Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks. ~ Dr. Seuss

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by Aleksandra Mizielinska , Daniel Mizielinski (Authors, Illustrators)

Visual Treat!

Big Picture Press released “Maps” a “celebration of the world, from its immense mountains to its tiny insects – and everything in between”. And indeed what a visual delight this book turned out to be!  With 52 HIGHLY detailed and illustrated Maps, this book is a gem. It’s an atlas for the very curious child.

Here is what you will find inside!

This gigantic book (14.6 inches * 10.8 inches) opens to inside cover page “Contents”. The contents itself is a double spread illustrated map of the world. This page allows the reader to quickly jump to a map of the region or country of interest.

Maps Contents

Right after the title page, the book opens to a gorgeously illustrated double page spread of a world map showing the seven continents of the world, the five oceans of the world,a compass and a sample of few sea creatures that one would see at a 50,000 feet view of our world.

Maps Contents Detail Page

Following which comes the main contents of the book: the Maps! The maps in this book is organized by Continent, so the opening page for each “group” of countries is the map of the continent to which it/they belong to along with a few highlights such as : how many countries, overall population and the size in Km. and Miles.

Let’s take a quick glance at what the actual page of a country looks like. These are the real highlight of the book. Each country is a double page spread either in portrait or landscape mode. Each map has delightful details to be discovered. For example, this map of Iceland gives you a small info detail at the right hand corner. This includes, the capital, the language, population, area/size and the map.

Maps Iceland

Apart from the “statistical” facts that you find on the map, we delighted in finding details such as different kinds of flora and fauna that one finds in Iceland. We found cultural curiosities like who are some of the famous personalities from this region. What do people in Iceland traditionally dress like? What are the natural wonders that one would visit if we made a plan to travel to Iceland? What is the local food in this area? I could go on… but there is just TOO much to discover, to find, to learn and enjoy.

Maps Ghana

Maps closeup

The author/illustrators go above and beyond traditional cartography and show surrounding geography. In the case of the map of Iceland, we see the sea life in the oceans around Iceland.

Our only complaint would be that this is not a complete world map. The countries/maps highlighted in this book:

1) Europe: Poland, Czech Republic, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland

2) Asia:  Russia, Mongolia, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Japan, Jordan

3) Africa: Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Namibia, Madagascar

4) North America: Canada, United States of America, Mexico

5) South America: Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile

6) Australia and Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

7) The Arctic

8 ) Antarctica

The author/ illustrator duo make use of earth tones for the basic art layout giving this a genuine “old world” feel. Decorative borders adorn each page. Fine line drawings and cartoon like rendering of illustrations add to the charm of the book. We simply loved pouring over the book looking for small nuggets of information about various places that we had visited in the past.

In summary, this book is not just an educational tool, but a fun visual treat for anyone looking for learning about geography and cultures around our world. It was tempting to make a big list of places that one wants to visit and mark them off of this big book of Maps!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

by John Steptoe (Author, Illustrator)

An African Folk Tale

In a small village somewhere in Africa, a man named Mufaro had two very beautiful daughters, Manyara and Nyasha. Everyone agreed that the girls were very beautiful and Mufaro was a proud father.

But the two girls were very different in personalities. While Nyasha was kind, considerate and caring, Manyara was rude, selfish and bad-tempered. Manyara knew that the villagers favored Nyasha for her gentle nature and was extremely jealous of her sister. When their father was working, Manyara took every opportunity to be mean to her sister and put her down.

Mufaros Beautiful Daughters inside6

One fine day, the king who lived in the neighboring city declared that he was looking for a wife and invited “The most worthy and beautiful daughters” to present themselves before him. Mufaro decides that both his daughters should present themselves to the king. Manyara, however, has other plans. She wants to reach the city before her sister does, to get an advantage over her sister.

So Manyara sets out in the middle of the night, hoping to reach the city before her sister. What happens next? On a magical journey through the forest, Manyara learns that all is not what it seems.

Mufaros Beautiful Daughters inside4

“Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” is a story of test of character. It builds upon themes such as sibling rivalry and jealousies. Beautifully illustrated, this Zimbabwean folk tale is memorable. A folk tale with a great moral to learn from and a story that is stunningly illustrated captures the essence of the African culture. Steptoe’s illustrations have an element of realism to them. He does a superb job of introducing the culture, lifestyle, the flora and fauna of the region.

