Most Likely by Sarah Watson

Most Likely

Sarah Watson, Author

Little, Brown and Company, Fiction,  Mar. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 12 and up

Themes: Best friends, Friendship, High School, Diversity, LGBT, Romance,  Mental Illness, President

Synopsis:

Four best friends. One future President. Who Will it be?

Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha (listed in alphabetical order out of fairness, of course) have been friends since kindergarten. Now they’re high school seniors, facing their biggest fears about growing up and growing apart. More than just college is on the horizon, though. One of these girls is destined to become the president of the United States.

But which one?

Is it Ava, the picture-perfect artist who’s secretly struggling to figure out where she belongs? Or could it be CJ, the one who’s got everything figured out…except how to fix her terrible SAT scores? Maybe it’s Jordan, the group’s resident journalist, who knows she’s ready for more than their small Ohio town can offer. And don’t overlook Martha, who will have to make it through all the obstacles that stand in the way of her dreams.

From Sarah Watson, the creator of the hit TV show The Bold Type, comes the story of four best friends who have one another’s backs through every new love, breakup, stumble, and triumph — proving that great friendships can help young women achieve anything…happiness, strength, success, even a seat in the Oval Office.

Why I like this book:

Most Likey is a timely, empowering and suspenseful political novel for teens and young adults. The story’s heart is rooted in strong female friendships and self-discovery that make this story soar. Sarah Watson’s writing is uplifting and her novel is the perfect summer escape!

Th narrative is written in third person with each chapter rotating four different viewpoints. It held me back a bit because I couldn’t keep the details of each of the teens lives straight until I reached the half-way point. By then I was hooked and I couldn’t put the book down.

The character-driven plot weaves together the realistic and complicated lives of the four seniors who are ethnically diverse and from different socioeconomic backgrounds. They tackle a variety of issues in their lives, ranging from depression, adoption, fears of not being good enough, sexual orientation, divorce and concerns about being able to afford college. And they have a male friend, Logan Diffenderfer, who has a unique relationship with each of the besties. Although Logan is not the story, he is a grounding force for the four teens.

The Prologue gives readers a peek into the future — Washington DC on Jan. 20, 2049, the day of the presidential innaugeration. Readers are only given one clue. The president-elects last name is Diffenderfer. The actual story is set in 2019 -2020 in Cleveland, Ohio, with the seniors focused on grades, relationships, work, SAT scores, college applications, loans and community service.  The Epilogue fast forwards to the innaugeration day, the big reveal and a satisfying ending about the other three  best friends, who are all present.  Sorry. I can’t give anything away.

Sarah Watson is the creator of the hit TV series The Bold Type (on Freeform), which the New York Times described as “Sex and the Single Girl for millennials.” Previously she was a writer and executive producer of the critically acclaimed NBC drama Parenthood. She lives in Santa Monica, California. Most Likely is her debut novel.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Grow Kind, Grow Grateful, Grow Happy by John Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser

Grow Kind

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 3, 2020

Ages: 4-8

Synopsis: Blackberries for Keisha. Sunflowers for Mr. Carrol. Ripe tomatoes fo Ms. Stevens. Peppers and corn for Matt and Mitch. Potatoes for Dr. Thompson.

Kiko works hard in her garden. She grows, nurtures, cultivates and harvests her fresh fruits and veggies and shares her bounty with her friends, neighbors, and family. She shows readers how easy it is to be kind to others, and how kindness can create a happiness within themselves and with everyone around.

Grow Grateful 

Fiction, Oct. 15, 2018

Synopsis: Head off with Kiko on a camping trip with her class and how she figures out what being grateful is and what it feels like. Throughout the trip, Kiko discovers different things she appreciates about her family, friends, and experiences. The warm feeling of gratefulness can come from anywhere — a beautiful sunset, toasted marshmallows, help from a friend when you’re feeling afraid, or sharing kindness with others. Kiko grows grateful.

 

Grow Happy

Fiction, Feb. 13, 2017

Synopsis: Kiko is a gardener. She takes care of her garden with seeds, soil, water, and sunshine. In Grow Happy, Kiko also demonstrates how she cultivates happiness, just like she does in her garden. Using positive psychology and choice theory, this book shows children that they have the tools to nurture their own happiness and live resiliently. Just as Kiko possesses the resources needed—seeds, soil, water—to build a thriving garden, she also has the tools to nurture her own happiness—including social support, choices, and problem-solving skills.

