‘Dream’ by Matthew Cordell is an Ode to Parents and Their Babies


Matthew Cordell’s “Dream” is a gorgeous and extraordinarily touching picture book evocation of the joys and fears of parenthood and childhood. New mom and dad gorillas adore their infant, and one of them dreams of his future and their own. That dream is rendered so movingly that every page commands our total emotional involvement in each stage of that baby’s growth. It’s as if each page is a poem of love and the book is a poetic ode in words and pictures to the power of parental care.

The details, both visual and verbal, are stunning in their virtuosity and tenderness. The very first page is a wordless picture of a gorilla arm drawing a green line — the beginning of a life. That green line will become the first of many trees of life that bloom and grow throughout the piece. And that baby will bloom and grow as well, as in a parent’s dream, he experiences the beauty and sadness that characterize the progress of each and every life, all under the watchful eyes of the adoring parents.

Why gorillas instead of humans? Perhaps to demonstrate the universality of natural love and love of nature. The parents watch with pride and fear as he climbs a high tree; with wonder as he makes his way into the world; with the melancholy realization that he must eventually leave — but this bond and this love will never dissolve.

A two-page illustration — just before the dream ends — is particularly meaningful and clever. The pictures depict five stages of the baby’s growth, and it’s both reminiscent of and symbolic of the illustrations we’ve often seen of the stages of human evolution: The infant “walks” on four legs; the toddler on three as he takes some chances; the growing child on two as he experiments and courts the dangers of the unknown; the fourth balancing on his two front legs (or arms) as he daringly explores the new paths on which life leads him; and finally — he flies. Brilliant work.

(Review by Jack Kramer)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.

Fabulous Picture Books by Steve Antony Kids Love that Teach Life Lessons


Steve Antony‘s picture books are brilliant. Each one is like a treasure filled with amazing animals, and each one teaches manners, patience and cooperation.

pleasemrpandaIt started with “Please, Mr. Panda,” in which Mr. Panda has a box of doughnuts he is willing to give away. He asks the animals one by one if they want doughnuts. When some say they want one or all of the doughnuts, Mr. Panda replies that he has changed his mind and they cannot have any doughnuts. This continues until one animal finally responds correctly, with the magic word “please.” That animal gets all the doughnuts. It turns out that Mr. Panda does not like doughnuts! Make sure that the endpapers are examined as part of the book reading. Each of them is different from the other, and both definitely add to the story! Continue reading

‘Saturdays at Sea’ by Jessica Day George is a Beautiful Ending to a Lovely Middle Grade Fantasy Series

saturday at sea

“Saturdays at Sea” by Jessica Day George is the last book in the five-book series that began with “Tuesdays at the Castle.” It’s a lovely fantasy series for middle grade readers who aren’t really interested in romance, but do love adventure and magical creatures.

“Saturdays at Sea” is the last episode, as Celie and her family leave their beloved Castle to meet the family of her sister Lilah’s bethrothed, Lulath, in their seaside country. In the last book, Celie found a ship’s figurehead, and they decided that a ship would be built as a wedding gift for the couple using wood from all parts of the different countries that have figured in the series — to unify them all — and the figurehead.

They travel to Lulath’s country, Grath, and from there end up embarking on an unexpected journey when the finished Ship takes matters into its hands and leaves port suddenly during a sedate harbor tour. (It’s kind of like Gilligan’s Island — they are on a 2-hour tour and get shipwrecked.)

But Celie and those with her have their griffins with them. One of the questions lingering from the previous book, “Fridays with the Wizards,” is whether any unicorns still exist. It was said that they had been hunted by the griffins and some of those who cared for them took them to safety in a far away land.

In this book, they actually think that they may get a chance to see the unicorns. But when the Ship, who has taken control of the ship, appears to have a mind of its own, where will they end up?

The story brings the whole series to a beautiful close. It’s a happy ending, but only after many thrills and twists and turns. Unlike some of the other books in the series, this one really doesn’t have any bad guys (except for one nasty mayor), but the situation they encounter more than makes up for that lack.

Now that the series is over, be sure to get the whole bunch for your favorite middle grade reader. Anyone from third through sixth grade would enjoy these fantastical books. They are perfect for reluctant readers,  for wonderful readers (and anyone in between), for reading aloud, for classroom libraries, and for anyone who needs an adventure.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Bloomsbury, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘City of Saints & Thieves’ by Natalie C. Anderson is impossible to put down

city saints

With “City of Saints & Thieves,” author Natalie C. Anderson managed to write a story that had me so enthralled, so committed to the main character, so intrigued by the plot and the setting, that I stayed up much later than I should have two nights in a row to complete the novel, enjoying every minute.