Mufaros Beautiful Daughters inside5

A delightful story, enchanting plot and engaging illustrations. A making of a perfect Folk tale!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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The Man Who Lost His Head

The Man Who Lost His Head
by Claire Huchet Bishop (Author), Robert McCloskey (Illustrator)


In 2003, the New York Review of Children’s Collection started publishing children’s books “in an attempt to reward readers who long wished for the return of their favorite titles and to introduce those books to a new generation of readers”. The NYR books publishes books for pre-schoolers through to chapter books and novels for older children.

“The Man Who Lost His Head” is a New York Review Children’s picture book, written by author Bishop known for her books like “The Five Chinese Brothers” or “Pancakes-Paris” and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, best known for his books “Blueberries for Sal” and “Make way for Ducklings”.

This is a story about a man who wakes up one morning and finds that he has lost his most agreeable and handsome head! Literally! Frantically, the man “looks” for it everywhere!

The Man Who Lost His Head Lost2

But it was not to be found anywhere! So he tries really hard to remember.. but that was hard to do without his head! Frown Fortunately, his hands and legs remind him of the pig that he had taken to the fair to be sold yesterday. So the man who lost his head decides to go back to the fair and look for his head there.

But, he couldn’t possibly go out without a head, can he? So he decides to make a new one!

The Man Who Lost His Head Parsnip


But no matter what he tries on, the “new” head was just not right! Finally, he settles in for a head carved out of wood. It wasn’t like his head from before, but it would have to do.

As he walks through the village, the people greet him pleasantly. The man who lost his head thinks that this new head might not be so bad after all. Finally, he reaches the fair and wonders “where shall I look for my head?

The Man Who Lost His Head Pumpkin

It turns out that a young chap who knows no discipline saves the day before the man who lost his head loses it forever! How? Read this book to find out Smile

This is a delightful story, with just the right amount of “craziness” going on! Entertaining, yet bizarre, the story about the man who lost his head is fresh and exciting right from page one. Bishop’s story telling is masterful, funny and amusing.

What makes this book special is McCloskey’s exquisite graphic pen and ink art work. Each page has detailed black and white illustrations with graphite and brush shadings to give it a realistic look. This striking contrast of colors and texture adds to the book’s quirkiness. The details on the artwork are pretty amazing! One can spend a great deal of time just enjoying this little book for its art work.

First published in 1940, this book is still accessible to children and adults today. We loved turning the pages to find out how this story would end!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Poem Mobiles

Poem Mobiles
by J.Patrick Lewis (Author), Douglas Florian (Author), Jeremy Homes (Illustrator)

Crazy Car Poems

 Crazy poems? Car poems? You got them both in this one delightful little book. 22 fantastical, futuristic, clever poems by an U.S Children’s Poet Laureate (Lewis) and an award-winning children’s poet (Florian) will capture the imagination of the youngest in your house!

We first read rave reviews and were excited to find this book @ Sue’s KidLit site: here


Train means train, bus means bus,

Truck means truck, for most of us.

So auto out to mean, you see,

Auto automatically

But someday our fantastic cars

Might look like cool dark chocolate bars,

Banana splits, hot dogs or fish-

Or any kind of ride you wish.

And so we’d like to offer you

A futuristic sneak preview

Of wacky cars, fender to fin.

Now turn the page and take a spin.

So begins this “Fun”-tastic book of poems on crazy cars! Take a ride in the “Fish car” which looks like a fish with a tremendous fin! This car is complete with sharp teeth and gills down its side. Take a ride to the bottom of the sea in this “Fish Car”.

Poem Mobile Fish Car

Maybe you would like the “Bathtub Car”. This car comes with hot water heating and porcelain seating! With all the sudsy bubbles, you’ll forget all kinds of troubles J I know I want one!

Poem Mobile Bathtub Car

My favorite pick would be the “Giant Bookmobile of Tomorrow”. Why you ask? For one, the driver is the Gingerbread Man, and the Fuel: Imagination Power !! Lewis and Florian say:

“My bookmobile has just one goal:

To entertain on cruise control”

Poem Mobile Bookmobile

And if none of these satisfy your futuristic palette, then how about these:

  1. Mini-Mini car
  2. Eel-ectric Car
  3. Jurrasic Park (ing)
  4. The Dragonwagon
  5. The Paper car
  6. The Backwards Car
  7. High-Heel Car
  8. 23rd Century Motors
  9. Balloon Car
  10. The Caterpillar Cab
  11. The Egg Car
  12. Hot Dog Car
  13. The Sloppy-Floppy Nonstop-Jalopy
  14. Grass Taxi
  15. The Love Car
  16. The Banana Split Car
  17. The Supersonic Ionic Car
  18. The Rubber Band Car

These quirky, inventive poems, masterfully illustrated with highly detailed artwork is a delight to read to every child. A unique book of poems!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Bette World Books

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I Am Abraham Lincoln

I Am Abraham Lincoln
by Brad Meltzer (Author), Christopher Eliopoulos (Illustrator)

 “We can ALL be heroes!”

