Book Reviews

Book Review: The Book Tree

The Book Tree by Paul Czajak and Rashin Kheiriyeh

AUTHOR: Paul Czajak

ILLUSTRATOR: Rashin Kheiriyeh

PUBLISHER: Barefoot Books



When young Arlo accidentally drops a book on the Mayor’s head, the Mayor decides books are dangerous and destroys all the books in town! But thanks to Arlo’s imagination and perseverance, the Mayor finds that suppressing stories cannot stop them from blossoming more beautifully than ever. This timely allegorical tale will be a useful tool for starting conversations with children about the power of activism and the written word.


The Book Tree, written by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh, is one of my favorite recent reads. The lyrical language, gorgeous illustrations, an important message make this picture book a wonderful addition to the home library. There are so many moments in this book that tug at your heartstrings. Young readers will feel Arlo’s sadness when books are banished. And they will cheer him on when he brings books back to life. The Book Tree celebrates imagination and reinforces the importance of literature.

“This delicious and subversive little parable of a book, with its lyrical text and anarchic pictures, is just what we need in today’s world. It reminds us that words matter, stories matter, books matter. And it does so in a childlike (but never childish) way.”

– Jane Yolen

“My favorite part is when more people become book gardeners.” -Sophie, age 6

Rashin Kheiriyeh’s art is a perfect fit for this story. I’m a huge fan of the #kidlitwomen movement. Illustrators like Rashin Kheiriyeh should be celebrated for their brilliance. And she is brilliant.

“I like that the books from the tree are in different languages.”- Mason, age 10

The Book Tree will sprout an even greater love and appreciation for books. Read this one with the kids in your life, and encourage them to tell their own stories.

Rashin Kheiriyeh

Rashin Kheiriyeh is an internationally recognized, award-winning illustrator/author, animation director and painter who has published seventy children’s books in countries such as the United State, France, Italy, Japan,Germany, Spain, South Korea,China, Brazil, India and Iran. She has received Fifty national and international awards for the books and animations including recently being winner of the 2017 Sandak Fellow Award, New York. She was also the winner of the Bologna Book Fair, Italy for Six times and the winner of Golden Apple Award at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB), Slovakia. She has an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Illustration and MFA in Graphic design from Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran. She also studied at School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. She is a lecturer at Department of Art, University of Maryland. Rashin enjoys illustrating for the New York Times, Google and many other publication houses around the world.

Paul Czajak

Paul Czajak got an ‘F’ with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper and after that, never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. Living in Massachusetts with his wife, and two little monsters, Paul has rediscovered his passion for writing and looks forward to sharing his stories for years to come.

Learn more about Paul’s work:

Website: Includes information about school visits, resources for writers, and free coloring pages.

Follow Paul on Social media:



Kirkus  review of The Book Tree

The Book Tree book trailer

The Book Tree is available for pre-order:

Indie Bound


Barnes & Noble

Other books by Paul:

Monster Needs a Costume, Monster Needs His Sleep, Monster Needs a Christmas Tree, Monster Needs a Party, Monster Needs Your Voteand one of my absolute favorites: Seaver the Weaver.

picture books

Picture Book 10 for 10~2018

I recently engaged in a very disheartening discussion on social media about racism, privilege, and activism. As a kid lit enthusiast and parent, I believe it is vital to share books that celebrate diversity, promote acceptance, foster empathy, and applaud activism. This is my list for Picture Book 10 for 10:

1. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham

2. Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

3. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag  by Rob Sanders

4. Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee

5. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Méndez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

6. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

7. Martí’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy

8. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

9. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

10. Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter

Book Reviews

Book Review: My Pillow Keeps Moving!

My Pillow Keeps Moving! by Laura Gehl

AUTHOR: Laura Gehl

ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Weyant

PUBLISHER: Viking Books for Young Readers



A lonely man tries to buy a pillow . . . and ends up with a new best friend in this silly and sweet doggy tale, perfect for fans of Officer Buckle and Gloria.

Dogs make good pillows, don’t they?

