Book Reviews: How I’ve missed you!

No excuses for the radio silence, just a fact. Life intervenes. Between my day job (which, as a teacher, means day-night-weekend…) and family stuff (Sandwich generation! Yeehaw!), I haven’t been able to get my typical book reviews done and boy have I missed it! But I’m back! While waiting for the dog to get groomed today, I took time for myself and read some of the scads of amazing new books that have been coming out — there are SO MANY!). I loved every one and so will you! Let’s go!

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Fall Writing Frenzy: Read my Entry!

Greetings and happy fall!

This month, I am entering a kidlit writing contest called “Fall Writing Frenzy” (Hence the blog post title)! As part of the contest, I am sharing my entry here on my blog. Writers are asked to take inspiration from one of 14 fall-themed images. Entries must be less than 200 words, can be any form (board book, picture book text, poem, short story, etc.) as long as they are appropriate for a young audience. If you’d like to read more about the contest and see the other images or read other entries, please check out the blog post from hosts Lydia Lukidis and Kaitlyn Sanchez!

“Fall” Photo credit by John Mccann for Unsplash

Awaiting the Procession
Entry for “Fall Writing Frenzy” 2022

When I was a tree, I stood so tall– 
Straight at attention, standing guard
Along the path where you would tread. 
My sisters and I proudly threw our leaves to line your path,
Their colors a kaleidoscope of welcome.
Even the stones, who shrug the seasons with indifference year after year,
Appeared to glisten with expectancy.
The moss and lichens glowed along our flanks 
Like shimmer on a princess’ cheek.
My limbs not quite as limber as in seasons past, 
But still I waved them, ready to salute.
Would you pass by today, dear mother, to inspect your work?
Would we be blessed to catch a glimpse of you in your autumnal dress?
Your name is in the whispers of the wind,
Who rumors in hushed tones: it’s Time. She comes.
-Melanie M. Kyer , October 2022

August Book Reviews: Where did summer go?

Did everyone else’s summer go by as quickly as mine? I thoroughly enjoyed spending time reading on our new screened porch, researching potential agents, binging TV shows. We spent a great week traveling as a family, visiting friends and relatives on the Eastern Seaboard. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get to blogging, but with school starting this week, it’s time to have fun and play with some great picture books before I dive back into teaching.

Lots of great books this month! Enjoy!

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Retro-reviews: childhood favorites I bet you never heard of…

Two boxes I brought back from my childhood home– they’d been “lost” for years while my own children grew up– now I get to rediscover and share them with my teen boys!

Last week I had to head up to my mom’s house to do some cleaning out after a pipe bust in an old bedroom. In the process I brought home several boxes of picture books I’d had as a child. Of course there were timeless old classics like Mike Mulligan, Cat in the Hat, and One Morning in Maine, but also oodles and oodles of books that I’d completely forgotten about as well as a few little gems that I loved, but which are pretty obscure and I bet you have never heard of. So for our reviews today, indulge me in a little time travel. Yes, I generally focus on books published in the past couple years, but looking back at books from the 60s and 70s (I am the youngest, so many of my books were hand-me-downs) just might teach us a few lessons about how much the market has changed!

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May PB reviews from my NEW local bookstore!

The new boookstore, “Booktenders,” on Route 1 in York, Maine, is a tiny gem — I’m thrilled to call it my home store!

My apologies for letting the ball drop on my April book reviews, but I’m back and so excited to share five new picture book reviews for May. I’m even more excited to share a wonderful new bookstore with you that JUST opened this weekend! Booktenders is owned by Rick and Michelle Clarke, and it’s going to make my book shopping a LOT easier! Although I’ll admit I’m guilty of abusing my Amazon Prime subscription, or stopping in at my local Barnes & Noble for a latte and a bestseller, I would much rather support an independent bookseller, where my money will not only go back into the local community, but where the owners know me and can give me recommendations — and vice versa! The owners let me know that they could definitely use a little help keeping up with the current picture book scene since their kids have mostly outgrown picture books (In my opinion, there’s no such thing as outgrowing picture books, but you know teenagers…). I’m happy to oblige, but for this month, let’s take a look at five current picture books these folks already have on the shelves!

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Happy “Very Hungry Caterpillar Day!” – March Book Reviews

Five fabulous food-based picture books: “Milk and Juice,” “Smart Cookie,” “Tea Time,” “The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round,” and “Lunch Every Day.”

Did you know that today is “Very Hungry Caterpillar Day”? I didn’t! I’m a huge fan of Eric Carle– his completely unique and bright art style, his simple but brilliant stories..and of course the fact that he was born in Germany makes him perfect for me, a German teacher. I read my German students “Die kleine Raupe nimmersatt” every year during our “Storytelling” unit. They analyze whether or not it has the elements of a fairy tale. (It does have some– including exaggeration and transformation, but it lacks the magic and moral-teachings that would put it into fairy tale world). In honor of Eric Carle and this wonderful story, I am reviewing picture books this month that somehow have food in their theme. Enjoy and…guten Appetit!