New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer’s series of Ordinary people changing the world is one of a kind. Known for his popular adult thrillers, Brad Meltzer now enters the children’s Non Fiction genre with his new series for kids on “everyday heroes”. In his interview at Comic Book Resources, Meltzer discusses the need to change the perception of “hero” from a star personality to people who made a difference in the lives of many.

The book “I Am Abraham Lincoln” opens with Abraham Lincoln as a child. We read about Lincoln as a boy who loved to read. Kids were expected to help their parents out in the farms and the fields. Lincoln was always caught reading!

I am Abraham Lincoln inside2

The books continues to show Abraham Lincoln at playtime. Once he finds the neighborhood kids “playing” around animals. With great empathy he put a stop to the cruelty. When the same kids gang up on him, Lincoln stands firm.

I am Abraham Lincoln inside1

With simple to understand language and absolutely delightful illustrations, the author/illustrator duo demonstrate characteristics that made these “everyday heroes”. The author highlights how Lincoln perceived cheating as unfair, how hurting animals was wrong and how important it was to stand up simply because it was the right thing to do. The picture book further walks through Lincoln’s work in ending slavery.

I am Abraham Lincoln inside3

Christopher Eliopoulos does a brilliant job on artwork. Drawn in “Peanuts/Calvin Hobbes” style, Eliopoulos’ art work immediately draws the reader in. The cartoon style art and call out bubble dialogues capture the essence of the characters and adds the fun factor to story telling.

What really surprised me was how the author who wrote Super Hero comic book stories transitioned into heroes of a different kind. We read this one over and over again. “I am Amelia Earhart” was another great read. Looking forward to the third in the series “I am Rosa Parks” releasing later this year. Our favorite part in this series, hands down, was the ending page.. a message from each of these characters that truly describe what they were at heart.

I am Amelia Earhart (1/14/14) by Brad Meltzer, Christopher Eliopoulos

 Educational and inspiring, this is a MUST have series. Like Meltzer, I really believe we need to inspire our children to become heroes not just “famous personalities”

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Volcano Rising

Volcano Rising
by Elizabeth Rusch (Author), Susan Swan (Illustrator) 

Destructive? Not quite!

Volcano Rising is a non-fiction picture book where Rusch and Swan demonstrate that volcanoes do not just destroy. Elizabeth Rusch explores volcanoes in a fresh new perspective, explaining how they can be the best thing to happen for new life. We often read about volcanoes as being destructive, noisy or violent. Elizabeth Rusch shows us the other side of the coin.

Volcano Rising Underwater

Volcano Rising Underwater

“Volcano Rising” opens with a colorful “Pow” and “Spurt” of a live volcano bursting lava into the air. The book goes on to describe super volcanoes of Yellowstone, undersea volcanoes and the crater creation of Paricutin in Mexico. While the author opens with a destructive scene, she focuses more on the creative power of the volcanoes. Rusch explains how the bursting of volcanoes creates new lands, islands and mountains where none existed before. Rusch explains how ashes from the after effects actually help farmers to fertilize their fields.

Volcano Rising Jacket

What really caught my eye is the arrangement and use of text in this book. The bold first words and lines of the text is intended for younger readers, whereas a more detailed secondary text gives in-depth information for mature readers or for read alouds. This was a clever way of capturing multiple age-groups and keeping kids interested for longer.


Packed with information, Volcano Rising is made even more dramatic by Susan Swams artwork. Susan uses hand painted pages, digital paintings and scans and combines them with bold lines and colors. This mixed media collage illustrations work superbly in the context of volcanoes. Vivid, bright colors truly capture the bold mountains and mighty powerful burst of volcanoes. The book also has a wonderful glossary and useful resources for those who want to know more.

A wonderful book to add to your home or school library!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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The Boy Who Loved Math

The Boy Who Loved Math
By Deborah Heligman (Author), LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

This is a picture book biography of the famous mathematician Paul Erdos. Heligman/Pham explore Erdos’ life and work around Math.

Paul Erdos was only four when he realized that he loved numbers. Paul played with numbers in his head almost all the time. As a child he would add them and subtract them. Once he subtracted a rather large number from a smaller number and realized that the answer was a negative number. And Paul thought that was super cool!

