"Today the greatest challenge in publishing is distribution and discoverability. As a result, sites like [PictureBooksReview] are more important than ever to discerning readers, new authors and independent publishers."
-Steve Floyd, chief executive officer of August House books

"The interview is so amazing! I appreciate you picking up on all these aspects of what I've been doing. It's always great to talk with someone who understands what goes into these things."

- Jose Lucio, self-published author of Heave Ho!


Gollywood, Here I Come! (2014)

Written by Terry John Barto

Illustrated by Mattia Cerato

The book opens with an impressive and expansive panorama of the town of Gobbleville, filled with buildings of all shapes and sizes, swimming pools, taco huts, trucks and buses. In the far off distance, beneath the setting sun and a passing zeppelin, loom the large, white letters, “Gollywood!”

The artist, Mattia Cerato, specializes in maps when he's not illustrating stories, and this definitely seems right up his alley. 

From here, the scene zooms in on a parade marching down the main street. Anamazie Marie LeBelle is leading the Wattle View School Marching Band, tossing the baton high into the sky and imagining all the great things to come in her life! And no sooner is the parade over, than Anamazie has time only for a quick change of clothes before arriving at the theater for her next passionate calling, a patriotic tap dance on Gobbleville’s Got Talent!

 Thunderous applause roared from the audience as Anamazie landed in the splits and belted out the last note!


Gobbleville's Got Talent!
From there, the author charts Anamazie’s meteoric rise to fame, as she at lasts finds her way to Gollywood, securing the starring role in The Turkey and I, directed by the famous J.B. Tuttlebaum... with only a few bumps along the way.

“I can’t work with this!” her co-star, Jake Quigglemap shouts as he storms off the set, after Anamazie has messed up a scene.

"You will star in my next motion picture!"

"I can't work with this!"

But all is well that ends well, and end well it does. Anamazie gives an inspirational final adieu to her former classmates, “My mom says you can do anything if you work hard and never give up!” and then it’s back to her limo, away from the blinding flash of the paparazzi, and she’s back on her way to Gollywood!

As he did also with Nickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon, which I reviewed last time, the author Terry John Barto writes a story about a character finding their calling and following their dreams. 


Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon (2015)

Written by Terry John Barto

Illustrated by Kim Sponaugle


Nickerbacher is a dragon with bushy eyebrows who spends his days and nights lazing before a tall tower, guarding the fair maiden entrapped within, the set-up for many a standard fairy-tale. But Nickerbacher doesn’t want to be part of a standard fairy tale, he’d rather be out preforming stand-up comedy at a nightclub.

“Why did it take me forever to cross the road? Because I’m always a-draggin!”

But dragons don’t perform comedy. Dragons fight knights. Dragons breathe fire. Dragons do dragon-things.

“Every dragon has a duty to guard princesses!” growls his frowning father, a much larger dragon whose eyebrows aren’t even a tad bushy.

“But I want to tell jokes!” Nickerbacher pleads.

His father isn’t having it.
"You're not supposed to make people laugh, you're supposed to scare them!"

Nickerbacher seems resigned to this life when finally that other standard storybook trope, the brave knight, makes his appearance. His name is Prince Happenstance, and he has come to rescue the princess and to do battle!

Nickerbacher, however, has only one weapon in his arsenal. “I’m a comedian. I’ll slay you with laughter, Prince Fancypants!”

"Don't you think I'm funny?"

The art by Kim Sponaugle is fun and expressive. I liked the design of all of the characters. She creates a convincing-looking dragon that works as well in a medieval setting as he does even after he’s donned a loud bow tie and jacket, standing onstage before an audience of anachronistic theater-goers.

“You know what happened to the dragon whose dream came true?” he asks his adoring crowds. “He lived happily ever after.”

Hm… seems I recall hearing that line in a movie somewhere…  But perhaps this is a fairy tale after all!

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Comedy Castle presents...."


The Cat From Hunger Mountain (2016)

Written and Illustrated by Ed Young

Paper collage

Philomel Books

This book is dedicated to 'the strange virtue in deprivation, an unwanted and the least understood gateway to humanity and life's riches,' which is not the most straightforward of dedications, but Ed Young does not make orthodox picture books.

