Silver

Rachel dreams of racing huskies, just like her father. So when she gets a tiny puppy for her birthday, she names him Silver for his shiny coat and vows that he will be the fastest lead dog in Alaska. But one day, Silver disappears. Rachels sets out to find him, following the tracks of a large animal into the forest. Snow begins to fall. An eerie howling breaks the silence. Then Rachel realizes she is tracking a wolf, that she is all alone, and that night is falling. 

Silver brings the harsh Alaskan winter to life. Through Rachel’s daily life, readers will be able to imagine the winter weather, the isolation, and the importance of huskies. Since the story is told from Rachel’s point of view, there is little suspense or action. Even though dogsledding is an important part of Rachel’s life, there is very little action pertaining to the dogs. The pace doesn’t pick up until the end of the book when Rachel realizes that Silver is missing. Since there is so little action, some readers may struggle to read the entire book.  

While Silver was written for young readers, the difficult vocabulary and mature tone may make Silver difficult for some readers. However, the format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and the books allow readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.  

Readers interested in dog sledding or learning more about Alaska will enjoy Silver. While the story lacks action, Rachel is a caring girl who loves dogs and takes good care of Silver. Plus, her two-parent family is shown in a positive light. Readers craving a more action-packed book that features dog sledding may want to check out Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Those interested in learning more facts about dogs and how they help humans should add Dog Heroes by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Sweep

On a windy fall night, a young boy named Ed looks over his town. He has a broom in hand and is standing atop a towering mountain of leaves. The day began with him sweeping leaves, but below his mountain are all the other things he seemed to have collected along the way, including dogs, cats, bicycles, cars, buses, people, and buildings.   

The story of Sweep starts when a single leaf in the wind hits Ed’s face, causing him to trip over a broom. This puts Ed in a bad mood, but unlike all the bad moods he’s had before, this one grows and grows until he is ragefully sweeping every leaf around him into one large pile. His bad mood convinces him to go on, not accounting for all the animals, vehicles, or people in his way. Ed knows he is taking things too far. He even knows that if he looked up from the ground, he would see all the beautiful balloons, birds, and kites above it. But his bad mood is not satisfied until he has swept up his whole town. 

By the end of the day, there are no flowers left and the birds have stopped singing. Ed is tired, hungry, and questioning if he can really stop sweeping after going through all this trouble. As he ponders this, his bad mood begins to lift and a strong gust of wind picks up every person and thing in his pile. Not only does the wind put everything back to normal, but Ed believes the town looks even better than it did before.  

The wind gently lands a kite in front of Ed, who, finally looking up from the ground, flies it high in the air. He notices the beauty of all the other kites around him. The next time Ed finds himself in a bad mood, he makes sure to think twice and ask himself if there is a way to process it in a more constructive way. 

Sweep is a smart and funny story that teaches a valuable lesson about learning to process your feelings. The book has one to five sentences per page, making it a fast read. Readers of all ages will also enjoy the book’s art style, which makes use of bleaker autumn shades such as beige, gray, brown, and crimson during Ed’s rampage through his town and uses a wide spectrum of bright, vivid colors when his spirit lifts. The items and characters that amass in Ed’s constantly growing pile guarantee a laugh on every page, and the pile’s mountainous final form is full of clever gags and details for eagle-eyed readers to spot upon repeated readings. 

Younger readers will relate to Ed’s impulse to lash out when he’s in a bad mood. Plus, his journey will help them to understand the harmful nature of being negative. By reading Sweep, readers will also learn how to evaluate and express their feelings in a way that is beneficial to themselves and others. Readers who enjoy Sweep should also read Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, a sweet book that shows how one man’s grumpy mood changes when he meets an unexpected friend.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Carpenter’s Gift

One Christmas night, Henry sits in his house and thinks blissfully back to a special day in 1931. He was a child then, growing up during the Great Depression. The historical downturn left a significant impact on his family. His family lived in a small house, and both of his parents were out of work. They struggled to afford coal for the stove or blankets for the beds. Henry kept an optimistic mind, and occupied himself with thoughts of warm, magical places.  

On Christmas Eve of that year, Henry was surprised to see his father arrive at the house in a big rental truck. He calls for Henry to come along, and the two happily drive to a nearby forest to cut down its evergreen trees and stack them onto the back of the truck. When Henry asks why, his father joyfully replies that they’re going to New York City to sell Christmas trees. 

The thought of being in a big city like New York excites Henry, and he is immediately fascinated by Midtown Manhattan. Henry’s father parks the truck beside a construction site and asks a worker if they can set up shop there. Acknowledging the pair’s situation, the worker agrees. What follows is a heartfelt story of generosity and hope in the hardest of times. 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a sweet holiday tale that spans several generations before arriving at the message that there is no better present than kindness. Henry searches time and again for the warm, magical moments he dreams of, and finds that these moments are produced not by magic but by simple acts of giving. 

The warm atmosphere of the book is strengthened by its lavish, impressionistic illustrations that are passionately drawn in the beautiful colors of each season. The illustrator makes several uses of double-page illustrations to portray the sheer scale and beauty of the evergreen trees. The story is told with simple, easy vocabulary, and readers can expect four to ten sentences on each page.  

The Carpenter’s Gift is guaranteed to satisfy all readers who celebrate Christmas and is a comforting read for those looking for a warm story this winter season. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

by Luke McClain 

Leif and the Fall

Leif is a small green leaf who lives in a tall oak tree. Being a leaf means being attached to a tree, but Leif doesn’t mind. He loves the view from his branch and getting to spend time with his best friend, Laurel. As the breeze gets harsher and the days get shorter, Leif realizes that it’s nearly fall. Leif has never seen fall, but its arrival worries him, as he knows that fall is the time when all leaves fall from their trees. Leif doesn’t want to be like all leaves. With the help of Laurel, he hatches a plan to catch himself. 

