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

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Thomas Jefferson, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

Thomas Jefferson, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything
by Maira Kalman (Author, Illustrator)


We all know Thomas Jefferson for his writing of the Declaration of Independence. But who knew that there was so much more to know about him. In “Thomas Jefferson, Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Everything”, award winning author and illustrator, Maria Kalman portrays Thomas Jefferson, as a linguist, scientist, mathematician and architect!

The book opens to a bright, vibrant colorful illustration showing “red-haired” Thomas Jefferson with a book looking out at the plantations where he was born, Virginia. Thomas was well known as the third president of the United States. But he really was a scholar, a person who was curious and wanted to learn about everything!

Thomas Jefferson Life LIberty and pursuit of everything introduction

Thomas Jefferson loved to read and he read about everything. He read about shoes, bees, cheese , history, science and so much more. “I cannot live without books” was his motto. He was passionate about building his home, a place he imagined would allow light and air to flow through. A home surrounded by green pastures, various flora and fauna. He went on to build his home in Virigina and called it Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson Life LIberty and pursuit of everything home

Over the next few pages, we discover the many things that he was passionate about. Author Maria Kalman gives us a glimpse of into Jefferson’s daily life. How he loved collecting Native American art and made his house a museum showcasing things that he loved. How his vegetable garden was his pride and a place to be happy. And how he would make time for music and practiced almost 3 hours a day.

Following this “sneek peak”, Maria then introduces Thomas Jefferson as a president and his accomplishments in the office.

Thomas Jefferson Life LIberty and pursuit of everything Louisiana Purchase

What I was more intrigued about was how Maria handled the topics of slavery and his relationship with Sally Hemings. This is a picture book clearly aimed at a younger audience, ages 5+. Considering the age group, Maria does a fantastic job in introducing the idea of slavery and her thoughts behind what Thomas Jefferson felt.

She also introduces Sally Hemings as a beautiful lady “with whom Jefferson had children with”. When I read this out with daughter, I didn’t get a whole lot of questions. The later part describes “To hide your background is a very sad thing”.. Maria describes how many people had to pretend to be someone with lighter skin. This part evoked a lot of emotion and conversation starters for us.

Our favorite part was the last page. The book ends with a note “If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to Monticello..maybe you will lie down and thing about “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything”.

A brilliant introduction to the iconic Thomas Jefferson.

Find  it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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The Mad Potter

The Mad Potter
by Han Greenberg & Sandra Jordan (Authors)

 Geroge E Ohr, Eccentric Genius

George E Ohr was a 19th century American potter. He was largely unknown until years after his death, in 1967, a treasure trove of his work was discovered. “The Mad Potter” is a chapter book, picture book, biography.

“The Mad Potter “opens with a full page picture of George standing on his head. The next page talks about how Jim Carpenter, an antiques dealer, stumbles upon a large collection of George E Ohr’s pottery, among them his unique “Mud Babies”. George would often proclaim that “his pots were worth their weight in gold”. And although in his lifetime, almost no one wanted them; almost 50 years after his death, his words seemed to come true.

The Mad Potter Inside2

What was genius about George E Ohr’s pottery? Why are his pieces unique and museum worthy? The authors tell a tale of George’s journey into the world of pottery and art. They describe him as being the “black sheep” of the family who much later in his life finds his true calling.. his vocation. In Geroge’s words “When I found the potter’s wheel I felt it all over like a duck in water”.

Soon after, George starts creating and churning out pots, pans, pitchers, kettles, vases, bowls, teapots and many, many different pieces of earthenware. His pieces are dazzling and colorful as he experiments techniques of mixing and molding. His pieces are creative and puzzling because he uses his imagination and frenzied creativity. His pieces are unique and contrary, just like his own persona. George loved to put on a show. He loved to entertain and self-promote. A lot of his own self can be seen in his work.

The Mad Potter ArtObjects Tiled

Despite all his showmanship, George simply wasn’t successful at selling his art. People would come to see his show and laugh and talk. But they always left empty handed.

