Book Reviews

Book Review: The Book Tree

The Book Tree by Paul Czajak and Rashin Kheiriyeh

AUTHOR: Paul Czajak

ILLUSTRATOR: Rashin Kheiriyeh

PUBLISHER: Barefoot Books



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


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

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

– Jane Yolen

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

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

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

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

Rashin Kheiriyeh

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

Paul Czajak

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

Learn more about Paul’s work:

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

Follow Paul on Social media:



Kirkus  review of The Book Tree

The Book Tree book trailer

The Book Tree is available for pre-order:

Indie Bound


Barnes & Noble

Other books by Paul:

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

Book Reviews

Book Review: My Pillow Keeps Moving!

My Pillow Keeps Moving! by Laura Gehl

AUTHOR: Laura Gehl

ILLUSTRATOR: Christopher Weyant

PUBLISHER: Viking Books for Young Readers



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

Dogs make good pillows, don’t they?

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


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

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

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

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

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

My Pillow Keeps Moving Mason and Sophie

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

Laura Gehl

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

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

Learn more about Laura’s work:

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

Follow Laura on Social media:



Excellent post about illustrator Christopher Weyant’s creative process:

The Children’s Book Review

OTHER REVIEWS of My Pilllow Keeps Moving!:


Publishers Weekly

Where to find My Pillow Keeps Moving!:

Indie Bound


Barnes & Noble

Book Reviews

Book Review: Hedgehog Needs A Hug

Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton


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



Everyone needs hugs, even if they’re prickly.

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

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

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


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

Kids will adore the lively language.

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

And anticipate the refrain:

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

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

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


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

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

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

Author-illustrator Jen Betton

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Jen’s work:

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

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

Follow Jen Betton on Social media:






OTHER REVIEWS of Hedgehog Needs a Hug:


Publishers Weekly

Where to find Hedgehog Needs a Hug:

Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound


Book Reviews

Book Review: La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

AUTHORS: Deborah Mills & Alfredo Alva

ILLUSTRATOR: Claudia Navarro

PUBLISHER: Barefoot Books


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER REVIEWS of La Frontera: My Journey with Papa:


School Library Journal


Foreword Reviews

Book Reviews · Dive Into Diversity

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea

I chose a very special book for my second post for Dive Into Diversity. My son, Mason, will be seven years old next month. After he was born, my friend came from Idaho to visit us in Oregon. She brought Mason a beautiful book as well as an inspiring CD for me. I am listening to Women of the World: Acoustic as I write this post. I hadn’t listened to this music in a long time. I also hadn’t read Listen to the Wind in a long time. Mason is now old enough to appreciate this beautiful true story about compassion, celebrating culture, and working together to make the world a better place through education and peace.

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson ~ art by Susan L. Roth

Listen to the wind

Greg Mortenson stumbled, lost and delirious, into a remote Himalayan village after a failed climb up K2. The villagers saved his life, and he vowed to return and build them a school. The remarkable story of his promise kept is now perfect for reading aloud. Told in the voice of Korphe’s children, this story illuminates the humanity and culture of a relevant and distant part of the world in gorgeous collage, while sharing a riveting example of how one person can change thousands of lives.

The first page of Listen to the Wind introduces young readers to the children of Korphe.

20150228_145429 (1)

The last three sentences draw the reader in and set up the story.

“We study in the school that we helped build.

Before our school was built,

we had lessons outside.

We wrote with sticks,

on the ground.”

We learn how the people of Korphe helped Dr. Greg and how Dr. Greg wanted to give back to the people of Korphe. Dr. Greg asked the wise man how he could help. The wise man said, “Listen to the wind.”

Dr. Greg closed his eyes and heard the voices of the children.


The language throughout the entire book is inviting. I love the use of “folds” to describe the mountains.

“We watched him walk away until he disappeared into the folds of the mountains.”


Susan L. Roth’s collage illustrations are breath-taking. I had a difficult time deciding which pages to include in this post!


The outcome of all their hard work is displayed powerfully in the final spread, which includes a letter from the children of Korphe and an illustration of them studying in their new school.

“We are the children of Korphe. Can you hear our voices?

Listen to the wind . . .”



