Interviews and Reviews of todays newest and best books.

Children's Books

“Happy in our Skin

By Frank Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

New parents and siblings enjoy their brand-new babies. “This is how we all begin: small and happy in our skin. Bouquets of babies sweet to hold: cocoa brown, cinnamon, and honey gold. Ginger-colored babies, peaches and cream, too. It’s terrific to have skin. It keeps the outsides out and your insides in.” As you grow, it grows, too. When you get a scrape it heals itself. (I love this sweet little book!)


By Isabella Arsenault (ages 5-8)

Here’s a book based on the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, used by emergency series as a way to communicate clearly and precisely in urgent situations. NATO adopted a standardized version in 1956.

“Iron Rails, Iron Men, and the Race to Link the Nation: The Story of The Transcontinental Railroad

By Martin W. Sanders

In an era when trails and wagon tracks were the primary passage across two-thirds of nation, the building of the transcontinental railroad was one of the greatest and most daring adventures the country had ever seen. Stretching 1800 miles across prairies, deserts and mountains, it was an engineering and logistical feat of unprecedented scope. The work involved thousands of workers, including untold numbers of Chinese laborers. Its progress decimated the massive buffalo herds and hastened the destruction of the Native American tribes; unknown numbers of workers perished in the dangerous work blasting through mountains. While the project was inching across the West, the nation was torn asunder by Civil War. Working from the West Coast toward another team approaching from the Mid-West, over a six year span they headed inexorably to Promontory Summit by May 8,1869. Across Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada to San Francisco, California, the railroad was linked to the East Coast. It changed our nation.

“DESIGN LINE: History of Women’s Fashions

Illustrated by Sanna Mander (folds out to six and a half feet) (BIG Picture Press)

What a cool book! Clothing items from the 14th to the 21st centuries shows how ladies’ outerwear, underwear, footwear, casualwear and fancy clothing has changed. Minimal text next to the pictures allows the full-color illustrations to tell the story, and when you flip the pictures over there is a short description and history of each piece of apparel.

“Candlewick Biographies: electrical Wizard-How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World”

By Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Edison gets the best press, but a younger inventor created the electrical system that lights America. Nikola Tesla was brilliant and came to America from Hungary to work with Edison, but the great inventor saw Tesla as a rival. Westinghouse won the contract to light up the Chicago World’s Fair. They used Tesla’s electrical system! Soon he would build the great turbine generators at Niagra Falls, and eventually America would use the Alternating Current system everywhere. In addition, Marconi used 17 of Tesla’s patents to create the radio! This marvelous book shows pages of scientific notes,too.

“The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden”

By Kevin DeYoung, ill. by Don Clark

Vibrant illustrations and uncluttered text bring the key stories from the Bible to life, making it easier for young readers to understand the profound message of Scripture. The Son of God was promised by the Creator in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve to be the One who would crush Satan (the Snake) underfoot. In the fullness of time, after showing the People of Promise that they could not be righteous enough for Heaven without God’s direct intervention, Jesus came to Earth as a human. He lived, taught, preached, healed miraculously (even from death), was arrested, tortured, executed and buried, only to come back to life , return to Heaven with His promise to return for us one day!

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For September 14, 2015

“Shh! We Have A Plan”

By Chris Haughton (age 2-5) (Board book)

Four friends creep through the wood to catch a bird, but they keep escaping. Eventually they find all those birds, which turn to attack the 4 friends!

“Where Did My Clothes Come From?”

By Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti (age 5-8)

This very clever book shows how we can trace the fabrics that make our clothes from farm to closet.  Learn about jeans, sweaters, party dresses,, soccer uniforms, fleece jackets, and boots.

“Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement”

By Charole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Malcolm X once called her “the country’s number one freedom-fighting woman”. She came from a poor sharecropping family in the Mississippi Delta, youngest of 20 kids. She started picking cotton at age 6, helping her family fill 20-foot sacks. The Townsend family picked 15 tons of cotton a season, but it was never enough to pay for all the expenses the landowner charged for seed, food, clothing and supplies. Her momma taught her to be proud of her race. Forced to leave school at the end of 6th grade, she gathered any scraps of writing she could to learn. Life was very, very hard and short.

