Dear Ballerina

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Young people often dream of being the artists they see on stage. Reaching out to those artists is the obvious way to enter the artist’s world. Inspired by letters written by her own daughter several years ago, the author shows how writing fan letters can keep a dream alive and often spark a career. The little letter writer in the story becomes skilled and strong and begins her journey toward stardom.

The reader also learns about dance itself, about many aspects of the ballet world, and about working hard for a dream.  Fun illustrations accompany each page and bring ballet into the reader’s world. After a first read for help with the jargon, young dancers will want to enjoy the story again and again, independently. Even future audience members will enjoy the human connection made here.  

  • Dear BallerinaTitle: Dear Ballerina
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Publisher: Holiday House, March 19, 2019
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Dancing, Music, Legacy
  • ISBN: 978-0-8234-3932-4

Hansel & Gretel

Written and Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

Hansel, Gretel, Witch, gingerbread … You know the story, right? Maybe not. This isn’t your grandmother’s fairy tale.

The author takes this opportunity to describe a world in which Willow is a good witch who only wants to protect her home and keep her magic safe and practical. The kids, however, want to wreak havoc, which they do very well. Their breadcrumbs bring a flock of birds, endangering the gingerbread house. Of course, Hansel and Gretel start chewing on the gingerbread anyway, plus anything else they can take sink their teeth into. “But Willow did not get angry, because Willow was a good witch.” Willow takes an awful lot of abuse before she decides to take revenge.

The wonderful details in the illustrations add to the fun. Ghosts and skulls and spell books, oh my.

Kids will probably not get all the humor in this delightful gem, but they will understand that it’s very funny. As a follow up to Little Red, it’s especially wonderful.

  • Hansel and GretelTitle: Hansel and Gretel
  • Author/Illustrator: Bethan Woollvin
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor, Fractured Fairy Tale
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-073-0

Am I Yours?

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

Someone once said you know you’re an adult when people stop asking what’s your favorite dinosaur. Maybe they didn’t know about this adorable new book. Even the end papers exude dinosaur-ness, showing and naming twenty-eight different dinosaur shapes.

When an egg rolls away from its nest, it asks various dinosaurs if it belongs to them. To help the egg along, each dinosaur asks if the infant inside has one distinguishing feature of the adult dino. Of course, several dinosaurs decide the egg is not theirs, but they end up helping the egg back to its home. The clever rhyme works well, as do the entertaining illustrations.

“Excuse me, please,
but am I yours?
I’m sure I am
a dinosaur’s!”

In this heartwarming story of family and community, readers will learn about the dinosaurs, about solving puzzles, and about helping those around us. It’s a great read, whether independently or as a nighttime read aloud.

  • Am I YoursTitle: Am I Yours?
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Dinosaurs, Family
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-044-0

Little Whale

Written and Illustrated by Jo Weaver

Gray whales migrate possibly the longest distance of any mammal – approximately 12,500 miles between the Arctic and Antarctic. This cute tale of a newborn calf and his mother follows them on that very long trek. Like a small child, the little whale keeps asking if they are home yet. Along the way, they encounter beautiful underseas forests, artfully illustrated. They also come across coral reefs, large open expanses, large ocean liners, huge schools of fish, and a group of orcas. The mother must protect the little one and encourage him to keep going. When they finally join the other whales, they greet each other with song.

With the illustrations helping to tell the story, this book is great for independent reading. It’s also helpful for an introduction to sea mammals in a science unit. But, with the quiet tones and the somber colors, the best use is probably as a read aloud at bedtime. In any case, it lets the reader know what hard work, perseverance and abiding love can do for whales, or even for humans.

  • Little WhaleTitle: Little Whale
  • Author/Illustrator: Jo Weaver
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, October 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Migration, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-049-5

Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

Another in the nature series, this is another great view of one of the world’s environments. Beautifully illustrated and combined with counting and geography, the facts about each creature’s behavior are a delight to learn. The singular idea that deserts are not as barren as many believe is enough to make this book worthwhile. The author takes a few liberties with animal facts for the sake of rhyme, making the Fact or Fiction? section necessary. The “hidden” animals are additions to the illustrations/landscape presented partly to add to the fun. The author highlights numerous activities in her note at the end to suggest further study. The illustrator and designer both have great stories to relate about their adventures while conducting research for this project. The last section shows how the text can be set to music.

This is a wonderful addition to study of climates and animal diversity.

  • Over on a DesertTitle: Over on a Desert: Somewhere in the World
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Counting, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-630-8
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Desert Facts, Who Are the “Hidden” Desert Animals?, About the Animals in the Story, From the Author, From the Illustrator, From the Book Designer, Over on a Desert

Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony

Written by Aunty Joy Murphy
Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

The push toward diversity in children’s literature has the happy result of enlightening everyone about cultures they probably only have a fleeting familiarity with. This fascinating picture book, written and illustrated by indigenous Australians, is one that has that effect.

