PB Review / Me and Ms. Too

20221106ma_1887Book: Me and Ms. Too (2022)
Author: Laura Ruby
Illustrator: Dung Ho
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
When Dad married Ms. Too, everything changed.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is the story of a girl and her dad and how his marriage changes their family a little. I found it interesting that we begin once the wedding has taken place. Our poor little protagonist, Molly, is having a hard time. There’s the constant refrain: “That was before.” “Before what?” “Before Ms. Too …”

Then we go back in time a bit to see what life was like before Ms. Too enters Molly’s life. It continues to their new life together where Ms. Too is the one to take Molly to the pool and the park and the zoo and the park. And then there’s the moment at the zoo where Molly and Ms. Too watch the cats. That’s when things begin to change a little.

I loved seeing the journey this family goes on. The illustrations are so cheery. I was rooting for Molly and Ms. Too the whole book through. (P.S. Ms. Too is a librarian. How cool is that?)

20221106ma_1889

Thanks to Sarah Meade for recommending this book.

 


12-PBs-Nov12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Leif and the Fall

pb-leif-and-fallBook: Leif and the Fall (2020)
Author: Allison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Leif is a leaf. A small green leaf with browning edges, who lives in a big oak tree. “The breeze is blowing harder,” Leif says to himself. “The days are getting shorter. It’s nearly fall.” Leif knows that in the fall, leaves fall from the trees. And Leif is worried.

MY THOUGHTS…

I love the play on words on the name Leif (who’s a leaf). The story follows the attempts of Leif and his friend Laurel try to avoid falling when it comes to autumn. There’s a very fun refrain: “All leaves fall in the fall!” And perfect to help us see that most of our worries are really something we shouldn’t be worried about. A perfect story for this time of year! 

Thanks to Tunisia Williams for recommending this book.

 


12-PBs12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Beatrice Bly’s Rules for Spies

20220108ma_0069Book: Beatrice Bly’s Rules for Spies: The Missing Hamster (2021)
Author: Sue Fliess
Illustrator: Beth Mills
Publisher: Pixel+Ink
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Beatrice Bly was no ordinary spy. Beatrice was a … SUPER SPY!

MY THOUGHTS…

What a fun little mystery! Join Beatrice Bly, Super Spy, as she tries to figure out the mystery of the missing hamster! As a kid, I loved these types of books. And while adult-me figured out the mystery, I’m sure kids will enjoy the whodunit process.

The setting is Beatrice’s school, and the victim is the classroom hamster. Beatrice and her friend look for clues, finally bringing us to the happy reunion.

Love the illustrations. Love those opening lines. Love that her name rhymes with spy!

20220121ma_0188


12-PBs-Sep12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review + Interview / If Your Babysitter is a Bruja

brujaBook: If Your Babysitter is a Bruja (2022)
Author: Ana Siqueira
Illustrator: Irena Freitas
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
If it’s almost Halloween and you have a new babysitter … be wary. She might be a bruja! A witch!

MY THOUGHTS…

It can be such a nerve-wracking experience to have a new babysitter. I love how this story helps you know that new babysitters can bring some great fun. I love the main character’s big imagination, especially the little nod to The Wizard of Oz (with regards to how to defeat a witch).
 
And while the main character creates hardship for the babysitter, it was nice to see a moment where she realizes that she has crossed a line. And that’s when she starts to figure out that maybe the babysitter is more fun than she first thought.
 
Certainly, a fun read with Spanish words sprinkled in. The illustrations are wonderfully colorful. And the little MC is adorable in her two little buns. While it’s set during Halloween, it really could be read any time of the year!
 

BONUS INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR…

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book?
A: This story was based on a personal experience. I was not the babysitter or bruja, and I was not the girl. But I was the mother of a girl who decided I was a bruja, and not her mom, when I told her we couldn’t stay on the beach anymore. Of course, it lasted three blocks walking and carrying her to convince her I was her real Mami.

Q: Why did you write this in the second person?
I tried writing this story in the third and first person. I love writing in the first person. But something was not right. It was maybe too scary. Then, I read all the books by Elise Parsley. I love them. That’s when I tried writing it in the second person. This voice allowed me to transform this story into a fun story without being so scary.

babysitteri-mg

Q: When you write, do you have illustrations in mind? How do they compare when you see the final art?
A: When I wrote, I imagined the illustrations would show the reality while the girl was imagining. For example, when she thinks she was being grabbed by her pants and thrown on a Twisted Torre, we would see the Bruja holding her hands and taking her to the playground slide. But the final art is so much better than my imagination. It is vivid and full of energy. The way Irena mixes her imagination with a dash of reality allows the readers to dive into her imagination.

Q: Can you tell me the story of how this book was sold?
A: I worked on this book during a class with Mira Reisberg from The Children’s Book Academy. She was sweet enough to give me a scholarship. At the end of this class, we could pitch a story to an agent’s and editors’ showcase. I got three likes, or golden nuggets, from three editors. I submitted first to one. And she submitted me some ideas for a Revise and Resubmit. But after I completed my revision, I had already gotten an agent: Andrea Walker. We didn’t submit it to the previous editor, because my agency was not working with this publisher because of some controversies, but we submitted it to Alyza Liu, who had requested my story during the showcase. And that’s how we sold it.