Her dad died when Fannie was 22, worn out from the terrible work. Most of her siblings moved north to avoid Jim Crow, but she stayed with her momma. She married Perry Hamer, but just moved to a different farm to work. They adopted two girls, but in 1961 a doctor tricked her into having a hysterectomy. The next year she went to work for the first time but was hit with a ridiculous test and couldn’t vote. Harassed for even trying to register, she lost her house and job but passed the test the 2nd time. She began to tour the South telling of her life and singing spirituals to encourage others. She endured polio, jail, beatings resulting in lifelong injuries, death threats, the murder of friends, and running for office.

“Racism”, she said, “was America’s problem.” She spent her life fighting it, and she helped change America!

Book Bit for WTBF in Troy, Ala. For August 4, 2015

Children’s Book Bits for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. For December 4, 2014

I always enjoy reviewing new books for kids, so here are a bunch of cool new ones, perfect for Christmas!

From Candle Books, an imprint of Lion Hudson, distributed in the USA and Canada by Kregel Publications, 3 items for ages 3+:

“Christmas Stable for Tiny Tots”

By Juliet David, illustrated by Sophie Hanton

This is a very sweet book. The artwork is charming, with funny animals and joyful people. It ends with a giant pop-up Nativity scene!

“Christmas Dominoes, with Christmas storybook inside”

The dominoes are large for small hands. The artwork has 5 Josephs, 6 Wisemen, 4 camels (or donkeys), 3 angels, 5 sheep, and so forth.

“First Jigsaws: Christmas, with Christmas storybook inside”

6 simple jigsaws tell the story of the birth of Jesus. It’s fun to do and encourages the important pre-reading skill of left-to-right orientation.


From Candlewick Press

“And The Comes Christmas”

By Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jana Christy

There are lots of signs that every day we’re getting closer to Christmas. The days get shorter, evergreen boughs go up, the frost and icicles and snow, the elves and Santa arrive, everyone looks for the right boxes and gifts and trees, Christmas programs and wrapping and baking, Carols and church, then the gifts & toys.

“Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain” with coloring poster!

One morning when Peppa and little brother George awake, it is SNOWING! They can’t wait to go to Snowmy Mountain.  There, they ride Daddy Pig like a sled, skate with all their friends, and ride the ski-lift. Mummy Pig remembered how to ski, but not how to STOP!


From Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,

“The Legend of Saint Nicholas”

By Anselm Grun & Giuliano Ferri

Long before there was “Santa Claus” there was a real, devout Christian named Nicholas. When he was a young priest, he heard of a poor father who was faced with a terrible choice: sell his daughters into slavery. Nicholas had inherited a lot of money when his parents died, so he gave it all away to the poor, but he had enough to anonymously give the dad sufficient funds to save the girls. When the bishop of Myra died, Nicholas was elected by public proclamation. In his life, he was credited with many miracles and was canonized after his death.


Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrations by Helen Cann

This is a charming and creative book of poems! I really like it and so will your family.


And from Cavalier Original Publications:

 “Gina Cavalier’s How I Became Santa Claus”

It’s a wildly-imaginative account of how a sad and poor young man named Nick who would find his destiny in the magic of Christmas

Children’s Book Bits for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for August 1, 2014

“Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale”

By Marjuan Candy with art by Nabeeh Bilal (award-winning book is based on the play of the same name)

Winston lives in New York City, and he loves his auntie’s Callaloo (Cal-a-loo), based on a family recipe from the Caribbean island of Tobago. He eats all the Callaloo, and then finds himself on the old family home. His grandma sends him to get crabs to make the Callaloo, but Papa Bois (papa-bwah), protector of all the animals in the forest, chases him into the woods. There Winston is horrified to see a Lagahoo, (la-ga-who, a werewolf), and then a La Diablesse, (la-ja-bless) a spell-caster with one human foot and one hoof. Further into the night Winston runs and faces a Soucouyant (sue-koo-yah, an old lady by day, a vampire at night who flies by a fireball). In the morning Mama D’lo (mama-glo), wife of Papa Bois and protector of sea animals, explained to Winston that she taught him a lesson about greed and demands the crabs be released. He complies, and finds himself back home. He had learned about taking more food than he needed! (You get a lesson in Caribbean culture and folklore in a lesson that speaks against greed!)

“The Big Book of Slumber”

By Giovanna Zoboli & Simona Mulazzani (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

This charming big book makes a lovely nighttime story for little ones! Baby bears, lions, goats, dolphin, tuna, roosters and hens, foxes, doves, owls, crocodiles, frogs, toads, dormouse, badger, puppies, camels, hippo, seals, giraffes, mice, moles, spiders, snakes, cat, moths, birds, monkeys, caterpillars, tigers, and zebras, butterflies, bunnies, dormouse, blackbirds, tapirs, elephants, seagulls, and even bugs all sleep. That means it’s time for little boys and girls to go to sleep, too!

