Kidlit Review: Max at Night

September 16, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Kidlit Review: Max at NightMax at Night by Ed Vere
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on September 1st 2016
Genres: Children, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: complimentary review copy

In Max at Night we find Max getting ready for bed, but he can’t find the moon to say goodnight. Like most any young child, Max will not rest until he has completed his bedtime routine. With the moon nowhere to be found Max goes in search believing the higher he gets the closer to the moon he will be and the more likely it is he will see that errant moon.

The illustrations in Max at Night are sparse yet beautiful. The colors are darker, giving the impression of night while the stars and lettering are a bright white. The combination creates a calming scene. Max at Night is a good bedtime picture book for younger children, probably from ages zero to five. The words are simple enough that an older sibling with a reading level of 2 or 3 could read the bedtime story {giving the older sibling reading practice and the younger sibling the awe of the attention of the older sibling}.

My 5-year-old grandson and I read it a couple of times. He especially liked the part where Max gets frustrated and shouts “Mooooooooon! Where are yoooouu?” Of course it may have been because I startled him with the really loud shout and sound effects!  {I wouldn’t recommend doing that if read at bedtime}. 😉

There is a definite play on the classic Goodnight Moon as the story begins, and Max is saying goodnight to everything. Overall, we enjoyed Max at Night, but we did not love it. I am quite impressed by the incredible job the author/illustrator does of giving expressions to Max that are easily distinguished. The illustrations are the best part of the book.

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Extra Credit

Download the pdf activity kit here. It is the cutest thing ever, starting off with “can you tell how Max is feeling based on his expressions?” What’s so cute about the activity is Max has no mouth, only eyes and a nose. The expressions Vere creates with just Max’s eyes are incredible. This type of activity can help build empathy and emotional intelligence in young children.

Author Links

Twitter: @ed_vere

Enter to Win

With thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky enter to win an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere
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linking to Saturday’s Kid Connection with Booking Mama

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for a copy of Max at Night to review.



7 Valuable Life Lessons from Roald Dahl

September 15, 2016 Book Talk, Giveaway, Spotlight Author 4



There has rarely been an author to make as much a difference in the lives of children and adults than Roald Dahl. Although Dahl’s word creations like oompa loompa, whizzpopper and splendiferous are all instantly recognizable, his life lessons are what we truly remember. Here’s a round-up of 7 messages Roald Dahl delivers in his books:

Kindness matters

I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else. . .  Kindness – that simple word. To be kind – it covers everything, to my mind.
If you’re kind that’s it. ~Roald Dahl

roald dahl books

Beauty comes from the inside.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. ~The Twits

You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony. ~Danny the Champion of the World


Girls are heroes too

In Matilda you’ve got Ms. Honey and Matilda herself;
In The BFG, Sophie is a remarkable heroine;
In The Witches the Grandmother is said to be based on Dahl’s amazing mother

Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world. ~Matilda

The fact that I am still here and able to speak to you (however peculiar I may look) is due entirely to my wonderful grandmother. ~The Witches

Reading is a great cure for loneliness

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone. ~ Matilda

All you do is to look, At a page in this book, Because that’s where we always will be. No book ever ends, When it’s full of your friends.  ~ The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me

roald dahl

Find the whimsy and fun in life

“A whizzpopper!” cried the BFG, beaming at her. “Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears! You surely is not telling me that a little whizzpopping if forbidden among human beans?”  ~The BFG

“The matter with human beans,” the BFG went on, “is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.” ~The BFG

Family is most important

My darling,’ she said at last, ‘are you sure you don’t mind being a mouse for the rest of your life?’ ‘I don’t mind at all,’ I said. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.  ~ The Witches

But as soon as they heard the door opening, and heard Charlie’s voice saying, “Good evening, Grandpa Joe and Grandpa Josephine, and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina,” then all four of them would suddenly sit up, and their old wrinkled faces would light up with smiles of pleasure. ~Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

roald dahl

Friends are needed and come in all shapes and sizes

“He is a good giant, Your Majesty,” Sophie said. “You need not be frightened of him.” “I’m delighted to hear it,” said the Queen, still smiling. “He is my best friend, Your Majesty” ~The BFG

And James Henry Trotter, who once, if you remember, had been the saddest and loneliest little boy that you could find, now had all the friends and playmates in the world. ~James and the Giant Peach

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Enter to win

The paperback collection of fifteen titles and a special edition Roald Dahl tote bag provided by Penguin Young Readers/Puffin.
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About the Author


(c) RDNL 2016

Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was one of the world’s most imaginative, successful and beloved storytellers. He was born in Wales of Norwegian parents and spent much of his childhood in England. After establishing himself as a writer for adults with short story collections such as Kiss Kiss and Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl began writing children’s stories in 1960 while living with his family in both the U.S. and in England. His first stories were written as entertainment for his own children, to whom many of his books are dedicated.