The story is compelling, and the setting is fascinating. The story takes place in several parts of Africa, mainly Kenya. Tina, the sixteen-year-old main character, is an orphan after her mother is killed while working for an extremely wealthy businessman, Roland Greyhill. She thinks he killed her mother because she had seen them argue the night before the murder, and she had heard  him threaten her mother. Her mother was shot in his office, and the local police did not bother to really investigate the crime.

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LA County Animal Control to Kill All Animals who Appear Aggressive or Unadoptable — Even if a Rescue Wants Them


This is Siren. He was an 11-month-old pit bull puppy, and he was not available to adopters or even to rescues who might have wanted to save him. He was scheduled to die because of a new policy at the LA County shelters thanks to new deputy director Allison Cardona.

It would seem to be a news item from several decades ago — that a shelter would change their policies to harm even more animals than previously. Animals that would certainly — many of them — be able to be rescued and successfully adopted out to loving families.

Yet this is the decision that was made by Allison Cardona, the new Deputy Director for the South County Operations. So the Los Angeles County Shelters, including Carson, Downey, Baldwin, Lancaster and Agoura Hills, all of them, will be killing animals immediately after their holding period is up if they show any signs of aggression or indications that, according to the shelter workers, they might be unadoptable.

Cardona, the person who apparently made this decision, has only been Deputy Director at the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control since last month. Her LinkedIn profile states,

“Nonprofit management professional with 13+ years of experience developing community programs connecting low-income and marginalized families to resources. Extensive experience collaborating with social services, government agencies, law enforcement, elected officials and community-based organizations at the local, state and national level. I’m looking for an organization with a mission where my skills and deep commitment to racial, gender and economic justice can be fully applied.”

Apparently, while she is interested in justice for humans, that may not extend to our four-legged companions. What is also surprising is that for the past 14 years — over a decade — she has worked for the ASPCA in New York, ending her career there as Director & Senior Director, Community Engagement. It’s heartbreaking and informative that Cardona came from the ASPCA and within a month implemented a change that will certainly kill more animals and allow many fewer to go to rescue.

Two months ago, a dog like Siren could have been pulled by a rescue so long as they were willing to sign a waiver of liability. And many rescues did so without hesitation knowing that dogs who are stressed or frightened at chaotic shelters don’t show their true personality. Siren’s video shows a dog who is frightened at first, but wags his tail. He takes a treat and looks for more. He lived in a home with six other dogs, and arrived at the shelter with siblings who got perfect scores on their temperament tests. He was sick, so he was not tested. Then when a shelter worker was cleaning his cage, he bit a finger. Was he provoked? Frightened?

Because of that incident, even if a rescue wanted to pull Siren and get him properly evaluated and into a calm environment, they were denied that opportunity. Cardona, in her infinite wisdom, decided to kill such dogs without getting complete temperament tests done by qualified animal behaviorists. When the rescues are signing waivers of liability, what is the possible excuse for this?

The email sent by the shelter to rescues with the information about the new policy:

“I wanted to take the time to inform you that effective immediately there will be some changes in the animals in which you have been notified. All animals deemed “not safe” for placement due to behavior will no longer be made available to rescue’s. You will no longer receive notifications on these animals and animals that fall under this category will be euthanized after there holding period is up. You will continue to receive notification on animals that are behaviorally sound and available. If you have any question please contact Allison Cardona the new Deputy Direct for the South County Operations.”

The response on Facebook was furious. Many dogs, in shelters across the country, fail these tests, and most dog trainers will attest to the fact that trying to ascertain the temperament of an animal who has been abandoned and is in an extremely stressful environment will often result in getting unreliable results.

One Facebook post: Tdooneyhis is Dooney, he failed his temp test, was a waiver dog and waited 131 days to get out, rescued by 4 Dogs Farm Rescue and Dennise Totes and Felicia Figueroa
He’s the sweetest little dog and his new family loves him so much, he was one of the lucky ones, so many innocent lives are going to be lost.


