Category Archives: Kid-lit

Guest Review: Surfing with Turtles: Bindi Wildlife Adventures by Bindi Irwin

  • Reading level: Ages 7 and up
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (March 5, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1402280947
  • Source: Publisher

Bindi Irwin is the thirteen-year-old daughter of wildlife conservationists Steve and Terri Irwin. Although her father passed away a few years ago while working with wildlife, his life-long passion, Bindi and her brother continue his legacy.

In Surfing With Turtles, the eight book in the Bindi Wildlife Adventures series, a host of young readers are introduced to an exciting wildlife adventure with Bindi and friends. Off the coast of Mexico and California, Bindi and her American friend Kelly are on a surf-ari, catching some pretty amazing waves along the way.  One day, a green sea turtle joins them while surfing. The two girls learn about a volunteer turtle restoration team and are given the opportunity to participate themselves in a night watch to protect the turtle nests from poachers.  It is then they see a fellow surfer acting strangely, disturbing a nest of green sea turtles. Bindi realizes he has more than surfing on his mind and decides to keep an eye on him. Her instincts are correct; Bindi is able to prevent the man from transporting a captured animal across the border!

I am excited to have the opportunity to review this book with my youngest soon, Justin. At seven years old, Justin is an avid reader. When I was pitched this book for review, I enjoyed having the opportunity to read this book with him. Our family has been fans of Bindi since she first appeared on her father’s show at just three years old! Over the years, we have enjoyed watching her grow up and continue her father’s great work.

Following are Justin’s thoughts on the book, followed by mine. Other than correcting his spelling, the following review is Justin’s in its entirety:

Hello everyone! My Mom said I should tell you if I liked this book or not. I DID! Bindi is a little girl who goes on adventures, learning about animals I have only seen at the zoo. Even though she is a girl, she is fun because she does things that girls in my class would never do. Like in this book, she picks up a snake with her own hands! Also, she goes surfing and even though a wave crashes into her, she doesn’t freak out and just knows what to do.  I also really liked this book because it sort of had a mystery to it. I wanted to know what the bad surfer guy was going to do next. I also learned a lot about sea turtles and how to protect them. I really think you should read this book, if you are a boy or a girl. I really liked it and want to read more about Bindi’s adventures.

My review:

Like Justin, I appreciated reading about a little girl who was strong and able to step outside of what is expected of a young girl. She’s witty, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor. Her excitement about animal conservation helps educate children her age and younger about what can be done to protect the wildlife around us.  While this book is geared for children ages seven and up, I do believe some of the language is a bit above that age level. Fortunately, I was able to read it alongside Justin and provide him an explanation of what some of the terms meant. So, with the caveat that the book be read with a parent, I do agree with the age range used to describe this book. Overall, I do think it would be an excellent addition to any home or school library. Like Justin, I look forward to reading more of Bindi’s adventures!

Did you know that BINDI WILDLIFE ADVENTURES series donates a portion of all proceeds to the Australia Zoo Conservation Projects? Each book is a new adventure for Wildlife Warrior Bindi Irwin and a chance for children to experience new places and new ideas.

Bindi is starring in Return to Nim’s Island, based on the Nim books by Australian author Wendy Or.  The movie will premiere in the U.S. this March on the Hallmark Channel and will be available on DVD March 19.


Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: The Rat Brain Fiasco by Julie Gardner Berry


Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my eleven-year-old son, John, reviews books geared toward reluctant readers. 

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (August 12, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0448453592
  • Source: Publisher

Cody Mack is used to getting into trouble.  The principal’s office is his second home. This time it’s different, however.  Sitting outside the principles office while his parents are inside, Cody realizes this visit isn’t like the others.  First, this meeting is lasting much longer than most.  Second, he’s overhearing words like “remedial neuro-therapies.”

When he is finally called into the office, he notices a tall strange man in the room.  The man, Dr. Farley, runs a special school for naughty kids.  His parents quite readily sign the forms & Cody leaves with Dr. Farley that afternoon.  When he arrives, he realizes that the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys isn’t your typical boarding school.  It’s hidden away in a dark & dangerous forest.  The teachers are all monsters: vampires, werewolves, and mummies.