Two charities have been founded in Roald Dahl’s memory: the first charity, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, created in 1991, focuses on making life better for seriously ill children through the funding of specialist nurses, innovative medical training, hospitals, and individual families across the UK.

The second charity, The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – a unique cultural, literary and education hub – opened in June 2005 in Great Missenden where Roald Dahl lived and wrote many of his best-loved works. 10% of income from Roald Dahl books and adaptations are donated to the two Roald Dahl charities.

Many thanks to Wunderkind PR and Penguin Young Readers/Puffin for including The Novel Life in the Roald Dahl 100 Tour

Roald Dahl has touched countless lives through his novels. His stories still resonate today. It’s difficult to choose one favorite Dahl book or character, so instead, I’d love to know which ones have stayed with you the longest! or that you have had the most fun reading aloud?!?

Happy 100th Roald Dahl!




30Authors: Julie Cantrell Recommends

September 11, 2016 Book Talk, Guest Post, Spotlight Author 2

30 authors image

#30Authors is an event started by The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh. To see this year’s full line-up, visit or follow along on Twitter @30Authors.

Oh my dear friends are you in for a treat! I’ve been following Julie Cantrell’s writing career since I fell in love with Into the Free when it was shortlisted for the Inspy’s. Since then I’ve read all three of her books: Into the Free, When Mountains Move and The Feathered Bone. Julie weaves social justice issues throughout her novels. Into the Free {my review here} tackles child abuse and neglect along with parental depression in a time where these things were hidden under the proverbial rug. When Mountains Move is a testament to faith while dealing with breaking the abuse cycle, the aftermath of rape, and learning to trust . The Feathered Bone: human trafficking, emotional abuse, depression and again, faith that moves mountains.

When Allison at The Book Wheel asked me if I’d like to host Julie for #30Authors, I believe she might have heard me all the way across the country being all fan-girlish and shouting, “yes! yes! please!” Discovering the books favorite authors read and enjoy makes me feel like I’m getting an inside look. I hope you enjoy Julie’s review of Trials of the Earth as much as I did!

Julie Cantrell Recommends

trials of the earthWhen asked to review my “favorite recent read” for 30 Authors, I struggled to choose one title. An avid reader, I always find the task as impossible as naming my favorite child. There simply is no favorite. (Y’all can relate, can’t you?!)

Given the challenge, I snapped up some of the latest, greatest novels on my bedside table. I tore through the pages determined to find the perfect recommendation, but none shaped my soul the way some older releases had managed to do. Flustered, I turned to memoirs, my lifelong true love (truth be told).

As a last resort, I walked into a bookstore on the very day this review was due (ever the slacker). An eye-level book on the front shelf was Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman by Mary Mann Hamilton (Oh, to have that placement someday!). With its earth-toned landscape and contrasting stark-white silhouette, the cover called to me, and upon reading the description, I was hooked: “The powerful, only known first-person account of one woman’s struggles and triumphs taming the Mississippi Delta.”

“This is it,” I said to my friend who had been made aware of my hunt for the ideal book.

“Wanna look around a bit?” he suggested. “You might find something better.”

Two hours later, we returned to that front shelf and snagged Trials of the Earth, laughing as he claimed he would never doubt me again.

It was no surprise I selected this title. I’m a Louisiana native who lived in various parts of The States before relocating to Mississippi in 2004. My debut novel was set in the Delta and I am drawn to memoirs of strong women, particularly those who stray from expected social norms.

Mary’s story intrigued me for many reasons, so I read the preface and discovered it had been written in 1933 when a friend encouraged the narrator to pen her tale merely three years before her death. Unpublished for more than fifty years, the memoir eventually came to shelves through the University Press of Mississippi but was recently republished by Little, Brown and Company, finding its way to my hands and drawing a patter of my heart.