A spokesperson for FosterFurKids.com, a LA area rescue co-founded by Alison Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s daughter, shared the following:

We are extremely concerned about the new policy implemented by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control. Our organization has rescued countless dogs that were deemed “aggressive” or unadoptable and as soon as those dogs were taken out of the shelter environment their behavior completely changed.  One test cannot determine a dog’s temperament. Most of these animals are stressed out and scared. Rescue groups that pull animals from shelters, have to sign adoption partner agreements in which they assume all legal responsibility and release the shelters of any liability.
In fact just last week we rescued a dog from a shelter that was a “rescue only” because he nipped at someone’s toe. When he was inside the kennel he was barking and acting very aggressively towards other dogs. He was literally biting at the cage. He’s now living in a foster home with other dogs and he’s perfectly fine. He’s running around and playing with the other dogs.

Siren’s Facebook posts showed the escalating danger he faced:


🆘 THEY MOVED HIM TO THE BACK!! 🆘 He has a cold and is on his second round of meds so he is in DANGER!!!! He is a puppy he came from a home with 6 dogs, he is CHINA and Brownie’s Brother, both scored A’s on TEMP TEST! He is amazing and needs a chance NOW!! Please SHARE!


SIREN is adorable with beautiful energy but he and his sweet sisters BROWNIE and CHINA and these special babies sneed help now!
Please SHARE for his life, he needs a TEMPERAMENT TEST requested IN PERSON by an Interested Party before the Shelter will allow him to be saved. Without this Test being ordered he can be PTS at any time after his Available Date. A FOSTER or Adopter would save him. Thanks!

#A5042158 My name is SIREN and I’m an approximately 11 month old male Pit Bull. I am not yet neutered. I have been at the Carson Animal Care Center since 3/19. I will be available on 3/19. You can visit me at my temporary home at C329.
My former family who owned me for had to give me up because they had too many pets.

Siren was killed by the LA County shelter. He was 11 months old.

There are other dogs in urgent need of rescue and adoption at the LA shelters. Please visit the Saving Carson Shelter Dogs Facebook page to see some of them.

Please sign the petition, link below:


Please SHARE this and voice your outrage!!!











Roxy carson

Roxy is in danger

Also concerning is that the shelter is allegedly using information from owners regarding aggressive behavior. That kind of information is often unreliable, as many rescues know. Owners who want to give a reason for their surrender of a dog — and want it to look like they aren’t just jerks giving up a good dog — often create a history that will make them look less like jerks. They’ll claim: “The dog bit someone” or “the dog growled at my baby.” So they feel better, and the dog gets killed. Yet even knowing that, the shelter may rely on that information rather than a reliable temperament test by a qualified trainer.

Questions that Cardona should be answering include:

What method are they using to evaluate and determine whether these dogs are in fact aggressive or dangerous.? How much training does shelter staff have to make these assessments?
Dogs’ lives depend on this.
(Roxy is ID#A5032706)

‘Welcome, A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals’ will Delight Youngsters and Parents


Mo Willems knows how to connect with kids. Kids love him. Librarians worship him. Really. And with the publication of “Welcome, A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals,” he proves that he can also appeal to an even younger group — babies.

This book is a really sturdy board book. The first page and the last page are mirrors, and as mirrors in picture books go, these are pretty good ones. Most young children will be able to recognize themselves in these mirrors.

The text is simple and direct. It begins:

OUR RESEARCH INDICATES This is YOU. Take a good look How remarkable it is that you are you.” It goes on to say that “You are a unique combination of LOVE + TIME + LUCK”

Many pages end with the text “…while we read this book together,” and an image of a parent and child happily reading a book. Parents (or guardians) reading with their children are, indeed, a happy sight to behold.

Other pages begin with “Thank you for joining us,” “Please enjoy your stay,” and “Your contributions are greatly appreciated.” Willems also includes “A few upcoming highlights” in which music, cats and stories are shown. Cats!

The book includes warnings for the baby, too. “Conditions may vary…” Willems warns that there may be turbulence and unexpected events. But the bottom line? Baby is loved. Now and always.

This book would be a perfect gift on its own or tucked into a baby blanket for a newborn. It will be enjoyed by baby and parent alike. In fact, it’s a perfect way to introduce a newborn to the joy of Mo Willems, and it’s just in time for his super compilation of all his Elephant and Piggie stories, which are in a book appropriately titled “An Elephant & Piggie Biggie!”

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover board book provided by the publisher, Hyperion-Disney, for review purposes.

‘Be Quiet!’ by Ryan T. Higgins is Pure Laughter (and 3 Adorable Mice)


Ryan T. Higgins is the author and illustrator of “Be Quiet!” a picture book that features the three mice from his previous clever picture book, “Hotel Bruce.” One of the mice, Rupert, envisions the creation of a beautiful, wordless book filled with lovely images.

