2019 Lower Shelf Reviews (in alphabetical order) Part 1

A Boy Like You

Author: Frank Murphy

Illustrator: Kayla Harren

Category: Picture Book

Target Age: 4-7 years

Pages: 32

Format: Hardcover

Published: July 2019

Text rating: 9/10

Illustration rating: 10/10

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10


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Summary: A Boy Like You describes all the wonderful ways boys can be strong, brave, and unique. It encourages boys to truly embrace who they are and live their life to the fullest. 


Review: These days, there are many conflicting messages out there about what it is to be a man/boy. The idea of masculinity is under constant scrutiny and the focus of much discussion. It is easy for boys to get confused about what is expected of them. As the parent of a boy, a constant concern is “how will I raise him to be the best person he can be?” This book it a great start for that conversation with your child. A Boy Like You explores the many wonderful ways a boy can be smart, brave, kind, and strong. It shows that sports are great, but they’re not everything. There is so much more to life and boys can and should find the avenue that fits them best. This is such a fantastic book with a message that everyone needs to hear. And that message is further beautified by the wonderful illustrations that picture boys in all shapes and colors. This is a must have book for any boy and any person who is a part of his life.


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Angry Cookie

Author: Laura Dockrill
Illustrator: Maria Karipidou
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 3-7 years
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
Published: March 2019
Text rating: 8/10
Illustration rating: 8/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 9/10

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Summary: An angry little cookie is very frustrated with you, the reader, because you won’t leave him alone. But since you insist on staying, he decides to tell you why he is in such a bad mood and proceeds to explain how terrible his day has been. But in the end, he realizes, through it all, he really has had one special friend. Maybe he’s actually not so angry any more.

Review: Angry Cookie is a fun, imaginative look at a character who is not having the best day. The entire story breaks the “fourth wall” with the main character speaking directly to you, the reader, for the entirety of the story. From the first page, readers are brought in to the book as a character themselves. And the poor little cookie is quite relatable for any child that has had a rough day and especially to parents of toddlers who will find the moodiness of the young cookie quite real (i.e. maybe not the best book to read if you've absolutely had it with your kid's attitude that day). The illustrations are cute and the crayon-esque images are in keeping with the tone of the young, moody character. It’s a cute story that will keep children even younger than the targeted years quite entertained (Giving the cookie a funny, attitude-filled voice while reading aloud really helps too!)

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Dream Flights on Arctic Nights

Author: Brooke Hartman
Illustrator: Evon Zerbetz
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 5-7 years
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Published: February 2019
Text rating: 9/10
Illustration rating: 9/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10

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Summary: In a dream, a young boy flies on the back of a raven over the arctic, and meets many animals on his journey.

Review: There are many picture books written in rhyme. There are few that do it well. In Dream Flights on Arctic Nights, Hartman has done it very well. The story is engaging and imaginative, drawing the reader in with all the animals that the main character meets on his dream flight. The illustrations are unique and well done. The bright, bold colors on a black background is not something I have seen before in a children’s book, and the effect is striking. While the target age is five to seven, the bold images are definitely attractive to an even younger audience and the story can keep any age entertained. It’s simple and sweet and a nice read for bedtime.

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Goodnight, Little Bot

Additional Information

Author: Karen Kaufman Orloff
Illustrator: Kim Smith
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 3 and up
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Published: October 2017
Text rating: 9/10
Illustration rating: 9/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10

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Summary: A mother robot helps her child through his bedtime routine (including a bedtime snack of batteries and oil, coming his circuits, and brushing his bolts) before tucking him in with his Botty Teddy Bear for the night.

Review: Goodnight, Little Bot is such a fun read-aloud book. This rhyming story is so enjoyable, from the clever text to the bright, fun illustrations, reminiscent of The Jetsons. (Fans of the show might find the mother in this story to be a nice merging of Rosie and Jane) This is such a unique take on the traditional bedtime story and thoroughly engaging for readers of all ages, from those who understand the words to those who will just be absorbed in the bright pictures and musicality of the read. (My little one has a hard time sitting still through some of the longer picture books, but this one has him hooked the whole way through!) I highly recommend this book for your next bedtime story.

