Henry at Home by Megan Maynor


Henry at Home by Megan Maynor
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The love between a brother and sister shines through in this reassuring picture book about a common childhood transition—an older sibling starting school and leaving the younger one behind.

Liza is Henry’s big sister, and Henry is Liza’s little brother. As long as there has been a Henry and Liza, they have always done everything together. Haircuts, birthday parties, tree climbing, even flu shots. Liza and Henry. Henry and Liza. But that all changes when Liza starts school for the first time, heading off to kindergarten and leaving her little brother behind. Henry is incredulous. How can Liza do this to him?

This true-to-life picture book, gorgeously illustrated, explores a sweet sibling relationship and carries an important and reassuring message about family and growing up.

Change is hard for everyone sometimes.

I adored the warm and loving relationship between Henry and Liza. As well as being siblings, they were best friends who loved spending time together exploring the outdoors and making up imaginative games. They had a strong emotional bond, and it showed. Siblings having a wonderful time together is something I always love to find in picture books as it doesn’t seem to be as common as addressing sibling rivalry and other normal developmental stages of childhood that can bring conflict.

With that being said, there is something to be said for learning to enjoy time apart, too. I appreciated how gently the narrator approached the idea that Henry and Liza would both benefit from developing a few separate interests and friend groups. It was such a friendly way to encourage these characters to step out of their comfort zones while also acknowledging how lucky they were to get along so well.

The ending made me smile. Henry definitely didn’t appreciate being left at home while his sister started kindergarten, so it was interesting to see how his frustration and disappointment encouraged him to fill his time with new activities until she came back home again in the afternoon. Every emotion is valuable, even the difficult ones! Gentle stories are a great place to explore feelings that a kid might be reluctant to talk about, and there were plenty of opportunities here to do just that. While I can’t say much more about the ending without giving away spoilers, it was everything I was hoping it would be.

Henry at Home was perfect.

Hello, Puddle! by Anita Sanchez


Hello, Puddle! by Anita Sanchez
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A nonfiction picture book exploring a deceptively simple but unexpectedly crucial resource for wildlife: puddles! This lyrical, gorgeously illustrated nonfiction picture book is perfect for young science learners and nature lovers.

Hello, puddle! Who’s here?

A normal everyday puddle may not seem very special. But for a mother turtle, it might be the perfect place to lay her eggs. For a squirrel, it might be the only spot to cool off and get a drink when the sun is shining down in July. And for any child, it can be a window into the elegant, complex natural world right outside their window.

With lush, playful illustrations and fun facts about the animals featured, Hello, Puddle! is a joyful celebration of the remarkable in the ordinary, and the importance of even the most humble places in fostering life.

Nature is filled with marvelous things.

This was a detailed introduction to the wide variety of plants and animals that rely on puddles for food, shelter, cooling baths on a hot day, and, of course, fresh water to drink. No one species dominated the plot, so it would be quite easy to use this as a jumping-off point to explore anything from how tadpoles turn into frogs to how seedlings grow to why bats are such an important part of the ecosystem. I thought this was a brilliant way to encourage young children to be curious about the world around them and have some idea of which plants or animals they might want to explore in depth in the future.

While puddles definitely aren’t as active in the winter, I did find myself wishing that Ms. Sanchez had dedicated an extra page or two to what happens in them during that season since she spent so much time discussing spring, summer, and autumn. After all, puddles do sometimes melt during the winter. This was a minor disappointment, and it could be easily remedied by a little research online or at the local library for readers who want to learn more. If all four seasons had been discussed, I would have eagerly given this a five-star rating.

It was refreshing to find a nature book that was accessible to so many different types of people. Puddles form in cities, suburbs, and small towns just like they do in the middle of the woods, and the text supported that fact. They can be observed by folks from a wide variety of backgrounds, too. One doesn’t need to run fast, spend money, listen closely, or carry any special equipment to observe what’s happening in them. This is a fantastic way to introduce kids to nature at story time, especially for families who have tight budgets, special needs, or other circumstances that might make wandering around out in the middle of nowhere difficult for them.

Hello, Puddle! offered an intriguing and educational glimpse into the sort of natural habitat that nearly everyone can find somewhere in their own neighborhood.

