!

Now she is working on a bell for the mailbox. It will ring when you pick up the mail. You can find out things from Milly. You can learn things from her.”

These quoted passages are included in five of the most wonderfully illustrated pages of Alfie and Milly’s adventures (and “things that girls, in general, do” and “the boys” Alfie is friends with), but I could not find the illustrator’s name anywhere! I must assume that he/she is an illustrator with R&S Books. The book is originally a Swedish book and is distributed in the US by FArrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y and in the UK by Ragged Bears, Andover; in Canada by General Publishing, Toronto; and in Australia by ERA Publications, Adelaide.

It is a book every boy should read!