Reviews in Chalk

Very Christmas


by Simone Mets

cover illustration Jana Pivkova

age range: 5 years old and up



What a wonderful Christmas Story! 

This is the blurb from the book's webpage:



"When Santa’s workshop is destroyed by a ferocious storm, even the richest man in the world is stumped for a way to save Christmas.  Just when everyone seems to give up all hope, the unstumpable Ava Buttons, together with her friends, discover a way to make Christmas wishes come true.  Motivated by a desire to help others, Ava converts even her naughtiest friend, Rowdy Meyers, from an enthusiastic getter to a champion giver."  


It is a fact. Santa workshop is destroyed, all the presents are lost, and all the "Dear Santa" letters returned to the senders. Not even the richest man in the city with all his money can fix this. Christmas is not coming this year. 

Ava and her friends are incredibly sad. There must be something they can do to save Christmas. But what? Reading the returned letters, Ava realized that she can fulfill one of the wishes giving one of her toys. What if each of them do the same? Would they be able to fulfill all the wishes? They can at least try. The outcome is exceptional. The pile of presents is huge, but more important the good feeling of give to other is gigantic. So gigantic it also reaches Rowdy, the most self-interested kid at school. 



Focused in how it is more important and comforting to give than receive, this story is funny and heartwarming. It left you smiling and hopeful. It is also funny, with lovely characters, and an interesting layout. All of this without giving away Santa's identity secret. 

As you can see the cover is beautiful. This is not exactly a picture book, but more of a short story. Although there are some small illustration, these are particularly details, not full page pictures. I decide to label it for kids 5 years old and up thinking in the amount of text, and specially the amount of time it needs to be read, that probably it is too much for a toddler. 

Great story! Give it a try. 

I am a lot of sometimes

I'm a Lot of Sometimes: A Growing-up Story of Identity - Jack Guinan, Lars Rudebjer

A growing-up story of identity.

by Jack Guinan

illustrated by Lars Rudebjer

age range: 3 to 5 years old

Red Chair Press



We are not always the same way. Sometimes we are big, and sometimes we are small. Sometimes we are strong, and sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we are shy, and sometimes we are loud. That's why we are a lot of sometimes. All those sometimes is who we are. 



The text of this story is really playful, and it is easy for the kids to recognize themselves in the different situations the character goes through along the way. It also keeps the door open to add many other things the kids feel they sometimes are, but that are not in the book. In the way it is written, the book becomes plastic, workable to introduce examples of how the reader feels. I would say the best thing about I am a lot of sometimes is how easy it is to make it your own. The funny and cute illustrations perfectly fit the story. 


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



The art of the possible

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics - Edward Keenan, Julie McLaughlin

An everyday guide to politics.

by Edward Keenan

art by Julie McLaughlin

age range: 10 to 14 years old



You are a politician. This is the approach and reason for this book. Even if you are not old enough to vote, or think you don't need politics, or you choose not to pay attention to politics. Politics is the way we decide as a group how we do things. As a part of a community the decisions your make, or do not make, have an influence in the group. We need politics, and politics needs us. This is why is important to be a good politician, and that means being an informed and active member of the group.


This idea is repeated and explained along the different chapters of the book, and always in a positive way. The point is not to make the reader feel the burden of this responsibility, but understand how politics are the art of the possible. What is politics; how we decide things as a group, how do you make a good argument, and on the other hand how do you listen at other people's arguments, why conflict is good, and when it starts to be bad, how to keep all of this process honest, are some of the questions addressed by the book. The text is very accessible, and the author manages to avoid difficult or "big" words. The only few that are used are very well explained. The chapters include case studies to better illustrate how things work in real life, and at the end of the book there is also a glossary, index, and list of sources. I was surprised by the fresh and hopeful approach of this book. I am glad I crossed paths with it, and plan to buy a copy for my kids soon. Indisputable 5 stars to me.