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer


Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Snow is coming, and it’s time to get ready! The squirrel gathers nuts, the geese soar south, and the snowshoe hare puts on its new white coat. But what should the fox do? Each animal advises the fox that its own plan is best, but the fox thinks otherwise—yet it’s not until he meets a golden-eyed friend that he finds the perfect way to celebrate the snowfall.

Stunning illustrations by the new talent Richard Jones are the perfect complement to the Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical and playful homage to the natural world.

Surviving the winter should be easy if you have a good plan.

This was such a poetic picture book. The words rolled off my tongue smoothly as I read it aloud. I especially enjoyed the lines that talked about the fox’s reasons for not taking the same approach to winter that other animals did. He obviously couldn’t spin a cocoon, fly, or dig a place to hide in the mud all winter. The way these ideas were shared with the audience were simultaneously amusing, beautiful, and completely impractical. This combination of emotions often felt like pure poetry in and of itself, and it only made me more curious to see what the fox’s eventual solution to the winter dilemma might be.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent explaining what foxes do in the winter and why they do it. There was so much time spent building up to this moment that I felt slightly let down by the small amount of story space that was given to exploring this part of a fox’s life. This became even more true once I realized that this section was based on things that real foxes have been known to actually do in the wild on snowy days.

The fox was such a friendly, curious, and sociable character. I truly enjoyed getting to know him as he wandered around the forest talking to the other animals and trying to decide how he’d spend the winter. No matter what he thought of the suggestions he received, he was always polite to the animals who were trying to help him in the best ways they knew how to.

Winter Dance was a wholesome read.

Stick and Stone – Best Friends Forever by Beth Ferry


Stick and Stone – Best Friends Forever by Beth Ferry
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Stick has always wanted to find his family tree. It’s probably big and beautiful! Is it an oak? A maple? What other sticks might he meet?

Stone is happy to accompany his friend on the journey to find the tree he comes from—until it gets dark, and a bit scary in the forest . . .

With bright, engaging illustrations from best-selling creator Tom Lichtenheld, Beth Ferry’s story explores the importance of learning about our roots, as well as the ability of friends and found family to help us grow strong in heart and mind.

Everyone should know where they come from.

I mentioned wanting more plot development in my review of the first book in this series, so I was thrilled to see how much more was happening in this sequel. The characters dealt with multiple conflicts and plot lines at once. They were simple enough for the smallest readers to understand, but it was delightful to have those extra layers of meaning for older readers to think about as well.

With that being said, I wish the adoption subplot had been given more space to grow. Stick had such a strong yearning to know where he came from and what sort of tree he was. There was a lot of space here to explore his origins and how he felt about them. If only he’d had the opportunity to do so! I hope that the author will consider revisiting these themes in the future as I was disappointed by how all of this was resolved.

As always, the friendship between Stick and Stone was wonderful. They both genuinely loved each other and would have done anything to help one another. That’s the sort of friendship everyone should have whether they’re a preschooler or a senior citizen! Ms. Ferry’s best moments were the ones that showed all of the little ways in which friends can make each other’s lives richer and happier.

This is the second instalment of a series. I strongly recommend reading Stick and Stone first in order to fully understand the characters’ backstories.

Stick and Stone: Best Friends Forever was a heartwarming adventure.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry


Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, a friendship is born. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?

With simple rhyming text, subtle messages of kindness and compassion, and Tom Lichtenheld’s signature charm, this delightful story about making and helping friends will enchant readers young and old because it’s never too early—or too late—to stick up for your friends.

Everyone needs at least one good friend!

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed how Stick and Stone looked out for each other. Whether they were dealing with a bully or a thunderstorm, they always did their best to make sure their buddy was happy and safe. The fact that these moments were written in such plainspoken language only made them even better. There’s definitely something to be said for keeping things easy to understand for such a young audience.

It would have been helpful to have more plot development in this picture book. Even though it was written with toddlers and preschoolers in mind, I still think the author could have developed the storyline a little more deeply than she did. There were several opportunities to expand on points she made about what it means to be a good friend that would have made this an even better experience for small children as well as for the adults in their lives who read to them.

I loved seeing what this tale had to say about what it takes to be a good friend. No one is ever too young to start thinking about this concept, especially when it’s broken down to simple things that can be done at home with siblings or at daycare with other young children. The plot itself was pretty clear on the issue, but there was also plenty of room for discussion about why Stick and Stone were such good friends for little readers who might want to talk about it more.