“Becoming Prince Charming: Book 1 of 6”

By Stephanie Rankin with art by Kari Allman (West Bow Press, a Division of Thomas Nelson)

How do boys learn about making good choices, especially in our increasingly secular society? This book talks about character and faith, and how parents can teach their young sons to grow into men whose lives reflect these virtues.

Noble Fisher is a hero in his imagination, and his parents want him to have a real life of honor. His father tells of his own personal quest, and how Noble will have one, too. The first key to his quest is an actual large key engraved with the word, “Goodness”, left under his pillow.

Children’s Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for July 26, 2014

“I Am Rosa Parks: Ordinary People Change the World Series”

By Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group USA LLC)

Even when she was little, Rosa Parks stood up for herself. She grew up in an American that segregated people based on their skin color. It was supposed to be “separate but equal” but it was never equal: schools were subpar, drinking fountains were inconvenient, and whenever black and white people disagreed, the black were always seen as wrong. Rosa was a quiet, petite and devout woman who rode the bus every day in Montgomery to work. One day, she came in through the front door of the bus, which was not allowed. The driver physically threw her off the bus.

Several years later, the same driver insisted that she move to make room for white riders. She refused, he called the police, and she was arrested. It was the last straw for black people in the city. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days, during which time no black people rode the municipal buses. Eventually the bus line was losing so much money that they changed their rules. It was the beginning of change in all the foolish rules that treated Americans of different colors differently. Rosa Parks wasn’t anyone rich or famous and connected; she considered herself an ordinary person. But Rosa Parks is proof that there’s no such as an “ordinary person”.

Look for others in this marvelous series for young readers by my pal Brad Meltzer from Dial Books for Young Readers. (The artwork reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes!) Visit the website www.ordinarypeoplechangetheworld.com.

“Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends”

By Trudi Carter, illustrations by Lowell Hildebrandt (AuthorHouse)

Everyone is talking about bullying these days. Here’s a book that “uses an improbable assortment of animals to exemplify how history, miscommunication, and social differences are generally the root of personal problems. Sworn enemies can learn to value each other.” When children are taught that God loves them and that God loves all people equally, and parents reflect that teaching, bullying is much less likely.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for May 8, 2014

Here are more wonderful children’s books!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck”

By Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams) (originally reviewed in Dec. 2013)

It’s the 8th outing for our hapless hero, Greg the Wimpy Kid, whose misadventures remind us all too well of our own miserable days in junior high. (These books crack me UP! Love the drawings!)This book was so fun I wanted to mention it again for summer reading!

“A Pond Full of Ink”

Poems by Annie M.G. Schmidt, illustrated by Sieb Posthuma, translated by David Colmer (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)

A delightful and charming book, with wonderful whimsical tales in verse! The title track is fun, the “Elderly Otters” is cute, “Brian Brink” is a cautionary tale about gossip, “Aunt Sue and Uncle Steve” live in a treehouse (and no one takes a tumble), “Isabella Caramella” has a crocodile named Crabbit who doesn’t put up with vile people, Mrs. Keller keeps bears in her cellar! Belinda hated getting clean so she eventually turned into a TREE, Aunty Jo got a best friend who was a deer, and did you know that the moon is  SPARE (because robbers took the real one)?

“Brother Hugo & The Bear”

Written by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)

It seems that Brother Hugo’s library book cannot be returned because a BEAR ate it, so Hugo must recopy the original by hand so that the library will have a copy again. With lots of help from his fellow monks, Hugo is able to do so. However, on the way to return the original book, the bear attacks. Hugo is only able to save himself by giving another book to the hungry bear!

“Prisoner 88”

By Leah Pileggi (Charlesbridge Books)

This story is based on a true account of a ten-year-old boy sent to an adult prison for manslaughter in 1885, fictionalized and fleshed out by the author.  Jake Oliver Evans shot a man who threatened his worthless, drunken father, and was sent to the “pen”. There he had to defend himself against grown bullies, evil men, and loneliness. But he made some friends, and the warden was sympathetic. He arranged for Jake to have a job at a local farmer’s hogpen. Jake also has three hearty meals a day (which he had never enjoyed at home). It is a fascinating glimpse at prison life in the late 19th century, and how a young boy might survive such a situation.