The end of the book includes a beautiful Korphe scrapbook as well as an artist’s note.


My favorite photograph in the scrapbook is of Haji Ali, the wise man who tells Dr. Greg to “listen to the wind.”


To learn more about the story behind Listen to the Wind visit Three Cups of Tea.





Book Reviews · Dive Into Diversity · Multicultural Children's Book Day

The Sandwich Swap

Multicultural children's book day

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day! Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

I try to check out a wide variety of books when we go to the library. I am also participating in the Dive Into Diversity reading challenge. These are the titles my children and I picked out this week:

why mosquitoes

the chicken chasing queen


  • Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky ~ illustrated by Christine Davenier

Me I am!

The Sandwich Swap by Kelly DiPucchio ~ illustrated by Tricia Tusa

The Sandwich Swap

The Sandwich Swap is a story about two friends. Lily eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch. Salma eats a hummus and pita sandwich every day for lunch. Lily has never tasted hummus, and Salma has never tried peanut butter. Lily thinks Salma’s sandwich looks yucky. Salma thinks Lily’s sandwich looks gross. One day, they share their disgust about each other’s sandwiches. Their hurt feelings turn mad and they both say things they don’t mean. A food fight breaks out in the lunch room and all the kids start calling each other names.


The next day, Lily and Salma decide to swap sandwiches. Mmmm! Yummy!


At the end of the book, Salma and Lily meet with the principal to suggest a special event for the school. This spread folds out to reveal a long table with children sharing dishes from all over the world.


The Sandwich Swap celebrates difference and encourages children to learn about cultures through a topic everyone relates to: food. This is a great picture book to pair with a fun family activity. Invite your children to help prepare a meal from a different part of the world.

My son, Mason, is a blue belt in taekwondo. Although he learns a lot in taekwondo, they don’t teach much about South Korea. Mason learned Grand Master’s favorite food is kimchi, and he thinks Grand Master is pretty cool so we will make kimchi for our first dish. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables.

Grand Master
Grand Master signing Mason’s belt at the ATA City of Trees Tournament.

The Sandwich Swap inspired us to learn more about South Korea. First, we looked at a map.

“Wow, South Korea is so far away,” Mason said.

Then I printed a South Korean flag coloring sheet and information about the meaning of the flag.


I am excited to incorporate activities for more multicultural children’s books in my February post for Dive Into Diversity. To learn about participating in Multicultural Children’s book Day click here. There will be a Twitter party tonight at 9 pm EST. Follow #ReadYourWorld to learn about other wonderful multicultural children’s books.

Continue the celebration the rest of the year! Read diverse books for Dive Into Diversity hosted by Rather Be Reading and Reading Wishes!




Book Reviews

Three Cheers for Mo Willems!

My children love reading Mo Willems books. We have read three books in the Elephant and Piggie series over, and over, and over. They giggle every time we read Today I Will Fly!, We are in a Book!, and Should I Share My Ice Cream? These books are visually appealing, interactive, and hilarious. The word bubbles and expressive characters make them fun to read again and again.

Today I Will Fly!

Today I Will Fly

Piggie is on a mission to fly, but Gerald says she WILL NEVER FLY! After a few failed attempts at flying, Piggie finds a helper. In the end, Gerald declares, “Tomorrow I will fly!”

Graphics play a huge role in this book. My six-year-old son, Mason, recognizes the visual cues to read the big, bold text VERY loud for emphasis. This book has given him more confidence as a reader. He also enjoys reading it to his little sister.

Mason’s favorite part in Today I Will Fly!

“When Gerald says he will fly and Piggie says, ‘Good luck.'”


Mason’s favorite illustration spread in Today I Will Fly!


We Are in a Book!

We Are in a Book

Piggie and Gerald discover that someone is watching them. Is it a monster? No, it’s a reader! They are in a book! Piggie and Gerald have loads of fun making the reader say funny things like, “Banana.” Gerald becomes extremely upset when Piggie mentions that the book will end. “The book ends?!” Piggie and Gerald develop a great plan to ask the reader to read the book again.