Q: How much work did you have to do with the editor once the book was sold?
A: Alyza Liu gave me amazing feedback: make the girl more active. At first, she was mostly reacting to Bruja’s actions. That dash of ingenuity from the girl added a lot of humor. Besides that, all the changes were minor and fast.

Q: What’s your favorite line from the book?
A: It’s so hard to choose. The rhythmic lyrical sentences in this story are so much fun. But I like the last line when she repeats the first line with a twist.  But to prevent spoilers, I will have here my first line: If it’s almost Halloween and you have a new babysitter… be wary. She might be a bruja! A witch! If she zooms in on a broom, black sombrero on her head, cackling like a crow… ¡Corre! Run!

Q: Do you have a favorite illustration from the book?
A: I love them all, but I always laugh when I see Bruja’s expression spitting the magic potion.  And I love the scene where the Bruja cast a sleeping spell that nobody can resist.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with (or as) a babysitter?
A: Now that you asked me this question, I remember… I had a nanny who might have been a bruja. She was very explosive and one day she hit my little sister. I told on her and she got fired. So, maybe, who knows, this Bruja has been also the inspiration for my story.

Q: What’s your best advice for new writers?
A: Try different versions of all your stories. When the previous editor suggested me a big change for my Revise and Resubmit, I thought she was not right. But I tried, and… I loved it. So try. Sometimes you will not agree with a critique, but what if you try? Of course, don’t delete your old version. But even if you try it and you hate it, you will probably learn something new about your story, your style, or your character.

ana-photoQ: Where can people find out more about you and your books?
A: Check my website and contact me with questions too. Website: https://anafiction.com/

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, and an award-winning Brazilian children’s author also published in the Foreign Language educational market. Her picture books include Bella’s Recipe for Success (Beaming Books, 2021), Abuela’s Super Capa (HarperCollins, 2023), Room in Mami’s Corazon (Harpercollins, 2024), and a few more books to be announced. Besides writing, Ana loves to read, teach, and play with her Cuban-Brazilian-American grandchildren. Twitter: @SraSiqueira1307

 


12-PBs-Aug12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Where Three Oceans Meet

pb-3oceansBook: Where Three Oceans Meet (2021)
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
We decide to travel to the very tip of India, where three oceans meet. Pati, Mommy, and me.

MY THOUGHTS…

It’s like a travelogue! It’s fun to see the three generations (grandmother, mother, and daughter, although I believe Pati means the paternal grandmother) make their plans to go to India. And then, we get to journey with them. We go on boats and whiz through the countryside on a train.

At the climax of the story, we get to the tip of India at Kanyakumai … where the three oceans meet. One of my favorite lines connects the women to the titular three oceans: “Pati, Mommy, and me. One who lives in India, one who moved to America, and one who belongs to both.”

Thank you @BethStilborn for recommending this book to me!

 


12-PB-July12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / A Girl Named Rosita

rositaBook: A Girl Named Rosita (2020)
Author: Anika Aldamuy Denise
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Juncos, Puerto Rico, 1935
In a tiny cottage tucked between El Yunque Peak and a wild fragrant rainforest lives a girl: a girl with the rhythm of the rainforest in her feet and the sweetness of the sugarcane field in her swishing skirts.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is the story of Rita Moreno. She and her mother move from their home in Puerto Rico where she misses her little brother, Francisco. She eventually learns English and takes dance lessons from the teacher of the amazing Rita Hayworth! She wants to be just like the Hollywood stars. Rita ends up in Hollywood and is cast in the musical West Side Story! She will be playing Anita. And when the Academy Awards happen, all of the New York Puerto Ricans hold their breath.

I loved all the lyrical dance language. The swishes and twirls all evoke such wonderful movement. As a huge fan of West Side Story, I loved this little peek into the real life of “Anita.” I always loved her performance in that movie. So it was wonderful to see the story that led up to that amazing performance. After reading this, I just had to watch some clips of the movie.

(My big question… Whatever happened to brother Francisco?)

Thank you @marianallanos for recommending this book to me!

 


12-PBs-June12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess

logprincessBook: The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess (2021)
Author/Illustrator: Tom Gauld
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Once there lived a king and queen who happily ruled a pleasant land, but they had no children.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is an original fairy tale. It features a King and Queen who want children. They end up with a son (the robot) and a daughter (the log princess). But, this being a fairy tale, things don’t go well. Being a fairy tale, the log princess turns into a log every night until you say the magic words.

Really, it’s a lovely story about a brother and sister. They work together to get out of their predicament. One of my favorite parts is when the author hints at all the adventures they have which we don’t exactly see. Like meeting the Magic Pudding or the Lady in a Bottle. There are actually two of these sections in the book. As a kid, I would have LOVED this because it meant I could make up my own story with the two characters.

Tom Gauld’s illustrations are quite wonderful. I love the detail and everything. The beetles are adorable! I would recommend this book to those who love fairy tales or any type of adventure story. And who doesn’t love a fairy tale or adventure story?