There is a simple lesson in this story: the importance of not wasting food, but it is wrapped up in so much beauty and mysticism, that it seems to have come directly from some ancient Buddhist text... albeit one with a talking cat.

Young has again used paper collage as his medium, and to great effect. The snowy landscapes are especially vivid, and the cut paper is used well to show the cold breath coming from the mouth of his wandering Lord Cat. A few pages later, and the cut-paper is now a beige, barren landscape where famine has persisted for several years... even the long, red paper strip to signify blood coming from the beak of a hunter bird had a special vibrancy to it. I don't often think of paper-collage being so detailed and precise. Young fits it all in perfectly. I could feel the movement from one land to the next, the proportioning of the characters, the distance between them.
Hunters gifted him with rare meats...
Lord Cat is the main character who lives at the top of a tall pagoda atop Hunger Mountain in extreme opulence, while all around him his subjects wallow in hunger and misery. He only ever eats half the bowl of rice given to him each day, and demands the rest be taken away. It almost seems like its his way of rubbing his wealth into the noses of his many servants. All the meanwhile he shouts, "There is more rice to harvest!"

"Are you blind? Can't you see the bowl is half-empty?"
But all good things must eventually come to an end. Famine eventually overtakes his kingdom, reducing all to waster. For the first time, Lord Cat must leave Hunger Mountain, and go wandering through the land, conversing with beggars and becoming a beggar himself. Like the Buddha, he discovers the true meaning of contentment and happiness.

The famine persisted a second year.
 To this day, if you enter this temple in the foothills of Hunger Mountain, you'll find an urn in the shape of a cat. From it you can take out a tab with an inscription that reads, Only I know what's enough."


I am Pan! (2016)

Written and Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

Roaring  Book Press

This book immediately caught my eye with its exuberant cover and title-as-declaration. In an era in which the word-count for the average picture book is ever shrinking, I was impressed by its heft when I lifted it from the shelf. Nearly 80 pages of story!

The books follows the lifespan of Pan - from his birth to his... death? Do gods die? We do get an answer of sorts. We also witness the passage from one era to the next, from an ancient world in which the gods are very real beings whose antics have very real consequences, to a modern world wherein the gods have become myths and stroll about incognito.

"Most of the retellings of the Greek myths I've seen take the stories and characters quite seriously. Or they treat the gods and goddesses as superheros, telling us how great, grand and powerful they were," writes Gerstein. "But from my reading, [they] could also be bad-tempered, silly, jealous, vengeful and ever stupid... that's what these myths are: gossip about the gods."

Following the momentous occasion of Pan's birth come ten stories of Pan's life, which chart how he charms and delights all of the gods - which is why Zeus names him 'Pan.' Pan meaning all, "because he delights ALL our hearts." It doesn't take him long before he wears out the patience of the gods with his unending pranks and mischief and is banished to Arcadia.

Pan falls in live with the moon, with nymphs and with his echo. He does battle with Monster Typhoon. All of the stories are funny and clever, and filled with enthusiasm. I think my favorite was "The Great Music Contest" in which Pan and Apollo try to outdo each other musically, with Mount Timolus serving as judge. After a few pages of childish banter, Gerstein includes two gorgeous double-page spreads back-to-back, one demonstrating Pan's prowess on the pipes, and the other demonstrating Apollo's skill on the harp. Each image is stunning, and make for a great contrast amidst so much foolishness.

In the end, Pan brings out the best in everyone he comes across, gods, nymphs and humans. "A perfect deity for kids," Gerstein writes. "Because though fully grown, at least he's one of them."

All hail Pan, goat-footed, two-horned lover of noise and chaos. God of music and confusion, sleep and shepherds, goats and goatherds, duck and duckherds, cows and cowherds, beekeepers and bees!


A Wolf at the Gate (2015)

Illustrated by Joel Hedstrom

Mennonite Worker Press

I first met Mark Van Steenwyk during the 2014 Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. He and his family were a part of our makeshift encampment, and though the festival was in a state of near-constant downpour, our children nonetheless delighted in all the glorious mud.

He was there to talk about his recently published book, TheUnkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance (2013, InterVarsity Press). I am unsure if A Wolf at the Gate was gestating at that time, though its themes are certainly very much in line with the rest of Mark's social-justice-oriented work and writings.