His buddies, Thistle and Nibbs, two other mice, don’t quite understand the concept. In fact, there is a lot they don’t understand. And as the book fills up with their humorous chatter, Rupert gets more and more angry and frustrated.

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Ten Dogs in Florida Die Tomorrow –Urgently in Need of Rescue or Adoption


This video shows dogs who are in extreme danger of being killed on Thursday, April 13th at the Sebring, Florida Animal Control. Please share their information to help them have a chance to be saved.

These dogs don’t have long to live. They were give an extension until 3:30 tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, April 13th. After that, those dogs who have not found rescue or adoption will be killed. Even the 18-month-old puppy. Please share their plight. Their stories are not known, but all are sweet and deserving of a chance to live a full life.



Luna looks like she has given up. She lies curled up on her bed in the kennel, a light showing in her dark brown eyes as if asking if the photographer is there to help. Luna looks like she’s been well-fed, and she probably doesn’t know what she did to end up in a county shelter with death looming in her tomorrow. Without rescue or an adopter, Luna will be killed after 3:30 tomorrow. She is only 4 years old.  Luna is ID #48913. There might be more information on her Facebook thread.

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‘Big and Little Are Best Friends’ is a Charming Picture Book


What is cuter than an elephant and a mouse best-friend pair? Not much once you’ve read “Big and Little Are Best Friends” by Michael Garland. This picture book is picture perfect.

From the rhyming to the artfully crafted sentences which read out loud beautifully to the illustrations in which there is just enough detail to keep the main characters, the mouse and the elephant, at center stage, the story is lovely.

23Young and mature readers will enjoy some of the paradoxes that this pair presents. While “Little looks stern, Big acts silly.” Followed by “Big wears plain, Little wears frilly.” So Big is basically a bowler-wearing silly guy while the mouse, Little, is stern but adorned in an extremely outrageous pink, rose-and-ribbon-trimmed hat that would be the envy of any “church lady.”

But the book isn’t just a cute picture book with opposites, it’s also about how sometimes friends who may be as “different as day and night…can sometimes fight.” But they always make up, and the lesson learned is that it’s okay to be yourself. There is no need for people to change just because they are different from their friend(s).

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‘The Finishing School’ by Joanna Goodman is a clever piece of fiction

finishing school

“The Finishing School” by Joanna Goodman takes readers from Toronto, Canada to Switzerland. Through the protagonist, Kersti Kuusk, readers will also get to vicariously experience life at a prestigious, ultra-wealthy boarding/finishing school called the Lycée.

Kersti never felt like she really fitted in at the private school for the extremely wealthy. The other students, including her best friend Cressida, all had parents who skied in Gstaad and Breckenridge, they vacationed in exotic locales and had multiple homes around the world.

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‘The Return’ by Joseph Helmreich is a brilliant science fiction thriller


“The Return,” Joseph Helmreich’s science-fictionesque novel, is a spellbinding exercise in the mystical and the mysterious, the prosaic and the poetic, the scientific and the fantastic. The plot is just convoluted enough that the reader might think at first that he or she is reading a group of almost unrelated short stories. But it all comes together at the end in a veritable burst of colors, fire, ashes, and finally hope and love. And this is a love story, a surprising, touching, sad, and hopeful tale.

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Three Fairy Tale Board Books Perfect for Young Inquisitive Fingers


Fairy tales are all the rage, and even the youngest of fans should be able to get in on the action. With First Stories’ new books, “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” young readers will be able to hear the stories and actually move the characters (or other items) in the books with easy movements.

For example, on the cover of “Rapunzel,” her long golden hair moves up and down via a hole in the board that slides her braid up and down the side of the tower. Because these books are for very young readers, the stories are condensed.

inside'rapunzelThe first double page of the story says, “A baby named Rapunzel, with hair so fair and bright, was taken by a wicked witch, one dark and stormy night.” The illustration shows the parents grieving while the witch bends over the cradle where Rapunzel lays sleeping. With one gentle tug of the tab, the witch and baby disappear and reappear at the open door to the cottage.

The illustrations are beauty and the bestfairly cartoonish, but the toddlers who will be enjoying the stories and the moving panels won’t be examining them critically. What they will do is give youngsters a way to access the stories while having some fun moving the parts.

In “Beauty and the Beast,” there is a revolving panel with different food that appears as part of the feast that Beast gives Beauty. Delicious!

Please note: This review is based on the final, board books provided by the publisher, Silver Dolphin, for review purposes.