Leif and the Fall is a fun and pleasant read for the young reader who doesn’t let others tell them who they are and what they are capable of. It is also a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and surrounding yourself with the right people. While the other leaves mock and discourage Leif’s plan, Leif persists in his goal and chooses to surround himself with supportive friends like Laurel. While none of Leif’s plans work in the way he intended, the story tells a thoughtful message that all your hard work and skills will inevitably help you in some way, as all of Leif’s discarded contraptions form a pile big enough to soften his and Laurel’s fall. 

The book’s short and sweet story is well-matched with simple, charming illustrations.  The leaves are softly colored in shades of green, yellow, brown, and gray. Faces are drawn to personify them, while their stems are drawn as their arms and legs. The pages have blank backgrounds that are either white or colored with muted autumn shades. Readers can enjoy a second read-through to spot all the insects hiding on the tree’s branches. Each page has one to seven short sentences and easy vocabulary that makes it easy to understand for beginning readers.  

Leif and the Fall is an excellent book for young nature lovers and fans of autumn. Apart from being an enjoyable story, it is sure to help younger readers as they learn the importance of creativity, self-expression, and positive friendships. Readers ready to snuggle up with another fall-themed picture book with a positive message should add Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content:

  • None 

Violence: 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol: 

  • None 

Language: 

  • None 

Supernatural: 

  • None 

Spiritual Content: 

  • None

Snow

Everyone loves snow! It’s fun to play in and makes wonderful snowmen. But where does snow come from? The answer is at your fingertips. Just open this book and explore the wonders of snow. 

Readers will follow an unnamed girl who spends a day out in the snow. Between scenes of the young girl and her dog, information is given about how snow is formed, why it falls to the ground and the different types of snow. Readers will also learn how “snow melts into puddles, intro rivers, into lakes, and gives the earth a fresh, cool drink.” The last page includes six additional facts about snow. 

Each page has large illustrations with a blue sky in the background; this allows the white snow to show up clearly. Throughout the story, the girl makes a snowman, plays in a puddle, skates on a frozen pond, and sleds with her dog. However, she never smiles and in some of the pictures, she looks cold and miserable. This contrasts with the story’s theme, “while winter is here, snow makes the cold world beautiful and so much fun!” 

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level 1 Series, Snow tells a simple story through longer sentences. Some of the sentences begin on one page and end on another. However, each page only has 1 to 2 sentences that use simple vocabulary. Each page’s illustration matches the words on the page and helps explain some of the facts, such as “clouds are crystals of ice.” 

Snow uses a blend of storytelling and informational reading to teach young readers about the attributes and importance of snow. While the story lacks entertainment value, readers interested in snow will enjoy learning new facts. Readers ready to snuggle up with a snowy book should also read Max & Mo Make a Snowman by Patricia Lakin. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Fox Versus Winter

Fox does not like winter. None of his friends are around to play. He tries to make new friends with the other snow animals, but they’re not as fun as his other friends. So, he is still bored and alone. Then, Fox has an idea. If he cannot escape winter, he will fight it!

Fox’s story is told through adorable pictures that have a hint of humor. For example, when Fox goes to find his friends, Bear is cuddled up with a teddy bear and Frog is in a comfortable bed covered in leaves. Each page has 2 to 3 simple sentences that include word repetition. As a My First I Can Read Book, Fox Versus Winter is perfect to read to your little one because the story uses basic language, word repetition, and has large illustrations on each page.

Young readers will fall in love with Fox and want to read Fox Versus Winter again and again. Readers will relate to Fox, who just wants to play with someone. In the end, Rabbit tells Fox how to relieve his boredom. Rabbit says, “In winter I like to be alone. I like to sit still and listen.” The cute story shows how friends can enjoy being together even in silence. If you’re ready to snuggle up with a blanket, a book, and your child, Fox Versus Winter is an entertaining book choice. If you’re ready for more winter fun, add A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise

It’s springtime in Vermont, and Keeker and Plum have discovered all kinds of surprising things on the farm. Keeker finds a baby bird on the lawn. Plum has a new roly-poly family of groundhogs living in her field. But the biggest surprise of all is the discovery that Keeker’s mom’s horse is going to have a baby. With all of the excitement, Keeker and Plum get tired of being ignored. Keeker decides staging a play will be just the thing to win back her parents’ attention, and the play’s ending is even more exciting than Plum or Keeker could have imagined!

Get ready for some springtime silliness as Keeker and Plum help a family of groundhogs. Readers will relate to Keeker, who feels like her parents only care about their horse, who is going to deliver a foul any day. Keeker’s frustration of being ignored is balanced by the comic way Plum tries to hide the groundhogs from “Keeker’s dad [who] didn’t like groundhogs at all; he always yelled and waved his arms at them.”

With cute baby animals, a silly horse, and a determined protagonist, young readers will enjoy Keeker and the Springtime Surprise. The story has a relatable conflict and a healthy family unit. However, one negative aspect of the story is Keeker’s attention-seeking behavior. For example, once when her parents weren’t giving her attention, Keeker “lay down on the ground and worked up a gigantic tantrum. . .she sobbed, flailing her arms around” and later she “stamped her foot a little.”

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise is told in five short chapters and has a simple plot. Large black and white illustrations appear on almost every page. The illustrations will help younger readers visualize the characters and events in the story. Beginning readers will need help with some of the more advanced vocabulary such as absentmindedly, clanky, and eventually.

