The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The day he starts school, a young boy falls in love for the very first time. Sylvia sits in front of him at school, and he’s so in love with her, she’s all he can see. But sadly, Sylvia doesn’t see him. In fact, it seems the only thing Sylvia has eyes for is birds. There are birds on her pants and dresses. She wears bird barrettes in her hair. She draws birds on her notebooks and folders. And when she speaks, her voice sounds like birdsong. So in a bold attempt to get Sylvia’s attention, the boy decides to go to school dressed up as a bird. He endures the stares and giggles of his classmates, and a great deal of discomfort, but the boy doesn’t care. Because when it comes to love, sometimes you have no choice but to follow your heart and spread your wings.

In this sweetly funny picture book, Ingrid Chabbert perfectly captures the emotional essence of a child’s first love. The boy’s voice as narrator is realistic and endearing as he engagingly and honestly shares the wonder of his experience. With imagination and gentle humor, Guridi uses spare lines in mostly black and white drawings to tenderly express the poignant heart of the story. This book offers a terrific exploration of young children’s self-discovery and self-expression, as well as the early development of social skills. It makes a wonderful read-aloud to launch a classroom discussion about relationships and feelings.

There’s nothing like feeling a crush for the first time.

I was pleased with how well I got to know the main character even though the narrator never revealed his name. This is a difficult thing to accomplish, especially in a children’s picture book where there often isn’t a ton of room for character development in general. Ms. Chabbert used the time she had wisely, though, and I felt like I knew the main character’s personality really well by the end of his experiment.

The ending was a disappointment. The plot spent so much time building up to what would happen when Sylvia noticed his costume that I was expecting it would keep that energy going through the last scene. When I read the final page, I was surprised by how abruptly it had ended and how little closure I felt about what I’d just read. If not for this issue, I would have chosen a higher rating as I loved the beginning and middle of it.

One of the things that first attracted me to this tale was how the main character was going to go through an ordinary school day while wearing such a bulky costume. There were all sorts of practical questions I had about how a kid would do everything from spend his time at recess to react to bad weather while wearing a bird costume. I liked the fact that the narrator spent so much time showing how this all worked once the boy was at school and didn’t have his parents or other relatives around to help him.

The Day I Became a Bird was a heartwarming look at a child’s first crush.

Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino


Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudino
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (209 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Seventeen-year-old travel blogger CC is stuck on a never-ending road trip with her wanderlust-addicted father. When her dad lands the job of his dreams in Sugar Lump—wedding capital of the world—CC finally finds a place to call home. Complete with two quirky best friends and a quixotic guy to crush on, Sugar Lump is more shades of perfect than she can possibly count. But when CC accidentally overhears the mayor complaining that she has to “take out” a rogue employee for not fulfilling the terms of his contract, the idyllic town’s facade crumbles. Devastated by the possibility of having to move yet again, CC discovers everyone has been keeping a massive secret from her—including her own father.

Many communities have secrets, but most of them aren’t quite as big as the ones hidden in Sugar Lump.

The town of Sugar Lump honestly sounded like the perfect place to live when I was first introduced to it. I adored how friendly and helpful everyone was, especially when it came to helping new residents settle in and figure out all of the little quirks that make every community unique. This kind of genuine hospitality only made the events later on in this tale even more unsettling than they would have otherwise been.

It took a very long time for the plot to develop past the point of introducing the characters and exploring the idyllic community they seemed to be living in. As much as I liked getting to know CC and her friends, it wasn’t easy to stay interested in what was happening to them because of how slowly everything was moving. I started reading with the expectation that I’d love this book, so I was surprised and disappointed by how much I had to struggle to keep reading it.

CC was an interesting girl. I liked the fact that she was so oblivious to the thought that something odd might be happening in the town she’d just moved to. While there were definitely times when I wanted to text her and ask her how in the world she could accept everything she heard and saw without questioning it, this part of her personality wasn’t something that she could easily change. Her sometimes naive approach to life did have its endearing side.

Sugar Lump should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a slow-burning mystery.

Regen by Cassie Greutman


Regen by Cassie Greutman
Publisher: Greutman Media
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (326 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Life is finally shaping up for Trisha. For the first time, she’s with a foster family she doesn’t hate. Her new school is decent, and she even has a boyfriend. Until the night she finds herself waking up in the woods covered in blood, a bullet hole in her dress. Without her fae abilities, she’d be dead, but now the Faerie Council has given her an ultimatum. She has to help find an escaped fugitive, or be taken to Faerie, a place her missing mother told her horror stories about. Now, Trish has to keep her day job a secret from her foster parents, join forces with the ex-boyfriend who killed her, and hunt down a dangerous criminal before he comes into his powers. Should be a piece of cake.