The story is based on the legend of Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio, originally written in the Fioretti di San Francesco in 1390. In that tale, good ol' Saint Francis fearlessly approaches the cave of a fierce and bloodthirsty wolf which had been terrorizing a small mountain town in the far northeastern part of the Italian province of Perugia.

"Brother wolf," says Saint Francis, "Thou hast done much evil in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, if so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more."

"I've always wondered what the story would be like from the wolf's point of view," Mark writes, and in so wondering, he fills in the whole of wolf culture, a culture in which oral storytelling is just as important as learning to hunt.

"It is better to be hungry with neighbors than it is to be well-fed alone," is one of the lessons passed down from elder wolf, but the central story? Simply thus:

"We were the Lords of the Forest.

Then the humans came."

"Humans don't just kill to survive. Sometimes they kill out of rage. And they don't just eat to survive; sometimes they eat when their belly is already full. They are violent and greedy. They aren't like any of the other beasts in the forest; they want to own it all.That is why we hide deep in the shadows and high in the mountains. We wait and watch. We live in fear."

I was surprised at this books's length - 78 pages, which includes several beautiful full-page illustrations by Minnesotan artist Joel Hedstrom. It is a volume with some heft, but not due to any excess verbage on the part of the author. To the contrary, I found Mark's prose clean and direct. The heft comes from the burst of storytelling. This is no mere re-telling, but rather The Wolf of Gubbio is a canvas upon which to paint several thematically connected stories, all informed by Mark's commitment to social justice and child-like sense of wonder.

The central wolf character was born all red, and is referred to as "Blood Wolf" throughout. The only explanation given is that she was born under the red glow of the Hunter's Moon. Narratively, it makes for a nice distinguishing characteristic and a kick-ass moniker, but it really affords Joel some awesome graphic opportunities. The stark contrast between the red wolf and the black eponymous gate works so well, it makes me wonder if Joel came up with it first, and Mark only then incorporated it into the story. Everything feels big and mythic and full of purpose.

In the story, Saint Francis is referred to as "The Beggar King." He is wise and saintly, and now that Blood Wolf has forsaken the teachings of her parents and terrorizes the small village, it is he who must make peace... not through any supernatural means - he has no mystical powers - but only wisdom. But even he falters when considering Blood Wolf's many questions about the inequity and injustice that she witnesses.

"Beggar King, why do some families live in big houses while others live in small houses? Some even make houses for chickens and dogs. Yet many beg and have no homes at all?"

This is a fable with no easy answers. We are confronted with the greed and selfishness which seems inherent in all living creatures, yet must believe that they can be overcome. The story follows the life of Blood Wolf as she helps the denizens of Stonebriar in more ways than one, and even charts the years following her death and memorialization. She "tried to rule through fear, but learned to serve with love."


A Conversation with Agatha Rodi

Agatha Rodi
A couple of months ago, I was pleased to review Amelie Gets Busy, written by Grecian author Agatha Rodi. The story concerns a young girl and her relationship with her grandmother, or yiayia. I was curious about Agatha's real-life yiayia, and also how the Greek financial crisis has affected her life and career as a picture book writer.

You dedicated the book to your mother and grandmother. Did your grandmother live on a farm similar to the one in the story?

Oh yes, my grandmother still lives on a farm in our village! She is around 93 - though her real age is not known to family members. You see, back then parents registered their kids years after their birth!

My yiayia's name is Athanasia, meaning Euthanasia. She's a very sweet Greek-type yiayia, thinking only of cooking and cleaning. Her witty remarks can make you wonder for days, and although she is illiterate, her comments on serious issues are very wise! I always admired her courage when she lived up in the mountains, without electricity, only having water from a spring far from the peak.

I also admired the way she confronted life in general. I would choose the word stoicism to describe her attitude towards life's dramas and great joys. I always have her in my mind, thinking of her daily life when visiting her, the way she reacted and how she treated her animals with tenderness. She was a real devotee and she introduced all her grandchildren to farm work and to the secrets of good cooking! The smells and the images are always there, even after so many years! Her cooking is still exceptional, that's why I couldn't resist writing about cookies, spinach pie and Feta cheese. She prepared dairy products on her own in the traditional way, too.

