Nonfiction Picture Book Perfection: GIANT SQUID

Opening GIANT SQUID (written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohman) is a revelation. It’s beautiful. It’s strange. It delights in the beautiful strangeness of this world we live on. And one beautifully, strange creature in particular. This creature is, of course, the titular Giant Squid.

giant squid


GIANT SQUID is lyrical, but it’s lyricism always clarifies, never confuses. It expertly uses backmatter to leave the main text free to follow its theme–in this case, mystery. I adore picture books that explore nature while illuminating a theme, and this is the best example I’ve come across.

Because the theme, the subject, the lyricism, and the art work so well together, the overall effect is breathtaking. The reader in immersed in the mystery of this strange, beautiful creature. And left wanting to know more–the starting point of all good science.

Preschooler-Approved Picture Book: EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE*

New year, new books! (hooray!)

If EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* written by Andrea Denish and illustrated by Guilherme Franco is any indication (debuting April 28th), 2020 will be a fabulous year for picture books.


This story’s heart lies in its refrain: everyone loves a parade–or at least almost everyone (if you want to know what the asterisk is for, you’ll have to read it yourself.)

The word everyone is at the heart of this inclusive story. Propelled forward by strong, visual language, EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* marches through nine kinds of parades–from military homecoming to Chinese New Year to LGBTQ+ pride. 


That the last parade is Fourth of July seems fitting because this book–like America at its best–is proudly pluralistic. Not a melting pot, but a place where each individual can be celebrated for who they are.

Older kids and educators will enjoy the book’s backmatter, which details each celebration. Younger kids (like mine) will enjoy the joyful art, zippy verse, and, well, the parades.


Like a parade itself, this book leans into a musical cadence and is energetic from start to finish. Unlike a parade, its’s over too soon and leaves you wanting more.

Check out the book trailer on YouTube, and pre-order EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* (out April 28th from Boyd Mills Press) at Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

Last-Minute Holiday Gift: THE PENCIL EATER

Are you staring down December with a few question marks left in your holiday shopping list? THE PENCIL EATER by Stacey Corrigan and Steve Page might be just the ticket for any teachers, homeschoolers, and pencil-losing students in your life!


I haven’t had much reading or writing time lately, thanks to moving over a thousand miles. But when I unpacked my kid’s books in our new house, his first request was THE PENCIL EATER.

So, what makes this book so awesome?

Teachers and parents have long pondered: where on earth are all our pencils going?  This story offers a delightfully, unexpected answer–told from the perspective of the long-suffering pencil-munching monster itself.

If you’ve ever wondered (and, really who hasn’t?) the lengths such a monster will go to in order to steal your pencils, you will wonder no longer. The story follows the Pencil Eater through the many dangers of pencil-poaching until at least it reaches a satisfying (and delicious) ending.

This book has kid-appeal for days, thanks to Corrigan’s fun text and Page’s lively art. Each page turn offers an exciting new scene for kids to sink their (metaphorical) teeth into.

So, if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a special teacher, homeschooler, or student in your life, look no further. THE PENCIL EATER is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


When the air turns crisp and leaves begin to fall, it’s time to add some spooky to your (and your kids’) reading diet. Teresa Traver’s charming picture book, SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE is just the ticket.


It follows the unlikely friendship of a white cat named Spooky and a gargoyle named Eben. Despite her name, Spooky isn’t fearsome. In fact, she’s often fearful. But with some help from Eben, she finds her inner spookiness and helps a friend along the way.

I love how this book approaches issues surrounding fear, which are front of mind for many kids this time of year. Spooky and Eben’s friendship is a gentle one. Spooky is not ridiculed for being a scaredy cat; she’s encouraged. She’s aware of her smallness, but Eben never underestimates her. The book models how kids can support one another in the context of a fun and engaging story.

SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE makes a great read for classroom, homeschoolers, or even preschool-aged kids. The lovely quality of the writing and fun illustrations keep the younger set engaged.

Discussion questions and activities are available here.


Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy: Harvest Moon

Fall! Pumpkins to carve, cookies to bake, back-to-school germs to endure. I certainly didn’t have time to enter a writing contest this month, until…

I saw that Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez at Math is Everywhere was inaugurating the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy. I took a tiny peek at the prompts, and well, I couldn’t resist.