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Grandpa's Stories

Author: Joseph Coelho

Illustrator: Allison Colpoys 

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 4-8 years 

Pages: 32 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: April 2019 

Text rating: 6/10 

Illustration rating: 9/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 8/10  


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Summary: A young girl describes all she does with her grandfather throughout the year before his passing. Once he is gone, she finds the mementos he left behind and dreams of all the wonderful times they had together.  


Review: Grandpa’s Stories is a nice, simple book about a young girl losing her grandfather. Nice and simple, but that’s about it. I could see what the author was attempting, but I don’t think it was all that successful. I just didn’t connect emotionally with the story like I did with The Remember Balloons. On the plus side, the illustrations were fun and colorful in a style that evoked the feeling of memories. Also, it’s great to see another picture book featuring POC characters (the girl and her grandfather are Indian). A fine story about loss and remembering, but just lacking that little something that would make it a truly great picture book.  


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Grumpy Duck

Author: Joyce Dunbar
Illustrator: Petr Horacek
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 3-7 years
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Published: March 2019
Text rating: 6/10
Illustration rating: 8/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 9/10

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Summary: Duck is moody because his pond is dry. He doesn’t want to do anything the other animals want to do and he continues to get moodier. As he does, the little gray raincloud that is hanging over him grows. Will Duck, and the other animals, find a way out from under his cloud?

Review: At first, I liked the concept of this book. But upon a second read, I’m not sure I really like the message it sends. This duck gets moodier and moodier and ruins everyone else’s mood in the process, but everything’s okay in the end because it rains and they can all just play in the rain? There doesn’t seem to be any consequence for duck, even though his horrible mood affected so many creatures. It’s all rainbows and joy with no real lesson learned. Yes, it’s okay to have emotions and feel down, but this book seems to say that it’s okay to take others down with you and it will all be fine in the end. The illustrations are unique and fit well with the story. I just wish the text was a bit stronger.

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Hammer and Nails

A SPECIAL FATHER’S DAY REVIEW!  


Author: Josh Bledsoe

Illustrator: Jessica Warrick

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 5-7 

Pages: 32 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: April 2016  

Text rating: 8/10 

Illustration rating: 9/10 

Mommy Daddy Readability Rating: 9/10  


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Summary: When Darcy’s friend has to cancel their playdate, she is left with her whole list of planned activities. Luckily, Daddy is there, with his own to do list. The two then spend the day bonding over all their fun games and chores.  


Review: Hammer and Nails is an adorable book, perfect for any young girl and her Daddy. It shows the lengths a father will go to make his little girl happy while also sending a message of encouragement for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. And while the ending is a bit cheesy, it works for this cute story. The illustrations are fantastic, with detail that really brings the story to life. A very sweet story, great for that daddy-daughter bedtime read.  


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In a Minute, Mama Bear

Author: Rachel Bright

Illustrator: Rachel Bright

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 2-5 years 

Pages: 32 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: February 2019  

Text rating: 8/10 

Illustration rating: 6/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10 


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Summary: In this rhyming story, a mother bear struggles to get her little girl out of the house so they can get to all their errands on time. But when she finally succeeds, she comes to realize what is really important in life.  


Review: This is an enjoyable story that any mother can relate to. You just want to get going with the day, but the kids are terribly distracted or moving way too slow. I like the relationship Bright establishes between parent and child and the eventual message she conveys. Bright does a great job with the rhyming and meter, making the story a fun out loud read. Her illustrations though, while mimicking the rushed or hectic feeling of the story, were not really in a style that I particularly care for as much as I do others. Still, this is a fun read with a good message about appreciating the time you have with your children. 


 (Purchase In a Minute, Mama Bear)

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Just Read!

Author: Lori Degman

Illustrator: Victoria Tentler-Krylov

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 4 and up

Pages: 32 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: March 2019 

Text rating: 10/10 

Illustration rating: 10/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10  


(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links)  


Summary: There are so many things to read and places and ways to do so. This book explores the ways a young bookworm fills his days with reading.  


