Book Review - Doctor Who: Where's the Doctor

Illustrator/Creator: Jamie Smart
Publisher: Penguin Group (UK) (Release date: July 31, 2012)
Audience:  Ages 4 and up
Source: Personal Copy

Description from GoodReads:
Where is the Doctor? The time travelling Time Lord could be anywhere in time and space in these incredibly detailed intergalactic images. Search through the Cybermen, dig through the Daleks and ogle the Ood to find the Doctor and his friends!

My thoughts on the book:
During my first visit to Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach, I discovered that there is a play on Where's Waldo? featuring Doctor Who.  I first discovered Doctor Who years ago when my mother started watching the original series.  I always found it interesting that my non-geek, non-Science Fiction loving mother watched Doctor Who.  The few episodes I watched with her were interesting albeit very campy but I could see the reason for a cult following.  In more recent years, Doctor Who has been revamped to be a bit more appealing to a whole new audience.  I will admit that though I have watched a number of episodes and do have some favorites I am no where near an expert as some of my friends.  The reason I share this information is that I want readers to know why this will be a more picture oriented review than lots of text. I would hate to offend a true fan of Doctor Who.  

So here goes...

Do you think this Doctor Who caricature is David Tennet or Matt Smith or some combination? My vote is Matt Smith. 

Seriously, a table of contents?! This is for those of us who cannot accurately identify all of the aliens and creatures.  It is like our own personal cheat sheet.

Not only are you searching for The Doctor, but you have to find The Tardis, Amy and Rory, plus a few others items.  I personally love that Amy and Rory are included in this.

The Daleks!!!! In my opinion, there is no way that you can have a Doctor Who book and not include The Daleks. 

Don't you just love Jamie Smart's illustrations?  I wonder if he can do a Doctor Who graphic novel for young children? I'd buy it.

In case there isn't enough of a challenge looking for The Doctor, The Tardis, Amy and Rory, there is a checklist at the end for each two page spread.

The final page has one of those "Spot the Difference" comparison pictures.  I bet you can spot one of the differences even from the small picture above.

Thank you Penguin UK for publishing Where's The Doctor? I already have friends wanting to pick up copies of this book.  When looking to purchase a copy of the book, don't forget to support your local Indie Bookstores when possible.   


Book Review: Squid and Octopus Friends for Always

Author/Illustrator: Tao Nyeu
Publisher: Penguin (June 28, 2012)
Audience: Preschool to Age 7
Source: Personal Copy
Friendship * Early Reader * Humor * Picture Book

Description from GoodReads:
A friend for always is someone who... knows how to cheer you up when you're feeling droopy, usually sees things your way, and never lets a quarrel get out of hand. As you'll see in these endearing, silly stories, a friend for always is the very best thing in the deep blue sea.

My thoughts on the book:
LOVE.  I am in love with this book.  When I first read this as a F & G back in February, I knew I had to have it.  Imagine your favorite early reader friendship pairs - Mouse & Mole, Frog & Toad, Elephant & Piggie - now add in Squid and Octopus. This not exactly a regular picture book and not truly an early reader will appeal to the audience who loves all those other great friendships. I love this quirky, hilarious pair and I already want more.

As with any early reader, the story of Squid & Octopus is told in four shorter stories.  And they are all great.

I am a little partial to The Quarrel where Squid and Octopus argue over socks and mittens.  

I loved the simplicity of the color theme that flows throughout the book but there is incredible detail in Nyeu's artwork.  I also really enjoyed all of the little side comments sprinkled throughout the book. From above: Fish 1 - Do you think that is carrot cake? I love carrot cake. Fish 2 - I prefer pumpkin pie.

In The Dream, guess who is lurking behind the flip page - Bear and the bunnies from Bunny Days

The Hat was another one of my favorite short stories in the book.  The conversations among the diners at Yum Yum's is hilarious.  

And here are my little fish friends again as they try to figure out what is on the heads of Squid and Octopus.   

I am hoping that you can see from both the text and illustrations why Squid and Octopus Friends for Always is one of my top picks for this year.  I want more Squid and Octopus and hope that Nyeu isn't finished writing about these two friends. 

