The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks

The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks (Author), Sidra Mehmood (Illustrator)
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s, Inspirational
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A timeless, inspirational tale of faith, determination, and listening to the heart.

Kettie is just a mouse. And small, even for a mouse. But her faithful, obedient heart and fearless spirit have caught the attention of her Creator.

Traveling as a stowaway in a donkey cart with Shem, a Levite traveling to Shiloh to serve at the tabernacle, she tells a fellow mouse: “I don’t know why I’m going.”

“Maybe,” he answers, “it’s because you’re supposed to go there first before you understand why.”

Once there, she discovers that the tiniest pinpoint of light can tend a fire. For, as one priest observes, “It is our thinking that needs to grow bigger. The rest of the mystery will unfold as the days come.”

Come, make the journey with her.

This story has adorable vividly colored illustrations. It takes readers back on an adventure to the ancient world. We are immersed there with well-written mundane details of everyday life.

There is a sense of suspense, as the cute mouse character, Kettie, does not know what lays ahead for this adventure to a new place. Complex concepts are brought down to a level children could understand through the technique of the little mouse asking her parents questions.

Little Kettie forges ahead with faith giving her courage. She meets human characters, and interesting concepts come up. This is not a book for beginners learning things but rather comes across as an entertaining and thoughtful read for families of faith.

Things take a dangerous turn for Kettie, and humans will learn a thing or two. The themes of patience and faith underline this cute story. This is a good story for families of faith.

The Coat by Séverine Vidal

The Coat by Séverine Vidal
Publisher: Flyaway Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ah, the coat. So warm, so beautiful, so red. It’s all Elise has really wanted, and she’s been waiting forever. When will the coat be hers?

Then, a chance encounter changes everything, revealing that the pleasure that comes from belongings (even the perfect ones!) is no match for the joy of helping others.

At turns lighthearted and poignant, The Coat offers a glimpse at the hardships confronting those who are experiencing homelessness, inspiring us to treat them with compassion and respect.

Kindness is essential.

Elise was adorable. She was so excited to someday be old enough to wear her sister’s old red coat. I enjoy reading stories about characters who are thrifty and pass down items from one family member to another as their children grow. It was delightful to see how excited Elise was for her hand-me-down coat, and I hoped it would be everything she wanted it to be.

This picture book presented a problem but then veered away to a different subject when the time came for Elise to start thinking of different ways to solve the issue of the little girl she saw who didn’t have a coat. I was surprised and confused by this turn of events. It didn’t match the tone of the earlier scenes and was the reason for my choosing the rating I did.

With that being said, I did appreciate the message in this tale about caring for others and doing what one can to help them without any expectation of being rewarded. That’s the sort of lesson that can appeal to readers of all ages, especially when it’s promoted in such a heartwarming way. I will be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next.

The Coat was an interesting read.

How to Teach Your Cat Tricks (In Five Easy Steps) by Nicola Winstanley

How to Teach Your Cat Tricks (In Five Easy Steps) by Nicola Winstanley
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: Humor, Childrens (Ages 3-7 years), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In this hilarious and clever follow-up to How to Give Your Cat a Bath, a boy, a dog and a know-it-all narrator are thwarted by a cat who refuses to learn a trick. The perfect read-aloud for fans of Interrupting Chicken.

Step one: Decide on a trick
Step two: Get some treats ready
Step three: Hold the treat in your hand and ask your cat to do the trick
Step four: Watch your cat do exactly what you asked him to do
Step five: Reward your cat for doing the trick

Simple, right?

This spoof on an instruction manual features an increasingly bewildered human, a nonchalant cat, a very good dog and a know-it-all narrator . . . who really doesn’t know it all. How DO you teach a cat a trick? Read on to find out!

Trying to teach a cat to do much of anything is well…like herding cats.