His first day at Splurch Academy, Cody is thrown into the the dungeon, surrounded by rats.  He soon learns of Dr. Farley’s evil plan: to swap the brains of these rats with the boys at Splurch Academy using a horrendous device called the “Rebellio-rodent Recipronator!” The “rat-boys” are then controlled using a remote control device worn by Dr. Farley.  Parents will see their “behaved” boys & Dr. Farley will be famous!  Unfortunately, Farley has met his match with Cody!

John’s review:

Don’t even think about misbehaving at school ever again or your principal might send you away to the Splurch Academy!  You’ll wear prison outfits, eat disgusting food and you won’t have TV or video games!

I’m not a disruptive boy, but this book made me want to behave better so I don’t have to even worry about a punishment like this.  I think Cody deserved his punishment, but I was happy to see that he wouldn’t let Dr. Farley take control of his brain!

One of my favorite things about this book was that it is a combination chapter book/comic book.  The comics break up the chapters, making them seem shorter.  The graphics were both funny & scary at the same time.  I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the third book, which my mom says comes out next month.  Kids who like to read about monsters, but not get too scared, would really love this book.

Jenn’s review:

I truly enjoyed reading this series with John!  As he mentioned, the breaking up of chapters by comic panels really add to the story.  In addition, they helped keep John’s attention; not once did he ask to stop reading or complain. In addition, the chapters are quite short, just 2-3 pages long.  This helped with the pacing of the book; the short chapters kept things exciting.

This series is the perfect one for reluctant readers, specifically boys. John & I are quite hooked on this series;we read both books in one weekend!  We’re both counting down to the release to the third book in the series, The Colossal Fossil Freakout!

Review: Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (August 1, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 1561454877
  • Source: Publisher

There was once a little wolf who couldn’t fall asleep. Mother Wolf tried everything: a glass of milk, snuggling, even reading little wolf his favorite teddy bear story three times in a row.  Nothing worked.  The little wolf was wide awake.

As the morning light shone on his story book, little wolf discovered what would help him sleep: a teddy bear!  He asks his mother where teddy bears came from.  She wasn’t certain and suggested he ask Wise Owl.  Wise Owl didn’t know either, & suggested he ask the Three Little Pigs.

Soon the little wolf is on an adventure asking various characters from fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks.  Along the way, he literally runs into a rosy-faced old man driving a big red truck. The truck’s tire is out of air, so the little wolf helps by huffing and puffing into the tire. The old man stops the little wolf with a “Ho, Ho, Ho!”

The cheery old man tells the little wolf that if he runs home, he’ll find the answer to his question in the morning.  The little wolf falls asleep as soon as he gets home, sleeping through the night.  He awakens to find a present at the food of the bed. Inside? A soft, cuddly teddy bear!

WHERE TEDDY BEARS COME FROM is an adorable tale perfect for not only the holiday season, but any time of year.  My five year old enjoyed the appearances of some of his favorite fairy tale characters.  And teddy bears? Who can resist teddy bears?

The illustrations, by Russell Ayto, are quirky and cute and really add a bit of spunk to the story!  This book would make a great addition to any picture book collection!

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of Where Teddy Bears Come From to give away.  To enter, please fill out the form below.  US & Canadian residents only, please.  The winner will be announced Friday, December 31st!  Good luck to all who enter!

Halloween Picture Book Roundup!

A few years ago, I started a Halloween tradition to share with my boys: reading at least one new Halloween picture book a night for the entire month of October.

It’s been quite the feat, one we started researching back in early September.  Rather than creating several posts listing each individual book, we decided to have one post listing our favorites!

Trick or Treat on Monster Street by Danny Schnitzlein, Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

A poor little boy is terrified of monsters, and his older brothers know it!  They like to scare him as often as they can.  One year, on Halloween Night, he gets separated from his brothers and ends up on Monster Street, where instead of candy the residents hand out trout, or slugs, or spiders.  Everyone there is just as afraid of humans as he is of monsters!  The terrified little boy is terrified no longer and, with the help of his new monster friends, gets revenge on his brothers for all the tricks they’ve played on him!

Justin LOVED this book. Perhaps it was the rhyming prose, perhaps it was the beautifully illustrated pages.  I think it’s perfect for a boy his age, a boy just discovering his own fears. It details, in a very fun way, that fears can be in the eye of the beholder and are easily overcome!