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Agnes and Clarabelle

Agnes and Clarabelle - Adele Griffin, Courtney Sheinmel, Sara Palacios

by Adele Griffin and Courtney Sheinmel

illustrations by Sara Palacios

age range: 5 to 7 years old



Agnes and Clarabelle are best friends, and that means everything es better when they are together. This is the soul of this inspiring book. Many sweet stories talk about Agnes and Clarabelle friendship. A surprise party for Clarabelle, that Clarabelle helps to organize too. Agnes' fear of the beach, and how her friend is there to support her and accommodate the plan so everybody has a good time. Agnes' turn of being supportive comes when Clarabelle feels frightened of getting lost in a huge store. And what makes a perfect pizza? Is not the chestnut and chocolate chips toppings, but the joy of making it together. This short novel for early readers is divide in four chapter/stories called after the seasons that can be read independently. Agnes and Clarabelle are lovely characters, and their stories will make you smile. They remind me in some way the old Little Bear books, where the focus is put on the good things we can do and experience together. Agnes and Clarabelle have this kids of purity and blessedness. The illustrations are gorgeous. Look at that cover! Colorful and uncomplicated. Bright and with texture. I felt like jumping into the book! Thankfully the stories are thoroughly illustrated. Wonderful option for reading aloud at bedtime, or for independent readers. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I feel worried

I Feel Worried! Tips for Kids on Overcoming Anxiety (How to Make & Keep Friends Workbooks) (Volume 2) - Nadine Briggs, Donna Shea

Tips for kids on overcoming anxiety.

by Nadine Briggs & Donna Shea

illustrations by Ryan Flynn

age range: 7 years old and up


Written in the form of a guide, this book definitively looks like an appropriate tool for kids who have trouble controlling their unjustified worries. It starts thoroughly explaining what worrying is, how it is also known as stress, fear and anxiety, what are the symptoms we experience when we worry, how it is useful to worry when we are in danger since it make us to take action, but how it can be a problem when the worry doesn't have any other function but make us feel bad.
This explanation is followed by ways to find what causes the anxiety, and how to know if the worry is real, or if it is about something that only might happen. Many "tools" are offered so kids can find at least one that works to manage their worries: positive thoughts; relaxation through breathing, "calm scene", and "comfort zone" poster; encouragement cards; among many, many more.


I found the approach of this book, "you can be stronger than your worries", very honest and age appropriate. It is a book a kid can perfectly read by him or herself, but probably having an adult for sharing the reading, ask questions and find support is a great complement. I also find out about other titles by the authors that also address the importance of growing as an emotionally smart kid: How to make and keep friends (tips for kids and a guide for parents), and I feel mad. I'm really happy to see how mental health issues are being brought to kids in a language they can understand and relate to. Highly recommended!


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dreaming of Mocha

Dreaming of Mocha - An Swerts, Eline Van Lindenhuizen

by An Swerts

illustrations by Eline Van Lindenhuizen

age range: 4 years old and up

Clavis Books


Florence wants a dog so bad... Any dog. It doesn't matter if it is fat, or thin. Quite or wild. Florence would love to have a dog to play and take care of. Mom and dad don't think it is a good idea, so Florence dreams of finding a homeless dog. And the way sometimes happens, her dreams come true. One afternoon a sloppy dog appears in her own garden! His name is Mocha, and it is love at first sight...
At first Florence tries to hide Mocha in her bedroom, but mom finds out in no time. After that she boycotts her parents' posters in search for Mocha's owner. She changes the phone number, and even draws eyeglasses and a mustache in Mocha's picture in order to disguise him. But despite all her efforts Leon appears one day at Florence's door looking for his dog, and he is nothing like her imagined he would be. He is not a despicable person who frightens Mocha away. He is actually a sweet old man happy to find his dog, and Mocha evidently loves him. What is Florence suppose to do now?