When recalling her special bond with trees and animals, I can only tell you she was very affectionate and respectful towards nature. She taught me to take care of everything and be patient till the fruits or food came out in their season. Her yard was full of chickens and roosters, birds and smelly roses. I couldn't stop playing with all the animals or not help her with the housework. I love my yiayia for being so alive and realistic about life, she is a true philosopher for me. She has been deprived of a lot, but she enjoys life's moments in a unique way, every time she has the chance.
My mother Nikolitsa has faced similar challenges in her life, and I dedicated my first book to both of them since their determination and persistence are truly exceptional. I could not do differently but refer to these two Greek warriors!

Τell me how the Greek financial crisis has affected you.
It is for us a constant reminder of tensions, stress and a fear which changes face almost every day. This is the simple truth of how people of any social status feel about our situation here. The feeling of insecurity prevails over any type of decision and makes you wonder about tomorrow and the future in general. Being both a school owner and a teacher working full time, even on weekends, to keep my school while paying new added taxes every month makes the situation unbearable and it has been 5 years now that this is happening.
There is no chance of economic recovery when the unemployment rates have risen frantically. Families are supported by in-laws, grandparents, close relatives or volunteers in every municipality, getting food and if they are lucky enough, finding a place to sleep. Unemployment means homelessness since mortgages aren't paid, then banks seize the houses. Is it a Greek Drama? Well, yes, unfortunately these two words fit best to what we experience.
It is unfair for all the Greeks who have worked very hard in their course of life, to struggle to have a decent life. The ongoing austerity measures from the government's part along with sentiments of disappointment and excessive frustration displayed by the Greeks, facing lack of peace and health problems are apparent. From my point of view, the Greek Financial Crisis functions as a means to steal everybody's joy and hope.
I personally don't intend to let this happen, no matter what the obstacles will be. I can't surrender to it. Here is a challenge to everybody, learn anew to compete with challenges that favor as well as the growth of character and wisdom!
 My grandmother Athanasia and my grandfather Gabriel outside their mountain home. 

How has it impacted you as a picture book author?
It is a fact that Greek publication houses face significant issues. The most renowned of them were forced to close down after being around for many decades.
The imposition of Capital Controls brought a freeze in the market so this has caused a series of events including writers, too. At the same time there has been a very promising community of entrepreneurs, either publishers or writers, whose purpose is to urge new writers to come out and are open to new things. Children's books sales were not affected so much, but books' prices have lowered so much that books are sold mostly at bazaars or at open markets for 2 euro. Financial crisis doesn't permit Greek buyers to give 15, 20, or 25 euro to buy a book from the bookstore.
If a Greek writer considers all the above seriously, then s/he may find no purpose on pursuing their writing goals. But this is not the case. My thinking is that a writer exposes their personal experiences on their book's pages and speaking for children's stories, they offer a vision to learners and a perspective. Although the Financial Crisis has left its scars I could never stop writing my children's stories.
I am surrounded by different age groups at my school on a daily basis. Both younger kids and teens dream big of their future and most of the time are impressed with what they have read in a book, asking for more details or even making inspirational comments. I teach English and French, so the texts used in different age groups cause a stirring of discussions and comments!
This kind of curiosity sparks my own imagination, both as a teacher and a writer. I need to escape from the harsh reality, to imagine and learn more from my stories. When I want to write, I forget the financial crisis and whatever is involved with it, I only expect to lose myself in the story. I consider myself lucky for being able to write what I like, to give hope and offer joy!

As a teacher, are you paid by the Greek government? How does that work out?

I am paid by the parents of my students. Although English and French Language is taught at primary, High School and Senior High School, the Greek educational system doesn't provide the kind of knowledge and practice needed for a Certificate or Diploma in a foreign language. This gap is covered by the private Centers of Foreign Languages that have mostly their students from kindergarten till Senior High school years. Parents have to pay for the annual fees and some of them choose to have private lessons at home.

It may sound strange but this is what happens here in Greece, having the Centers of Foreign Languages (CFL) being in a turmoil, especially this year when for three months, a special tax was imposed to parents who were obliged to pay 23% added tax for their kids teaching. After a great struggle, both by the parents and the CFL Owners, the tax was annulled at the beginning of December 2015 but the damage was already done.

Due to the financial crisis, unemployment, and the 23% tax, the CFLs had a 50% reduction in the number of their students.
 The view from my grandmother's house to the village of Santameri,
How is your yiayia dealing with the crisis?

