And the Second Time Is Just as Nice

Sometimes I need to mention a book twice, in part because it is so well done, but also because it has some connection to a more recent book.  The connection this time is that Nicola Yoon on her second start out the gate, has produced another winner of a book.  The second book is very intriguing, though a bit difficult to get into.  I got confused about who belonged to which family, but soon understood their relationships.



The first book, Everything Everything, came out in 2015 to deserved rave reviews and I’m sure this second book will also jump to the head of the list.

Everything Everything

Nicola Yoon

Illustrated by Daniel Yoon

Madeline Whittier is sure she’s read more books than anybody else on the planet.  What else can she do in her white room in her sterile house? She can’t leave her house since she’s allergic to the outside world.  Her only physical visitors are her nurse, Carla, her mother and just one of her tutors. At seventeen, she has accepted her life. But things change in Maddie’s soul when Oliver—Olly—moves in next door, with his rebellious younger sister, enabling mother, and abusive, alcoholic father.  Olly sees Maddie at her window watching him and starts communication through sign language, pantomime, notes and eventually their electronic devices.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s drop-dead gorgeous and compassionate.  As their relationship deepens, Maddie wishes to meet Olly in the flesh, though she knows they may never have physical contact.  Carla arranges everything while Maddie’s mom, a doctor, is at work. The reader matures along with Maddie and begins to wonder where her quality of life is?  Secretly she arranges a trip to Hawaii with Olly.  Olly is resistant at first, but Maddie, now eighteen, feels she can make her own choices.  She does get sick on their trip and ends up in the hospital with an infection in her heart.  But she doesn’t die and comes home stronger than she ever thought possible.  The Hawaiian pathologist sends her a letter informing Maddie that there is no sign of disease.  So Maddie goes to a specialist who confirms that Maddie is not sick.  Turns out her mother, after losing Maddie’s father and brother in a car accident, can’t deal with the thought of losing her daughter.  She made Maddie’s illness up.  Now the girl has to deal with the aftermath of this revelation.  This is a fantastic read.

BIBLIO: 2015, Delacorte Books/Random House Teens/ Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-40664-2

ISBN: 978-0-553-40665-9

ISBN: 978-0-553-40666-6



In the second book by Ms. Yoon, juxtaposes teens from two different cultures trying make their ways in the Big Apple.  They meet by chance and end up spending the day together trying to get to various meetings they have to attend to put their lives on the tracks they want to follow.


New York city teenagers, one, a Korean/American and one, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, fall in love, but to no avail.  And though their lives move forward, in their souls they still have a connection to each other.  The boy’s parents want him to follow the path that all bright Korean/American kids are supposed trek, go to Harvard or Yale and become successful lawyers or doctors.  The boy and his older brother have no interest in following the planned road.  The boy has the soul of a poet.


The girl’s parents smuggled her into the U.S. when she was very young.  She barely remembers Jamaica and her brother was born in the U.S. She wants to be an astrophysicist or at least something to do with space.  She feels that’s not likely to happen in Jamaica.

The Sun is also a Star

Nicola Yoon

Natasha Kingsley and her family are about to be deported from New York City to Jamaica, but she has lived most of her life in the U.S. and doesn’t want to go back.  Daniel Jae Ho Bae was born in the U.S., as was his older brother, Charles Jae Won Bae.  Their parents are here legally, Natasha’s are not.  The only legal person in her family is her younger brother, Peter.  The chance of Daniel and Natasha ever meeting seems very unlikely, but meet they do as Natasha makes one last ditch effort to turn the tide on her family’s deportation that night.  Daniel is in Manhattan to be interviewed for admittance into Yale, not that he wants to go to Yale or become a doctor.  He’d rather learn more about writing poetry.  But they do meet and end up spending most of the day together.  Daniel is open to falling in love with Natasha, but she keeps resisting.  What’s the use she thinks, but she can’t help herself.  In the end, Daniel takes her to the plane and watches her fly away.  For a while they keep in touch, but time and distance finally take their toll on the relationship.  Except for what happens ten years later. The story is complex and, at first, difficult to follow who belongs in which family, but soon the reader figures out who belongs where and starts rooting for the star-crossed lovers.  Like Ms. Yoon’s first book, Everything, Everything, this story will pull you in.  She’s bound to be read eagerly and readers will anxiously await her next book. This book discusses some tough issues, such as the U.S. immigration laws, ethnic/culture differences, and are there such things as coincidences.