Those who know my work know that I love writing lyrical stories about science and nature. And when I saw prompt #5 of a full moon, I had to write about the harvest moon (the first full moon after the autumnal equinox).

All entries are required to be under 200 words, and mine clocks in at a speedy 115. There’s more to say about the autumnal equinox, but, alas, I have cookies to bake.

Hope you enjoy!


Harvest Moon

Every year, in late September,

Something magical happens.

The center of the sun lines up

with the Earth’s equator.


This tiny, transformative moment–

Invisible to human eyes—is when fall begins.

When nights grow long and days short.

When the sun’s reign ends, and the moon’s begins.


And, the moon celebrates.


She dances across the sky.

Every night, a slightly different shape.

Sliver, crescent, half, until…


Fall’s first full moon—or the Harvest Moon.


Round as a pumpkin,

The Harvest Moon rises just as the sun sets.


Low in the sky,

Painted in the sun’s waning orange light,

It looms larger than life.


As if to say,

“I am your moon,

And this is our night.”



Back-To-School Read: TWO TOUGH TRUCKS

Think a truck book can’t be filled with musicality, empathy, and friendship? Think again! TWO TOUGH TRUCKS written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Hilary Leung (out today from Scholastic) puts a new spin on vehicle books by wrapping up a sweet story in a tough cover. It’s also a perfect back-to-school read, especially for kids having a bumpy start to the school year.


From the title alone I knew TWO TOUGH TRUCKS would be a hit in my house. I have two small truck lovers–not unlike the titular trucks, Mack and Rig. What I didn’t expect was how the text would hum and zip through a multi-layered story that touches on empathy, growth, and friendship before crossing the finish line.

Without further ado, let’s get to the story. First, a synopsis:

Two trucks off to school for their first day of class. One riding the brakes. One hitting the gas.

Mack and Rig couldn’t be more different. One loves the fast lane. The other, the off-ramp.

But when they’re forced to pair up on their first day of school, can Mack and Rig figure out a way to get along and learn what it really means to be a tough truck? Get ready to vroom and zoom your way to fun and friendship with these two lovable and tough trucks!

What my preschooler loves about this book

As expected, this book is incredibly kid-friendly.

Vehicle sounds are always a hit, but TWO TOUGH TRUCKS elevates the form to pure poetry. The rhythm and rhyme are sure to appeal to even the most reticent reader, and Leung’s eye-catching illustrations complement the text’s energy.

The story follows literal twists and turns–moving quickly across landscapes. Clever page turns build suspense and keep kids fully engaged in the story.

What I love about this book

Under the story’s energetic packaging are surprisingly gentle themes, including one of my favorites–the growth mindset.

Mack and Rig have different problems, both familiar to most parents and teachers. One struggles with a new assignment. The other breezes at first, but wants to quit when things get hard. In the end, they help each other through obstacles and become friends along the way.

Set on the first day of school, TWO TOUGH TRUCKS is hopeful read for kids who will be encountering new challenges and personalities in their classrooms.

And one that will keep them smiling from beginning to end. Order it here (or get it at your favorite bookstore!)


Preschooler-Approved Picture Book: TRUCKER AND TRAIN

There was never any doubt that a a book called TRUCKER AND TRAIN would end up a Preschooler-Approved Picture Book. If there’s one thing my kid loves more than trains, it’s trucks. But, Hannah Stark’s wonderful debut (illustrated by Bob Kolar) goes well beyond its kid-friendly premise to create something magical.


TRUCKER AND TRAIN arrives at the station on August 6th from Clarion Books. Let’s start with a synopsis:

Trucker, the big rig, loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. The other vehicles swerve and shake as Trucker blasts past, expecting them to follow along in awe. Then Trucker meets the louder, stronger, and kinder Train. He sees how the other vehicles gleam and swoon when Train is around. And he wonders, Why don’t they ever gleam at me?

Trucker just wants Train to go away . . . until a broken railroad crossing signal changes everything. Can Trucker use his size and strength for the good of his fellow vehicles before it’s too late?

Why My Preschooler Loves This Book

This book is kid-friendly from start to finish. My preschooler particularly loved Stark’s deft use of onomatopoeia (trains in our home will forever go “tic-a-tic-a-clack, tic-a-tic-a-clack). The story is packed full of wonderful sounds and rhythm that suggesting a buzzing and lively highway. Entering TRUCKER AND TRAIN’s world is guaranteed fun.