Trisha has been abandoned by her mother and gone through a multitude of foster homes – and she actually likes her latest foster parents. Her dark secret is that she is a fae and part of being fae means she heals really quickly, although now she has been killed. To her surprise she regenerates. I presume this is where the title of the book comes from, although it is not very clear at first.

The book is reasonably written and the story flows well although there are a few unbelievable events when her foster parents read her the riot act, then give in without a murmur. The ending left a lot of loose ends which I found very irritating. The idea is a good one, but it did not go deep enough or follow through on hints about her past which makes it an incomplete story.

I liked the theme of the story, quest to find a criminal; only Trisha can help; several false leads. On the whole, it was pleasant read and quite a good story.

My New Mom & Me by Renata Galindo


My New Mom and Me by Renata Galindo
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A heartwarming “tail” about adoption, diversity, and acceptance that’s perfect for young readers!

Told from the point of view of a puppy who is adopted by a cat, this gentle and reassuring tale is perfect for very young readers and listeners.

When the puppy comes to live with his new mom, he is nervous. After all, his mom has stripes and he doesn’t. But his mom says she likes that they look different, and soon the puppy likes it, too. (And who cares what anyone else thinks!)

The puppy’s new mom does all the things other parents do. She plays with him, takes care of him, and sometimes even makes him mad! But that’s okay, because when he’s feeling sad, she knows just what to say.

Adoption is complicated sometimes, but talking about it always helps.

One of the things I liked the most about this book was that the main character was old enough to understand what was happening when he was moved to a new home. Most adoption stories talk about infants, not older children who can have conversations about all of the changes in their lives and feel complex emotions about their new parent or parents.

I would have like to see more development of the plot. There were a few fascinating references to other animals staring unkindly at this unconventional family and to the puppy wishing his fur was the same color as his mom’s fur. Both of these issues would be great topics for exploring what it means to be a family and why some children aren’t the same race as their foster or adoptive parents, so I was surprised by the fact that the author didn’t spend more time showing how these things affected the puppy and how he learned to adjust to his new home.

The cat was such a nurturing parent to her son. She always reassured the puppy when he had questions about the differences between them or when he needed to know that her love for him was unconditional. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better parent for this shy little puppy. She did a wonderful job of helping him to adjust to his new family and react appropriately to anyone who didn’t understand how a dog could call a cat his mother.

I’d recommend My New Mom & Me to anyone who is part of a family that stands out in a crowd for any reason.

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer


A Hippy-Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

From the illustrator of the award-winning Sophie’s Squash comes a rollicking read-aloud featuring a very tiny toad who gets displaced as animals–and humans–brush past him on the road.

In the middle of a puddle
in the middle of a road
on a teeter-totter twig
sat a teeny-tiny toad.
Snap! went the twig!
Up went the toad!
And he landed on a tree
by the side of the road.

It’s hard to be a tiny toad minding your own business on a twig. First a bird pecks at him. . . . Then a bee buzzes. . . . Then a dog barks . . . and so on. And each time the toad is surprised by a buzz or a woof (or the toe of a sneaker!), he hops to a new location farther down the road. With fun sounds, clever rhymes, and an irresistible rhythm, this is the perfect story for sharing one-on-one or in a group.

Anything can happen to tiny toads who climb onto sticks that can’t support their weight.

All of the plants and animals in this ecosystem lived in perfect harmony. Until the toad began accidentally flying through the air, their patch of land was a peaceful and quiet place for everyone to live. The fact that the toad honestly never meant to disrupt any of the things his neighbors were doing only made me more curious to see what kind of mischief he might find himself in next.

I wish that this tale had explained why the twig in the opening scene snapped. That action set all of the frog’s future adventures into motion, so it was surprising to me to see it happen without any explanation as to why it occurred. If it had included an explanation, I would have given it a much higher rating. Everything else about it was catchy and worth reading over and over again.

The rhymes were seriously adorable. I especially liked the section that talked about the tiny toad tumbling to a flower in the park by the road. The imagery in that line made me giggle with joy, and I liked the way the author rhymed common words together like that while still finding a creative way to fit everything into her tale. It was even more fun to read out loud than it was to read silently to myself.