BIBLIO: 2016, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-49668-0

ISBN: 978-0-553-49669-7

ISBN: 978-0-553-49670-3

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1630-1


Both of these books show what a good writer can come up with when writing a good story.  It doesn’t matter which of these you read first, but I would highly recommend reading both.



Changing Tunes, as It Were

Sometimes I get a lull between shipments of children’s books and read a “Grown Up’s” book.  The one I read most recently is a mystery that takes place in the time of Stalin’s reign, shortly after the assassination of the Romanov family.

Eye of the Red Tsar

Sam Eastland

I was put off at first by the switching back and forth between the present action to large junks of backstory, but I soon got into the rhythm of the narrative.  The title comes from the nickname for Stalin.

The main character, Pekkala, was Tsar Nicholas Romanov’s most trusted agent, after the Tsar watched Pekkala disobey a direct command to jump his horse over a barbed-wire obstacle after the horse had been injured during a previous attempt.  Tsar Nicholas was impressed that Pekkala would disobey his superior to save the horse.  So, when Pekkala is discharged from the Corp for insubordination, he is recruited by Romanov to be part of his personal cadre of secret agents.

The two become good friends and Pekkala also strikes up a friendship with the rest of family.   But, after the family is murdered, Stalin makes sure Pekkala ends up in a prison, originally for the rest of his life.

Of course, circumstances change and his services are need again.  Stalin wants Pekkala to tell him where the Romanovs buried their treasure.  Which means Pekkala has to figure out where the family was buried after their murders.  He does that, but finds no sacks of gold.

The story is complex and Pekkala’s friendship with the Romanov family is fully fleshed out.  The several subplots add depth to the story.  So, if you want something different from your usual reading habits, I would recommend this book.

BIBLIO: 2010, Bantam Books/The Random House Publishing Group, $25.00.

ISBN: 978-0-553-80781-3


Next week, I’ll be reviewing the latest batch of children’s book I’ve gotten.  The first batch of 2017!  One of the books is a new one from Nicola Yoon, who wrote the outstanding Everything, Everything. I’

Happy New Year–2017

However loosely, these three books have connections to the changing to the year, which, of course, is inspired by the coming of a New Year.  2017 is upon us.  I remember as a child wondering if I’d still be above ground when 2017 came around.  At age seven, the year 2000, seemed like forever, much less seventeen years later. And that brings me to a quote from one of my most favorite Robert Louis Stevenson poems.  My mother used to read it to me often and part of it has always stuck with me.

And when I am so very, very old,

            ‘Bout 28 or 9,

            I’ll ‘dopt a little orphan girl

            And bring her up as mine.

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to us all.  May our new year be filled with love, adventure and joy.


The first selection is two chapter books melded into one book.  The characters are sweet and the second chapter books has a celebration of the new year in it. That fits, right?


Agnes and Clarabelle & Agnes and Clarabelle Celebrate!

Adele Griffin

Courtney Sheinmel

Illustrated by Sara Palacios

Agnes Pig and her best friend Clarabelle Chicken help each other through the tough parts of several adventures.  The first four chapters are delineated by seasons. In spring, the two friends make a surprise birthday party for Clarabelle and Clarabelle pretends to be surprised.  In summer, Agnes doesn’t want to go to the beach with her parents until Clarabelle makes the day fun.  The fall story, Agnes finds Clarabelle in a department store after they get separated. In the winter story, the friends make a pizza covered with roasted chestnuts, cheese, popcorn and white chocolate chips, but decide it’s too pretty to eat.  They eat mac and cheese and admire their work of art.  Then the reader flips the book over and, voila, there are four more chapters.  Each chapter centers around a holiday starting with May Day.  Agnes and Clarabelle are now old enough to participate in the May Pole Dance, and Agnes  has a grand time, but Clarabelle discovers she’s allergic to her flower garland, she can’t squeeze any juice out of her lemons for lemonade and she gets tangled up during the May Pole Dance.  On the Fourth of July, Agnes gets stage fright when she’s supposed to twirl her baton on a float during the big parade.   Clarabelle rides on the float and Agnes pretends she’s only performing for her friend. For Halloween Agnes is a ghost, but Clarabelle scares herself with her scary witch costume, so Agnes draws a mustache on her friend. The final chapter is set on New Years Eve and the friends’ plans for saying goodbye to the old year and ringing in the New Year are foiled when they fall asleep before midnight. These stories are cute and encouraging with enough repetition for children to quickly understand them.