The Sneaky Pony Series will appeal to young readers who will laugh at Keeker’s wild imitation. The story’s plot jumps around, and young readers will not understand the reference to Don Quixote. However, the conclusion is sweet and happy for everyone, including the hedgehogs. If you’re looking for a book with a more positive protagonist, Maggie and the Flying Horse by E.D. Baker would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • When the horse, Pansy, is getting ready to have a baby, Plum “hoped being pregnant wasn’t something you could catch, like a cold.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Keeker gives Plum a hug, the horse says, “Stop strangling me, you crazy girl!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Uni Brings Spring

Uni lives in the forest where she loves to visit her animal friends. Spring has finally arrived, and the animals are enjoying the warm air. But then a winter storm blankets everything in snow. All the forest animals are cold and hungry. How can Uni help her friends?

Readers will fall in love with Uni, a kind-hearted unicorn who wants to help her friends. One of the best attributes of Uni is her caring nature. When her friends are cold, Uni realizes that magic cannot solve the problem. However, Uni finds other ways to help her friends such as helping Robin put more leaves in her nest and helping a baby bear find his mother. The happy conclusion highlights how Uni’s actions helped her friends.

The contrast between the seasons becomes apparent through the full-page illustrations. Each page that illustrates spring has bright, cheerful colors. But when the snowstorm hits, the illustrations are predominantly white and blue-grey. Every page has 1 to 3 short sentences that readers will need to sound out.

Uni Brings Spring is perfect for young readers familiar with sight words. However, parents may need to help their child with unfamiliar words. All animal lovers will enjoy seeing Uni help others. Young readers who love unicorns should also read the Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnel.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Uni finds a magical icicle that caused winter to come back. “Uni’s horn can handle this icicle. One touch of Uni’s horn makes the icicle glow. Now rainbows dance on the cave walls.” Winter leaves.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Frosted Kisses

Former Manhattan girl, Penny, has quickly discovered that life in a small town is never dull. Not when there’s a festival for every occasion, a Queen Bee to deal with, an animal shelter to save, and a cute boy to crush on.

But Hog’s Hallow just got another new girl: Esmeralda. She’s beautiful, French, and just happens to be Charity’s (the Queen Bee’s) best friend. Penny figures with the arrival of Esmeralda, the Queen Bee might be too busy to keep making her life miserable. Penny couldn’t be more wrong.

But Penny doesn’t have a lot of time to worry about Charity. Her best friend, Tally, has recruited her to help save the local animal shelter, which is in danger of closing unless they can raise some desperately needed funds.

Then there’s Marcus, the adorable and mysterious boy that Penny thinks might likes her as much as she likes him. But while things with Marcus are wonderful and fluttery, they are also confusing at the same time. Can Penny and her friends save the animal shelter, navigate her new family dynamics, and get the boy—or will Charity and Esmeralda find a way to ruin everything?

While The Cupcake Queen was a cute romance that would appeal to middle school readers, the second book Frosted Kisses falls flat. Much of the story follows the exact same format as the first book and none of the characters are given any more depth. In addition, there are too many topics—divorce, jealousy, bullying, and parental problems. None of these topics are fully explored. Instead, the story jumps from topic to topic and leaves the reader with too many questions.

In The Cupcake Queen, Penny’s insecurity was understandable because she had just moved to a new town and her parents had recently separated. However, in the second installment of the story, she is still insecure, this time focusing her insecurities on Marcus. Penny’s jealousy and inability to talk to Marcus are frustrating. In addition, the fact that Marcus and Penny do not talk or spend any time together at school is unrealistic.

Frosted Kisses is a holiday-themed romance that doesn’t add any sparkle to the season. Instead, Hepler writes a stagnant story that relies on a typical mean-girl, love-triangle format. There is nothing exciting or wonderful to keep the story interesting. While readers will enjoy the first installment in the series, Frosted Kisses will leave readers disappointed. If you’re looking for a holiday-themed story to read while snuggling up by the fire, the Celebrate the Season Series would make an excellent choice.

Sexual Content

  • Penny wonders if Marcus is going to kiss her, but they are interrupted before anything happens. Penny thinks, “As much as I think I would want Marcus to kiss me, part of me isn’t sure I’m ready. Because there’s this tiny part of me that likes looking forward to it.”
  • Someone tells Penny that Marcus and Charity kissed “a few times last summer.” Penny gets upset and all she “can think of is him kissing her. And I know it was before I knew him and it shouldn’t bother me, but it does.”
  • Penny’s grandmother tells her a story about Dutch, who she dated in the past. When the two rekindle their romance, Penny’s grandmother kisses him several times.
  • At a festival, Marcus “bends and brushes his lips against mine [Penny’s]. And everything falls away.”
  • After Marcus walks Penny home, she kisses him. “I have to stand on my tiptoes to reach. It’s fast and I might have actually missed his mouth a tiny bit, but it was a kiss.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Several times a mean girl calls Penny, “Penny Lame.” The same girl also refers to Penny as a loser.
  • At one point Penny says, “I’m an idiot.”
  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Marcus tells Penny he is going to be tutored, she prays, “Please not Charity. Please not Charity.”