A clever pup ends up in a cozy home, and she’ll do anything to stay there. She impersonates everything the lonely homeowner needs–a pillow, a footstool, a jacket. But in the end, being herself works best. Laura Gehl’s spare, humorous text and New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant’s expressive characters will leave young readers giggling and begging for more.


The interplay of text and art in My Pillow Keeps Moving!, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Christopher Weyant, is brilliant. Young readers are incredibly observant. Chances are kids will notice details in this book that adults won’t. I love books like this because you spend more time taking in each spread. The wordless spreads are done so well that these moments lead to little fingers interacting with the page and little voices telling adults exactly what is going on.

I love reading this book aloud. My kids think my voice for the salesperson is hilarious. His character is so perfectly cheesy. I can’t help myself.

My friends and family ask me for picture book recommendations all the time. In my writing circles, writers often ask for mentor text suggestions. Especially suggestions of funny picture books written by women. My Pillow Keeps Moving! is always at the top of my recommendation list.

The re-readability factor of this book is off the charts. The only other book that makes my kids laugh as much is Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. My ten-year-old son reads MG and mama-approved YA, but he still adores picture books. My Pillow Keeps Moving! is one of his favorites.

“The art is SO funny! The salesman is my favorite character. He’s really, really silly.” -Mason, age 10

My Pillow Keeps Moving Mason and Sophie

“I love absolutely everything about it! The cat is my second favorite character.”- Sophie, age 6

Laura Gehl

Laura Gehl is the author of ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice; HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL, AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP, and KOALA CHALLAH (all PJ Library selections); and the PEEP AND EGG series (Children’s Choice Book Award Finalist; Parents’ Choice Recommendation). Upcoming releases include I GOT A CHICKEN FOR MY BIRTHDAY (Carolrhoda/Lerner) and MY PILLOW KEEPS MOVING (Viking/Penguin Random House). A former science and reading teacher, she also writes about science for children and adults. Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children.

Laura’s most recent picture book, DELIVERY BEAR, is available for pre-order.

Learn more about Laura’s work:

Website: Includes info on free Skype visits, info on author visits, free curriculum guides, free autographed bookplates, and free activity sheets.

Follow Laura on Social media:



Excellent post about illustrator Christopher Weyant’s creative process:

The Children’s Book Review

OTHER REVIEWS of My Pilllow Keeps Moving!:


Publishers Weekly

Where to find My Pillow Keeps Moving!:

Indie Bound


Barnes & Noble

Book Reviews

Book Review: Hedgehog Needs A Hug

Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton


PUBLISHER: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers



Everyone needs hugs, even if they’re prickly.

When Hedgehog wakes up feeling down in the snout and droopy in the prickles, he knows a hug will make him feel much better. But none of his animal friends are eager to wrap their arms around Hedgehog’s prickles, and he’s too smart to fall for Fox’s sly offer.

Then Hedgehog gets a surprise: Another animal in the forest is feeling exactly the same way.

Luckily, both are kind and brave enough for the perfect hug.


The lovely language perfectly matches the gorgeous illustrations in this book. The size and layout of Hedgehog Needs a Hug is wonderful for reading to kiddos on your lap or reading to larger audiences. Jen Betton’s inviting visuals will make this one a favorite. You are sure to get a big hug every time you read Hedgehog Needs a Hug to the littles in your life.

Kids will adore the lively language.

“And hippity-skippity-scram, she was gone.”

And anticipate the refrain:

“I need a hug. Will you give me one?” 

This is one of my favorites spreads in the book. When I was discussing Hedgehog Needs a Hug with one of my writer friends, she said, “The illustrations are so sweet. Realistic, but expressive.” I couldn’t agree more.

The composition varies from page to page, drawing the reader in and moving the story forward. I love when picture books end on a sweet note. And this one did not disappoint.


“I would give hedgehog a hug!” -Sophie, age 6

“I like the inclusion of others at the end.” -Mason, age 10

The Hedgehog Needs a Hug book trailer is soft and sweet. It captures the “feeling” of the book incredibly well.