BIBLIO: 2017, Read and Bloom/Bloomsbury Publishing, Ages 5 to 7, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-61963-137-3

ISBN: 978-1-61963-217-2


Okay, a new year means time has ticked along, but what does one minute mean?  If someone says to you give me a minute, how long do you have to wait?  Maybe the person will only be a minute, but….

One Minute

Somin Ahn

Illustrated by Somin Ahn

A lot can happen in one minute and the minute just zips by, or nothing can happen and the minute draaggss on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Ms. Ahn has lots of whimsical drawings in her picture book, including having the hours on her clock represented by the different stages of a tree growing.  The drawings are fairly simple in nature, but still appealing, though depicting the girl with very long hair when discussing how long one’s hair grows in a minute is confusing. The child’s interaction with other creatures and other people are sweet or depict a special message. For instance, a minute is short if you’re riding on roller-coaster or a merry-go-round, but very long if the dentist is cleaning your teeth. Make sure you get to the train station early, even if you spend minutes waiting, because if you’re a minute too late, the train will leave without you. With the help of a parent or teacher or grandparent, even an older sibling, young children will learn a great deal about time and, perhaps, patience by reading this book.

BIBLIO: 2016, Chronicle Books, LLC, Ages 3 to 5, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978145215647


The new year means hope for new beginnings, so I thought this story fit into the theme.

Spare Parts

Rebecca Emberley

Ed Emberley

Illustrated by Rebecca Emberley

Illustrated by Ed Emberley

Rhoobart is very unhappy, what with being made up of spare parts that are all tattered and worn.  Not only that, he has a second-hand heart, which, on this particular day, won’t start.  Even with a twist or a yank, his heart won’t start. He tries everything he can think of, but Rhoobart’s heart won’t start. With sorrow in his head, he goes to Blaggart, the spare parts man, who doesn’t understand what Rhoobart needs.  Blaggart orders Rhoobart to look around his spare parts yard to see if he can find what he needs.  But he warns Rhoobart to watch out for Mozart, whoever that might be.  Poor Rhoobart searches and hunts without any luck.  Then he meets Mozart, which scares the already mangled Rhoobart to pieces.  Unfortunately, Mozart doesn’t start Rhoobart’s heart.  The sad misshapen creature is feeling very forlorn, but then along comes Sweetart, who jump starts Rhoobart’s heart.  What a pair they make when Rhoobart’s heart starts thunking away. This sweet story has the added advantage of being nicely written in rhyme.

BIBLIO: 2015, Neal Porter Book/Roaring Book Press/Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 5 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT:  Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-59643-723-4


So break out the bubbly and gather your family and friends close to wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!






Christmas Memories

I don’t have any book reviews to share that you haven’t already seen, so I’m writing about Christmas memories from my childhood.

My mother was very artistic along with being an organic chemist. I don’t think she ever heard the rule that people are supposed to be right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant.  She loved to paint and draw, sing in the church choir, and act in plays.  She also loved to dance and played several sports, though tennis was her favorite.

One of her favorite activities at Christmas time was decorating the house and especially our annual Christmas tree.  Each year we’d buy a cut tree early in December and stand it in the living room near the fireplace.  We tried to keep it well watered, but we always had a dog who drank for the water reservoir. We would decorate it with handmade ornaments such as jar lids with holiday photos printed on the top.  Not very pretty, but we had proudly made them in school.  We also hung store-bought ornaments that glittered and jingled and graced the tree with delicate ceramic figures.