I picked up this book because it looked cute, and it was. The little boy is trying to teach his cat to do tricks. Anyone who has cats know they can’t be taught (not much). Cats will do what they will. Then again, children will do what they will and if they think they can train their cat, then this is a funny way to show that not everything will work out the way you want and you have to make the best of what does happen.

This book is written in a cute manner and the story moved right along. I do have to say that I felt sorry for the dog because Einstein (the cat) was being a cat–he caused trouble, chased birds and didn’t take to any of the training. But the dog did. Noodles (the dog) is in the background cleaning up after the mess and following the little boy’s directions. What stood out was that sometimes the one you want to teach isn’t listening, but there are those you can. Kids may not get that, and kids might not be offended by the dog doing the grunt work in the background while the cat did nothing.

Still, it’s a funny story with animals being what they are, and kids should enjoy it. I know I did.

Big Wig by Jonathan Hillman and Levi Hastings

Big Wig by Jonathan Hillman and Levi Hastings
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Childrens (Ages 7-10)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In the spirit of Julián Is a Mermaid, this irrepressible picture book celebrates drag kids, individuality, and self-confidence from the perspective of a fabulous wig!

When a child dresses in drag to compete in a neighborhood costume competition, he becomes B. B. Bedazzle! A key part of B.B. Bedazzle’s ensemble is a wig called Wig. Together they are an unstoppable drag queen team! But Wig feels inadequate compared to the other, bigger wigs. When Wig flies off B. B.’s head, she goes from kid to kid instilling confidence and inspiring dreams in those who wear her:

Wig remembers what wigs can do.
Wig brushes the world,
Wig hears whispered wishes…
and turns them into
something true.
The bigger their dreams,
the bigger Wig seems.

This wonderful read aloud celebrates the universal childhood experience of dressing up and the confidence that comes with putting on a costume. And it goes further than that, acknowledging that sometimes dressing differently from what might be expected is how we become our truest and best selves.

A wig that’s got some magical powers that aren’t so magical, but they’re just as dynamic after all.

Everyone has that one garment that makes them feel bigger or bolder. That special sweater that makes them feel like a million bucks or a dress that’s THE dress. In the case of BB Bedazzle, it’s their wig. The writing in this story is good and it’s easy to understand. It’s cute and the illustrations are colorful, which should bring children right in. The story shows the very important need for children to understand that being different isn’t bad and it’s wonderful.

Some will read this book and say it’s not for children because the little boy is dressing in drag. The thing I took away from the story wasn’t so much that the boy dressed in drag, but that the boy was able to explore different ways of dressing. He could use the wig and his clothes for his imagination and to explore who he is. Every child needs the chance to figure out for themselves who they are and if they can do it, like this little boy, in a place that’s safe and where they are loved, then that’s what matters.

If you’re looking for a children’s book that shows being different isn’t bad, but rather fabulous and that being true to yourself is important, then this book is for you.

Little Aiden – A Feelings Book for Toddlers by Albert Choi

Little Aiden – A Feelings Book for Toddlers by Albert Choi
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Have you always wanted to introduce emotions and feelings to your toddler, but don’t have the right book on hand? Or perhaps you have found a few books on emotions and feelings, but they aren’t enough to keep your toddler engaged throughout the entire book!

As Little Aiden explores and experiences different feelings and emotions, he shows other toddlers in his own little way the importance of expressing feelings. There are different emotions and feelings shown in Little Aiden including, but not limited to the following:

“Sometimes Aiden feels happy.”
“Sometimes Aiden feels frustrated.”
“Sometimes Aiden feels angry.”

Using Aiden’s simple, repetitive style, you can teach your toddler that all their emotions and feelings are okay (not just the positive ones).

Through engaging and vivid illustrations, Little Aiden’s reactions will bring joy and laughter to the entire family.

It’s never too early to promote good mental health.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this picture book was that every scene appeared to occur over the course of a single day. Some days are a rollercoaster of emotions even for adults, and toddlers have much less experience handling that than grownups do. It was also interesting to me to see how the main character’s mood in one moment was often connected to the ones just before or after it. Aiden had good reasons for his reactions, and I enjoyed following him through a typical day for a mischievous kid his age.