Thank you @KimALarson7 for recommending this book to me!

 


12-PBs-May

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

PB Review / Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy

20220405ma_0514Book: Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy (2022)
Author: S.E. Richey
Illustrator: Jhon Ortiz
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Lulu finally had a wiggly tooth. She waited her whole life, and she knew exactly what to buy with the tooth fairy money. “A pony!”

MY THOUGHTS…

What a fun story! It’s told in a dual-narrative style. We get to see things from Lulu’s point of view, and then on the opposite side of the page, we get to see what’s happening with Trixie, the tooth fairy! And boy oh boy. Trixie is one of those fairies that has a little trouble with directions and finding her way to the right location. Which, of course, leads us in a fun, comedy-of-errors style romp.

The mix-ups are what make the story such fun. But poor Lulu has to wonder, What’s up with this tooth fairy??? How come my tooth is STILL under my pillow. I especially liked the little nod to the different kinds of tooth fairies from around the world when we get to meet Ratoncito (the “tooth fairy” from Puerto Rico).

And the art by Jhon Ortiz is wonderfully appealing.

 


12-PBs-Apr

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.

MG Mini-Reviews / April

bookshopBook: The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams (2021)
Author: Mindy Thompson
Genre: MG, Historical Fantasy

Opening lines from the book …
The bookshop is feeling blue today. I sense it the moment my brother James and I arrive home from school. The lights are low, the ever-shifting wallpaper is a cheerless dark gray, with somber books on display—Wuthering Heights, Old Yeller, A Little Princess. The gloom sinks into my bones.

MY THOUGHTS…

Love the magical bookshop! In many ways, this bookshop, called Rhyme and Reason, is its own character. It somehow senses different things and morphs accordingly. And it has a special connection to Poppy, the bookstore owners’ daughter. The bookstore is a haven for time-travelers. (It’s kind of neat that Poppy is really wanting to read books like the Chronicles of Narnia, which haven’t been written yet!)

The story takes place during World War II. Poppy’s father gets very sick and it seems like it might have something to do with the weird things that are happening with the bookstore. On top of that, news comes that a close family friend has died in the war. Poppy’s older brother wants to use the magic of the bookstore to change things. But, of course, that’s forbidden.

In some ways, this book is a little dark, which surprised me a bit. But then again, it does make sense. It’s really about choices we make.


capt-daughtersBook: The Captain’s Daughters (2021)
Author: Doreen D. Berger
Genre: MG, Sci-fi

Opening lines from the book …
“Dad, we know what to do!” Diane assured him again, totally exasperated, as he gave her and Robin last-minute instructions. “We’re twelve!” she reminded him. “We don’t need your help! Honestly, we don’t.”

MY THOUGHTS…

I find I don’t read a lot of science fiction. This book turned out to have a big Star Trek vibe to it! While I enjoyed that, I also found it sometimes a little too distracting because I’d be comparing it to the Star Trek universe!

Let’s get to the two main characters! Diane and Robin are two girls set out for adventure. The story begins when they are kidnapped and their attempts to get home again. Just at the time when you think they’re about to succeed, there’s a nice little twist that throws them even further way from their goal. I found it interesting to see the juxtaposition of the shiny world of space travel against the dirt and sweat of the horseback riding scenes. There’s even the grandma’s homecooked meals being compared with the sterile futuristic cooking aboard the starship Polaris.

My head also began to spin a bit with different universes and counterparts and trying to figure out who is where and when! But that’s what happens when you deal with multiple universes! And there were a lot of flashbacks which also got to be a little confusing at times. I’d get caught up in a fun story where the girls get into some scrape, but then I’d forget that I was in the past. There are some really fun scenes, though. The scene at the end  (*SPOILER! where the two Captain Marshes—Dad and Uncle Bill—are together and the girls aren’t sure which one is their dad… End Spoiler) is priceless!

PB Review / How to Wear a Sari

pbBook: How to Wear a Sari (2020)
Author: Darshana Khiani
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Genre: Picture Book

Opening Lines of the Book…
Are you tired of being treated like a little kid? “You’re too small.” “That’s too difficult.” “Aww, how cute.” Do you want to show them you can do grown up things too?

MY THOUGHTS…

This book captured my love of dressing up when I was a child… to look oh so grown up! In the story, the main character wants dress like the grown-up ladies. And she helps us by giving a step-by-step guide in how to wear a sari. And she even gets her friend (i.e. the dog) to help!

There’s lots of twirling and colorful fabric flying everywhere. One of my favorite lines is: The aunties will be asking you for tips.

The little twist at the end brought a smile to my face. (I like this family!)

Thank you @BethStilborn for recommending this book to me!


12-PBs-Mar

12 CHALLENGE

12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends…

This picture book review is part of a monthly challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ve asked my friends on Twitter to recommend picture books they’ve enjoyed reading (published within the past 3 years). I will choose to feature one each month.

Note: The original 12 Challenge isn’t necessarily just for picture books. But I’ve set it up this way for my own challenge.