If you haven't seen Squid and Octopus, you need to head over to your favorite Indie Bookstore to pick up a copy or local library, or order it from

For more information about Tao Nyeu: websitepublisher's page

Check out the book trailer for Bunny Days:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (10)

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

Though I believe we should celebrate Women's History all year long, March has been designated Women's History Month.  As March comes to a close, I am celebrating Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday with a review & giveaway of Women Explorers by Julie Cummins. 

Women Explorers
Author: Julie Cummins
Illustrator: Cheryl Harness
Publisher: Dial/Penguin Group (February 16, 2012)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience:  Grades 4th to 8th
Women's History * Biography * Nonfiction

Description from GoodReads:
Though most people have heard of explorers like Henry Hudson and Christopher Columbus, few have heard names like Nellie Cashman and Annie Smith Peck. With engaging text and bold illustrations, "Women Explorers" introduces 10 of these adventurous women to the world. Full color.

My thoughts on the book:

I am really loving the wonderful variety of nonfiction picture books and biographical picture books that are currently available.  The format and design are reader friendly and very accessible for kids.  Julie Cummins' Women Explorers is one of those books.  Cummins looks at the lives of 10 women explorers who lived during the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century.

With colorful illustrations and 3 pages of text per woman, Cummins shares just enough information to provide readers with a sense of each of these unique individuals and to pique interest in discovering more about them.  These very special women went everywhere and did amazing things considering that in the late 1800's and early 1900's women did not typically have the same opportunities as men.  Additionally, traveling all around the world was not an easy endeavor.  Each of these women demonstrated great strength, courage, curiosity, and dedication as they explored places like the Artic, the South Seas, the wilderness of Mexico, or Africa.

For many of them, their upper-class families' resources and wealth, afforded them opportunities that would normally be closed to women.  It was also fascinating to read about the types of clothes that they wore and sometimes the amounts of luggage or equipment that was needed in order to embark on these journeys. Though some of these women lived well into their 80's or even 90's, some died young due to illness or unfortunate situations encountered on their travels.

I was inspired and amazed by the lives of these incredible women.  I am not certain that I could endure some of the conditions that they had to face in order to pursue their dreams.  When I was younger, I moved from the east coast to the west coast.  With the support of a friend, I traveled in a Uhaul and camped out each night.  I remember distinctly thinking about the men and women who had made similar journeys during the 1800's in horse drawn wagons.  The mountains of the west were impressive to this East Coaster, but I couldn't imagine crossing them on horse.

Everyone of these special women were to be admired, but I was especially in awe of Lucy Evelyn Cheesman.  This diminutive woman, dressed in "a bush suit with shoes and stockings", used a nail file to cut through the threads of a particularly challenging spider's web and dined with cannibals in the South Pacific.

This is a book that I would certainly recommend for school and classroom libraries.  Each story can be read as an individual read aloud or used as a tie-in with other text.  If you are interested in a copy, why not enter the giveaway below courtesy of Penguin Books.

Also, don't forget to add any recent nonfiction picture book reviews to the Mr. Linky widget below. Thanks to those who are participating in the Nonfiction Picture Book challenge. 

Giveaway Rules:

1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.

2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from  March 28, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on April 4, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Book Review - Ripper

Cross-posted from Now That's Filmworthy (Visit Kate's blog for a chance to win Ripper!)
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Young Readers
Release date: March 1, 2012
Source: Advance Readers Copy
Audience: Young Adult

Good Reads Description:
Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies.
Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commisioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer.

Kate's thoughts on this book:
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha was a fun read for me.  Being a history groupie, you always find that there are certain places, people, myths, and mysteries that pique your interest.  The case of Jack the Ripper is one of those interests of mine, so I was especially excited to read this book.  As I read, I began to see past the history and appreciate the writing style of the novel as well as the characters introduced.  To be honest, it reminded me of another one of my favorite adult mysteries, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.  

The book’s setting of the turn of the 20th Century allows the author to explore the advances in forensics and early investigative techniques. Petrucha takes full advantage of the opportunity. I thank him for it! The novel’s pacing and adventure makes it a great read for those guys who like a good mystery. (There is romance, but it isn’t overwhelming. It is more of an opportunity to give Carver, our hero, someone who is unconditionally in his corner.)  The story of the Ripper does include some disturbing murder and mayhem, but it doesn’t get too  explicit or overpowering.

