SW Phasma sept1

BOOK NEWS: August 29, 2017

Star Wars! Wonder Woman! Cookies! Dr Who! Dog Man! Just in time for the upcoming long holiday weekend, we have TONS of new books coming out this week! Let’s take a look:

Books for Kids

Dr. Ninth – I love the look of this adorable series for young – and older – Doctor Who fans.
Bad Seed – This seed has been bad for as long as he can remember – bad attitude, bad temper, and bad manners. I can’t wait to read this one and find out about this bad seed.
BB-8 on the Run – BB-8’s journey across Jakku after he is separated from Poe. You can tell that the Star Wars folks are really amping up for the fall with all the releases this week!
Little Elliot, Fall Friends – Two friends vacation in the countryside for fall.
Mary McScarey – Mary loves to scare everyone, but the one person she can’t scare – her cousin Harry – is the one she wants to scare the most.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures – A picture book biography of Dr. Temple Grandin, an amazing scientist diagnosed with autism as a child.
God’s Very Good Idea – A book about diversity and how all people are valuable to God.
What if You Had Animal Eyes? – The latest in a fantastic series of nonfiction books about animals!
A Leader Named Leia – An Early Reader about Princess Leia
Adventures of Caveboy/Caveboy is Bored – The first two books in a new series about a Caveboy. Part of the Read and Bloom line of early chapter books.
The Bad Guys in the Attack of the Zittens – Book 4 in the Bad Guys series. I haven’t been able to read one of these yet, but they look fantastic!
Tales of Two Kitties – Book 3 in the Dog Man series by the author of Captain Underpants. I haven’t read one of these yet, but they are wildly popular.
King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse – Book 2 in this series about a girl and her dog who solve mysteries.
Long Way Home – Book 2 of the Adventures of Henry Whiskers early chapter book series about a mouse family that lives in Queen Mary’s dollhouse at Windsor Castle. This sounds – and looks – so fun!
Stone Cold Age – Book 2 in the Lucy and Andy Neanderthal series about cave kids – from the author of the original Jedi Academy series. Great graphic novel series.
Science Comics: Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield – I love this nonfiction graphic novel series that explores science for kids.
Art of Coloring Journey to Star Wars  The Last Jedi – I really enjoy this style of art for Star Wars. This looks like a darling coloring book for kids and adults alike.
Star Wars Made Easy – A friend of ours recently confessed that he has never seen a Star Wars movie. This would be the perfect book for him to get an introduction to the series. Everything a novice might want to know about Star Wars can be found here.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Angel – Book 46 in the Puppy Place series.
Auma’s Long Run – A girl in a Kenyan village is an amazing runner. Her skills could get her out of her village, but her father comes down with a new illness that is sweeping the village – AIDS – and Auma is torn between responsibility to her family and home and her hopes to find answers about this disease. This sounds like a heavy story, but an important one, too.
Ban this Book – A quiet fourth grader fights back when her favorite book is banned at school. This is at the top of my list!
Big Nate Good Old-Fashioned Wedgie – The latest Big Nate comics collection. My students adored these!
Boy Seeking Band (Sept 1) – When 8th grade bass player, Terence, moves from a performing arts school to a regular public school, he tries to put together a rock band as a way to make friends.
Emma Moves In – Book 1 in the American Girls Like Sisters series. Emma’s family is moving into an old family home with their relatives to start a bed and breakfast. While Emma is excited to be with her cousins, she’s not sure she is ready for all the changes coming with the move.