You may think I am joking but I have asked her so many times about how she thinks of her children and grandchildren experiencing this situation, and how she feels about the future. Any time I recall her face and deep gaze, there is no sign of worry.

You see, for her it's the third time in her life she’s experienced economic destruction. The absolute poverty she experienced as a child can't be described or even compared with that of today, when she feels like a queen in our village house, having all the necessary provisions to live a decent life.

Her answers show us that she worries a lot, because she wants us to be happy. At the same time, her eyes tell us not to give up. When she is pressed - especially by me on how to overcome the whole situation since there is no way out - she chooses to pose questions to me, making me wonder about life's worth. She repeats that things will get better and I only have to be strong and not to lose hope or my inner energy. The future may be far away for her, but her belief is that things will be better since this is how life is.

"Everything is a circle and this one is not completed yet, so stop wondering and let's do what kind of chores we have for today!" What can I say? My grandmother Athanasia is one of a kind!

And what does she think of your writing?

Well, at the beginning - about 7 years ago - it seemed to her like a task I was assigned at school, or maybe she connected it with my job as a teacher. When I started interviewing her on clarifying certain information about our customs and celebrations, and daily village routines, she answered me in detail, but wondered who would be interested in those things.

She now has a smile of gratitude and an amazing spark on her face, this says so much than any words spoken. I do believe she is happy about me and feels very proud of what I do. As we say, her eyes' smile is Love winking at me!


A Conversation With Christopher Stanley

Christopher Stanley is the author and illustrator of the beautiful self-published picture book, The Tree Watcher, which I reviewed on the site last month. The focus of the story is the beauty of trees, as seen from the point of view of a child. It was his first picture book, but not his last!

Can you describe the day you had the idea for the book?

It was mid-summer, and there were many things on my mind. From issues at work, to dealing with simply trying to keep my house clean when four children live there, I felt very distracted and was definitely not being mindful of my many blessings.

I decided that I wanted to walk down to the park, and I took Sam along so that he could have a change of scenery. As we started walking, I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings. When we were down the street a bit, I looked down at Sam to see how he was doing - and that's when everything changed. You should have seen his face! Here was this baby boy, all of 9 months old, teaching me about wonder, joy, and mindfulness. The way he was looking up at the trees, I could see how amazed he was.

And he was right! I stopped to look as well, and it was really quite extraordinary. We are fortunate enough to have many mature trees in our neighborhood, and I was overcome with their beauty and just their... dignity.

As we continued along, I joined Sam in being mindful of my surroundings, and many of those questions and scenarios from the book happened on this walk. It's truly amazing what we can experience just by paying attention.

You were a fan of picture books to begin with?

Indeed! They have always had such an impact on me. I remember getting The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base when I was about 10 years old, and I was just obsessed!

In seventh grade, I read MAUS for the first time – and that changed my life! Reading this graphic novel, which really is just a fancy picture book, set me on the path toward becoming a history teacher.

As picture books were such big parts of my life, I always wanted to make my own. I made simple ones as a child, but I really started wanting to make a picture book when I was 26. I had a good idea, and even wrote an outline, but never did anything with it. It really wasn't until that walk with Sam that "The Muse" spoke to me, as it were, and I decided to actually follow through with my life-long dream.

So it took almost ten years, but I'm happy to report I'm following through. What a walk that was, huh?

I'm a fan of Art Spiegelman as well, and I like that you conflate graphic novels with picture books. Do you use picture books / graphic novels in the classroom?

I did! I used Maus quite frequently. In fact, my local comic shop has an entire section devoted to educational graphic novels on many different historical topics. I fully support the use of graphic novels in the classroom - it makes learning so much fun for everyone involved! What a great way to relate any story!

How did you create the images for you book?

My artistic medium has always been photography and digital art. For this story, I decided to capture some of the actual trees that Sam and I had encountered on our walk. So over the course of a couple of months, I took pictures. Some I had Sam pose in, others not.

The image from the cover is actually a Beech tree in my front yard! One of my favorite pages, the page with the autumn leaves, is on a street by my eldest daughter's middle school. I turned down the street and knew right away I needed this picture for the book. So after I took the photos, I started manipulating them on my computer.

Some photos took little time and effort, while others I spend a lot of time getting what I wanted.