The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein, Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Yes, same author & same illustrator as the previous book.  While this isn’t technically a Halloween book, it does have a monster in it!

A little boy hates peas.  One night, he makes a wish: “Please let these peas disappear from my dish!”  A horrible, ugly monster appears and agrees to take the peas away if the little boy will give him his soccer ball.  The boy agrees and the peas are gone.  But when he wants to play soccer with his dad, where his ball once was lays a pea.

The boy’s mother serves peas for dinner again one night.  The monster appears, this time offering to take the peas away, asking for the boys bike instead.  The boy agrees, but is saddened when his friends stop asking him to go for bike rides.

Once again, the boy’s mom serves peas.  The monster appears, this time asking for his dog, Ralph,  in return.  But the boy simply can’t part with Ralph, so instead he picks up a pea and tries it.  It’s not nearly as bad as he thought, he quite enjoys eating peas!

As with Monster Street, THE MONSTER WHO ATE MY PEAS is full of rhyming, lyrical prose. Luckily, my boys don’t mind eating peas but this book is perfect for explaining that food that we dislike or hate isn’t nearly as bad as we think it is!

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

During the day, this little boys father is a barber.  At night, however, when everyone else is a asleep, this little boy does some hair cutting of his own!  He turns his father’s barber shop into a monster barber shop, cutting hair for all monsters, including skeletons, werewolves, even Medusa!

I’m Not Afraid of this Haunted House by Laurie Friedman, illustrated by Teresa Murfin

Simon Lester Henry Strauss claims he is not afraid of a haunted house! He’s not afraid of the ghosts, or the vampire feast, not even the Frankenstein wedding!  At the end of the book we learn what Simon Lester Henry Strauss IS afraid of, though!

Justin LOVED the repetitive text in this book. He loved reciting “I’m Simon Lester Henry Strauss, and I’m not afraid of this haunted house!”

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! by Charles M. Shulz

It’s not Halloween without a reading of this classic Halloween Tale!  Even my oldest will come running if he knows I’m reading this book!

So, there you have it!  Justin’s favorite Halloween books this year!  Enjoy!

Review: How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade; 1 edition (July 27, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0375858997
  • Source: Library

Rocket is an adorable little puppy who loves to do little puppy things, like chase leaves and chew sticks.  At the end of a day, he would plop down in his favorite spot under his favorite tree. One day, he happens upon a little yellow bird.  This little bird is a teacher, so Rocket must be his student!

When the little bird discovers that Rocket can’t read, teaching him to read becomes the little bird’s mission.  Rocket is very reluctant to read; he’d much rather take a nap. This doesn’t dissuade the little bird.  She picks up a book and begins to read anyway.

At first Rocket was annoyed by the book. But in no time at all he become absorbed in the story.  He pictures it in his head.  The anticipation builds up and he must know the end of the story.

Every day Rocket returned to the little bird’s classroom.  She teaches him the alphabet, how to sound out each letter, and soon they were spelling entire words!

But soon the spring turned to fall and the bird flew away, promising to return in the winter. Despite the cold winter, Rocket couldn’t stop thinking about reading!  He continued to practice his letters and sound out words, and before long it was spring again!

This time, Rocket and the little bird began to read together :)

I read How Rocket Learned to Read to my youngest son, who will be starting kindergarten this fall.  Since his brother has reviewed for me, as well as his father, he wanted a turn at reviewing.  So, here are Justin’s brief comments:

Why did you like this book?

I liked Rocket.  I like dogs!

Other than Rocket, was there anything else you liked about this book?

YES MOM!  Rocket was learning to read.  I am learning to read! Rocket spelled out letters in the snow! Mom, can I do that when it snows!?

Yes, Justin.  It’s 90 degrees out now so we might be waiting a little while.  Was there anything you didn’t like about this book?

Yes! It was over!! Oh, and when the teacher bird left in the winter, I was sad.

So there you have it…Justin’s reviewing debut!

Personally, I loved How Rocket Learned to Read because it describes the steps to learning how to read in a fun and exciting way.  The illustrations are vivid and interesting.  It grabs the reader’s attention, just as all books should. As I explained to Justin as we read, if he follows the steps that Rocket took, with time and practice he, too, would be reading before he knew it.