This story is a simple read, free of literary descriptions or detailed character development. In fact, the blunt plainness of the text is part of the appeal. It flows with an authentic, almost dry style that makes me want to peel the layers off and dig deeper into Mary’s heart. A tough survivor, she does not dwell on emotional details, even when she describes the loss of her father, brother, mother, sister, and four children. Life was hard. She accepted it as such and weathered each trauma with a grit reserved only for the most steadfast of spirits.

While I was interested in the day-to-day requirements necessary to navigate the countless perils of 19th-century Mississippi wilderness—particularly a scene in which the riverbanks began sloughing with rapid intensity forcing the homesteaders to frantically save their tent, raft, and gear from the encroaching waters as well as descriptive trials with mosquitoes, mill accidents, archaic medical practices, and a plethora of predators—it was Mary’s way of viewing the world that fascinated me most. I appreciate a book that allows me to experience life through a different lens, especially when that lens offers direct contrast to my way of seeing things. For example, while blatant prejudice was not displayed, it was clear from undertones that Mary considered “Negro” and Jewish people to be of little worth, and that she had a particular distaste for Baptists. These blanket criticisms were disturbing to read, but I appreciate that the history was preserved, revealing an uncensored portrayal of one woman’s mindset during that particular time period.

Equally interesting was Mary’s marriage. Time and again she wrote that she wasn’t sure if what she felt for her husband was “love.” In fact, she seemed to be co-dependent in the sense she was happiest when she felt needed, even if that required her husband to be ill, drunk, or broken. This was what Mary knew of love, and this is how she lived her life, serving and caring for the men and children while cooking for upwards to 120 boarders and millworkers and going through nearly “a barrel of flour” a day as the laborers cleared the land. She knew her strengths, and she was determined to provide for those under her care.

Mary was a hard worker, a practical minded housekeeper, and a family matriarch who took great pride in keeping up appearances. She didn’t mind if her husband drank too much, as long as he did it in the privacy of their own home. It seemed she was imprisoned at times by her own insecurities and felt most free when the family left the constraints of mainstream society to camp in the backwoods of the Mississippi swamplands. There she could be most herself, without as much worry about what other townsfolk thought of her. This speaks volumes about the pressures women felt both then, and now, as a result of social expectations.

Ultimately, this story is one that shines a positive light on a woman who accepted a different kind of normal. She was never afraid to stand up for herself or for those she loved, exhibiting a fierceness that saved her own life and the lives of countless others, no doubt. By following her husband into the rough country, Mary Mann Hamilton thrived, leaving a legacy for her descendants and continuing to give the family heirs reason to exalt her today.

A spunky, brave, and resilient pioneer, Mary Mann Hamilton gives us a window into a world that is at once distant and near, unique yet universal, ancient yet timeless. But above all else, she tells the story of one woman’s will to endure life’s greatest hurts, and that, my friends, is a story to which we can all relate.

Here’s to Mary Mann Hamilton and the women who came before us. Let’s share a toast to the strong ones.

Happy Reading!


About the Author

Julie CantrellJulie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, a debut novel that earned both the Christy Award Book of the Year (2013) and the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. The sequel, When Mountains Move, was named a 2013 Best Read by LifeWay, was shortlisted for several awards, and won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. Her third novel, The Feathered Bone, released January 2016, earning a starred review by Library Journal.

Learn more about Julie on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

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KidLit Review and Giveaway: The Storybook Knight

September 9, 2016 Book Review, reviews 2

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

KidLit Review and Giveaway: The Storybook KnightThe Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, Thomas Docherty
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on September 6th 2016
Genres: Children, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: complimentary review copy


Little Leo is not the knight his parents expected. He enjoys nothing more than reading and being kind to all. His parents don’t believe a knight should be gentle, so when they read an ad about a dragon needing taming, off they send Leo to do them proud!

One morning, Leo’s parents said
they’d like to have a chat.
There was nothing wrong with reading,
but he couldn’t just do that!

Along the way, Leo encounters a griffin, a troll and a dragon. Rather than use the new sword and shield his parents gave him, Leo uses his head, his heart and the books he brought along for the trip.