The characters were intriguing. I loved seeing Mr. Petrucha’s take on Teddy Roosevelt. He really gave us an opportunity to relate to such a life-sized personality in US history. The themes also jumped out at me: the idea that your fate is our own no matter who your parents are, where you grew up, but what actions you take. No person should be pigeoned-holed especially as they are just discovering themselves.

Check out the book trailer in my Trailer Park!
For more information about author: Stefan Petrucha
On Twitter: @SPetrucha

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (8)

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

This week's Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is coming to you courtesy of Penguin Books. Thanks to Publisher Rep extraordinaire, Nicole, one lucky reader has a chance to win a copy of The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barbara Rosenstock and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.  In addition to these two wonderful books, there is also a signed print from Maira Kalman's book Looking At Lincoln

The Camping Trip that Changed America
Author: Barbara Rosenstock
Illustrator: Mordecai Gerstein
Publisher: Penguin Group (January 19, 2012)
Audience: 2nd to 5th grade

Can you imagine going on a camping trip with the President of the United States?  True, I am not much of a camper, it doesn't prevent me from thinking about what it would be like to have some undivided time with one of the most influential people in the world.  Of course, it wouldn't be very easy to accomplish this today.  Can you imagine how many Secret Service men would have to join you?  However, this story takes place in 1903, when it was still possible for the President to go off on an adventure. 

Though this is more of a fictionalized telling of a fateful camping trip that President Theodore Roosevelt went on with naturalist, John Muir, there is still some great information in this book. Barbara Rosenstock does a nice job depicting the enthusiasm which Roosevelt possessed and the sense of adventure and appreciation for nature as beheld by Muir.  My favorite part in the book is a two page spread where Roosevelt and Muir are camping out under the skies and Muir tells Roosevelt about all the wonderful things there were in the United States.  All I can imagine is how these two men influenced each other in some important way.

Mordicai Gerstein illustrations lend a certain mood that perfectly suits the book.  Rosenstock includes some quotes and important author notes at the end of the book which provide slightly more information.  I found this a fun read and would certainly recommend it for a classroom or school library.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Author: William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Dial (January 19, 2012)
Audience: 2nd to 5th grade

"In a small village in Malawi, where people had no money for lights, nightfall came quickly and hurried poor farmers to bed.  But for William, the darkness was best for dreaming."  

In a world, where so many children have so much and sometimes believe that they should receive a grade or a position for just showing up, it was refreshing to read about William Kamkwamba's story.  In a poor village, in face of a drought, and without the funding to attend school, William used his ability to dream and his curiosity about how things work to develop a solution that would help his family and community.  Creating a windmill at a teenager in the best of circumstances would be a challenge, but having to scrounge the pieces from junkyards and wherever else he could find things made the challenge even that much greater.  William's story is inspirational and should be shared with children. 

Elizabeth Zunon's mixed media illustrations bring an extra dimension to this story and makes both William and his windmill stand out and pop off the pages.  A fascinating story paired up with well matched illustrations makes this a wonderful book to add to a classroom or school collection.

Looking At Lincoln
Author/Illustrator: Maria Kalman
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (January 5, 2012)
Audience: 2nd to 5th grade

Starting with the penny and a five dollar bill, Maria Kalman introduces children to the 16th president in quirky but factual manner.  As with the previous title, there is an element of the story being fictionalized but there is accuracy in the facts of the story.  It was particularly interesting for me to pick up a couple of other picture books written at very different times and by very different authors and find that certain aspects of Lincoln's life was prominent in each of the books. 

The often humorous, yet touching look at the life and habits of Lincoln, including his relationship with his wife, and how he stored notes in his hat, made this important president seem even more humble and significant.  The illustrations also done by Kalman add to the feeling of the book, and I especially liked how she tied the story together at the end with the Lincoln Memorial.  Though I believe children ages 7 and up will enjoy the book, I do think the 2nd and 3rd graders may particularly connect to the illustrations and story format.

Giveaway Rules:

1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.
2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time on February 29, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on March 6, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.