Sophie’s Squash

One fall day, Sophie makes a surprising friend during her family’s sunny trip to the local farmers’ market. The friend just happens to be a squash. Sophie calls her Bernice. At first, Sophie’s parents let Sophie care for and love Bernice—taking her to storytime at the library, introducing her to the other squash at the market, practicing somersaults in the garden, and tucking baby Bernice into a crib at night with a bottle. “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s parents humorously justify. However, as Bernice begins to get older and rot, Sophie’s parents try to convince Sophie to cook Bernice, or send her to a food donation site. Even the other children during library storytime look down on Bernice as she ages. However, Sophie is not ready to ever give up her perfect friend—so when Bernice begins to soften and can no longer do somersaults, Sophie makes the difficult decision to put her in a bed of soft soil and wait for Bernice to grow again.

Sophie’s Squash is a wonderfully gentle tale that not only teaches children how to care for the things that they love, but also shows readers how letting go can sometimes lead to new possibilities. Miller thoughtfully weaves her story of Sophie and Bernice alongside whimsical watercolor illustrations in which illustrator Anne Wilsdorf fully showcases Sophie’s somersaults, Bernice’s baby carriage rides, and multiple family trips to the farmers’ market. Even though Sophie’s Squash is longer than most picture books, two or three illustrations sit on each page and break up the text so that there is no more than five to ten lines between each image. The watercolor illustrations also work to bring the entire narrative to life, so viewers still gain a complete grasp of the story by looking only at the pictures. This, coupled with the digestible nature of Miller’s prose, makes Sophie’s Squash perfect for new and learning readers.

Throughout all the quirky shenanigans of Sophie’s Squash, Sophie’s character shines with a heroic agency and independence. Sophie’s care towards Bernice turns this silly story about a girl and a squash into a truly heartwarming story about friendship, care, and even environmentalism. By exemplifying the new path Sophie must take in order to regrow her friend Bernice, Sophie’s Squash creates a powerful metaphor demonstrating the wondrous things that can come from putting something else’s needs— particularly the needs of nature— before your own.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the children at the library points and stares at Bernice, saying to Sophie, “What’s that spotty thing?” In the narrative, this question takes on a teasing tone that may be hard for some children to read.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Hannah Olsson

Winter Wonders

It’s Christmas time at Whispering Pines, and everyone is buzzing with excitement—especially since Cat and Mr. Henry are getting married! Delia and Willow have been appointed junior bridesmaids, and there’s a flurry of things to do.

The counts are whipping up a sweet feast of desserts, and they’re determined to top it all off with an extra-special gift for the couple. Meanwhile, Delia can’t wait to share Saugatuck’s festivities with Willow. But when the wedding treats go missing and a blizzard collapses the Food Pantry roof, can Willow and Delia keep Christmas from snowballing into a disaster?

Bake delicious recipes alongside Delia and Willow, as the entire Bumpus clan teams up to save the day in the final installment of this scrumptious series.

Delia and Willow want to give Cat and Mr. Henry the perfect gift, but they just can’t seem to agree on anything. Most of the story comes from this conflict, in addition to Willow being afraid to cook because of a previous disaster. While their family makes quick appearances, readers who have not read the previous books will not connect with them. Unfortunately, most of the family’s appearances do very little to move the plot forward.

Winter Wonders shows the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. Delia and Willow both help at a food pantry and are eager to make Christmas treats to share with those in need. However, their young age makes some of the events unbelievable. For example, the two girls make enough food for a hundred guests.

Cheerful black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages. While the illustrations focus on Delia and Willow, they also include many of the family members. One character uses several puns and Cat uses fun sayings such as, “I’ll be back, quick as a snowman on ice skates.”

Young readers who love to cook will find Winter Wonders interesting and will enjoy learning new recipes that celebrate winter. However, the slow pace and lack of conflict may cause readers to become quickly bored. If you’re looking for some winter fun, Diary of an Ice Princess by Christina Soontornvat will take you to a magical world while it teaches positive lessons.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The girls wanted to make a lobster dinner for Cat and her fiancé, but when the lobsters arrive, the girls didn’t expect them to be alive. Willow’s dad explained, “They’re supposed to be alive before we cook them. Then when the pot is nice and hot, we drop them into the boiling water.” The girls decide not to cook the “creepy crawlers.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Bear Stays Up for Christmas

Bear’s friends are determined to keep Bear awake for Christmas! So they wake Bear up and have him help them find a Christmas tree, bake cakes, hang up stockings, and sing Christmas songs. At first, Bear has a difficult time staying awake, but soon he’s so excited for Christmas day that he can’t sleep. When all of his friends fall asleep, Bear stays up and makes each one a Christmas gift. Bear is so busy making gifts that he doesn’t see Santa come. Bear and his friends share their gifts, and then Bear falls fast asleep.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas has adorably cute illustrations that feature many forest animals, including a rabbit, a badger, a crow, a mole, and a goffer. Each page has colorful illustrations. When Bear and his friends go outside, everything is wintery white as the snow falls. Inside Bear’s lair, the illustrations are completed in warm browns. Each picture has some fun details. For example in one illustration, the goffer and rabbit are playing jump rope with the mouse.

Bear and his friends are kind to each other, and they demonstrate what friendship looks like—caring for each other and spending time with one another. Each page of the story has 1-4 lines of text. The text repetition and rhyming make Bear Stays Up for Christmas a fun story to read aloud. Little readers will fall in love with Bear and his friends, who will inspire them to make gifts for their friends. Bear Stays Up for Christmas will entertain readers as well as teach the true meaning of Christmas.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Case of the Sneaky Snowman

Who wears a blue scarf and old rubber boots, and has broccoli for a nose? It’s Sherlock — Nancy, Bess, and George’s snowman! The girls are thrilled to be on winter vacation and take part in all of the season’s activities. Nancy’s friend Deirdre has even transformed herself into Madame Chocolata, a fortune-teller who predicts the future by reading hot cocoa marshmallows!