A few of the lessons

  • Books are cool because you will know what a griffin is should you happen upon one!
  • You can be successful in a ‘fight’ with savvy smarts and knowledge without the use of swords and shields.
  • It’s ok if others are different, and I’m quieter and like to read. I’ve got equally great qualities, though I may be different from you.
  • The world could use more kindness and acceptance.

Final Thoughts

Truly a delightful picture book for both adults and children! My grandson, who is now in Kindergarten, and I have read this one quite a few times. Both of us love it! Me, for the lovely manner in which books and reading are featured, the numerous messages woven throughout the book, and the inclusion of the classic Billy Goat’s Gruff! My grandson loves this one for the rhyming that lends itself to some fantastic reading aloud. The bright colors of the pictures, along with the attention to detail, have kept us finding new features in the layouts! Honestly, The Storybook Knight gets 4 thumbs-up from this reading duo!

[Tweet “.#thestorybook is sure to become a children’s classic and an adult favorite!”]

Extra Credit

→Visit here to take Leo’s pledge and become a Storybook Knight. “Remember: A story is mightier than the sword.”

→We all know how children enjoy receiving happy mail, right? For your wee reader friends or family, mailing the book + the printable Activity Kit is a package little ones from ages 4 – 8 will be thrilled to receive.


→Most students are back in school now that September is well underway. And most of us adults have heard the plight of our tireless teachers, yes? A truly wonderful gift for your Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade teacher would be the book + the printable Educators Guide which aligns with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

Author and Illustrator Links

Thomas Docherty:
Twitter: @TDIllustration

Helen Docherty:
Twitter: @docherty_helen

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Book Review: Into the Free

September 3, 2016 Book Review 5

Book Review: Into the FreeInto the Free by Julie Cantrell
Published by David C. Cook on February 1st 2012
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Inspirational
Pages: 329
Source: purchased


Into the Free begins with 9-year old Millie wishing for a way to escape her life, her abusive father and a mother who gets so blue she forgets to care for Millie.  The family lives in a tiny shack, former slaves quarters, which have since been remodeled into tenant housing for the farm hands. Millie’s dad, Jack, is a rodeo cowboy and helps with the horses on the farm. Millie’s mom takes in ironing and sewing when she’s not gone away to the dark place Millie calls ‘the valley.’

What is remarkable with Into the Free is the seemingly ease of interweaving hope and a realistic faith throughout the threads of the novel. Not all Christians portrayed in the book are “good” just as in real life some proclaimed Christians are bad…very bad. Had the novel been set in most recent times, Millie would have been removed from her parent’s home due to the abuse suffered at the hands of her father and the neglect of her mother. When Millie is around a regular family we can see how hard it is for an abused child to accept kindness, gentleness and love. Having worked with abused children I can attest to the absolute accuracy of Cantrell’s portrayal of Millie.

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It would have been easy for Cantrell to fall into the use of stereotypes and yet such is not the case with Into the Free. If anything, stereotypical characters are turned on their head. The gypsy is not dirty nor illiterate and the grandparents who shun Millie are supposed to be of good Christian stock. That’s not to say there’s not a few characters who happen to fall into a stereotype, but they make it so easy! For instance, the ladies who cluck about everything Millie is and does. Although the ladies did offer a little bit of comic relief, even if it was because we’ve all known those types of busy-bodies with an opinion on everything without knowing anything.

Julie Cantrell does a magnificent job of tackling diversity, child abuse, the gross hypocrisy of a few so-called Christians and the resilience of children, to not only survive a horrific childhood, but to then thrive. Believing God has forgotten about her, Millie slowly comes to realize God was with her all along, even in the deepest pits of despair.

I do two things,” she told me. “I remind myself that it’s not all about me. And I focus on the good. There’s always a way to find some good.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you enjoy Joshilyn Jackson or Susan Gregg Gilmore then you’ll most likely fall in love with Julie Cantrell and her band of characters.

Just a note When Mountains Move is the follow-up to Millie’s story taking us into her adulthood. Review coming soon!

In a few words: Emotional, heart-felt coming-of-age story. Inspirational, though not overtly preachy.  Southern, yet diverse with gypsies and Indians playing vital roles. Set in a small train town during the Depression-era Mississippi. Highly Recommended.

Connect with author Julie Cantrell on website | Facebook | Twitter