Overall, it took about four months to get them all done.

As you manipulated them, what exactly were you looking for?

I was looking for images that were both aesthetically pleasing and which captured the essence of the message.

For the page that accompanies, "Can you feel the branches whisper with the wind?" I didn't really know what I was looking for, but knew I couldn't find it. Then one day at a park I don't normally frequent, I saw this row of trees lined up at an angle with the sun shining through the outer branches and the wind lightly blowing across. I knew I had found it!

"Can you feel the branches whisper with the wind?"

From there, I attempted to have the branches appear to be "reaching out" upon the wind - I think that page turned out well for accomplishing both goals. I was going for a surreal effect - I wanted the reader to feel a touch of magic when looking at the pictures, because it was magic that I felt that day on the walk.

What do you generally do with your graphic art, if not for picture books?

I used it a lot for teaching/educational purposes, and then mostly on items that I turned into gifts for my family and friends. This was certainly my most ambitious project, and it was quite the educational experience. I really felt like I was creating something, and putting a little bit of myself into each page. A friend suggested I should start creating puzzles out of some of my pictures, so who knows, maybe I'll add that to the list someday!

And now you have another book coming out? Is it thematically connected in any way?

I do! It's looking like around the end of February/early March and it's called, I Dreamed I Was a Bird. It's from a poem I wrote, where I imagined what kind of things a child would see and do if they had a dream where they turned into a bird. It's not thematically connected to The Tree Watcher, apart from being able to see things from a different view than we normally do.


Why Juan Can't Sleep (2012)

Written by Karl Beckstrand

Illustrated by Luis F. Sanz

Hey, this is a really intriguing book, I read it twice through just to make sure I got everything. There's a lot going on with the design and the typography, filled with the mundane and the fantastic. A disheveled David Letterman makes an appearance, in the way our dreamscape tries to make sense of the day's events.

Lots of really fun vocabulary... A dreary dream of drooling druids... And the rhyme scheme knows no bounds:

A plane, a train, thunder and rain, police in the lane... Urp! Last night's lo mein.

He counts in his brain, the strain, the pain! (He's bursting a vein)

He's going insane.

On it goes until both Juan and the creature beneath his bed manage to find some shut-eye.

I was sent this book and asked to participate in Multicultural Children's Book Day. What, you may ask, is Multicultural Children's Book Day?

Our Mission

The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.



Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can us the links below or view them here.

All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground

Classroom Reading Challenge
Help spread the word on our Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children's book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.


Xalien the Purple Alien (2015)

Written by Michelle Path

Illustrated by Charlotte Roberts

Xalien the Alien has crash-landed on Earth - in the rose bushes of three children, to be precise. They discover the fun alien, but cannot let on to their parents, because parents spoil everything! Better to dress Xalien like their hip, new friend and take her to the carnival, no?

Things don't always exactly add up, from one world to the next:

There was no such thing as a merry-go-round on Xalien's planet. Aliens raced slug-like creatures for fun. It was strange that humans chose to ride on plastic creatures, but Xalien had fun riding anyway.

It's a bit of a retelling of E.T. but for much younger readers. The children try their hardest to keep Xalien out of trouble and entertained, while the little alien herself is attempting to phone home for an intergalactic pick-up.

I'm sure the story will get a lot of laughs, and the illustrations are colorful and lively and filled with expression. This is the first of a series of picture books featuring the alien and her adventures. Michelle says that she 'draws her inspiration from nature and the environment, working these themes into her stories to encourage children to have an interest in and appreciation of our planet, in a fun, unique way.'


Monkeys and Crocodiles Play Baseball (2015)

Written by Angel Krishna

Illustrated by Angel Alvarez

Global Publishing Group

The monkeys are fresh out of coconuts, so how shall their baseball game continue? Further coconut replenishments can only be attained by riding on the backs of the crocodiles across the river... but why should the crocodiles do the monkeys a favor? It's not as though they're ever invited to play baseball with them!

A story of sharing and teamwork is really strengthened by the wonderful illustrations... each monkey and crocodile are drawn with such precise facial expressions and body language that they practically tell the story on their own. Very animated, and very engaging.

In the end, the coconuts are successfully procured and - as the title foretells - both the monkeys and the crocodiles are able to play together... but I liked the final twist on the last page which you'll have to get the book to see!

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