There are also great educational hooks that my kid ate up. Counting by twos? Yes, please! Easy-to-read repeated words? Youbetcha! The engaging story sneaks in the educational bits so they go down as easily as veggies hidden in mac-and-cheese.

Why I Love This Book

Seeing my kid so excited about reading always melts my heart. But, there’s so much here to love. All the great sounds mean I make my kid laugh when I read it–and it’s fun for me every time. And, above all, the story’s message of friendship and kindness is a winner.

Order your copy here.  Learn more about TRUCKER AND TRAIN–with fun activities coming soon–on Hannah’s website.

Kids’ Summer Read: THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST

This week, we’re taking a break from our Preschooler-Approved Picture Book series to bring you a perfect read for school-aged kids (and just in time for summer!): THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST by Lydia Lukidis (illustrated by Andre Ceolin).

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As always, let’s start with a summary of the story:

Arun and Keya find the perfect tree for a tree house. Too bad it comes with a battered bees’ nest! These bees need a new home―right away! Tying into the popular Makers Movement, Makers Make It Work is a series of fun easy-to-read stories that focus on problem-solving and hands-on action. This charming story explores the Makers theme of Beekeeping and includes explanatory sidebars and an insect-related activity for young makers to try themselves!

This book is chock full of fun information about bees and beekeeping that will delight the elementary school crowd, but never loses sight of the story. And, the story is a wonderful mix of overcoming fears, celebrating the environment, and modeling sibling cooperation.

In the beginning of the story, Arun and Keya overcome their (understandable) misgivings about dealing with bees with the help of a patient mentor, Dr. Chen. The book shows how something scary can become something manageable (and even fun) with a little help, know-how, and beekeeping gear.

Once Arun and Keya learn more about bees, they begin to care for the bees and wonder about their well-being. This twist shows how a little knowledge and lead to a greater investment and love for the environment.

Finally, the book shows a wonderful (if somewhat rare) occurrence: two siblings working together and, at the end, truly celebrating one another. Another wonderful aspect of this book is that all the characters are people of color.

This book is a great way to keep kids learning over the summer in a way they’ll actually enjoy. Warning: after reading, your kids may want a beehive for their own backyard.

If you want to take that risk (and I recommend you do), pick up a copy here.


Preschooler-Approved Picture Book: A FATHER’S LOVE

It’s time for another installment of Preschooler-Approved Picture Books! Today, I’m excited to share Hannah Holt’s wonderful A FATHER’S LOVE (illustrated by Yee Von Chan).


This heartwarming picture book is great for Father’s Day, and my preschooler can’t get enough of it.

Let’s start with a quick synopsis of the book:

Throughout the animal kingdom, in every part of the world, fathers love and care for their babies. This book takes readers around the globe and across the animal kingdom, showcasing the many ways fathers have of demonstrating their love. Whether it’s a penguin papa snuggling with his baby in the frosty white snow, a lion dad playing with his cub in a yellow field, or a seahorse father protecting his young inside his pouch in the deep blue ocean, we see that a father’s love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Why My Kid Loves This Book

A few features of this book make it particularly preschooler-friendly.

  1. Rhythm and rhyme–Holt’s deft use of rhythm and rhyme make the book a delightful read-aloud. The text’s soothing rhythm also gives the book a bedtime feel, though it’s great for reading anytime.
  2. Animals–The book features zoo favorites, like lions and penguins, alongside more obscure animals, like marmosets and emus. My preschooler loves identifying familiar animals and learning about new ones. Older kids would enjoy the book’s backmatter that includes additional information on each species of dads.
  3. Colors–Each animal’s habitat is described with a color with color-coordinated text. The penguins, for example, live in “swirling clouds of frosty white.”  This extra educational hook is particularly appealing to preschoolers, who can use the text’s color to help identify the corresponding words.

Why I Love This Book

While picture books are mostly for children, they’re also for the adult who reads them forty-seven times a day. And, I love A FATHER’S LOVE as much as my kid does.

Not only did he learn things from this book, but so did I. The animals included in the book are diverse with some unexpected species. Who knew that falcon dads sit on the eggs while the moms hunt? Not me!

Speaking of the falcons, I love that the book emphasizes nurturing roles that animal fathers take on and highlights some “non-traditional” roles of animal mothers.