Loving story which crushes your heart, but finally leaves you with a big smile in your face. Florence is like any other kid, and her feelings are the main theme in this book. She goes from hopeful to happy, and from nervous to sad, and even confused and guilty.
The illustrations are gorgeous, with an ideal balance between white and color, and focused in all those feelings and in Florence and Mocha relationship. Dreaming of Mocha is a book made for read and reread.


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grandma's face tells her story


by Elaine McKay

illustrated by Lynne Bendoly

age range: 3 to 5 years old

eTreasures Publishing



At bedtime, while Grandma sings a lullaby, all the girl is really interested in is the story her face tells. Grandma has spectacular dark brown eyes, and freckles in her chin. And also two little dimples in her cheeks, and a twitchy nose. She even can move her eyebrows separately! All of this tells about when grandma laughs, sneeze, whistle and frowns. 


This is such a sweet story! The girl not only observes her grandma's facial expression marks, she loves them because they tell who her grandma is. Grandma is the referee in family soccer games, because she is very good at whistling through the gap between her front teeth. Grandma puffs her cheeks at the dentist to help the girl feel relaxed. Grandma's face is the best bedtime story. 


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Animal planet strange, unusual, gross and cool animals

Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals - Animal Planet, Charles Ghigna

by Charles Ghigna

age range: 7 years old and up

Animal Planet

Time Inc. Books


Have you ever seen a vampire squid? Did you know that the proboscis monkeys are born with blue faces? Would you like to take a close look at a water dragon's eye? This book contains a huge amount of interesting things to read and learn about a wide range of animals. It is diveded in four parts, Strange, Unusual, Gross and Cool, although many animals are all these things at the same time! And the pictures are wonderful and abundant. 


I found this book surprisingly absorbing. It is all a curious kid would enjoy. The facts are punctual and concrete. The text accessible for the age range. To make the content more clear some animals are joined according to one feature, like "Venomous Creatures" or "Newly Discovered Cratures", while some other are portrayed individually for a deeper view, as in chapter such as "Thorny Dragon" or "Blue-footed booby". And again, the photography is amazing. A strange, unusual, gross and cool addition for the non fiction shelf!


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Whose poop is that?

Whose Poop Is That? - Darrin Lunde, Kelsey Oseid

by Darrin Lunde

illustrated by Kelsey Oseid

age: 4 to 7 years old



Although it might sound like an accusation, the title is actually a scientific inquiry. Using seven different animals as example, the author shows how many things we can learn from observing and studying (in the case of scientists) poop. In poop we can find bits of bones, feathers, fur, and twigs. Poop also has different appearance, shape, color depending on the animal and its diet. Sometimes something that looks like poop could be vomit, since this is another way animals waste undigested food. A list of facts at the end of the books adds some more interesting information like the importance of poop for the environment, and how it is used to build a nest, mark territory, or spread seeds. 


This topic is very interesting for kids. We all know kids love "gross stuff". The information is presented in a funny and concise way. The pictures illustrate well the differences between the different "samples" without being gross, and without distracting the attention from the nutritional and digestive facts being discussed. And the animals are cute. I really think this non fiction picture book will be a win.


By the way... I never thought I would write a review with the word "poop" so many times in it... 


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Author's faves: Melissa Iwai

I asked illustrator Melissa Iwai about her favorite picture books, and here are her picks!

Gertrude and Toby save the gingerbread man

Gertrude and Toby Save the Gingerbread Man (Gertrude and Toby Fairy-Tale Adventure Series) - Shari Tharp

#2 in the Gertrude and Toby Series

by Shari Tharp

illustrated by Jim Heath

age range: 5 to 7 years old

Atlas Publishing


Gertrude the goat, and Toby the turtle are best friend. In this second book in the series they try to help the Gingerbread Man, who is being kept in a cage by a giant who lives up in an also giant vine. They count with the help of a flying carpet, and also Hansel and Gretel. 


This book is very humorous with that kind of humor that includes as much ingenuity as absurdity. The presence of so many characters from fairy tales gives it an air of surreal too. Addressed to kids who are leveling up from the "early readers" step, the story would work great ether if it is read by or to the kid. Since I read an ARC copy, many of the illustrations were still in the sketch stage, but all of them, finished and unfinished, look really funny, with expressive characters and only the necessary details. 