The Mad Potter Portrait

This picture book non-fiction is a wonderful account of his life and work. Through photographs of George and photos of his pottery, this book showcases his genius. The authors present this fascinating biography of Geroge Ohr through colorful photos of the art coupled with vintage sepia toned photos of the artist himself.

Towards the end of the book are two notes. The “Ohr-O’Keefe Museuem” note details the construction of the museum and how it was built to capture the unique and quirky nature of the art within. But my favorite part was the “How to look at a Pot” note where the authors do a super job of explaining how sensory words such as color, texture, form, lines can be used to capture the essence of the piece.

The Mad Potter Museum

A highly informative, engaging and certainly unique biography of Geroge E Ohr, “The Mad Potter”.

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Feathers, Not just for Flying!

Feathers, Not just for Flying!
by Melissa Stewart (Author), Sarah S. Brannen (Illustrator)

Many uses for the feathers

 My little one is always fascinated by feathers. If she ever finds a feather lying about, she will pick it up and examine it. I am pretty sure that there are lots of children who would do exactly that Smile

Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky” opens the book. Melissa Stewart goes on to explain that although most birds have thousands of feathers, the feathers are not the same. And that’s because they have different jobs to do..

Feathers Not Just for flying Kinds2

The book then goes on to explain these many different jobs and uses of feathers. Each double page spread, presents us with a unique way that feathers are used by the birds. On one side we see the shape, size and color of the feather up-close. Alongside the feather, is a small familiar object (such as a piece of a blanket to indicate warmth, a sponge to indicate soaking water etc.) which helps readers to identify its use and relate it to the use of the feather.  A few lines of description highlight the functionality and usefulness of the feathers. On the other page, a beautiful water color illustration of the bird with an appropriate setting adorns the page.

Feathers Not Just for flying blanket

Part journal, part scrap-book, this creative non-fiction is a superb way of getting children acquainted with the subject. We loved the presentation and style of the book. The facts are easy to read and nicely summarized. Kids will love to read unusual facts such as how the heron will raise its wings while searching for food. The shade blocks out the sun’s glare and allows it to spot tasty fish to eat.

I am continuously impressed by the creative presentation of Non Fiction picture books. Making nonfiction accessible to children of this age group requires imagination. Melissa Stewart, author of over 100 nonfiction picture books, does not disappoint! In “Feathers, not just for flying”, Stewart uses 16 birds as an example, from backyard blue jays to exotic birds like the peacock and winged manakin. 

The book concludes with a note and diagram about how scientists use classification. And in the Authors note section, she describes how she came upon working on the book and subject.

Feathers Not Just for flying Kinds

A well-researched and beautifully presented, this book is a keeper! 

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Pippo the Fool

Pippo the Fool
by Tracey E. Fern (Author), Pau Estrada (Illustrator)

Fool or Genius?

The Cathedral in Santa Maria del Fiore in the city of Florence, Italy is a structure to be marveled at. Its architecture and engineering was a source of pride to the city dwellers. The only thing missing was a dome! The city fathers came up with a solution – a contest! Contestant who wins the prize would be awarded 200 gold florins of prize money, AND receive honor and instant fame!

Pippo the Fool Contest

Pippo Brunelleschi was a goldsmith. He made gold into fine jewelry. But his real talent (and passion) lay in designing and making peculiar machines. His inventions and structures were so outlandish, that he soon earned the nickname “Pippo the Fool”!

Pippo heard about the contest and decided to enter. After all, this was his golden chance to prove his worth and show people his true genius. But building the dome was no easy task! “What could support the enormous done without ruining the beauty of the cathedral? What could hold it up until the mortar dried? How can tons of marble be lifted out of the quarry and hoisted up so high?”

Indeed! this was a job for a genius! Pippo delighted at the challenge. He got down to task and spent weeks pouring over designs and drawings. He calculated exact dimensions for everything. He carved out stones that fit like jigsaw puzzles. He even mixed cement that could withstand earthquakes!Finally Pippo was ready.

On the day of presentation, Pippo saw many famous and brilliant architects come from all over Europe. But none of their designs worked. When it was Pippo’s turn, the judges were aghast! They simply couldn’t believe that his plans could work. They just tossed him out.