But rather than string it with electric lights, we would attach small candle holders containing candles that were lit every evening.  More than one visitor to our house would eye those candles with trepidation and sit as close to the front door as was possible.  We never did burn the house down, or even scorch it a little.  And we all thought our tree was the most beautiful of everyone’s.

Every Christmas we would go to the local church turned town government building and watch the community tree be lit for the first time. We’d sing carols, drink mulled cider and play with our friends.  We’d walk back home feeling cherished and safe.  Then we’d pray for snow.

My sister, Anne, and I shared a room that had a window looking over the flat roof of our screened porch.  On Christmas day, Anne and I would check for reindeer hoof marks in the snow.  Of course, the marks made by birds or fallen twigs quickly turned into cloven hoof prints.  With a mother like ours, our imaginations knew no boundaries.

One Christmas holiday time, Anne and I were given tickets to watch a radio play production in Washington, D.C. The production was fascinating to watch and I was enchanted to see how they produced sounds like horses’ hooves clomping on the street, or doors opening.  All the things we now take for granted because of movies and graphics, really were like magic on the radio. In a way, I miss that simplicity. Anyway, when the production was over, we left the theater to find the world blanketed in crisp, silently falling snow.  What a wonderful sight.  All the government buildings were decorated with clumps of snow clinging to the columns and mounding on the roofs.  We caught the bus that headed toward our town. We had to stop at the bus terminal just before the Maryland state line in Chevy Chase.  But the bus to Garrett Park was not running, so we called home to ask what to do. Mother said to take a cab home.  The cab would only take us as far as the neighboring town.  The driver had no intention of trying to make it the very steep and windy Garrett Park Hill. We didn’t mind.  It turned into a beautiful, starry night with little wind and all of us walking toward Garrett Park were in a friendly, boisterous mood—laughing as we trudged along.  The snowy scene was clean and sparkling, cold but not bone chilling and the walking kept us warm.  It was one of the few times in our young years when Anne and I were having fun together.  And I cherish that memory.

Another good memory was when my best friend and I had gone to the midnight service at the Kensington Episcopal church for the Christmas Eve Midnight Service.  My mother was singing in the choir and she warned me and Karen that we should behave ourselves during the service.  And we did until the recessional hymn was being sung.  Our neighbor, Mr. Weaver, was a Deacon in the church and he was at least three sheets to wind.  He was literally swinging from the railings of the back barrier between the pews and the vestibule.  Karen and I tried desperately not to laugh, but to no avail.  Just as my mother past, we were both doubled over in laughter because of Mr. Weaver’s antics. Boy, did I get a scolding.

The last memory I’ll share was after my brother Richard had moved to Florence, Italy, where he still lives with his wife almost 57 years later.  I arranged very carefully, I thought, for him to call on Christmas Day, as part of Mother’s Christmas present.  Of course, things didn’t turn out as planned and the call had not come through by the time Mother wanted my other brother, Bill, to dig her car out so she could go to church.  Bill kept procrastinating until I finally had to explain what we were waiting on.  Turns out it was a good thing, because Mother immediately burst into tears.  She would never have gotten a word out if the call had truly been a surprise.

I’d love to hear some of your memories and I hope you enjoyed mine.

Merry Christmas or Merry Whatever to you all.

Sarah Maury Swan

Local Authors Are Varied and Prolific

New Bern, North Carolina, is a pretty little town set on the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers.  It’s full of history, such as being the First Colonial Capital, complete with a mansion, and later the site of an important Civil War battle .  It is also full of artists who either write stories, or draw and paint, or create beautiful music.  So, I thought I would introduce you to some local authors.


The first author, Laura Beth, lives on a boat on the Trent River during late spring, summer and early fall.  After that she and her husband sail to Florida. She publishes her books through CreateSpace.