What I like about this series of books:

This is a perfect time to share John Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser’s charming series for children about cultivating kindness, gratitude and joy in their own lives, and sharing it with others. Children are learning very early that the world is a tough place in which to grow up. Giving kids the tools to get it done will be a tremendous boost. And these three books contribute to that effort in a delightful way.

The narrative flows effortlessly. “My name is Kiko. I grow kind. I will show you how, but first, I have a question for you.” Christopher Lyles’s cheerful and textured illustrations invite children to spend time pondering each theme! Happy and colorful, they fit the tone for each book.

Each book features a lovable protagonist, Kiko, who is of Asian heritage. She appears to be adopted because her parent are caucasian. The series features a cast of supporting characters that are diverse. She also guides children through her adventures.

Resources: Each book includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with information that will help create opportunities to explore the social and emotional skills that are important to our overall well being: kindness, gratitude and happiness. In these books children will learn how to develop these skills within themselves and in their relationships with others.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copies provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Feminist, Social Justice-Themed Board Books for Children

I Want to Be…, Nibi is Water and I am Violet, are part of Second Story Press’s first season releasing feminist, social justice-themed board books for babies and toddlers, ages 0-3 years. The three books explore some  amazing and unusual jobs people do; talk about how we use our precious water; and celebrate the color of our skin. Such a wonderful and diverse series of books for little ones! There is simplicity in all three books and they are beautifully illustrated in bright colors that will please toddlers.

I Want to Be…A Gutsy Girls’ ABC

Farida Zarman, Author and Illustrator

Apr. 14, 2020

Synopsis: Filled with diversity and empowerment, little girls will see that they can be anything they want. There are an alphabet of possibilities for when you grow up. Some jobs sound fun — ice sculptor, toymaker, dog handler, kite designer, party planner, and wind farmer. And some jobs sound exciting and important — jockey, aerialist, novelist, sportscaster, oceanographer, and mountain climber. Each fun letter is complimented by an illustration of a girl filled with delight and wonder as she shows us how we can be anything we want to be.

Nibi is Water (Nibi Aawon Nbiish)

Joanne Robertson, Author and Illustrator

Apr. 14, 2020

Synopsis: A first conversation about the importance of nibi (water) told from an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) perspective. Toddlers will learn about the many forms of water in rain, snow and ice. They use water to drink, bathe, brush their teeth and flush the toilet. They build snowmen in the winter, swim in the pool or canoe on a lake. Nature depends upon water to grow plants, food, and trees. Animals need water to drink and fish swim in water. Our role is to thank, respect, love and protect nibi in our daily activities.

I Am Violet

Tania Duprey Stehlik, Author

Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic, Illustrator

Synopsis: This book celebrates and explores how people come in a rainbow of beautiful colors. A little girl looks around her and sees that some people are blue, some are green, some are red. People in the world come in a rainbow of colours and Violet herself is a wonderful mixture of her mom and dad. Her mom is red, her dad is blue, and, as the little girl declares: “I am proud to be both. I am proud to be me! I am Violet!” Her message of pride and acceptance has been simplified for the youngest among us so it can be shared even earlier.

Resources: All three books are great first discussion books. Parents can help toddlers  identify letters associated with amazing gender-neutral jobs; they can talk with them about protecting water and learn dual language words (glossary at the end); and they can help their little ones explore their own skin color and the skin color of others.  Encourage children to draw pictures of fun jobs, how they use water, and self/family portraits showing their skin colors in bright colors. Children have big imaginations.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copies provided by the publisher.

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 17, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Love, Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Kindness, Mindfulness

Opening: I put my hands on my heart and listen. And that is where I find the answer: I have compassion. I act with tenderness. I am love.

Book Synopsis:

Love means showing kindness, living with gratitude, and taking care of our minds and bodies. Letting our hearts lead the way can help move us closer to a better world.

Grounded in mindfulness and wellness, I Am Love asks readers to look inward when they feel afraid, angry, hurt, or sad. When a storm is brewing inside us and the skies grow dark, the transformative power of love lets the light back in.