But the wintry days get a little too chilly after many of Deirdre’s visions come true. Sherlock even goes missing — just as predicted! Can the Clue Crew put a freeze on this mystery before it snowballs out of control?

Case of the Sneaky Snowman is a fast-paced story that will have readers trying to figure out the clues to the mystery. Even though the Clue Crew are trying to discover what happened to their snowman, the story also focuses on Bess’s upcoming skating performance. Madame Chocolata predicts that Bess will fall during the performance. Based on this prediction, Bess worries that she is a “loser” and a “baby” who should drop out of the show. However, in the end, Bess performs without making any mistakes.

Mystery lovers will enjoy keeping track of all of the clues and seeing if they can figure out who the culprit is. Nancy and her friends are able to discover the logical reasons behind all of the mysteries in the story. The conclusion wraps everything up nicely and will leave readers laughing. One positive aspect of the story is that Nancy and her friends stay within the bounds that their parents have set for them. Even though they want to solve the mystery, they don’t rush their investigation or jump to conclusions.

Black and white illustrations appear every 2 to 5 pages, which break up the text and help readers visualize the events in the plot. The last page of the book gives directions for making a snowflake out of beads. This modern version of Nancy Drew will entertain readers. Even though many characters appear throughout the Nancy Drew books, each story can be read as a stand-alone.

Readers should grab a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and snuggle up to the Case of the Sneaky Snowman. Readers who want to add more mystery to their reading list should check out the King & Kayla Series by Dori Hillestad Butler and The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins Series by Holly Webb.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Someone starts throwing snowballs at Nancy and her friends. “Another snowball whizzed over Nancy’s head. It burst on the ground, splattering egg all over the snow. The girls ducked as more eggy snowballs flew by fast and furious.” The snowballs stop flying, but the girls do not know who was throwing them.
  • George throws a snowball at a person dressed as a snowman. George “swung back her arm and hurled it across the street. It hit the snowman on the shoulder with a loud thonk!” The snowman’s head falls off.
  • Someone tries to steal Nancy’s dog.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Bess is worried about messing up during an ice skating show. She says, “I’m such a loser.”

Supernatural

  • Deirdre says, “Some fortune-tellers read palms. Others read tea leaves. But I, Madame Chocolata, read the marshmallows in hot chocolate!” Later, the Clue Crew prove that Deirdre’s predictions do not come true.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Blizzard of the Blue Moon

In order to save a hidden unicorn, Jack and Annie time travel to New York City during the Great Depression. The siblings must find where the unicorn is hidden. In order to save the unicorn, they have to find it before the blue moon.

As they look for the unicorn, Jack and Annie get lost in a snow storm. They ride in the subway, find help in Belvedere Castle, and go to an art museum. During their adventure, two people follow them. Jack and Annie think the people are their friends, but they aren’t. Instead, the mysterious people are trying to capture the unicorn.

While the kids are lost in New York, most of the suspense is created by the people following them. In the end, Jack and Annie discover a dark wizard has sent these two people to capture the unicorn. Most of Blizzard of the Blue Moon lacks action, and there are several unrealistic events. However, finding the unicorn adds magic and whimsy to the story and produces a happy conclusion.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Blizzard of the Blue Moon’s mystery. While the siblings do not spend much time at each stop, readers will get a glimpse of some historical places. An author’s note includes the information about the Great Depression and the places Jack and Annie visit.

The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters to life. As the eighth book in the Merlin Missions Series, fans of the Magic Tree House Series will enjoy this new adventure. However, this part of the series should be read in order because several characters return from the previous books.

Jack and Annie are likable characters who both want to help others. While the story has mystery, none of the events are scary. However, some parents might not like how Jack and Annie use a “rhyme” book to cast spells. With magic, mystery, and two siblings who fight for good, the Magic Tree House series has wide appeal. With 50+ books, the Magic Tree House Series will keep younger readers entertained for years. Readers who want to spend more time jumping into the past should add the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A boy pushes Jack, who falls into the snow.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Annie says “Oh, darn” one time.
  • A girl tells the unicorn, “You are coming with us, stupid, like it or not.”

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie use a book of rhymes. When one of them say a rhyme, it helps them. For example, when Annie is lost in a storm, Jack uses a rhyme. He says, “Treasure forever must never be lost! Um-motta cal, um-motta bost!” After he says the rhyme, Annie appears.
  • A unicorn was “rescued by magic weavers in the Netherlands. To keep him safe, they used their art to hide him in their tapestries.”
  • On the night of the blue moon, the unicorn will come out of the tapestry when someone says his name. A girl says, “Come, come, my lovely Dianthus, stand up now. Come out of that old rug. . .” After she says the unicorn’s name, he appears next to the girl.
  • A girl tries to catch the unicorn by putting “the black rope around the unicorn’s neck.”
  • To keep the unicorn safe, Jack reads the rhyme book. “Known from high, out of the sky, Ee-no-fain-ee-ro-lie.” Fog covers the ground and keeps the unicorn safely hidden.
  • After Jack and Annie walk through Central Park, statues begin to move. For example, “When they passed the statue of the winged angel, Jack thought he saw her move her great wings.”
  • In order to keep the unicorn safe, Jack turns the girl and her friend into ducks. Merlin tells them that the spell will wear off in a few days.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Bear Snores On

One snowy night, a little mouse wants to get out of the cold. Mouse scurries into Bear’s cave and starts a fire. When Hare shows up, they decide to brew some tea and pop some corn. As more animals stop by to warm up, Bear snores on! Soon Bear’s cave is full of friends who dance in the firelight. What will Bear do when he wakes up to find his cave full of uninvited guests having a party without him?