She writes “magical mysteries,” about young cousins in a family that has ancestral ties to Native Americans who used to roam the land. The first story, 2 Girls, 2 Cats, A Magical Mystery, introduces the reader to the characters in the stories.  Lacey is living in her grandparents’ farmhouse that is next door to her great-grandparents’ house.  When she notices lights appearing late at night in the older, supposedly deserted, house, she gets in younger cousin, Jillie, to help her investigate. Turns out the girls’ long lost uncle Jake was never really lost, he just lives in a different time period and now he comes back to feed a magical cat who has a litter of magical kittens when the farm is in danger. Lacey and Jillie each inherit one of the cat’s kittens. The saga continues in Lacey and her Tigers, Jillie and Her Sassy Cat, Graduation Summer, and the latest book, Nadia’s Sweet Tea, which is about a younger cousin who is given another magical kitten.  The stories are enjoyable reads with good messages about protecting our land and honoring Native American input into our heritage.  But Laura Beth used “CreateSpace” to publish her books and quite obviously didn’t hire a professional editor before publication. I say this because of the egregious grammatical and spelling errors in her books.  Such lack of attention to such details is what gives Self-Publishing a bad name.  For instance, in the last book, the family ends up owning a magical horse and when Laura Beth tells us that one of the girls is stopping the horse, rather than writing rein in, she writes reign in.   Still, if you like magical stuff and horses and land preservation and Native American history, the books are fun reads.

BIBLIO: 2014 (org. 2010,) Ages 10 +, $?.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult, New Adult

ISBN: 1499760728

ISBN: 978-1499760729


Tom Lewis, the second author’s widow is selling his books, because what else is she going to do with them.  These books are all set in real places around Eastern North Carolina.  Other books of his are My King the President, Lucifer’s Children, The Pea Island Trilogy, 50 Years to Midnight, Short Tales and Tall, and Chains.


Zena’s Law

Tom Lewis

This is a well written novel about a registered nurse in her 30s who moves with her daughter to Tryon’s Cove to be the nurse for a young doctor.  It’s part romance and part mystery, with plenty of intrigue and evil characters running around. But there are good characters, including her boss and fiancé, Jim O’Brien.  The book also includes sexual predators and plans for revenge. The main character, Zena Carraway, is believable and likeable and the story flows nicely.  Once I find out how to get to Tryon’s Cove, I think I’ll wander over to take a look around.  Mr. Lewis published all his books here in New Bern at McBryde Publishing.  He uses good imagery throughout the book.  The story starts at Zena’ trial for the murder of the local bigshot who raped her. She watches as “Judge Booker Taliaferro Washington Freeman clumped in like a black-draped Clydesdale…

‘Be seated,’ Judge Freeman’s gavel fell once, dropping Zena back down into her chair like a clubbed seal…” This is the only book of his I’ve read, but I would be happy to read more.

BIBLIO: 2009, McBryde Publishing, Ages 21 +, $10.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan


ISBN: 978-0-9758700-8-2


The third author, Sam Love, is well known for his poetry, but is now branching out into fiction.  He wrote a picture book about the damage plastic bags do to our planet and to us.  The book of poems I have is entitled Converging Waters and is collection of humorously philosophical poems, most them only one stanza long.

My Little Plastic Bag

Sam Love

Illustrated by Samrae Duke

Young Amy throws a plastic bag out of the car window without a thought to where it will end up. But we follow its journey.  After Amy lets go of it, the bag settles in the roadside grass.  A few days later the mower comes by and chops the bag into little pieces.  When the rain comes, the pieces of plastic are washed into a roadside ditch.  From there, the plastic flows into a stream where it is washed into a tidal marsh. Eventually the plastic reaches the ocean, where it is further degraded until it is tiny enough for a small fish to find appetizing, mistaking it for some of the fish’s natural food.  A bigger fish eats the smaller fish and the chemicals in the plastic are concentrated in the bigger fish’s stomach, possibly making it sick. The big fish is caught by a fisherman who sells it to the fish market in Amy’s town where Amy’s family buys it for supper. They take the fish home in a new plastic bag.  There is a discussion section at the back of the book which teacher will find helpful.

BIBLIO: 2016, Sam Love, Ages 7 to 10, $?.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 1534622640

ISBN: 978-1534622647


There are many more local authors, so I’ll let you know about them at a later date.   Sarah

The Holidays Are Upon Us

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope you find much to be thankful for.  I know I do.  Our family is coming to visit, including the new granddog, Titan, a Standard Poodle.  But some of you may be traveling elsewhere, so I thought I’d include three books having to do with travel.  Two of them are not actually stories, but rather activity books. Books to keep children occupied.