How Rocket Learned to Read is the perfect book for a preschooler or a child just about to enter kindergarten.

Since we’re about to start kindergarten here, Justin & I have been reading a lot of books about school and kindergarten. Check back each week as we feature our favorite back to school/kindergarten books!

Is there a book about going back to school or starting kindergarten that you’d like to recommend?

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Review: A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1561455210
  • Source: Publisher

It never fails to astound me how much nature is impacted by the action of humans. For example, the insecticides sprayed on crops not only kill the insects they are engineered to destroy, they also kill frogs as well.  And tadpoles are killed by chemicals farmers use to increase the growth of crops. A Place for Frogs is an incredibly detailed and informative picture book about how we can protect frogs and the environments in which they live.  Each spread discusses a particular problem; the first page describes the problem and the second details a solution.  Also included are several examples of frog species and environmental dilemmas they are in.

The book is also full of very vivid illustrations, thanks to the talented Higgins Bond (that name alone is lovely!)

My boys and I read this book together one evening.  Following are their comments:

Justin (4): There were so many frogs.  I liked to count all the frogs.

This was one of the things that make this book perfect for many ages…the hidden details.  After my oldest son and I read the text, my youngest would then count the frogs, tadpoles, birds, or other creatures found on the pages.  It kept both of them engaged.

John (10): The thing I like about this book is that it shows a lot of details about frogs.  It talks about what we can do to help keep frogs alive. One of nature’s greatest things is frogs.  Frogs help people by eating annoying insects like mosquitoes.  People: Every time you find a frog/toad in a dangerous place, take it to a safe place. Frogs are a part of nature, too.  Don’t do anything to hurt them.  SAVE THE FROGS!

A Place for Frogs would be a great addition to any home, school or public library collection.

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Tighty Whitey Spider by Kenn Nesbitt

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Pap/Com edition (April 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1402238339
  • Source: Publisher

Summary: a collection of over dozens of humorous and outrageous poems about animals!

The portion of this review listed in italics was written by my oldest son, John, as part of his “Tales of a Formerly Reluctant Reader” feature.  All the ideas and comments are his own. My review follows his.

John’s Review: When my mom told me that we were going to read a book of poems before I went to bed, I wasn’t very excited.  Poems are about love and stuff like that, things I totally don’t want to read about!  But then my mom told me they were different kinds of poems.  I didn’t believe her until I saw the cover of the book.  A spider…in underwear?!  I had to read this!

The Tighty Whitey Spider: And More Wacky Animal Poems I Totally Made Up is the funniest book of poems I have EVER read.  Kenn Nesbitt, the author, is so crazy!  The poems aren’t dull and boring, they are full of action and fun.  A few of my favorites include I Bought a New Tank for My Goldfish and My Hamster Has a Skateboard.   If all poetry was this exciting, I’d definitely read more!

My review: What can I say? Anything that gets my son excited about reading poetry has to be good!  John was very skeptical when I told him about the book but instantly opened up after seeing the cover and reading the first two poems.  They are full of wit and fun, I was honestly laughing a bit myself.  There are several poems that should be read to the tune of popular children’s songs  nursery rhymes.  Those were a real hit! Let’s face it, little boys like it when they think they’re making fun of another song or rhyme!

The only thing I should mention is that some of the poems are a little on the crude side and do discuss bodily functions.  Nothing totally off the wall or completely repulsive. Just something I thought worth mentioning. Still this book is still worth checking out!  Exclusive audio is available online, including Kenn singing and reading many of these hilarious poems!

I’m excited to announce a special feature to celebrate National Poetry Month: Followers of Jenn’s Bookshelves can download/view online Kenn’s previous book, My Hippo Has the Hiccups for free at until April 30th!

Following  is a list of other blogs participating in the National Poetry Month 2010 Blog Tour for the next few weeks.  The tour runs all month and covers a wide range of poetry subjects, be sure to check them out! For a complete listing of blogs participating in the tour, please check out Savvy Verse & Wit.