Why I like this book:

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds uplifting book will leave a smile in your heart. It celebrates love in all its forms and encourages readers to develop empathy and compassion towards others. Love is ever present when you help an older neighbor, listen with understanding, give a hug, face a fear and take care of yourself. The message is sincere and heartwarming.

Reynolds’ colorful illustrations have his trademark whimsical appeal and will resonate with children. They are expressive watercolors and contribute to the books celebratory mood. I love the yoga poses that emphasize self-care and wholeness throughout the story.

I Am Love, is the fourth book in the I Am Books, from this bestselling  team that created I Am Yoga, I Am Peace and I Am Human.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note and a page of Heart-Opening Yoga poses that will help children learn to “lead with our hearts by opening and expanding the front of the body.” These activities can be done at home or in school.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Just Lucky by Melanie Florence

Just Lucky

Melanie Florence, Author

Second Story Press, Sep. 17, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 13 -18

Themes: Multigenerational family, Alzheimer’s, Indigenous children, Drug abuse, Foster families, Bullying

Book Synopsis:

When Lucky Robinson was a baby, her mother was arrested for drug abuse and she was raised by her loving Cree grandparents for the next 15 years. She barely knows her mother, who she’s not sure she’d be able to pick out in a police line-up. Home life is happy, she attends a good school and her best friend, Ryan, lives next door.

Grandma may like to shout out the answers to Jeopardy, but sometimes she forgets things…like turning off the stove, wandering out the door, and stepping infront of a car. But her grandpa takes such good care of them, that Lucky doesn’t realize how bad her grandma’s memory is until he suddenly dies unexpectedly.

Lucky takes over the responsibility of caring for her grandmother and tries not to leave her alone. But when her grandmother accidentally sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what is happening any longer. Grandma is hospitalized and the authorities intervene and place Lucky into the foster care system — temporarily, she hopes. Lucky quickly learns that some foster families are okay. Some really, really aren’t.

Why I like this book:

Melanie Florence has written a sensitive and timely story about a 15-year-old girl living with a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Some readers will identify with Lucky’s sadness because they will understand what it is like to have a grandparent, parent or relative suffering memory loss.  Lucky’s situation is particularly interesting becuase she has to become the caregiver and lives in secrecy so that she can keep her family together. She has no one else.

The characters are diverse and memorable. Lucky is a caring, compassionate and resilient narrator. As she is placed in a variety of foster homes and new schools, readers will observe the emotional toll it takes on her. She becomes somewhat detached and eventually doesn’t unpack her backpack because she knows that she’ll be moved again.  But she is also clever and resourceful as she finds ways to fit in. Her friendship with Ryan, offers some comic relief. They love comic books and he’s always there to support her.

For teens in foster care, Lucky’s story offers a snapshot of reality. Lucky is placed in three different foster homes. She has to deal with a foster parent who tries to climb into her bed. Lucky is indigenous and experiences racism. When she is repeatedly bullied by a popular girl in a new school, Lucky is fed up and strikes the girl. She is forced to leave a foster home she likes and is moved again to another foster home and school. But her story also offers a good dose of hope. This book stands out and is worth reading!

Melanie Florence is a writer of Cree and Scottish heritage based in Toronto. She was close to her grandfather as a child, a relationship that sparked her interest in writing about Indigenous themes and characters. She is the author of Missing Nimama, which won the 2016 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and is a Forest of Reading Golden Oak Finalist. Her other books include Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Residential Schools and the teen novels He Who Dreams, The Missing, One Night, and Rez Runaway. For more information, visit Florence’s website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Allies by Alan Gratz

Allies

Alan Gratz, Author

Scholastic Press, Historical Fiction, Oct. 15, 2019

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Pages: 336

Themes:  Allies, Nazi Germany, WW II, D-Day, Omaha Beach, France, Liberation

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The fate of the world is in their hands.

June 6, 1944: The Nazis are terrorizing Europe, on their evil quest to conquer the world. The only way to stop them? The biggest, most top-secret operation ever, with the Allied nations coming together to storm German-occupied France.

Welcome to D-Day.