This book is bound to keep anybody occupied for a very long time.  And it’s lots of fun if you like to solve puzzles of any sort.


Can You See What I See? Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun

Walter Wick

Illustrated by Walter Wick

This book should come with a warning: Do Not Open Unless You Have Time to Fritter Away.  You’ll find it hard not to try just one more puzzle.  Plus, it’s a sneaky way to encourage early readers to increase their vocabularies.  The lists are ten words each and have themes such as magic castles, fairy tales, ordinary objects such as an assortment of buttons and jewelry.  The objects to be found vary from hard to see to right in front of the reader’s eyes.  And the types of objects vary from animals to needles to plants.  There is a robot-type creature that crops up in various puzzles which are marked with a picture of a wooden block carved with the letter s.  This book is a keeper for home and classroom, but, be careful, it is addictive. Plus, it’s a compilation of pages from early versions of this book.

BIBLIO: 2016, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic Children’s Books/Scholastic, Ages 5 +, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-83863-4


Perhaps young cousins are gathering together and they don’t know each other well.  This book will put at least the girls at ease in a hurry.  They will be fast friends by the end of the visit.

For Me & U! Fun for BFFs


Illustrated by Kyla Mae Pty Ltd

This book is fun for a group of seven girls at their first slumber party.  There are spaces for the girls to fill in their preferences and paste their special stickers in each of the thirty sections.  The stickers are at the end of the book.  The book starts with small rectangles where each girl may put down her name, age, grade and school, along with a circle for her personal sticker.  The second section has areas for “Selfies” and section three is a list of personality traits for the girls to circle.  Then the girls get to design their cell phone cases, what toppings they’d put on their favorite flavor ice cream, pick where they’d like travel, what fun things to do with friends, and what kinds of clothes they wear.  There are also sections on decorating cupcakes and giving preferences of activities such either going to the movies or a concert.  The girls get to pick what they’d like to be when they grow up—lawyer, actress, scientist or writer, among other choices. There are sections for coloring and noting favorite books, plus drawing a favorite celebrity.  The girls may check off their favorite school subjects in addition to designing the perfect pizza and ordering the best dinner.  What animal is each girl’s favorite and where to go on vacation make up two more sections. The final section is to draw a family portrait, including pets.

BIBLIO: 2014, Scholastic, Inc. Ages 7 to 9, $8.99.

REVIWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-73297-0



First time flyers  are frequently frightened by all the confusion at an airport, what with lots of noise and people making them go through scary machines.  This book will help calm fears.


The Airport Book

Lisa Brown

Illustrated by Lisa Brown

Preparing your youngsters for what to expect when they’re traveling by airplane is probably a good thing to do.  This story starts at home while the family is packing.  Mom reminds her daughter and her husband to make sure the toy monkey is packed.  Then they take a cab to the airport and go through all the lines one needs to go through.  The reader follows the luggage because the monkey’s tail is sticking out of the bag.  Little sister cries when she goes through the scanner because she doesn’t know what’s happening, but she is comforted by her mommy and when they’re done, big brother holds his sister’s hand so she won’t get lost.  Finally everyone is on board and happily buckled into a seat.  Monkey has an adventure of his own in the cargo hold when a dog gets out of his crate, pulls Monkey out of his suitcase and snuggles with him during the flight. But Monkey is back with his suitcase when the plane lands and everybody’s happy.  Cute book that will give grown-ups a chortle as it comforts little ones.

BIBLIO: 2016, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, Ages 2 to 6, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-62672-091-6




This post is probably a bit late for those of you traveling for Thanksgiving, but December holidays are right around the corner.  Now you have time to prepare.  Safe travels and happy family get togethers.

Suspending Disbelief

As writers, we know we need to make our readers to “pay no attention to the man behind the screen.”  This is especially true of those who write science fiction and/or fantasy.  Some writers pull this off quite well.  Read Beth Revis’ books or John Claude Bemis’ books to see how thoroughly we can be sucked in.  Of course, there are many other writers out there who write quite well in these genres, but I wanted mention writers who live in the Carolinas.