April 1:  Savvy Verse & Wit Welcome Post, Maw Books showcases her old poetry, Semicolon‘s Favorite Classic Poems Survey

April 2:  Diary of an Eccentric on Emily Dickinson, 32 Poems Interview with Geoffrey Brock

April 3:  Regular Rumination on poet Claudia Emerson

April 4:  Indextrous Reader interviews poetry publisher Brick Books

April 5:   West of Mars introduces the Roadie Poet

April 6:  Janel’s Jumble showcases Estrella Azul, The Betty and Boo Chronicles showcases Poems from the Women’s Movement

April 7:  Reading Frenzy features Edgar Allan Poe

April 8:  Books and Movies features Billy Collins

April 9:  Rhapsody in Books features W.B. Yeats

April 10:  Booking Mama will review Poetry Speaks Who I Am, Write Meg! features Kim Addonzinio

April 11:  Tea Leaves will review “Song of two worlds” by Alan Lightman

April 12:  Monniblog will highlight British Columbia, Canada, poets/poetry

April 13:  Life Is a Patchwork Quilt features poetry for the deaf

April 14:  SMS Book Reviews will surprise us with a poetry book review, Author Ru Freeman will talk about poetry’s cross-cultural presence, such as Palestinian poet Dharwish

April 15:  KCBooks will discuss Robert Frost’s The Outsider and how it impacted her.

April 16:  the life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object will review Poetry Speaks Who I Am and host a giveaway for 2 books

April 17:  She Is Too Fond of Books will review Tighty Whitey Spider, A Circle of Books will review a small illustrated Poetry anthology, Wordsworth The Eternal Romantic.

Review: Bye-Bye Baby! by Richard Morris


  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802797725

Felix is not happy, not happy at all.  His Mom and Dad are bringing home a baby sister.  Before he even meets her, he has decided he doesn’t like her.  Afterall, he already has his best friend Poncho (his stuffed Donkey), why would he need anyone else?

When his parents bring home his baby sister, he wants nothing to do with her.  She goes to bed late and wakes up wailing every morning.  Felix believes his parents should just take her back!

One day, Felix and his parents (and yes, unfortunately his little sister too!) go to the zoo. Felix LOVES the zoo. As they walk along, he devises ways of getting rid of his sister.  For example, the elephant is big enough to sit on his sister and the giraffe’s neck is long enough to place her up in a tree where she can never bother him again.

Felix loves the zoo so much he doesn’t want to leave.  He cries the entire way home!  His parents can’t seem to quiet him.  And then, his sister hands him his best friend, Poncho, and his tears stop.  How is it that the thing he despises so much could understand what he wants? He then discovers that his baby sister isn’t as bad as he made her out to be!

I read Bye-Bye, Baby! to both of my boys: John (10) and Justin (4).  To be completely honest, John has entered the phase in which he can’t stand his brother.  Justin gets on his nerves in a matter of seconds.  We remind John that Justin simply enjoys spending time with his big brother and that he should feel special that Justin cares for him so much.

Well, after we read Bye-Bye, Baby! we talked about John and Justin’s relationship with one another.  John was a bit different than the character in the book, Felix.  John loved Justin as soon as he saw him (he was in the delivery room) and cherished his sweet little brother.  It wasn’t until Justin was able to walk into his room (and steal some of his toys) that we had a problem.  We discussed this, and how much nicer it would be if the two of them got along.  I think it had an effect on him, which you can see in his mini-review below.

John’s Review:

I think Felix was being a little too rough on his baby sister.  When they went to the zoo, Felix was crazy with all these ideas.  I know his parents were trying to do everything to stop him from crying but it didn’t work.  Now he knows, when you have a baby sister, you must always give her a chance.  And now YOU must do the same with YOUR brother or sister!

Do you sense a bit of guilt there?

My review:

The author, Richard Morris, did an outstanding job of portraying a very series subject among young children: the arrival of a new sibling. He puts it in a format and language that young children can easily understand.  Each page has very elaborate illustrations (by Larry Day) and a small amount of text, so it does a good job of holding a young child’s interest. While neither one of my children have to be worried about another child coming into our house, it allows them to realize that siblings are there for one another, to help them when they need it. I highly recommend this book for any family getting reading to add a child into the family or, as in my case, a family with siblings that sometimes don’t get along.   John, Justin, an I really enjoyed reading Bye-Bye, Baby! We keep it in our “Bedtime Reading Bin” and reach for it very often!