I loved seeing all of the extra space Mr. Choi left for adult readers to explain things to the toddlers and preschoolers this was written for. The illustrations and text provided the basics, but all of it could be easily modified for more specific conversations about certain emotions as well if desired. This is exactly the sort of flexibility I was hoping to discover in a story on this topic.

It was refreshing to see every emotion treated identically. Whether Aiden’s feelings were negative or positive, the reader was always reassured that it’s okay to feel that way. I grew up in a time when some people were expected to hide certain emotions and not show any signs that they were angry or sad. Teaching kids that it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge how they truly feel is such an important part of raising people who will become emotionally healthy adults, and I’m thrilled to see this change in society.

Little Aiden – A Feelings Book for Toddlers was perfect.

So Much Snow by Kristen Schroeder

So Much Snow by Kristen Schroeder
Publisher: Random House Studio
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A beautifully illustrated, rollicking read-aloud about forest animals who are caught—literally up to their ears and antlers—in a snowstorm.

On Monday, it starts to snow.
Silent swirling.
How high will it go?

Follow seven forest creatures, from a tiny mouse to a giant moose, as they hunker down in a snowstorm. As the week progresses, the snow piles up and up–even past Moose’s antlers!

On Sunday, the sun starts to melt the snow, and it seems that, as the next week passes and it grows sunnier, spring has finally sprung. But wait…is that more snow?! This cumulative picture book is at once beautiful and lyrical and playful and joyful, with charming illustrations by a highly acclaimed illustrator.

Anything can change in an instant on a winter’s day.

The repetition was well done. I found it soothing to repeat the same themes and even some of the same words in multiple scenes. It was almost like listening to a lullaby about characters who might temporarily be in a little danger but who you somehow just know will live happily ever by the end. I’ll leave it up to other readers to figure out if that prediction of mine was correct!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to developing the storyline. The basic outline of it was there, but Ms. Schroeder could have done so much more with her ideas about what wild animals think of snowstorms and how they survive in them. I would have happily given this a higher rating if those questions had been better answered.

With that being said, I enjoyed the gentleness of this story. The characters were playful creatures who adored the first day or two of the storm. Seeing them invent new games to play as more snow kept falling made me wonder what they’d come up with next. It was a delight to watch them explore their winter wonderland and figure out how to deal with more snow than they were expecting.

So Much Snow was a peaceful look at late winter in the woods.

Catlumbus by Franny Plaia

Catlumbus by Franny Plaia
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Meet Catlumbus, a cat who loves to sail on his ship and go on adventures. When Catlumbus discovers a treasure map, he sets sail on a journey to find buried treasure on a tropical island. What will Catlumbus find on this island? Who will he meet along the way? Join Catlumbus on his adventure!

Anything can happen out on the ocean.

This was an exciting and fast-paced adventure. Catlumbus was prepared for all sorts of possible trouble, and I smiled as he tackled every challenge that came his way. One of my favorite scenes happened later on when he had a problem, he didn’t know how to fix that involved his boat. After how prepared he was earlier, it was nice to see him finally meet a problem that was a little trickier for him to figure out. That scene only made everything I already loved about this story even better.

A lack of detail was what held me back from giving this a full five-star rating. I found myself wishing that the narrator had spent more time explaining what the characters looked like and how being in these settings would affect what the characters heard, saw, touched, and smelled. This is something I’m saying as a reader who enjoyed everything else about it.

The riddles were well written and interesting. I haven’t noticed many riddles in the many picture books I’ve read these past few years, so it was refreshing to find them here. It’s such a fun way to introduce the mystery genre to little ones.

Catlumbus was a thrilling adventure.