So today, we are looking at books I’ve reviewed that would have us suspend our disbelief.



The first book makes you believe that there is a being called Love who manipulates us to fall in love with the right person.

Definitely suspending our disbelief, wouldn’t you say?

Love Charms and Other Catastrophes

Kimberly Karalius

Hijiri Kitamura goes to a special high school for charm makers and is looking forward to seeing the friends she made the year before.  Last year had been a challenge because of Zita, the reigning Love-Charm maker, who ruled the town.  But Hijiri and her friends, with help from Love himself, had gotten rid of Zita.  This year, Love wants to show Hijiri her heart isn’t small and that she can love other people. He sends her Kentaro Oshiro, a special boy, but Hijiri thinks the boy isn’t real and refuses to be attracted to him.  Hijiri and her friends, now including Ken, enter the town’s Love-Charm contest with Hijiri as the charm maker.  Things get more and more complicated with all of her friends eventually mad at each other and Ken eventually being hurt so badly by Hijiri he stops trying to win her over.  Of course, in the end, Hijiri makes the perfect love charm and the group wins the prize.  Hijiri learns Ken is a real boy who remembers her from a childhood encounter when he was dying of heart failure.  Love gave him a new heart and, in exchange, he wants Ken to teach Hijiri that she does have a big heart and is capable of love.  The story teaches the reader how to believe in herself and follow her dreams. It is quite nicely written.

BIBLIO: 2016, Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends, Ages 14 +, $10.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-250-08404-0

ISBN: 978-1-250-08401-9



I had a hard time believing character traits in this book.  How much can a blind person see of the world around him?


Nowhere Near You

Leah Thomas

Oliver, a.k.a. Ollie, and Moritz are long distance pen pals with unique problems. They met in the first book, “Because You’ll Never Meet Me.” Ollie has lived in northern Michigan woods all his life because he’s allergic to electricity which causes seizures and shorts out any electrical circuits that come within reach of his problem.  But his mother is dead and his doctor takes him on a road trip, ostensibly to meet other problem kids. Moritz, who lives in Germany, was born without eyes and gets around by listening to the world and by using echolocation like a bat to see what’s around him.  Somehow their letters get to each other.  They are both trying to be regular teenagers, but that’s not an easy task for them. They do begin to learn about themselves and Ollies learns he can control his allergies.  The story itself is sweet, but it’s hard to suspend one’s disbelief about some of their problems, in particular Moritz’s ability to “see” things a blind person couldn’t see.  Perhaps a blind person could hear someone’s eyebrows rising, but could a blind person “see” that another person had a “unibrow?”  Doesn’t seem likely.  Another of the characters takes her heart out of her chest and gives it to other people, because she doesn’t want to feel emotions.  She’s a star track runner in her school even without her heart. If the reader can continue to suspend disbelief, the story is nice read and could lead to classroom discussions.

BIBLIO: 2017, Bloomsbury Publishing, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-68119-178-2




The disbelief is not on the part of the reader in this last book, but rather the main character.  All done in a charming fashion.


This Book Is NOT About Dragons

Shelley Moore Thomas

Illustrated by Fred Koehler

The rat who narrates this story is convinced there are not dragons in this book.  He walks into the forest and sees not a single dragon.  So, he tells the reader there are no dragons.  Of course, the reader sees shadows of dragons lurking behind the trees and breathing smoke out of caves.  Rat sees a rabbit, but no dragon.  He sees a red truck by a cabin, but no dragon. Even when the dragon catches the truck on fire, the rat doesn’t see the dragon.  Nor does he see the dragons in the sky, only clouds.  The moose sees the dragons and runs to the city, followed by the dragons and the oblivious rat.  Rat sees only pizza, but the chick sees the dragons and tells the naysayer to look more closely. Oh yes, there are dragons, much to Rat’s dismay.  In the end, he has to change the name of the book and take out the word NOT. This cute book encourages children to be observant and look for the whole picture.

BIBLIO: 2016, Boyds Mills Press/Highlights, Ages 4 to 7, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-62979-168-5


Hope you enjoy the reviews and please tell me about books you couldn’t believe.