Author-illustrator Jen Betton

I love to draw and write stories for kids! In Kindergarten I got into trouble for drawing presents on a picture of Santa, and I’ve been illustrating ever since. My picture books include, TWILIGHT CHANT, written by Holly Thompson, published with Clarion, and HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, my debut as an author-illustrator, published with Putnam.

I have a BA in English from Grove City College, a BFA in Painting from the University of Central Florida, and an MFA in Illustration from Syracuse University. I also teach illustration and animation students.

My awards include third place and honorable mention in Children’s Market in the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles in 2010 and 2015, a SCBWI national mentorship award in 2012, and the portfolio grand prize at New England’s SCBWI conference in 2014.

You can find me in Dallas with my husband, chasing our two kids.

Learn more about Jen’s work:

Website: Includes a teachers guide, activity kits, printable coloring pages, Hedge-Hat Craft, Printable bookplates, hedgehog crafts, and an image discussion guide.

Hedgehog crown-Sophie
Sophie was excited to show off her HEDGE-HAT!

Follow Jen Betton on Social media:






OTHER REVIEWS of Hedgehog Needs a Hug:


Publishers Weekly

Where to find Hedgehog Needs a Hug:

Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound


Book Reviews

Book Review: La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

AUTHORS: Deborah Mills & Alfredo Alva

ILLUSTRATOR: Claudia Navarro

PUBLISHER: Barefoot Books


EXCERPT: Based on a true story! Join a young boy and his father on an arduous journey from Mexico to the United States in the 1980s to find a new life. They’ll need all the courage they can muster to safely cross the border — la frontera — and to make a home for themselves in a new land.

JACKET COPY: “Abuelo told Papa he must find a new home. ‘You must leave La Ceja and find a place where work will be plentiful and your family will flourish. Take Alfredo with you, as he is your first-born and will help you on this journey.’”


Claudia Navarro’s illustrations bring this bilingual book, based on a true immigration story, to life. The marriage of art and kid-relatable text, by Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva, draws the reader in from the first page to the last.

When I read La Frontera with my kids (ages 6 and 10) they wanted to spend extra time taking in each spread. They asked several questions and were able to emphasize with the characters. My son expressed how heartbreaking it would feel to be away from one’s family. My daughter expressed how difficult it would be to learn a new language and make new friends.

I also feel La Frontera is a great book to open a discussion about privilege. My son shared how scary it would be to cross a river and sleep outside with fire ants, scorpions, and snakes. He was also outraged to learn that Alfredo could have been picked up by “someone in a uniform” and taken back to the border without his father.

“I feel so bad for them, Mom. We are lucky because we would never have to go through any of that.”

I thought Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva brilliantly described “coyotes” for young readers. As a writer, I also appreciated story elements that were tied together later in the book. For example, the touching moment Alfredo had with his mother before he and Papa left on their journey. And Alfredo’s friendship with his donkey, Fernando, and the comfort he felt when he met the baby pig after he and Papa arrived at the “Embassy.”

“My only friend was a baby javelina, a wild pig, who wandered in one day. I think she had lost her mother. I felt like I had, too. We were both lonely, and I told her all my thoughts. She reminded me of my donkey Fernando, back home.”

The strength of the human spirit and the importance of tradition and culture are beautifully captured in this book. This illustration tugs at my heartstrings.

Sometimes my kids lose interest when we read back matter. Not in this case. The combination of maps, photographs of Alfredo’s family, and concise yet informative text kept their interest and sparked even more questions.

Our family recently moved to a bigger city. Diversity and activism are more visible for my children, which I embrace and appreciate to my core. I also try very hard to share a wide range of books with my kids. La Frontera is a perfect book to introduce the important topic of immigration to young readers. This timely book can also aid parents and teachers in discussing current events.

Learn more about La Frontera and watch the book trailer on the Barefoot Books website.