The Boy who Loved Math Negative Num

As a child Paul did not work well with rules. There were rules with his nanny and rules at school. Soon enough Paul’s mama realized that school was not the best fit for him. So she decided to stay home and coach him, along with a little help from the nanny.

And while Paul “played” and learned his numbers at home, his mother and nanny cut his meat, buttered his toast and got him dressed. This was perfect! Now Paul could think of numbers all day long!

Paul loved numbers! Most of all he loved Prime Numbers. They fascinated him. He worked on them for a long time. Soon Paul had to go to high school. And this time, he really liked it there. He found that he made many friends, people who loved numbers just as much as he did. And by the time he was 20, Paul became very famous for his skills and knowledge in math.

The Boy who Loved Math Prime Num

So Paul travelled the world. He showed other famous mathematicians what he knew about numbers. He solved many difficult problems and taught many new things. And while the famous Math Magician could do some very difficult math, he still needed his toast buttered, his meat cut and his laundry done!

The Boy who Loved Math is an excellent picture book biography. It is probably THE perfect picture book biography that I have read in a long time. Here is why:

Heligman draws the character of Paul Erdos in his full brilliance and eccentricity. While she describes him to be a genius, she does not hide the fact that Erdos had difficulty in doing simple things in life. At the same time, she helps guide the reader to how he survived and thrived despite his little shortcomings.

In doing so, Heligman sends a powerful message to young readers. That is ok to be different.

This book is also about Paul Erdos’ math. Through brilliant and well researched illustration work, Heligman and Pham demonstrate that Math can be fun and exciting. The picture book is filled with illustrations of numbers and games, sequences and puzzles. The end notes include a detailed description page by page of what Math nuggets one can “find” on each of the pages.

Finally, this book is a celebrations of a life which was complex and difficult to explain. Heligman and Pham worked as a team to create this wonderful memoir. Their big win was take Paul Erdos’ life and make it approachable and understood for the youngest of readers!

An achievement indeed!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Author, Illustrator)

This year I had the AWESOME privilege to be on the panel of judges for the Cybils Children’s and Young Adult Boggers’ Literary Awards ( The Cybils panelist’s intention is to reward children’s and YA authors and illustrators “whose books combine the highest literary merit and kid appeal”. Besides this, it allows us, seriously addictive bloggers, to hang out together for a little while. The awards are announced (appropriately) on Valentine’s Day every year!

Cybils Logo Large 2013

This year I volunteered and judged on the Non Fiction genre, my favorite of all! We had some terrific books to read through and the competition for the top spot was tough. “Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard” took the top spot! Here’s why:


“You don’t have to go anywhere fancy to watch birds!” And it seems you don’t need to know their fancy Latin names either! What about binoculars? Do you really need one?

Annette LeBlanc Cate’s “Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard” invites you into your own backyard to look up and around and spot some birds. But before you begin, she gives us a useful list of Bird Watching Do’s and Don’ts, what Not to bring with you and what you need to make this activity useful and fun.

Look Up Bird Watching Dos and Donts

Look up! is not a run-of-the-mill guide for bird watching. With its tongue-in-cheek cartoon illustrations, friendly banter between birds of various kinds and conversational and humorous verse, this “guide” book presents various facets of bird watching to readers.

For example, Annette uses this handy “Rainbow of Color” chart for quickly identifying birds just by knowing what color group they belong to.

Look Up Bird Watching rainbow of birds

Or this “Shapes” guide, which you could use for sketching out birds when you are out bird watching.

Look Up Bird Watching drawing

And if you ever so venture out to other places specifically for bird watching, then one would notice different birds at different places. For example, the roadrunners thrive in a desert environment and one can learn very much about what it likes to eat and how it survives by observing its natural habitat.

Look Up Bird Watching habitat

We loved “Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard” for so many reasons. I have to admit that I have never ever considered bird watching as an entertaining or educational activity. However, from the time I picked up this book, I was hooked! The friendly conversational style writing, the easy to read comic book style illustrations and the engaging information kept me going. Each of its busy pages presents information in form of charts or maps or comic strips. The humorous dialogues from the birds breaks up the tempo and keeps the book from becoming a monotonous “how to” guide. Annette Le Blanc Cate’s passion for drawing and bird watching comes together in a brilliantly executed book, accessible and entertaining for every age group!

At the end, this book is not just for budding ornithologists! Anyone who has an appreciation for nature and art will delight in this book.

Highly engaging and loads of fun! This book is a HIT! 

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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