Readers will want to cuddle up under a warm blanket to read Bear Snores On. As Badger enters Bear’s cave, he shares a treat with Mouse and Hare. As more animals appear, the group tells stories and dances by the fire. The illustrations beautifully contrast the cold winter snow outside with the warm den and firelight. Bear’s sadness when he wakes up and “blubbers on” is expertly illustrated so younger readers will be able to understand his emotions.

Bear Snores On is a wonderful winter story that is a perfect addition to anyone’s reading library. Each page has 1 to 5 sentences that include imagery, onomatopoeias, and rhyme. The poetic text is perfect for reading aloud. The sweet and surprising conclusion will warm readers’ hearts. A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson is another winter-themed picture book that is a fun read-aloud story.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Such a Little Mouse

In the middle of a meadow, under a clump of dandelions, lives a curious and adventurous mouse—such a little mouse. Every morning in spring, summer, fall, and winter, one, two, three! He pops out of his hole. And off he goes exploring in the wild world.

Spend a year with a little mouse, with his smart gray coat, with his ears pink as petals, with three twitchety whiskers on each side of his nose. The wide world holds many surprises for such a little creature.

Readers will love seeing the little mouse explore his own backyard. The little mouse finds wonder in every season and everything—a snail, a clover, a reflection of himself in a puddle. As he goes about his day, “he brings a little round seed home in his mouth. He packs it away in his storeroom, way down deep in his hole.” As winter approaches, the little mouse’s storeroom becomes full of leaves, fruits, acorns, and other yummy foods. When the snow covers the meadow and trees, “he goes, down into his warm hole.” The little mouse makes himself a meal of acorn bread and seed-and-watercress soup. Then he snuggles down with a book and a blanket. “Such a little mouse, all snug and warm, deep down in his hole, until spring.”

Even though Such a Little Mouse is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences that use onomatopoeia and repetition to keep readers interested. Such a Little Mouse is a wonderful story that teaches about the different seasons.

Such a Little Mouse is a sweet story that highlights the importance of preparing for winter. Even though the little mouse stops to enjoy the little things in life, he also packs away supplies for the winter. The little mouse’s days come to life in full-page illustrations that use the colors of each season. Some of the pages include panels that give readers a closer view of the little mouse’s activities. If you’re looking for more books about the four seasons, check out City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Mr. Murry and Thumbkin

Once there were two very different, but lovable mice. Mr. Murry worries about every little thing all day long. He worries especially about his new neighbor, Thumbkin, who moved into the pumpkin next door. Thumbkin is the most laid-back mouse around and has not a care in the world.

While manic Mr. Murry works and frets to get all of his fall chores done before winter arrives, lethargic Thumbkin lazes around in his yard, soaking up the sun and eating fat pumpkin seeds. Will Mr. Murry, who worries too much, and Thumbkin, who worries too little, even be able to get along and meet somewhere in the middle?

Mr. Murry’s world comes alive in comical, full-page illustrations that have realistic details such as Mr. Murry using a cat food can as a wood stove, and a teapot as a home. The two mice’s facial expressions reveal their varying emotions. Many of the illustrations show Mr. Murry and Thumbkin side-by-side, which highlights the differences between the two. While Mr. Murry is doing laundry, Thumbkin is laying around gnawing on a stalk of hay and singing.

Mr. Murry and Thumbkin teaches the importance of hard work and preparing for autumn. Because Thumbkin spent all summer laying around, his pumpkin home rots. But not even this can discourage Thumbkin, instead, he decides to “lie back and take in the view.” In the end, Mr. Murry saves the freezing Thumbkin and gives him a home. The conclusion shows the two mice happily living together, and the two “met somewhere right in the middle.”

Younger readers will fall in love with the two mice and enjoy looking at all of the details in each picture. Each page has 1-6 simple sentences that use rhyming and onomatopoeia. Even though Mr. Murry and Thumbkin is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Mr. Murry and Thumbkin uses humor to contrast two mice as it teaches readers not to worry or laze around too much. Mr. Murry and Thumbkin is a wonderful story that younger readers will want to read again and again.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Cheer Up

It’s winter and Unicorn and Yeti want to spend time together because they are each other’s best friend. When Unicorn gives Yeti a gift, Yeti wants to give Unicorn a gift too! Then, after Yeti is crunching icicles, Unicorn decides to eat icicles too! The icicles are yummy, but they make Unicorn so cold! Yeti has a solution—he’s going to knit Unicorn a hat, a scarf, and leg warmers for a gift. After Unicorn is warm, the two friends take a walk in the forest.

Unicorn and Yeti is a fun series designed for children who are learning to read. Cheer Up contains easy-to-read text. Each page has a full page of illustrations and contains no more than three sentences. When each character talks, their words appear in different colored quote boxes. Beginning readers should be able to read the text alone and will enjoy flipping through the story multiple times to look at the colorful pictures.

Cheer Up is the perfect book for all young readers—even the ones that become a little bit wiggly after a short time. As the fourth installment in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone story. Unicorn and Yeti show how friends can be different from each other and still enjoy a special friendship. The two friends react to things in different ways and their friendship helps them see another side to the situation. If you’re looking for a fun book that shows the importance of friendship, Cheer Up is a winter-themed book that will warm readers’ hearts.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Saving Kate’s Flowers

Fall is here and Kate, who is a rabbit, is determined to save her flowers from the winter cold. Mom shows her how to scoop the flowers out of the ground, transplant them into pots, and give them water. Kate pots a couple of flowers . . . and then some more … and a few more. ate has filled the house with flowers, but Dad’s sneezes mean the flowers have to go! Kate realizes she needs to find a new place for her flowers to spend the winter, but where?