A Hippy-Hoppy Toad should be read by anyone who likes stories that are full of friendly rhymes.

Black Panther Little Golden Book by Frank Berrios


Black Panther Little Golden Book by Frank Berrios
Publisher: Golden Books
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (24 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Marvel’s Black Panther springs to life in his first ever action-packed Little Golden Book!

Meet Marvel’s Black Panther! As an Avenger, this super hero uses his strength, speed, and unbreakable claws to pounce evil-doers! Boys and girls ages 2-5 will love this action-packed Little Golden Book as they learn about the Black Panther–from his Wakandan origins to his powers as well as his friends and foes.

Whether you’re visiting Wakanda again or for the first time, now is always the right moment to explore it.

My favorite scene was the one that showed how Black Panther rescued innocent people who were in danger as a result of the dangerous decisions his antagonists made. One of the reasons why I like this superhero so much has to do with how hard he works to save everyone who crosses his path even if he has to put himself in serious danger to do it. That’s an admirable thing to do, and it was explored well in this storybook.

I would have liked to see more time being spent developing the plot of this story. It did an excellent job of describing who Black Panther was and why he was so powerful, but there wasn’t a lot of energy being devoted to giving this character a villain to fight or a problem to solve. I started reading with the assumption that I’d love this tale just like I loved the film, so it was disappointing to have so little substance to work with.

The best section was the one that described where Black Panther’s abilities came from. They weren’t something he was born with or developed after being bitten by a radioactive spider, so finding out that piece of his past was a little more involved than it would be for some of the other super heroes out there.

Black Panther Little Golden Book is a thorough introduction to this superhero for readers who don’t know anything about him at all.

Small Saul by Ashley Spires


Small Saul by Ashley Spires
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

From the creator of Binky the Space Cat, a hilarious story about an unconventional little pirate.

Ahoy there! Will this sweet little pirate find his place aboard The Rusty Squid or will he be forced to walk the plank?

When Small Saul joins the crew of The Rusty Squid, it doesn’t take long for the other pirates to notice something is very different about this tiny fellow. He was born to sing sea shanties, bake pineapple upside down cakes and redecorate, not to hold a sword and plunder. Being rough and tough just isn’t in his nature.

Small Saul learned at Pirate College that pirates only care about three things: their ship, being tough and lots and lots of treasure. Can Small Saul show these ruffians that despite his gentle spirit, he’s worth his weight in gold? With treasure chests of laughs, Small Saul’s high-seas adventure is a light-hearted celebration of individuality, perseverance and being true to one’s self.

If you’ve ever struggled to fit in, keep reading.

This story had so much compassion for kids who have quirky personalities or interests. Small Saul was far more interested in cooking delicious food than he was in being aggressive, and that was only one of the many ways in which he was nothing at all like his peers. I loved seeing the friendly way the narrator treated this character and, by extension, all of the young kids hearing this tale who had their own special ways of relating to the world. There is enough room in the world for every type of personality to flourish, and Ms. Spires did a very good job at making Saul a relatable and wonderful role model for his audience.

I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to why Saul decided to be a pirate in the first place. While the plot did briefly talk about why this character picked a job that was so wildly different from his interests in life, I was surprised by how many other aquatic careers that might have suited him better weren’t even considered when Saul was deciding what he wanted to do with his life. With that being said, this was a minor criticism of a tale that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed the humorous side of being an unconventional pirate. Saul’s shipmates seriously didn’t know what to make of him when he first began sailing with them. He was a kind, sensitive guy who didn’t care about sword fights or stealing treasure. They were stereotypical pirates in every way, from their stinky living quarters to their obsession with becoming wealthy one day. The sharp contrast between him and them lead to several funny moments that made me giggle out loud.

Small Saul should be read by people of all ages who love pirates or who dance to the beat of their own drum.

Larf by Ashley Spires


Larf by Ashley Spires
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

No one believes Larf exists, and he likes it that way. Larf, you see, is a sasquatch, the only sasquatch in the world (or so it seems). He has a very pleasant, and very private, life in the woods, where on any given day he might be found jogging, gardening or walking Eric, his pet bunny. But everything changes one morning when Larf discovers that another sasquatch is scheduled to make an appearance in the nearby city of Hunderfitz. What?! That must mean he’s not the only sasquatch in the world!