Guardians of Gryphon’s Claw – I’ll be reviewing this fun adventure about mythological creatures here on the blog tomorrow. Come check it out!
I Survived the American Revolution – Book 15 in this hugely popular historical fiction series for kids. Every one of these I have read was a winner!
Laugh out Loud – A kid starts a book company for kids run BY kids. This sounds fantastic and I love Chris Grabenstein’s work. I have this on my list.
Patina – Book 2 in Jason Reynolds’ middle grade Track series about four kids chosen for an elite track team. I enjoyed the first book in the series. Great addition for homes and classrooms looking to add stories with diverse characters.
The Secret Sheriff of 6th Grade – A boy carries a toy sheriff’s badge from his father as a reminder to try to make school a better place for everyone. This has been getting a lot of positive response on Twitter this summer. I can’t wait to read this!
Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood’s Revenge – An electronics whiz in a souped-up wheelchair takes on a haunted house and an online campaign against her grandfather. I want to read this one because of the cool protagonist. She sounds awesome and spunky!
Star Wars The Force Awakens Graphic Novel – Back in April I posted about a graphic novel that covered all three of the Star Wars prequels. Now we have a stand alone for The Force Awakens. I absolutely adore the art style in these. If you have Star Wars fans in your home or your classroom or library, I think these would be great fun for them. Terrific birthday or holiday gifts, too.
Tumble and Blue – A magic gator, rumored to bring good luck to anyone who finds him, meets two people at once and the luck is split. Some descendants enjoy great luck while others are devastated by bad luck. Two kids in those families are determined to change their luck by finding the gator again. This isn’t my usual style of book, but there’s something about this that reminds me of Holes, and I am curious to see how the story turns out.
The Van Gogh Deception – A boy is found in the National Gallery, and no one has any idea who he is or where he came from. I can’t wait to tell you about this awesome mystery that includes some cool information and features about art. I’l be reviewing it next week.
Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories – A book on writing for the middle grade crowd. If I was still teaching, I would have put a copy of this in the library. It looks like a great resource for kids who love to write.
All Rights Reserved – New dystopian about a society that charges people for every word spoken or gesture made and a girl who chooses to remain silent. This sounds fascinating and maybe a little on the dark side. I’ll be putting this one on my library list to check out.
The Big F – When Danielle fails senior English, she loses her one college acceptance, too. Now she’s off to reclaim her trajectory by heading to community college. This sounds so fun, I’ve already requested it from the library!
Dazzling Heights – Book 2 in the Thousandth Floor series about 22nd century New York and a thousand-story super tower and five teenagers who call it home. I have had book one on my library wish list for awhile now. At least now when I get around to reading it, I can jump right two book two when I finish.
Wonder Woman Warbringer – Did you see the Wonder Woman movie this summer? I loved the character! This new YA novel is first in the DC Icons series (Don’t even get me started on the Batman book, Nightwalker! I am so excited! I don’t usually even like Batman.) starring Diana as a young woman who breaks Amazon law to rescue someone (not Steve Trevor yet) and the fall out from her choices. This one is getting a lot of positive buzz already. It’s on my list for certain.
You Don’t Know Me But I Know You – A girl who knows she is adopted, but who doesn’t feel ready to read a letter from her birth mother finds herself pregnant. This sounds fantastic.