Dee, a young U.S. soldier, is on a boat racing toward the French coast. And Dee — along with his brothers-in-arms — is terrified. He feels the weight of World War II on his shoulders.

But Dee is not alone. Behind enemy lines in France, a girl named Samira works as a spy, trying to sabotage the German army. Meanwhile, paratrooper James leaps from his plane to join a daring midnight raid. And in the thick of battle, Henry, a medic, searches for lives to save.

In a breathtaking race against time, they all must fight to complete their high-stakes missions. But with betrayals and deadly risks at every turn, can the Allies do what it takes to win?

Why I like this book:

A brilliant new novel by Alan Gratz that shows the horrific faces of WW II. It’s gripping, suspenseful and chilling.  Packed with danger, adventure and a cast of really memorable characters that make this novel unforgettable. Readers will find themselves deeply engrossed in this fast-paced and powerfully penned novel.

The characters represent many nationalities and are realistically portrayed. Narrator Dee Carpenter is a U.S. soldier headed toward Omah Beach in a Higgins boat. His real name Dietrich Zimmermann, a German immigrant who fled Nazi Germany with his parents when he was five. He’s advised to change his name in case he’s captured by the Nazis. He hides it from his best buddy, Sid Jacobstein, who is Jewish and anxious to shoot some “krauts.” My favorite moment, is when Dee realizes that he may have been the enemy he’s shooting at if he hadn’t fled Germany, and that the enemy is also a human being.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but racism, and anti-Semitism ran high among the U.S. forces because there were many foreign nationals and immigrants fighting for the same cause. Even Sid faces anti-Semitism from other soldiers in his unit. Henry Allen is a black battlefield medic, who is called “boy” and “coon,” by Lieutenant Hoyte, until Henry saves his life and finally sees him as a human being. Eleven-year-old Samira Zidane’s mother is part of the French Resistance. Samira, an Algerian refugee, bravely takes over her mother’s mission when she is captured by the Nazis. Samira cleverly makes it past German soldiers to tell the Resistance fighters that the Allies have begun invasion of France. James McKay is a Canadian paratrooper and Sam, who is allowed to  be a Cree in the Army and have respect from his unit.  But in Canada he isn’t allowed to vote and keep his tribal status.

It will be obvious to readers that the war changed all of those involved. Yet all the allies were united in one mission, to push back the Nazis and free Europe from Hitler’s tyranny and free the Jews suffering in concentration camps.

Gratz has provided a wealth of information for readers starting with a map of the invaded area at the beginning of the book. Gratz’s “Author’s Note” at the end provides deatils about the invasion, the number of soldiers involved from each country, the losses, operational names for all the Allies participating and their missions.  The code name for D-Day was Operation Overlord.

Favorite Quote:

“And the worst part was that Germany hadn’t suddenly “become” racist and evil. The rot had been there, under the surface, the whole time. Hitler’s hate-filled speeches had allowed the seeds of German bigotry to grow like weeds until they choked out anything else that might have flowered there. Dee and his family had just been living in their own little bubble and hadn’t noticed it.”  Page 17

Alan Gratz is the New York Times bestselling author of several award-winning and acclaimed books for young readers, including, Grenade, Refugee, Pojekt 1065, Prisoner B-3087, and Code of Honor. Visit Gratz at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Book reviewed from library copy.

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Around the Table That Grandad Built

Melanie Heuiser Hill, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Holidays, Traditions, Multigenerational, Thanksgiving, Diversity

Opening: This is the table that Grandad built. These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins, set on the table that Grandad built.

Book Synopsis:

In a delightful take on the cumulative classic “This Is the House That Jack Built,” a family  gathers with friends and neigbors to share a meal around a very special table.  The table brims with memorable associations: napkins sewn by Mom, glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding, silverware gifted to Dad by his grandmother long ago. And of course there is a delightful spread of food — the squash and potatoes from the garden, bread baked by Gran, and pies made by family and friends. All give thanks.

Why I like this book:

Melanie Heuiser Hill’s Around the Table That Grandad Built is a joyous celebration of family, friends and community. It is sure to become a favorite family treasure, perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday feast.