Murphy is an elder in her community and is wonderfully conversant in their ceremonies. She holds numerous government positions related to her status in the community. She is called Aunty out of respect. This particular ceremony is the one that welcomes visitors. She uses native language interspersed with English so that the reader can understand what’s going on and still get the flavor. The ceremony is slowly revealed as many basics are explained to the visitor.

Bunjil the eagle is our creator spirit.
Bunjil created man, woman, and child from the land.


Welcome to the traditional lands
of the Wurundjeri people.

Kennedy uses traditional motifs to produce unbelievably beautiful images to draw the reader into the indigenous world.  

Highly recommended for all.

  • Welcome to CountryTitle: Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony
  • Author: Aunty Joy Murphy
  • Illustrator: Lisa Kennedy
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Picture Book, Aboriginal Australia Culture
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9499-9

Kalinka and Grakkle

Written and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Who knew birds and monsters could be friends? Apparently, Kalinka knew. She does her best to help neighbor Grakkle clean his house, though it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want her help. He just wants to relax and soak his feet in pickle juice. She flits around, tidying as she goes, until Grakkle accidentally knocks her into the pickle juice. He obviously feels bad and does his best to revive her and clean her up. They can always enjoy a nap together.

Adorable action-packed illustrations accompany this unusual yet familiar story of the ultimate odd couple. Grakkle is especially expressive. The house is obviously a mess, but what’s a moster to do? Relaxing is important too.

Best as a read aloud, this cute book has a lot to say about getting along with those who are just a bit different. Often, we can find common ground without too much effort. It’s easy to imagine a group of first graders enjoying Kalinka’s misguided efforts and responding “Grakk! Grakk! Grakk!”

  • KalinkaTitle: Kalinka and Grakkle
  • Author/Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Friendship, Compromise
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263=030-3

I Am the Rain

Written and Illustrated by John Paterson

With whimsical and lyrical text and vibrant illustrations, the author explores the water cycle. Water is personified and goes through more forms than the reader may have considered. It begins, “Sometimes I’m the rain cloud and sometimes I’m the rain” as a young girl watches out a window, immediately drawing in the reader. From waterfalls to ocean waves to mountain snows, this little book investigates them all. It also points out the importance water plays for life. From comets to Mars, water is everywhere.

Learning about the natural world is always a great pursuit, but this book makes it fun. And the reader might also learn a little from the poetic text. The explore more sections are extremely helpful in suggesting activities for further exploration.

  • I Am the RainTitle: I Am the Rain
  • Author/Illustrator: John Paterson
  • Published: Dawn Publications, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction, Nature, Water Cycle
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-616-2
  • Extra: Explore More – for Kids, Explore More – for Parents and Teachers, More Books about Water

The Tiptoeing Tiger

Written and Illustrated by Philippa Leathers

Nearly every kid can identify with the feeling of powerlessness because of their size and age. Little tiger sees how “sleek, silent, and totally terrifying” large tigers can be. He wants to be all that. So he practices. The boar can hear him a mile away and is not terrified. The elephant finds him much too small. The monkeys just laugh at him. When he sneaks up on a frog, he sees his reflection and finally scares someone – himself.

The illustrations show an adorable tiger cub in action – tiptoeing around and being as sneaky as possible. Small touches of humor add to the enjoyment – like the deer, bird, and mice who are not at all frightened. When big brother walks through, even the snakes scurry away.

This is probably most effective as a read aloud, so kids can sneak along with Little Tiger and discuss the positive things Little Tiger has going for him. Even as independent reading, it’s a lot of fun.

  • Tiptoeing TigerTitle: The Tiptoeing Tiger
  • Author/Illustrator: Philippa Leathers
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Humor, On Being Small
  • SBN: 978-0-7636-8843-1

Izzy Gizmo

Written by Pip Jones
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

One great thing about this delightful new book is that the illustrations are at least as wonderful as the text. First graders can glean a lot from the story even without being able to read. And the words are amazing, playful, and rich.

Izzy (Izabelle) is a natural born inventor ala Rube Goldberg. She “ carried her tool bag wherever she went, in case she discovered a thing to be mended or a gadget to tweak to make it more splendid.” She builds wonderful contraptions, artfully illustrated, like Tea-Mendus and the Beard-Tastic, but none of them works quite as intended. When she witnesses a crow get injured, she does everything she can to help it fly again. She takes it to the vet and builds several artificial flying machines, all the while pilfering parts wherever she sees them. Through several attempts, she fails but keeps trying. Eventually, she prevails, only to find out she has work to do replacing the parts she pilfered.

The reader is guaranteed to have a smile on the face with every page. You can’t help but cheer for Izzy.

  • IzzyTitle: Izzy Gizmo
  • Author: Pip Jones
  • Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Humor, Perseverance
  • ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
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