Here are three new children’s books today from Charlesbridge Publishing! 

“Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s DAVID and How He Came To Be”

By Jane Sutcliffe, illustrated by John Shelley (ages 6-9)                                                                                             

There was a three-story block of stone in the city of Florence that should have been turned into a statue of King David. However, several have tried to create it, but none succeeded, until the day that 26-year-old Michelangelo Bounarroti returned home. His goal? To chip away every piece of stone that was not David. The completed statue was nearly 18 feet tall! The people of Florence, having waited 40 years for this moment, were delighted. After 500 years it still stands in Florence, Italy. 

“At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui”

By Christine Liu-Perkins (ages 9-12)

In 1971, workers discovered an ancient tomb. The contents had been protected from the elements by a thick layer of white clay on top of almost six tons of black charcoal. Inside a bamboo cage was a perfectly preserved wooden tomb with beautiful items, including a coffin with three more coffins inside it. The final one contained a bundle of silk in beautiful condition except for a horrible odor. Twenty layers of wrapping revealed a woman’s body with soft, moist skin! Nearby, two other tombs were found, but they had been badly damaged by water or thieves.  The family lived in the 3rd century BC. The tomb yielded musical instruments, preserved food, furniture, games, silk clothing, books, and bamboo items! It was essentially a time capsule. 

“Music Everywhere! A Global Fund for Children Book” by

By Maya Ajmera, Elise Hoffer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon (ages 4-7)

Music is a universal language. I have had the privilege of making music with people from all over the world, and we all clap, stomp, dance, sing and make instruments from all kinds of materials. This book shows some of that incredible cultural diversity! Lil Scottish bagpipers, young African drummers, conch shell in the South Pacific, Irish dancers, chanting in a Coptic church in Egypt, singers in Mexico, Russia and Japan, moon lutes in China, Polish fiddlers, a Jewish shofar in Israel, just a name a few!


Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for March 19, 2014 

“SNOW BABIES: Young, Courageous, Determined to Survive”

(BBC Earth) (with bonus feature POLAR BEAR-Spy On The Ice)

 We follow the early-life adventures of animals living in the coldest places on Earth. The emperor penguins in the Antarctic have a particularly astounding childhood. The mother lays her egg onto the feet of her mate, who will hold the egg off the bitter frozen ice until it hatches and then keep the tiny chick on the dad’s feet for a total of 100 days without food. Meanwhile, the mother has traveled 50 miles away to gorge herself on squid and fish, which she carries back in her belly for chick and dutiful father. After a season, the chicks have grown larger and go exploring. However, in a colony of thousands of penguin, finding mum isn’t easy and getting separated can be hazardous. They will form friendships with other growing chicks. Parents travel two weeks round trip to get food for their chick, but as the ice melts the source gets closer. Surprise blizzards can trap a huddled gang of young penguins, but returning parents are also watching out for their little ones.

In northern Japan, young snow monkeys must find friends so they can survive together when winter returns. Polar bear babies, born in their wintry den, emerge with mom to hunt for seals before the ice floes defrost. Polar bears are superb swimmers, but seals can swim faster and deeper. Reindeer get more sure-footed and learn to forage for vegetation as spring approaches, but predatory wolves lurk nearby. Their strategy is to terrorize the young reindeer into a stampede and catch the weakest calves. In the Arctic summer, the sun never sets, triggering and incredible burst of life. Humpback whales, seagulls and other creatures head to the feast, but for the young foxes make a meal of unwary gulls. Summer also means penguins head to the water for food, but leopard seals might turn the tables on them.

When winter comes dramatically to the Arctic, polar bears on frozen ocean seas get great hunting of seals before hibernation. However, great herds of reindeer must head south a thousand miles to find what remains of pasture. Arctic wolves still shadow them, but the young reindeer are bigger and stronger now. Foxes become solitary creatures in their winter coats. Snow monkeys learn to play with the new-fallen snow! Mum knows that snow won’t stay fun; food and shelter will be scarce and difficult to find, so they have to get creative. When the bitter cold is overwhelming, they head to waters heated by volcanic action: nature’s hot tubs will keep them from freezing to death.

The first year is the most difficult and dangerous, but their parents have made the difference for these snow babies. Their adventures will amaze you!

The bonus two-part series, Polar Bear-Spy on the Ice, gets us up close and personal with the world’s greatest land predator.

Book Bit for WTBF-AM/FM in Troy, Ala. for February 7, 2014

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