Review: Just Read! is a great story for book lovers of all ages. Kids that love to read will find recognition in these pages. Kids that don’t love to read might find a little inspiration to do so. This lovely rhyming story shows the joy and wonder of reading. The illustrations are beautiful, exploring the full colorful world both in and outside of books. It is such a fun, inclusive story, featuring readers of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The story even includes a young blind girl reading braille. Reading is for everyone! This is a great read aloud book with the little ones or one for young readers to enjoy on their own. 


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Letter Town

Author: Darren Farrell

Illustrator: Darren Farrell 

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 3-5 years 

Pages: 48 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: June 2018 

Text rating: 9/10 

Illustration rating: 9/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10  


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Summary: Bus Driver B drives through Letter Town from stop A to Z, picking up new passengers at each stop. All the while Detective D is out to capture Robber R as he makes his way through the town.  


Review: Letter Town is a fun, rhyming story that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. The youngest ones can be entertained by the bright, creative illustrations and follow along with the progression of the letters. While older children can take part in the seek and find aspect of the story, searching out how many of each letter there is at each step and naming the different occupations or personas that go along with each letter. Overall, a great, fun, interactive read.  


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Llama Destroys the World

Author: Jonathan Stutzman

Illustrator: Heather Fox 

Category: Picture Book

Target Age: 4-8 years

Pages: 40

Format: Hardcover

Published: May 7, 2019

Text rating: 9/10

Illustration rating: 8/10

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10


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Summary: Llama eats more cake than any llama ever should which starts off a series of events that leads to the end of the world, and universe, as we know it.


Review: Llama Destroys the World is a fun new addition to the cannon of days-of-the-week books. Llama is a fun, sassy character whom I hope to see more of in future books (along with his friends: rabbit, pig, and a very snazzy turtle). The illustrations are simple but adorable. The text is creative and humorous. The escalating series of events will leave readers and listeners eager to turn the page and see what happens next. And in the end, you’re left wondering if everything will actually be okay. With cake, painting, science experiments, and black holes, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this light-hearted look at the end of the world. I am definitely a fan of this llama. (And from the look of the illustrator's website, it seems there is a new Llama book in the works... Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse. Yay!)


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Loving Hands

Author: Tony Johnston
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 4-6 years
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Published: December 2018
Text rating: 9/10
Illustration rating: 10/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 6/10

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Summary: This story follows the relationship of a mother and son from birth to the mother’s aged years with a focus on the interaction of their hands during specific life events.

Review: Loving Hands is such a touching story. For me, this has replaced the book I was read as a child, Love You Forever (having read that book now as an adult, there is a section that I find very off-putting, so Loving Hands is a welcome new find). The story is beautiful and the message rings so true for any mother. The sketch-style of the illustrations is perfect for the story, creating the feeling of soft memory. The low Mommy Readability Rating is purely for the fact that it is quite difficult to get through without tearing up. This is definitely a “save forever” kind of book for any mom.

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Neck & Neck

Author: Elise Parsley
Illustrator: Elise Parsley
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 4-7 years
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
Published: June 2018
Text rating: 7/10
Illustration rating: 8/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10

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Summary: Leopold the giraffe is used to being the center of attention at the zoo. All the children love him and feed him lots of treats. But how will he handle it when a young boy seems to prefer a giraffe-shaped balloon over Leopold?

Review: I just love this author/illustrator. Her Magnolia Says DON’T series (If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON’T!, If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON’T!, If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, DON’T!, and If You Ever Want to Bring a Pirate to Meet Santa, DON’T!) is fantastic and so I was eager to read her new stand-alone story. While I would say I prefer the Magnolia series, I still found Neck & Neck enjoyable. Leopold is very relatable and the story is funny while also touching on themes of jealousy and inclusion. This is a fun story, great for a read aloud story time.

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Pink is for Boys

Author: Robb Pearlman
Illustrator: Eda Kaban
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 4-7 years
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
Published: June 2018
Text rating: 7/10
Illustration rating: 9/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links)

Summary: A diverse cast of characters show that colors have nothing to do with being a boy or a girl. They are for everyone to enjoy in all areas of life.