Saving Kate’s Flowers is a fun story that introduces readers to different types of flowers—black-eyed susans, impatients, geraniums, and goldenrod just to name a few. The story also explains the difference between perennials and annuals. Readers will relate to Kate, who doesn’t want any of the flowers to die. When the overzealous Kate pots too many plants, her mom helps her find a way to save them. With a little help, Kate’s flowers find a new home with her neighbors.

Kate’s world comes to life in beautiful full-colored illustrations that are packed full of details. Readers will enjoy finding the snail that appears on almost every page. Butterflies, worms, and insects are also in many of the pictures. The story includes a 4-page “For Creative Minds” section in the back of the book and a 27-page cross-curricular “Teaching Activity Guide” online. Each page has 1 to 9 sentences which early readers will need help reading. Even though young readers may need help with the vocabulary, the story explains transplanting plants in a way that young readers will easily understand.

Children will love the adorable animals in Saving Kate’s Flowers, from a turtle listing to an ipod to a pug wearing pearls. Kate’s enthusiasm for plants is contagious and her kind actions show the importance of being a good neighbor. Whether you’re looking for a book that teaches about plants or just a fun family read-aloud, Saving Kate’s Flower is sure to delight. Readers who want to learn more about the joy of gardening should also read Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Agnes and Clarabelle

Agnes the pig and Clarabelle the chicken are best friends throughout every season. Whether it’s planning the perfect birthday party in the spring, spending a summer day at the beach, braving a big department store in the fall, or making the very best pizza in winter, they help each other through every up and down. For Agnes and Clarabelle, everything is better when they’re together.

Agnes and Clarabelle is broken into four short chapters. Each chapter is a new story, which makes the book perfect if you’re looking for a quick bedtime story.

Each story focuses on a conflict that young readers will relate to. In chapter 1, “Spring: Surprise Party,” Clarabelle is worried that not everyone will be able to come to her birthday party. On the day of the party, one friend does not show up, but Clarabelle has a wonderful time despite this. In chapter 2, “Summer: Beach Day,” Agnes is “scared of a wave knocking me over or a Frisbee hitting my head.” Clarabelle comes up with a creative solution that takes Agnes’s fears into consideration. In chapter 3, “New Sneakers,” Clarabelle gets lost in a mall but is found. In chapter 4, “Winter: Perfect Pizza,” the two friends make the perfect pizza that is too pretty to eat.

Agnes and Clarabelle’s stories come to life in adorable, full-colored illustrations that show the friends’ varied emotions. Various sized illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages. The illustrations portray a range of animal characters from a bear security guard to an alligator working at the mall. Readers will have fun finding the brightly colored birds that are on almost every outdoor illustration. Large text and simple sentences make Agnes and Clarabelle easy to understand.

Beginning readers will enjoy Agnes and Clarabelle’s adventures. The stories don’t show perfect solutions to every problem. Instead, Agnes and Clarabelle teaches readers what a healthy friendship looks like. Agnes and Clarabelle is a cute and engaging story that teaches important values. If you’re looking for another book that features friendship lessons, check out the Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnell.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Mortimer’s First Garden

Winter is just ending, the sky is gray, and the ground is brown. Little Mortimer Mouse munches on sunflower seeds and longs to see some green.

Upon overhearing the story of how springtime rain and sunshine nurtures little seeds to grow into great big green plants, Mortimer is skeptical, but decides to plant one of his seeds just to see if such a miracle really can happen. Mortimer finds a perfect spot to plant the seed, and then. . . he waits. And waits. And waits.

Impatient, Mortimer thinks nothing is ever going to happen to the little seed. But then something does happen. Something wonderful. Something divine. Something green! Mortimer discovers the miracle of springtime.

Mortimer’s First Garden is a wonderful story about discovering the wonders of gardening. As he waits for his sunflower to appear, Mortimer weeds, waters and cares for his growing plant. Through Mortimer’s experiences, readers will discover the joy of planting and caring for seeds and the excitement of growing a garden.

Mortimer’s environment comes to life in colorful, full-page illustrations. The illustrations are colored with muted spring colors and show the beauty of spring. Readers will fall in love with the little mouse, as he waits for his flower to grow. Readers will relate to Mortimer’s impatience, and smile when Mortimer tells God, “I wouldn’t mind a friend to help me eat these [seeds].” Just when Mortimer needs it, a friendly spider appears and the two friends snuggle down to sleep. Some readers may wonder why a spider would make a good friend for Mortimer. However, this would be an excellent opportunity to discuss the beneficial qualities of spiders.

Each page of Mortimer’s First Garden has 1-6 simple sentences that use repetition, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. The simple story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Both the text and the pictures combine into an engaging story that highlights the miracle of a seed. Parents who are looking for more books that encourage children to plant a garden should also read We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Mortimer hears a voice whisper, “Wait.” At first, Mortimer doesn’t know who spoke. But then, “Mortimer felt warm and protected. Then Mortimer knew the voice. Mortimer bowed his head. ‘I will wait, God. But please, make my seed grow.’”
  • When Mortimer’s seed begins to grow, he says, “Thank you, God!”
  • When Mortimer sees the sunflower, he says, “It is a miracle! Thank you, God!”
  • After all the seeds have been harvested, Mortimer prays, “And please, God, I wouldn’t mind a friend to help me eat these.”