Excited by the prospect of having a friend to share hair grooming tips with (and let’s face it, teeter-tottering alone is no fun), Larf disguises himself as a city slicker and heads for Hunderfitz — where he’s in for a couple enormous surprises.

Ashley Spires once again shows her chops for creating irresistible, quirky characters and laugh-aloud stories and illustrations. Readers with little feet and big feet will fall head over heels for Larf.

Even sasquatches get lonely sometimes.

Larf was a such a lovable character. His anxiety about possibly meeting another member of his kind was completely understandable. Seeing him worry about what other members of his kind would be like also made it easy to empathize with him. I wanted nothing more than for him to have a good time and for all of his concerns to turn out to not be true after all.

The only thing I didn’t like about this story was its ending. While the beginning and middle were written nicely, the final scene didn’t give me the sense of closure I was hoping to get from it. It simply happened and then left me wondering what the characters might have done next. It would have been nice to either stretch that scene out by another page or spend more time building up to it earlier on in the plot.

I’ve been interested in sasquatches for almost as long as I can remember. Ms. Spires’ theories about what these creatures are like were as adorable as they were imaginative. I really enjoyed seeing how she imagined what life would be like for Larf. His days in the forest were spent doing everything from caring for his pet rabbit to reading the newspaper. He was so human-like that I could totally understand why humans would want to see him for themselves.

Larf made me smile. I’d recommend it to anyone who has ever worried about the future.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer


Fairest by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles 3.5-Levana’s Story

Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (220 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Poinsettia

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death.

Who is Queen Levana?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Levana as the woman who terrorizes Cinder and her band of heroes in her pursuit of world domination, but who is the woman behind the veil? What is her story? Was she always so cruel? The first three books in the series provide very little insight into Levana’s character, but Ms. Meyer drops tantalizing clues throughout the series concerning Levana and her history. My curiosity was piqued and I jumped at the opportunity to read more about this enigmatic character.

I knew before I began reading that Levana’s tale would not be a happy one, but I had no idea just how tragic it would be. Her parents neglected her and her monstrous older sister, Channery, abused her. Even after I learned this, I still have little sympathy for Levana, but I have a better understanding of her motives and the dynamics of her relationships with other characters in the series. Reading this book made Levana more than just a typical evil queen. It made her very realistic.

It is rare to come across a villain as complex and developed as Levana. She is a truly twisted individual who uses her exceptional talent with glamor to manipulate and control those around her, even those she professes to love. There are many times in Levana’s life when she was at a crossroads, and she consistently made bad decisions. Levana deludes herself into believing she is better than Channery. However, I think Levana is actually worse in some ways. At least Channery didn’t try to disguise her actions under the guise of being for the greater good.

It was interesting to finally learn more about Lunar culture, and I have to say it is pretty disturbing. I understand how villains like Levana and Channery could emerge from a world like that. I still would like to know more about the origins of the Lunars’ power and why some are born without it as well as how Lunar society developed.

I highly recommend fans of the Lunar Chronicles read Fairest. Levana’s story is intriguing and adds depth to this captivating series.

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes


Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A stumpy tail, mismatched paws, a long, drooly snout and the biggest dog heart that ever beat. In a celebration of what makes a pet unique, a little girl imagines how an odd assortment of parts combined to make the perfect dog.

With spare, inviting text from Alison Hughes and charmingly offbeat illustrations by award-winning illustrator Ashley Spires, this gorgeous picture book is sure to be an instant classic.

Mixed-breed dogs need love, too!

Some of the best scenes were the ones that showed how the main character’s dog reacted to her when she was feeling many different kinds of emotions. Her pet obviously cared about her quite a bit. His emotions often matched hers no matter if she was happy or sad. That special relationship between a kid and their dog is like nothing else on Earth, and it was described well in this tale.

The main character’s descriptions of her dog in beginning of this book were a little too negative for my tastes. I especially didn’t like the way she talked about his “odd, tubby, stubby body” when she was first introducing him to the audience. There was also a scene later on when she said some unflattering things about his intelligence. Not every dog is going to be a traditionally cute and clever pet, but I never would have described any of my childhood dogs so harshly.

With that being said, the tone of the plot changed quite a bit as it progressed. Once the main character started talking about her dog’s sparkling personality, I perked up. She clearly loved him quite a bit, and it showed. They were best friends who spent as much time as possible together. Seeing her focus on all of the positive aspects of her pet later on was refreshing.

Spare Dog Parts should be read by anyone who has a dog who turned out to be perfect for them.