OTHER REVIEWS of La Frontera: My Journey with Papa:


School Library Journal


Foreword Reviews


Charlie Blue

Next time I will share some Naughty Charlie stories like when she jumped through our brand new tent and stole a little girl’s breakfast while we were camping. Never a dull moment!

Owyheestar Weimaraner's News

Change Happens

     ~ Here is Our Update

IMG_8500I am way overdue for a Charlie Blue update! Our lives have changed quite a bit in the last year. We got an English Bulldog puppy and moved from Boise to Seattle.

Charlie despised Bosa when we first brought him home. Bosa is almost a year old now. Charlie tolerates him, but he’s still not her favorite.

She prefers to snuggle with our kiddos and our cat, Ish. Charlie has made new friends in Seattle and she loves the ocean. I will never forget the moment when she first encountered waves. But some things never change.

She still loves retrieving, swimming, racing in snow, finding birds (even when we aren’t hunting), going on fishing and camping trips, running free, stealing food, ripping up pillows, and hogging the bed.

I create a photo collage of Charlie for her birthday every year. I…

View original post 46 more words

bookmobiles · library

Making a Difference on the Bookmobile


I couldn’t contain my excitement when I was offered a position to work on the Bells for Books bookmobile for the Garden City Public Library.

Two of my favorite things: kids and kid lit. What a dream job!


I started in January of 2017, but we happened to have one of the most extreme Idaho winters in history. My kiddos were excited to have so many snow days, but I was anxious to get out on the bus and start making a difference.


I worked on behind the scenes stuff while I waited for safe driving conditions. This consisted of processing new books and donations, repairing books, and withdrawing books beyond repair. One of my favorite things was reading personal notes on the end pages of donated books. These books were special to the initial reader and would be special once again to young patrons who checked them out.

The purpose of the bookmobile was to offer children access to books and get them excited about reading. Many of these kids did not own books or were unable to visit a library. We did not issue library cards or require fines for late or damaged books. We just wanted them to read!

We distributed snacks, hats and mittens, and backpacks with school supplies. We also ran a reading incentive program in the winter, facilitated STEM activities in the summer, and participated in fun events like Touch a Truck and Trunk or Treat.


Patrons referred to the bookmobile as THE BUS, but we had a more personal name for him. The kids were thrilled when Thomas received his monster makeover, which would not have been possible without a generous grant from the Greater Boise Area Rotary Foundation.

Working on the bookmobile was a perfect fit for me because I only read kid lit! The kids loved that I was able to honestly recommend a wide range of picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA novels. We also compiled a wishlist. I searched for requested titles in our office. We would try to purchase them with our budget if we didn’t have them, or if we needed more copies of a popular title. Sometimes I would bring personal books from home that my kids had already read a bazillion times.

My kids were able to visit me every week on the bookmobile because one of the stops was near our house. Their friends thought it was pretty cool that their mom drove the big blue bus.

The most rewarding aspect of this job was getting to know the kids. We were greeted with huge smiles every time we pulled up to a stop. Sometimes the kids would even jump for joy on the sidewalk as soon as they saw Thomas. The kids told me jokes, talked about school, and shared intimate stories about their lives.

One of the most difficult parts of this job was when children moved away. A girl wrote her name on a piece of paper and gave it to me so I would “always remember” her. Kids hugged me, drew me pictures, and even gifted me their favorite stuffed animals.

It was even more difficult when it was my turn to move. My husband accepted an excellent job opportunity in Seattle, so I had to say goodbye to Thomas and the kids. I cried on my last day. Several times.

The library staff threw me a little going away party.


Lucky for me some of my co-workers used to live in the Seattle area. They recommended places to explore with my family. I already couldn’t wait to visit the Seattle Public Library.

At the end of the party, our library director told me that I changed these kids’ lives and they would remember me.

I hope she’s right.


Did you visit a bookmobile when you were a child? Do you have a bookmobile in your community? I’d love to hear about it!

Learn more about the Bells for Books mobile literacy program!

Check out this blog post by Chronicle BooksA Brief History of Bookmobiles in America!