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A Cookie Story (Not that one…)

I have a great story for you about cookies — no, not “The Great Holiday Cookie Swap” — that one is already published and on the shelves. (Shameless plug: please buy and/or review!). But first, let’s get the obligatory “Wow, what a year 2021 has been!” and “Sorry it’s long since I posted” dance over with. By way of explanation I will say that last month I had a wonderful set of book reviews ready to write and I came home from the bookstore to find my basement flooded and several boxes of my favorite picture books destroyed. In itself, that would have made for a great post about mentor texts (which you see laid before drying out in these photos), but alas we were too busy drying out our entire basement and fighting with the insurance company (who in the end refused to pay since it counted as flooding). So I will just share my normal “book fan” photo with the books I would have reviewed that day and say they were all quite lovely and you should check them out! Feel free to comment with questions.

And now, on to happier things! Two weeks after this flooding, I was honored by one of my professional organizations, the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) with the FL-A-CH Award, given each year to a German teacher who shows exceptional teaching of the cultures of Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein. It was a great honor, because as a German teacher, it’s easy to focus just on Germany, but having spent a year studying in Salzburg, Austria, in college, I have always been passionate that German-speaking languages and cultures extend far beyond the borders of Germany. Well, that prize came with a monetary award as well, and I decided to spend some of the money on something that would serve as a reminder of my passion for those cultures. Combining that with my love of baking, it was easy to decide: I would invest in some “Springerle” cookie molds. “Springerle” cookes are a very old style of cookie from Switzerland and other German-speaking cultures which is rolled and pressed with molds. (Though the molds themselves can be used for many other things such as shortbread and marzipan). Originally these were made of wood, but often they are now cast in resin. I found mine from the website Gingerhaus and imported from the Swiss company Änis-Paradies. These beautifully detailed cookie molds come in a huge variety from flowers to holiday scenes, but I wanted to focus on molds to represent the cultures of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. I chose the molds below– including one more, a star of David, to represent the German-Jewish culture. I love them so much– I can foresee adding more to my collection as the years go by!

The amazingly intricate molds from Änis-Paradies and Gingerhaus. Each came in its own tiny muslin bag and they included a scalloped cutter to cut the molded cookies.

But this is not the end of the story! I placed my order in November and near the end of the month, I got an email from the owner of the company, Ms. Lee Shepherd. She was packaging my order and noticed that I lived in York, Maine. Now, it’s somewhat common for people to have heard of York, as it is a popular tourist destination on the coast. However, Ms. Shepherd had grown up there and attended the high school where I teach! In a nod to this “small world” connection, she said she would like to send me a gift along with my order — a copy of her new book. Wow! I hadn’t noticed her book when I was shopping for my molds, but I thanked her and told her I would be very pleased to get it — assuming it would be a small book of recipes. As you can see from the photos, this is no small recipe book, but rather a huge and comprehensive coffee table book with an extensive history of Springerle and many recipes with gorgeous photos! So you see, this IS a book review post after all! I will be working my way through the recipes and of course sharing the cultural information with my students!

And here’s the holiday epilogue…I make Christmas ornaments every year– usually I have a simple ornament that I make with my German classes (this year it was an origami star), and a more ornate one to give as gifts to friends and fellow teachers. So this year, I couldn’t resist making a homemade cornstarch air-dry clay and creating some works of art with these beautiful molds. Have a look at how they turned out! I love them both with and without the ink touches (done with fine permanent markers– I could never achieve that detail with paintbrushes!). Hope you have had a wonderful 2021 despite all of its challenges– wishing you an even better, safer and more peaceful 2022!

August Picture Book Reviews: Making good choices…

5 Picture books for review this month

I’m getting in just under the wire with my reviews this month. I had every intent of writing them while we were in Canada on vacation last week, but exploring the local bookstores had to fall by the wayside for time with relatives we have not seen since well before Covid. So, I made a trip to the nearby Barnes & Noble yesterday and found a big picture book sale– 50% off many titles, even new ones! Don’t let that fool you that they are cast off titles, however! These are all amazing books you should definitely check out! My “theme” once again didn’t surface until I was writing the reviews, and it still doesn’t fit for one of the books (which one of these is not like the others?), but the rest fall into place fairly well even though I had no idea what that theme would be when I grabbed the books. I’m convinced fate is at work when I gather them up each month…

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July Picture Book Reviews: Fish out of Water…

July has been a busy month. School may be out, but even though I have been “on vacation,” my days have been filled. We have been building an addition on our house and it’s finally progressed far enough to move furniture (And books! So many books!) which also involves lots of sorting and de-cluttering. Combine that with some family issues, houseguests and plans for a week-long teacher workshop next week and I’ve had my hands full. Fortunately, I was finally able to get another bookstore visit in and explore some more wonderful new picture book releases– many of which are by authors I already know and love. I rarely go into this with a theme in mind, but yet again they seem to have coalesced into some commonalities. Each of them is about being in a new place and all the nervousness/change that can bring. Enjoy!

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