But Pippo didn’t loose heart! He decided to build a model. A model that would prove that his plans DID work! When he was finished he invited the judges to inspect it. Will they find flaws again? Or would the judges award the project to “Pippo the Fool”?

Pippo the Fool Model

This is a TRUE story of Pippo Brunelleschi’s Dome. An architectural Masterpiece. Tracey Fern weaves a tale that highlights the difficulties, challenges and obstacles that Pippo faced. Masterfully, Fern takes you through the process of the actual building, of how Pippo cleverly solves each of his problems through design and planning. Fern also runs a parallel story of ego and pride when Pippo is asked to work alongside his arch nemesis Lorenzo. The story tells about Pippo’s big-hearted nature and how he overcomes his pride and builds the dome for the simple joy of building it.

Pippo the Fool Working

Pau Estrada’s detailed and colorful illustrations draws you in. We marveled at the mini model of the dome. Estrada’s drawings of the construction of the real dome made us stop and look. An Author’s note at the back shows the REAL dome from the late 20th century. All the kids at story time wanted to take a up-close look and check to see how true it was to the art work inside.

Such a wonderful story.. not to be missed!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty (Author), David Roberts (Illustrator)

Learning to Fail And Not Giving Up!

Rosie Revere is a shy little girl. She doesn’t speak in class. Rosie likes to be alone and build things that she finds in the trash and other places. She has a stash of miscellaneous things. Rosie wants to be an engineer!

Rosie Revere Engineer Collecting

One day Rosie comes up with an invention. A unique hat made for her favorite uncle Fred who is a zoo-keeper. This super special hat is guaranteed to keep the snakes away. Indeed, Rosie is very proud. So when uncle Fred laughs until his eyes fill up with tears, Rosie is “embarrased, perplexed and dismayed.” She tucks her hat away and keeps her dreams to herself.

For a long time Rosie does not build things. Until one day her great-great aunt Rose comes to visit her. Aunt Rose used to work at building airplanes a long time ago. But aunt Rose never got to fly. Truly, for aunt Rose, it was a dream unfulfilled for a very long time.

That night Rosie lays wide-awake. She can not sleep. A daring idea keeps her awake. An idea to invent a machine that will help her aunt fly. But she looks at her hat invention and thinks “No, not I!”

Rosie Revere Engineer Success

Rosie Revere, Engineer is a tale about failing but not giving up. Rosie fails at her hat invention. She is mocked and feels ridiculed. But when Aunt Rose comes into picture, Rosie is given hope. Rosie gets the necessary boost to believe that failing is simply the first step to succeeding. That the only TRUE FAILURE is GIVING UP!

We loved this story. The rhyming verse makes for a great read-aloud at home and in classrooms. We loved that the story is centered around a female character. Parents of little girls can celebrate that tinkering with things is not just a boys domain. But most of all we loved the lesson behind failure. After all engineering is all about prototyping and testing many many times before the final product is made.

A GEM of a book!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Mini Myths

Mini Myths
by Joan Holub (Author), Leslie Patricelli (Illustrator)

Be Patient, Pandora!

Little Pandora notices a neatly wrapped box tied up with a string. She has no idea who it is for and what is inside it. As she stares at the box, her mother passes by and warns her “Don’t open the box Pandora!”

Be Patient Pandora Inside 2

Can Pandora resist the temptation? Will her curiosity get the best of her?

Be Patient Pandora Inside

Play Nice, Hercules!

Hercules is a naughty little boy. He likes to be big and strong. He likes to be stomp! So when he notices his little baby sister making a castle out of her play blocks, Hercules simply HAS to knock them over!!Smile

Be Nice Herclues Inside

Can Hercules play nice? Will he fix his mistakes and make things better again?

The Mini Myths board books are a “modern” twist to the mythological tales of Pandora and Hercules. An author’s note at the back narrates the myth in short; however, the tie-in is obviously beyond the understanding for this age group. Having said that, I really like the short story and the “morals” of these Mini Myths without necessarily needing the tie-in.