Graphics add another level of fun to this book as well. An entire page is filled with, “Ha! ha! and hee! hee!” Mason makes sure he doesn’t miss a single ha! ha! or hee! hee! when he reads We Are in a Book!

Mason’s favorite part in We Are in a Book!

“When they ask if we will read them again.”


Mason’s favorite illustration spread in We Are in a Book!


Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Should I Share My Ice Cream

Gerald can’t decide if he should share his ice cream with his best friend, Piggie. He debates for too long and his cream ice melts. Luckily, Piggie shows up just time to share her ice cream with Gerald.

I am incredibly impressed with the graphics in this book as well. My favorite graphic is the word bubble in the shape of an ice cream cone. How clever!


Mason’s favorite part in Should I Share My Ice Cream?

“I think it’s funny when Gerald’s ice cream melts.”


Mason’s favorite illustration spread in Should I Share My Ice Cream?


What are your favorite Mo Willems books? 


Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Mama's Purse Blog Tour

Mama’s Purse Blog Tour Book Review

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What’s in your purse? Bandages and bananas? What’s in my purse? Bandages maybe, but even bananas would be rare for mine. Yet I find my kids going through it all the time. Your kids will have much more fun discovering what is in this Mama’s Purse! Full of fun, adventure, and rhyming words! It’s just as much fun to read as it is for them to listen and see the pictures! There are so many fun surprises you will never guess what is next!

Mama’s Purse by AJ Irving is a cute little book that takes readers on a fun adventure of discovering what is in Mama’s purse. Our kids really enjoyed the fun illustrations and the unpredictable surprises that came with each page! I love the use of rhyming in Mama’s Purse. Between the rhyming and great illustrations we really enjoy Mama’s Purse! Our kids love pointing out the different things as I read them. They think Mama’s Purse is so fun and silly! Mama’s Purse is definitely a fun, family-friendly book!

Click here to read more!

Book Reviews · Mama's Purse Blog Tour

Mama’s Purse Blog Tour Book Review

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Mama’s Purse celebrates a soaring and vivid imagination. Author A.J. Irving takes the reader on a magical ride inside of Mama’s Purse where you will find more than just breath mints, pens, tissue, and band-aids (not that those items are in MY purse! *ahem*). As you turn each page, you will discover something wilder and wackier each time. From bassoons and goons to a plane and chow mein there are plenty of opportunities for young children to expand their minds and vocabulary.

Along with the wildly creative animals, food, actions, objects, and concepts in the book come some bright, colourful, computer-generated illustrations. I think young children would really be drawn to the images and could spend considerable time perusing them.

The book features rhyming verse and for the most part, the rhyming is really good, but there are a few spots that perhaps lack some cadence. This becomes more noticeable when you try to read it out loud to children and you stumble over words trying to keep the rhythm going. Overall though, it’s very well done.

My Bottom Line: Overall, this is a creative and fun book to read to young children. It also opens up a discussion to stretch children’s imagination by asking “What would you find in YOUR Mama’s Purse?” The wackier, the better! This is a sweet little picture book that I think young children (aged 2 to 5) would enjoy reading with their parents (especially with Mama!)

Click here to read more!

Book Reviews · Mama's Purse Blog Tour

Mama’s Purse Blog Tour Book Review

Lexi_ad167 What is in a mom’s purse? I decided I ought to clean mine out today just to find out. I discovered AWANA awards, legos, earrings, dollhouse people, pieces to some paper dolls, bandaids, a picture drawn by my daughter, two blocks, one matchbox car, and several crayons. There were far more reminders of motherhood than personal items. Not that I mind….

We had the chance to review a book about all the things that might be found inside a mom’s purse in the book Mama’s Purse by AJ Irving.

This book is a rhyming, possibly exaggerated, list of all the fantastic things that might be found in your purse. You could find a raccoon, a tiny typhoon, and a family of fireflies in June. Or you might discover a hare, a purple square, and a balloon filled with hot air. You never know what you could pull from Mama’s Purse!

My kids enjoyed this book and laughed at the outrageous and silly things found in Mama’s Purse. A pianist? An ice rink? A pod of dolphins? They also enjoyed coming up with additional silly and rhyming items that they thought should be found in Mama’s Purse.

Click here to read more!