Review: Pink is for Boys is a simple book that goes through all the colors of the rainbow (and brown, black, and white too), exploring how those colors are included in different aspects of life (sunny days, sports, nature, and, of course, unicorns!). Not so much a story as a compilation of vignettes, it’s an enjoyable, easy read with the illustrations really carrying the book more than the words. But the text sends a good message that’s appropriate for readers of all ages.

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The Rabbit Listened

Author: Cori Doerrfeld
Illustrator: Cori Doerrfeld
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 3-5 years
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover
Published: February 2018
Text rating: 9/10
Illustration rating: 9/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links)

Summary: When Taylor’s block building is knocked over, he’s not sure how to react. Each of his animal friends are certain they have the answer, but leave him when he doesn’t respond to their guidance. But the rabbit listens. And when he finally has someone who listens, rather than just telling him what he should do, Taylor is finally able to work out his feelings.

Review: The Rabbit Listened is a wonderful story with a great message. Without being preachy, it teaches kids about understanding and empathy. The illustrations are simple, but in a lovely way that helps focus the story on the emotions of the main character. I loved this story and can think about multiple times in my childhood when would have been applicable. Although the target age is 3-5, I feel like it is a wonderful read even for children beyond those years.

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The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros
Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte
Category: Picture Book
Target Age: 5-9 years
Pages: 48
Format: Hardcover
Published: August 2018
Text rating: 10/10
Illustration rating: 10/10
Mommy Readability Rating: 5/10

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Summary: A young boy struggles to understand when his grandfather starts losing his memory.

Review: The Remember Balloons is perfect. The concept is so creative (memories taking physical form in balloons!) and executed brilliantly. The story pulls you in right away, hearing about the grandfather’s favorite balloons and how he shares them with his grandson. You can’t help but hurt for the little boy when he starts to notice his grandfather losing some of his favorite balloons. It is a beautiful story. And this is further accented with the lovely, simple drawings that illustrate the words. I also really appreciated the fact that the characters in this book are persons of color, without race being the focus of the story, making it an inclusive book that more readers can relate to. The low Mommy Readabilty Rating comes from the fact that I found it impossible to get through without crying. Be prepared with a tissue or two.

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Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep

Author: Eric Barclay

Illustrator: Eric Barclay

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 4-8 years 

Pages: 40 

Format: Hardcover

Published: February 2019 

Text rating: 9/10 

Illustration rating: 8/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10  


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Summary: Sheep is an expert at two things, dancing and watching sheep. She knows this to be true. But then one day, she meets a new friend who claims to also watch sheep. Sheep’s whole world is turned on its head when she comes to discover that maybe she’s not the expert she thought she was.  


Review: Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep is an adorable and fun read. The sheep character is so joyful and bold. I could definitely read more books with this character headlining the show. The sheep dog straight man pairs well with sheep in this entertaining story about friendship and finding your true purpose in life. Barclay’s illustrations are fantastic, complimenting the cheerful nature of the story. The bright colors and amusing details, which go above and beyond the text, make the story entertaining even for those below the publisher recommended target age. 


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Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

Category: Picture Book 

Target Age: 4-8 years 

Pages: 48 

Format: Hardcover 

Published: February 2019  

Text rating: 10/10 

Illustration rating: 10/10 

Mommy Readability Rating: 10/10  


(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links)  


Summary: This list book outlines the ten rules of making a birthday wish, from the wish itself to the party that surrounds it and everything in between.  


Review: Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish is such a fun and imaginative concept for a book and Ferry executes it perfectly. The rules are clever, applying to creatures of all species, and the exceptions to each rule make the story even more original (every party needs decorations, but if you have spikes or horns of any kind, balloons are probably not the best idea). Lichtenheld’s illustrations are a perfect pairing to the text and add to the fun of the book’s reading. The entire book is bright, celebratory, and so so funny. Such an entertaining out loud read! This is definitely a great book to read in the lead up to any child’s (or adult’s) birthday, or any other day for that matter. The perfect birthday present for that young reader in your life. 


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