It also is a multigenerational book that quietly emphasizes diversity through food, faces and culture. Grandad’s table is a gesture of openness and inclusivity.  Coming to feast at the table is a time to build upon memories, show gratitude, recognize similarities and give thanks. The children are the new generation honoring the old but making new memories.

The cover showcases Jaime Kim’s bold and colorful Illustrations, as well as the joy and anticipation on the childrens’ faces.  Who wouldn’t want to dine at this table!

Resources: As the holidays approach, include them in the special activities like setting the table, making the table decorations, helping with the food preparation and baking. Talk about inviting a veteran or someone who is alone to join you. Create some new traditions.

Melanie Heuiser Hill is the author of the middle-grade novel Giant Pumpkin Suite. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and children.  About Around the Table That Grandad Built, she says, “I have a fondness for long tables crowded with food food and loved ones — and homemade pie for dessert.” Visit Melanie’s website where she shares stories of her large family and photographs.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by publisher.

Leading the Way by Sen. Janet Howell and Theresa Howell

Leading the Way: Women in Power

Senator Janet Howell and Theresa Howell, Authors

Kylie Akia and Alexandra Bye, Illustrators

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Oct. 8, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Pages: 144

Themes: Women, Leadership, Character, Dreams, Making a Difference, Role Models

Favorite Introduction quote from Senator Howell: “It is amazingly powerful to see women in roles of leadership. If girls can see it, they can believe it. They know they can become it.”

Book Synopsis:

Meet fifty of America’s most influential women leaders, including Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; Susana Martinez, the first Latina governor ever elected in the U.S.; Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color and the first Asian-American elected to congress; and Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.  Serving in government or active in politics at all levels, both local and national, and representing a diverse panorama of personal backgrounds and political views, they stood up, blazed trails, and led the way. Here are the stories of how they rose to power, along with a take-action guide for today’s readers. Fascinating and accessible, this is a timely and inspirational tribute to some of the most extraordinary Americans of our time and all time.

Why I like this book:

Senator Howell and her daughter Theresa Howell, have written an inspiring book for girls about 50 of the most exhilarating and exciting women in America who have made a difference. Leading the Way is not about political parties by any means. It is about powerful women.

With the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote approaching in 2020, this book is a compelling tribute to the women of the past and present who have overcome incredible hurdles, challenged the status quo, and paved a path for the many girls who will read their stories and dream big. Their stories are like a compass pointing the way. They are teachers and role models who will undoubtedly challenge the girls of today to make their mark in their own special way.

The book design is exceptional and easy to read. There is beautiful portrait, famous quotes, and a story about each woman. There is a Power Symbol Guide of eight important character traits that great leaders have developed along their journey (i.e. Integrity, Community, Diligence, Courage, Empathy, Persistance etc.).  Readers are asked to look for the symbols at the beginning that accompanies each of the 50 women. And there is a beautiful foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This book will be a wonderful addition to any school or home library. It is especially a good book for mothers and daughters to read together and discuss.  Oh how wish I had a book like this when I was a girl in school.

Compliments of Candlewick Press

Resource: Make sure you check out “How To Stand Up, Speak Out, and Make a Difference: A Take-Action Guide,”at the end of the book. It is full of  infromation and suggestions that will inspire readers to examine their passions and start in a place they know best — their neighborhoods, schools and communities.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Dream Within a Dream

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, May 7, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 128

Themes: Farm Life, Multigenerational relationships, Family, Adolescence, Island, Storms, Friendship, Love

Opening: My grandfather Jake’s Deer Island farm runs down to the sea – sweet grass slipping to water.

Book Synopsis

Louisa, short for Louisiana, is in for a long summer.

When her globe-trotting, bird-watching parents go abroad, they leave Louisa and her younger brother, Theo, on Deer Island with their grandparents, Jake and Boots, same as they always do.

Jake brings a library of books to read. Louisa would rather be off having adventures with their parents. She’s a secret writer, and there’s nothing on all of Deer Island to write about—right?

The difference is that this year, Jake’s eyesight if failing.

This year, Theo doesn’t want to go back to the mainland at the end of the summer.

This year, Louisa meets George, a boy who helps her see the world in a whole new light.