City Dog, Country Frog

In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. “You’ll do,” Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog’s rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time.

 City Dog, Country Frog explores the beautiful concept of friendship by focusing on two unexpected friends. When City Dog meets Country Frog, the two teach each other games. Their friendship is beautifully portrayed through watercolor illustrations that use muted colors. The illustrations enhance the concept of friendship by showing the two spending time together. For example, one illustration shows the two friends relaxing; Country Dog is floating in a pond and Country Frog is sitting on the dog’s head. Another illustration shows the wise frog protecting Country Dog from a summer shower by holding a large leaf over Country Dog’s head.

The story goes through the four seasons. But in winter, Country Frog is missing from the scenes. The story implies that the frog has died, and City Dog’s sadness is evident. However, when spring arrives City Dog meets a chipmunk. At this point, City Dog repeats Country Frog’s words: He says he is “waiting for a friend, but you’ll do.” And then City Dog “smiled a froggy smile.”

Even though City Dog, Country Frog is a picture book, the story intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences and some of the sentences are complex. City Dog, Country Frog is a touching story that both young and older readers will enjoy. It’s a perfect book to put in your reading library because children will begin to understand the underlying themes as they grow.

The story has several underlying themes such as the rhythm of the seasons, the loss of a friend, and learning from each other. While younger readers may not understand the deeper themes, they will still fall in love with the two unusual friends. The captivating illustrations perfectly blend with the text’s words to create a lovely vision of friendship.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Caterflies and Ice

Zoey is excited when an unexpected spring snowstorm covers the ground in snow. Then Zoey learns that the snow is causing trouble for some of the magical creatures of the forest. Zoey and Sassafras come to their rescue. But their first attempt to save trapped caterflies eggs results in a big mistake. Can they figure out a way to fix things before the baby caterflies hatch?

Like the previous book in the series, Zoey uses science to solve problems. Her mom gives a demonstration showing what salt does to plants. This demonstration would be easy for readers to recreate. When Zoey tries, and accidentally hurts the plants that the caterflies babies will need to eat, Zoey’s mother doesn’t scold her. Instead, she says, “We all make mistakes.” Then her mother helps Zoey find a workable solution. Zoey documents her experiences in her science journal, and when Zoey writes in the journal, the font changes to large, kid-like font. Instead of telling Zoey what to do, her mom asks Zoey questions in order to guide her to a workable solution.

Younger readers will love the cute caterflies that look similar to kittens with wings and will love when Sassafras jumps in and helps keep the caterflies safe and warm. As Zoey helps the caterflies, the reader will learn about plants, caterpillars, and how they change into butterflies. Zoey’s adventure is shown through large black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. Readers who are not fluent will need help with some of the vocabulary. However, with short paragraphs, plenty of dialogue, and a simple plot, Dragons and Marshmallows is accessible to most readers.

Caterflies and Ice will appeal to younger readers as well as parents. With her mom’s help, Zoey is able to come up with creative solutions to problems. For example, when Sassafras doesn’t like the wet snow, Zoey makes protective feet covers. In addition, Zoey is a relatable character who loves exploring, bugs, and using science to solve problems. Her cat Sassafras adds some humor to the story. In addition, her parents are portrayed in a positive manner and encourage Zoey to continue trying new things, even when she makes a mistake.

Zoey and Sassafras show the fun of science and the importance of taking care of the environment. The story ends with a glossary. Even though Zoey and Sassafras is a series, the books do not need to be read in order. Caterflies and Ice is an entertaining story that has a little bit of magic and a whole lot of important lessons. Readers who love science should also add The Data Set Series by Ada Hopper to their must-read list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Zoey and her mom are the only people that can see and talk to the magical creatures that live in the forest.
  • When Zoey takes a picture of a magical creature, “every photo saves a bit of magic with it.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Biggest, Best Snowman

Little Nell lives with BIG mama, BIG Sarah, and BIG Lizzy. They think she’s too small to do anything. So little Nell goes into the big, snowy woods to play with her friends Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub. They don’t think she’s too small at all. They think she can build a BIG snowman. And with their help, she does—the biggest, best snowman ever!

Little Nell would like to help with something, but her family thinks she’s too small to help. Nell goes into the snowy woods and plays with her animal friends. When Nell’s friends want her to make a snowman, she says she can’t because “I’m so small.” Bear asks, “How do you know unless you try?” With the help of her friends, Nell makes a gigantic snowman. When she shows her family the snowman, they realize that she isn’t too small to help.

The Biggest, Best Snowman will appeal to a wide range of readers—the story is set in a winter scene with cute forest animals. After Nell and her forest friends have a tea party, they all work to build a snowman. Nell starts by patting snow into a ball, and then each animal helps make the snowball larger. Even the birds help with the snowman by finding objects to make a face. The illustrations have pops of blue and green that help give the story a festive feeling. Nell’s BIG family is portrayed oddly. One sister has silly details, such as holly in her hair and Christmas ornament earrings. However, the other sister is obese, sulky, and ill-mannered.

Even though The Biggest, Best Snowman is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page contains 1-8 sentences with some complex sentences. The pictures are beautiful and have some fun details. For example, when the animals roll the snowball, their tracks spell out snow. However, the story’s repetitious dialogue and the repetition of the word BIG may irritate some readers. Some might find the odd sisters and their behavior silly, but others might find it slightly disturbing. For example, the mom pulls the big sisters on a sled, up a hill, while the younger sister has to walk.

The Biggest, Best Snowman teaches that even little kids can do something big with the help of their friends. However, there are better winter books to read including, The Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner, Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, and A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Latest Reviews