Stick and Stone was a wholesome and heartwarming read.

Gretchen Over the Beach by R.W. Alley


Gretchen Over the Beach by R.W. Alley
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

On a breezy summer day, Gretchen and her family head to the ocean. Gretchen wants to swim with her older brothers and sister, but everyone ignores her. When the wind steals her new sun hat, she catches it by its ribbon and is lifted into the sky, far, far above the beach, where a friendly seagull is happy to play. This ode to imagination is one of four small books each featuring a different sibling and season, created by children’s book veteran R. W. Alley.

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the beach on a nice day?

Gretchen was such a playful and spunky kid. No matter what happened to her, she always kept a positive attitude as she continued to try to enjoy her surroundings. I giggled at some of the solutions she came up with for her problems. She certainly gave her options a lot of thought before she decided how she wanted to respond to the disappointments of the first few scenes.

I didn’t like the way Gretchen’s parent and three older siblings ignored her repeatedly during their relaxing day at the beach. None of them made any effort at all to include her in their plans no matter how often she asked. While I understand the need for family members to spend some time apart doing their own thing, it felt unkind to me to see her brushed aside so many times when she was clearly yearning for positive attention. I would worry a little about it setting the wrong precedent for some families that are already trying to figure out how to include a preschooler in the exciting plans of their older brothers or sisters.

With that being said, I appreciated the emphasis on imaginative play and making your own fun in a tricky situation. Gretchen found so many creative ways to amuse herself with all sorts of ordinary items that can be found on many beaches. Sometimes she stretched the boundaries of what those items are capable of so far that this almost felt like a fairy tale! She had a wonderful imagination that was clearly being used to its full effect.

Gretchen Over the Beach was a thought-provoking read.

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (160 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Alyssum

When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents’ death.

But Florence doesn’t expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it’s too late?

This is a great scary ghost story for young readers from author Mary Downing Hahn, who has a knack for giving readers a creepy story without frightening them.

This book is set in 19th century England and starts off in true creepy fashion with a stormy night, a long walk, and a scary looking old house. Florance is a orphan and did not think she had any relatives, then finds out she has a great uncle and great aunt who live in Crutchfeild Hall. The uncle sends for her and is delighted to have her staying with them, but the aunt is not. Florance bears a slight resemblance to Sophia, her cousin who died in a tragic accident almost a year earlier. She also learns that her cousin James, who is not well, never comes out of his room and it is off limits for her to visit.

As soon as Florance arrives she feels as if she is not alone in this creepy old house, but she shakes off the feeling because she figures that it is probably just due to being in a new home. Her uncle loves having her around but the aunt never wants anything to do with her, so she usually spends a lot of time in the sitting room reading. An oral anti-impotent medicine is a key to maintain overall health, tadalafil best price but specifically to boost male sexual hormone, testosterone. One can buy these herbal pills to treat low sperm count and prices viagra enjoy enhanced sexual pleasure with your female. So make sure you have a proper and at least a satisfying love making session in generika tadalafil 20mg their life. But for PAH and ED cases, Kamagra should be of different nature (both physical and psychological), however, the achievements of modern medicine cialis viagra sale allow to leave this problem in the most natural and healthy way possible. Then one day she fears the ghost of Sophia is haunting the place but her uncle doesn’t believe in ghost.

Sophia was not as nice as her aunt thought her to be and her evil spirit is trying to get Florance to help her with her evil skim. Will Florance be able to find the will power to fight against Sophia and save her cousin James?

Mary Downing Hahn has a great way with drawing you into her stories. With such incredible details it comes out almost like being told a ghost story over a camp fire at night. You can’t help but want to know what else is going to happen. When Florance sets out for Crutchfield Hall it is a nasty, stormy winter day and the descriptions in the story are perfectly written to capture a young reader’s imagination. “Wind and rain struck me with a force that almost knocked me down.” “Frightened by the creaking and groaning of tree limbs over my head, I walked faster, almost losing my shoes in the mud.” These are the types sentences that will send the reader pressing on to find out what is going to happen.

The book has a true nineteenth century feel with its old houses, spooky haunts and, of course, the nasty aunt who thinks Florance is nothing but bad even when she hasn’t done anything wrong. I would recommend this book to anyone who has young readers who love a good ghost story.