Why I like this book:

Patricia MacLachlan’s signature style showcases her talent to tell a heartwarming story that celebrates multigenerational family relationships, friendship and love — new and old — with beauty and simplicity. Her prose is lyrical, the narrative is gentle, the plot is engaging with the right amount of tension, and the ending is satisfying and uplifting.

The characters are memorable. Louisa is an adventuresome spirit with a large mass of curly red hair. Theo is an “old” soul, thoughtful, contemplative and kind. For Theo, the island is a dream. Grandmother Boots, is a lively, upbeat and strong force in the family. Her real name is Lily, but she loves and stomps around in colorful “wellies,” so her family call her Boots. Grandpa Jake, a farmer, is losing his eyesight. He remains positive and is secretly teaching a neighbor boy, George, how to drive, so he doesn’t lose his freedom and his prized 1938 Cord car. George and his family live on the island, but spend a lot of time in Africa.

This is a good story for readers moving into middle grade books. With short chapters, it can also be read out loud to young children. It is a lively summer read with dancing and tropical storms.

Favorite Quote:

Boots knows most everything. She knows, for instance, that her son — my father — and his wife — my mother — are “dense” about some things even though they’re “disturbingly intelligent,” as she puts it. Boots is my hero.

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless novels for young readers, including Newbery Medal winner Sarah, Plain and Tall; Word After Word; Kindred Souls; The Truth of Me; The Poet’s Dog; and My Father’s Words. She is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Warren and Dragon: Scary Sleepover by Ariel Bernstein

Warren and Dragon: Scary Sleepover, Book 4

Ariel Bernstein, Author

Mike Malbrough, Illustrator

Viking Books for Young Readers, Jun. 25, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Pages: 90

Themes: Sleepover, Fears, Homesickness, Family relationships, Imaginary friends

Opening: Some people might think that having a dragon for a pet is scary. I guess it sounds like it might be scary, because of the fire breathing and all, but I have a dragon for a pet and most of the time it’s pretty normal. Except when Dragon does his weird dancing jig. That’s always terrifying… He’s my pet.

Book Synopsis:

Warren’s friend Michael just got a cool new tent as a present. It’s too cold to go camping outdoors, so Michael invites Warren over for a sleepover where they can camp inside.

At first Warren is excited. They’ll order pizza, play foosball, and make ice-cream sundaes! Then they’ll  go down to the basement, crawl into their sleeping bags inside the tent and tell scary stories. Gulp! The more Warren thinks about sleeping somewhere besides his own safe bed, the more worried he gets. And his sidekick, Dragon, isn’t exactly reassuring.

But when Warren confesses his concerns to his friend Alison, he realizes that he isn’t the only kid nervous about sleepovers. The two of them make a pact to face their fears.  But will Warren be brave enough to camp in a dark basement that creaks and groans and listen to Michael’s scary stories?

Why I like this book:

This clever new chapter book series is realistic, heartfelt and delightful.  It is the fourth Warren & Dragon chapter book by Ariel Bernstein this past year. Sleeping overnight at a friend’s house for the first time can create a lot of anxiety for children. What if I get homesick? What if I get scared? What if I embarrass myself if I want to go home?  This fast-paced book is the perfect read-aloud at home or school. It is a great discussion starter for kids nervous about sleepovers.

Bernstein tackles this early right-of-passage with humor and authenticity. Warren’s character is a tad quirky and naïve, but believable. He is opposite of his outgoing twin sister. Warren’s imaginary marshmallow-loving, side-kick, Dragon, is quite the prankster and is good for many chuckles. Warren’s friendship with Alison is supportive as they come up with a pact and a plan. Mike Malbrough’s pen and ink illustrations are expressive and fun.

I like that the author shows diverse families with Warren’s friend, Michael, having two moms.  It’s always special when kids can see a family like theirs, whether it is a single parent, grandparent, two dads, or in this case two moms. Kudos to the author.

Ariel Bernstein loved sleepovers growing up, and was only afraid there wouldn’t be enough pizza and ice cream. Other books in the series include: Warren & Dragon 100 Friends; Warren & Dragon Weekend with Chewy; and Warren & Dragon Volcano Deluxe. She is also the author of I Have a Balloon and Where is my Balloon? Visit Bernstein at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy reviewed from a library copy.