And, then there’s the writing itself. The language is simple enough for a child, but never simplistic.  Every color included in the book, for example, is modified (the lions live in not just a yellow field, but a one of “hazy yellow”). And, the rhymes are unexpected (“hazy yellow” is rhymed with “lazy fellow”). The tone often feels lyrical, which is quite the feat considering the language also had to support rhythm, rhyme, and (oh, yeah) the story.

Most importantly, the book makes a child feel loved and nurtured. And, how could you ask for more than that?

All in all, A FATHER’S LOVE is a beautiful story of paternal love, masterfully-told and beautifully illustrated. And, it’s (not coincidentally) available in time for Father’s Day.

Pick up a copy here for a special dad in your life.




Today, I’m THRILLED to feature my first “Preschooler-Approved Picture Book” review. And, there’s no better book to start with than Elaine Kiely Kearns’ debut, NOAH NOASAURUS (illustrated by Colin Jack), which will be published on April 1st (no fooling!) by Albert Whitman Company.


Elaine is graciously giving away a SIGNED copy of NOAH NOASAURUS to one lucky reader. For a chance to win, comment below or retweet this post from my Twitter handle (@kateallenfox) by Friday, March 8th.

So, what is a preschooler-approved picture book?

My preschooler is a certified book monster–gobbling down every book he can. But, he finds some books tastier than others. This is the first post in a new series where I’ll profile books that receive his highest seal of approval: endless begging for seconds.

I’ll tell you what he likes about the book and what I like about it as the person who reads it umpteen-and-a-half times a day.

Why Book Monster loves NOAH NOASAURUS

Before we dive in, here’s a quick synopsis of the story:

Noah Noasaurus woke up feeling very No. No to brushing his teeth. No to eating breakfast. And definitely No to playing with his little brother. Things only get worse when Noah goes for a walk and relentlessly cheerful Toby Rex, Brian Brontosaurus, and Ava Ceratops follow him. Together, the group starts a bona fide dino parade that even Noah can’t resist. This lighthearted, whimsical story will have readers laughing along at Noah and his friends—as well as at their own bad moods


When NOAH NOASAURUS landed in my inbox, the kid-appeal was evident at first click. Let’s start with the obvious: dinosaurs. Now, my kid isn’t particularly into dinosaurs (trucks are more his jam), but I’d be hard-pressed to find a child under 5 who is anti-dinosaurs.

Colin Jack’s colorful and inviting illustrations make the most of this perennially popular topic. Noah and his friends are so visually appealing that, despite Noah’s titular grumpiness, I’d invite them in for dinner before even thinking of running away in terror.

The upbeat visuals marry perfectly with the delightful story that follows Noah as he tries to stay in a bad mood, despite the warm support of his family and friends. Small kids are able to follow the story due to its preschooler-friendly word choice and brisk pacing. The narrative arc is also wonderfully applicable to kids in the 3–5 age range, who often find themselves wrestling with their own emotions.

But, what my kid LOVES most about this story is right in the title: the NOs! The repetition of the simple word “no” gives him the opportunity to identify a word. He feels like an active participant in the story’s creation. And, let’s be honest: the kid loves a parent-sanctioned opportunity to yell “NO!”

Why Mom-of-Book-Monster loves NOAH NOASAURUS

So, why do I love this book? For many of the same reasons my kid does, but from a slightly different angle. I love that:

  • he is able to participate in the story, building his reading confidence and enjoyment.
  • the pacing makes it a quick read before nap or bed (or really, anytime he crawls in my lap and tells me to read “the dinosaur book”).
  • the story shows him that bad moods can be overcome and perhaps, more importantly, that bad moods are okay.
  • there are jokes, and I love any picture book that throws a few puns or jokes my way!

NOAH NOASAURUS fires on all cylinders for preschoolers and their grown-ups, and I’m certain would appeal to older kids as well. Heck, I still wake up feeling very “no” a few times a week.

Learn more about Elaine and NOAH NOASAURUS on her website. You can see other reviews and find pre-order info on Goodreads.

Let me know in the comments what makes your favorite picture book particularly kid-friendly. And, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a SIGNED copy of NOAH NOASAURUS by commenting below or retweeting!

Have a book that you’d like my book monster to devour and review? Send me a note through my contact page!