Joan Holub’s simple short words and sentences are perfect for a toddler read aloud story. Leslie Patricelli well known for her colorful toddler books “Yummy, Yuck” is a natural fit for the Mini Myth set.

FTC DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of the above books from the publishers for an honest opinion. I have NOT received any compensation for this review. All reviews and opinions are entirely my own!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books


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Literally Disturbed : Tales to Keep you up at Night

Literally Disturbed : Tales to Keep you up at Night
by Ben H. Winters (Author), Adam F. Watkins (Illustrator)

Scary Stories!

Its Halloween!! Grab a copy of “Literally Disturbed” for a campfire or a late night read aloud on Hallows eve. What you get is a collection of 30 “Poe”-tastic poems that are spooky, scary and funny all at the same time!

Come on up to the attic.

Come up if you dare.

Climb up the rickety ladder –

Come up and see what’s there.

Literally Disturbed Mummies

30  spook-tastic rhymes introduces all kinds of monsters — from zombies to vampires, from werewolves to ghosts! These are delightful to read aloud. You will have every trick-or-treater asking for more.

Literally Disturbed werewolf

Excerpt from “Full Moon”:

Once a month,

the moon gets fat;

the world gets weird

Imagine that.

Winter opens with the poem “Scary Stories”, inviting the reader to read on, cautioning the reader on what lies ahead. We found some story-poems not that scary, while others made us look under our beds at night! It was hard to pick out a favorite and we read and re-read this book many times over.

Literally Disturbed headless

Excerpt from “Headless Horseman”

There’s a headless horseman on the loose,

riding his mount through the night.

Gathering speed on a terrible steed,

waking the people with fright.

What makes this book especially spooky are black white and shades of gray in the art work. Watkins lends a certain creepiness to each poem with images voodoo dolls, sleeping vampires and walking skeletons! While some of the images made us flip the page quickly, others made us stare and wonder  Surprised

There is NO denying it.. this book is a Halloween wonder! 

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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Colors of the Wind

Colors of the Wind
By J.L Powers (Author), George Mendoza (Illustrations)

The story of Blind artist and champion runner

George wanted to become a basketball player when he grew up. He was an active child and loved to run around. But one day, he looked out of the window and saw “the whole world painted red”. “That’s strange!” he thought. George never fumbled with his basketball before. But that day all he could see where red, orange and yellow squiggle lines! He also started having severe headaches. The doctor delivered some sad news. “You are losing your sight”, he informed George.

Colors of the wind Bright Red

But George didn’t lose his sight all at once. He could see flashes of color, brilliant and bright, even at night! At a camp, a blind friend asked him, “What color is the wind?” George said,”The wind is the color of the rainbow, it has all the colors of the world.”

Colors of the WInd Image

A priest advised him, “George, nobody sees the world the way you do! Why don’t you paint what you see?” But George was not convinced. Instead he decided to run. He ran fast and long. When he ran, he forgot he was blind. He forgot his worries. Running tired him out. He discovered he could really run! He even went on to run in the Olympics.. twice!

But one day his best friend died in an accident. George suddenly realized that life is short. At the church, he pondered deeply about the purpose of life.. his life. That’s when he saw brilliant lights. Light that surrounded him, engulfed him. He decided that he would capture this in his paintings. And he decided his life was worth something. That he could talk to people and encourage everyone to find their purpose in life.

Colors of the Wind Kaliedoscope eyes

This is a wondrous story.. a story about a man who is almost blind, but this does not stop him from reaching his potential. The art work in the book “Colors of the Wind” are the original illustrations by George Mendoza. Bright, brilliant and captivating, these vibrant paintings give us a glimpse into what George actually sees.

Author J.L Powers rights with heart. In short simple sentences she captures the work and angst of a man who found his “vision”. There is an extensive “Author’s note” with more information about George and his work. And the end pages include a few more of his paintings to pursue.

Colors of the Wind George Mendoza

Inspiring and colorful!

FTC DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publishers for an honest opinion. I have NOT received any compensation for this review. All reviews and opinions are entirely my own!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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