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It's only me or..

It's only me or BL website is impossible today???

Pilots and what they do

Pilots and What They Do - Liesbet Slegers by Liesbet Slegers age range: 2 to 4 years old Clavis Books Airplanes are always a source of fascination for kids. There are so many things to ask about them! While telling about what pilots do, this book also guides the reader inside a plane, and instructs about how it flies. From what a pilot wears to a nice and safe landing, we meet the flight attendants and the cockpit; we read about the control tower and the runaway; we checked the fuel, wind, height and speed; we knew about seat belts, snacks and drinks; we learn about wheels and wings; and of course we enjoyed beautiful sights from above. The illustrations are simple and colorful. The page layout reminds me a books I used to read when I was a toddler, with a full picture on the right side, and a white page with the text and a small picture of a detail on the left. It is interesting. It encourage questions. It makes you feel like you learn something new and amazing. The author also plays with the idea of many kids dreaming about being pilots when they grow up. In summary, a very good non fiction picture book for little kids on a attractive topic. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
"Q: What is your idea of a good ending?

A: A good ending is inevitable, but it's also a surprise."
Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators - Leonard S. Marcus, David Wiesner

From the interview to James Marshall.

The case of maker mischief

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Maker Mischief - Liam O'Donnell, Aurélie Grand

#2 in the West Meadows Detectives

by Liam O'Donnell

ilustrated by Aurélie Grand

age range: 7 to 10 years old

Owlkids Books


Myron is a detective third grader, and Hajrah is his partner. In this second book in the series they are trying to find out who stole Robson, a robot built by their classmates, Jordan and "Glitch", for the Maker Faire Robot Maze Challenge. So far this sounds like an good mystery like many other mysteries for this age range. So, what makes this book different? 


The West Meadows Detectives series is told in first person by Myron, who happens to be in the autistic spectrum. The reader will notice from the very first pages how this is mirrored in the writing style, which is focused in the facts, without unnecessary descriptions, or needless extra words. Myron also express in many opportunities along the story how he feels about the situations in his everyday life, like noisy places, unexpected changes in the routine, or how sometimes his brain feels overloaded by the world around him. And at the same time how much he loves logic facts, and his ability to find and process clues. At the same time Hajrah happens to be hyper-energetic, with difficulties to sit or stay still, but also a great sense of how to help Myron when he feels overwhelmed by a situation. And Myron and Hajrah are not the only ones, since they are part of a neuro diverse group at the West Meadows School. The readers will also meet Sarah "Smasher" McGintley, who is a female bully bulling boys, something also uncommon to find in children's novels.


These nontraditional characters already make the story more than worthy. Now add a pinch of science, robots, coding, and challenges. Serve with black & white enjoyable pictures, that also complement the story showing the characters' body language and actions. And there you are.  A wonderful book I recommend you to try. I will keep a close eye on this series myself.


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Move it, Miss Macintosh!

Move It, Miss Macintosh! - Peggy Robbins Janousky, Meghan Lands

by Peggy Robbins Janousky

art by Meghan Lands

age range: 4 to 6 years old

Annick Press


There are many common worries on the first day of kindergarten: what if nobody likes me? What if I can't find my classroom? What if I can't open my lunch box? Even phrases like "school is not for me" and "I'm not going" are totally normal. But what if all this thoughts are coming from Miss Macintosh, the kindergarten teacher?


This book bring the "everyone's new in kindergarten" idea a little farther making the reader laugh about all this worries. I think is a great story to share with anxious future kindergartners, and even a perfect read aloud read on the first day of school as an ice breaker. Along the way the readers also meet the principal, the school bus driver, the lunch lady and many other special teachers, who in some funny way let everyone know all the amazing things that are awaiting at school. And before Miss Macintosh could even realize it, she is already loving kindergarten!


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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