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini
Publisher: Paragon Publishing
Genre: Inspirational, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

What would your response be to a group of small people, overlooking you,

to look at the masterpiece you’d lovingly made for them?

How would you feel by their admiration of your magnificent creation,

as they ignore your wonderfully creative hands?

Would you feel sad? Frustrated? Angry?

Imagine your relief when they leave your invisible side.

Picture your joy and gratitude with their replacement –

and appreciative group marvelling at your masterpiece,

undoubtedly produced by your love.

Would you feel glad,

grateful, relieved, believed,

like the Artist in this story felt?

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini is a wonderful children’s picture book that can be enjoyed with readers both young and old! Beautifully illustrated by Dina Kalo, this story tells of God’s love and His incredible gift. Rufini takes readers on a journey of looking at how different people might see of respond to this magnificent gift, and how sometimes they also choose to reject it.

This story is suitable, but the focus of the story might be slightly lost on younger children, and will have more meaning for those who read it more than once and over time.

I loved reading this story, and really felt it brought the story and lessons to life in a unique and beautiful way! Filled with creative imagery and enticing colors, The Artist’s Page is a pleasure to read!

Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold

Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When his friend Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger is as unconvinced and impatient as ever. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal in the meantime. In the end, Badger sees there’s no trick—only waiting—until at last, it’s time.

Wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

Remaining patient can be difficult for people of all ages, and it’s often even harder for kids (and hedgehogs) who haven’t had as many chances to practice it yet. There were some subtle and thought-provoking messages in this tale about how someone should act when they really want something but can’t have it. Ms. Arnold’s decision to trust her audience to understand what she was saying worked nicely for these characters and this setting. Not everything needs to be spelled out directly, and sometimes a message can be even stronger if it isn’t.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to why Hedgehog was yearning for snow so much. Other than the fact that he thought it was an essential part of winter, what did he hope to do with snow? There were so many fun answers he could have given to this question, and I would have gone with a higher rating if he’d explained his plans at some point.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed the zany things Hedgehog and his friends did to encourage a snowstorm to come their way. They had some pretty creative tricks up their sleeves, and I chuckled as they cycled through them in an attempt to find something that worked.

Waiting for Snow made me smile.

That Morning by Toño Malpica

That Morning by Toño Malpica
Publisher: Windmill Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Mangrufo and Leuklaya don’t feel like themselves. Mangrufo can’t enjoy playing with toys or reading, like he usually does. Neither can Leuklaya. They hurt each other the day before, and both feel ashamed and lonely. However, neither one of them knows what to do with their feelings. It’s not until they come together once again that all feels right with the world. This book boasts a subtle monster theme within a real-world, relatable situation. Through powerful language and fantastical illustrations, That Morning is a guidebook through the difficult feelings of conflict and the power of forgiveness.

Everyone has conflicts with the people they love sometimes, but figuring out how to behave after a fight takes a completely different set of skills.

I was intrigued by how little time was spent on the only grown-up in this story. Mangrufo and Leuklaya’s relationship took center stage, and their frustration with each other was shared in ways that felt completely appropriate for their young ages. Normally, I’d expect their mother to swoop in and make things right between them fairly early on. The fact that she didn’t show up until much later gave these two characters all of the space they needed to explore their feelings and try to figure out what to do with them.

It would have been helpful to have more plot development. As important as the message was, the little ones in my life would struggle to understand it without a discussion about what happened afterwards because of how both of the monsters changed abruptly at such a late point in the storyline. I’m saying this as someone who loved the creativity of it and wished I could justify choosing a higher rating.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that compared Mangrufo and Leuklaya’s feelings. We weren’t told who started the quarrel between them the day before or what they argued about, but it was clear that they both felt guilty for their behavior and weren’t exactly sure how to talk to each other after what appeared to be a pretty big fight. There is definitely something to be said for encouraging this sort of reflective thinking in this age group. Empathy is something that can take years to fully develop, but the faintest glimmers of it could be found here.

That Morning was a creative tale.