Books for Adults

Assaulted Caramel – First book in the new Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. Yeah! Another mystery that will make me hungry! I love Amanda Flower’s work, and I am excited to be reviewing this book here on the blog later this week.
A Catered Costume Party – It seems fitting that #13 in the Mystery with Recipes series be a Halloween themed book! In this book, the catering sisters are hired by the deceased to find out what happened to him. What a great twist right from the start! This makes me want to check out the whole series. I’ve requested this one from the library just on that fun, twisty, premise.
A Knit Before Dying – Book 2 in the Tangled Web Mystery series. This seems to be the week for crafty cozy mysteries! This series stars the owner of a yarn shop, and in this book she discovers another shop owner murdered. I’d like to check out the first book in this series, Yarned and Dangerous.
Macrame Murder – Book 3 of the Cora Crafts Mystery series. This book has the crew at a craft retreat at the beach. If I need a vacation this fall, I might just settle for this book and imagine I am at this crafting retreat myself – minus the murder, of course.
Murder Wears Mittens – First book in the new Seaside Knitters Society series. I’m so looking forward to this fall story about a group of crafters who band together to help two seemingly-abandoned kids as well as solve a crime. I am sad that many publishers have started to shift their new series to hardcover instead of mass market paperback. I know it is a good business decision for them in many ways, but I can get more bang for my buck when I get paperbacks. This one is on my library list for now.
Oh, Fudge – Book 5 in the Candy-Coated Mystery series. This is the sort of series that makes me crave our local candy shop. I’ve read the first couple books in the series and really enjoyed them.
Rubies in the Roses (kindle) – This kindle mystery is the second in the Cornish Castle Mystery series. I have book 1, Death Plays a Part, on my Kindle and I’m eager to read it. It looks terrific.
The Silver Gun – First in the Art Deco Mystery series, this sounds great for fans of historical fiction and mysteries. This series centers on an assistant to Mayor LaGuardia in New York City, 1936, and a past that is catching up to her.
Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars The Last Jedi: Phasma (September 1) – Captain Phasma of the First Order was a key character in the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now we get to find out more of her story! I met Delilah Dawson at Phoenix ComicCon several years ago. I loved her personality, but I had a hard time finding a book of hers to try that would fit my style as a reader. This is the book I have been waiting for! There’s lots of buzz and excitement around this one.  Our whole family is planning to read this!
Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get it All Right – Wow, what a timely book. I don’t know about other moms out there, but my friend group struggles with this pressure all the time. We second guess our choices – or spend months trying to make a choice – because we feel the weight of this pressure to get things right for our children. This one is on my list, too.
The Perfect Cookie – Yum. What more needs to be said – a cookbook about cookies!
Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed -In a world that posts the smallest minutiae of life on the internet for all to see, so much of the nitty gritty – the real things of life – are left unseen. But maybe that is the way God meant it to be – so He would be the one to see and know us in all those real life details. I have this one on my list. It seems timely for some of the work God seems to be pointing me to lately.

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden


Melissa Ohden always knew she was adopted. But when she was a teenager she found out that she survived an abortion. This memoir is her story – about her adoptive family, about her reaction to the news of the abortion, and about her journey to integrate that piece of information into her identity, her calling and her faith.

I received a copy of this book from Plough Publishing and Handlebar in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions on this book are my own. You can read more about my review copy disclaimer here.

Abortion Survivor Memoir


Wow, this is an amazing and touching story! I appreciated the author’s honesty and transparency as she shares her journey. My heart broke as I read about her struggles as a teen to reconcile the abortion information and as she shared that she felt like damaged goods.

I was surprised by the hateful, angry, suspicious responses her story has received in pro-choice circles over the years. My guess is that it is painful to think about what abortion really is when you look at an adult who wouldn’t exist if the procedure had gone as planned.

This is a memoir with grace and forgiveness at its core. And that is beautiful. Ms. Ohden’s story had a fair number of surprises still to come, but her faith encourages – and helps – her to keep offering empathy and understanding to the people who are part of her story.

My favorite parts of the book were when she talked about being a voice – a voice for unborn babies, a voice offering forgiveness for grieving parents who had abortions, a voice for those who are pressured to abort their children.

This is an emotional read. If you have experienced an abortion or miscarriage (which Ms. Ohden does), some passages may be difficult for you to read. Be sure to take care of yourself as you read.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Unicorn of Many Hats

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: 8 Authors I Buy Automatically


I do an incredible amount of “book work.” I read magazines about books, I read web posts about books. I read book reviews. I track book release days. I do a lot of reading.

There are a few authors that I will buy almost without even bothering to read a blurb about the book. These are my “go-to” folks. These are the ones who have written new series and I have followed them merrily along without hesitation. Here they are:

(Links below are affiliate links. Revisit the top of this post for more information.)

Jen Hatmaker Jen Hatmaker

I will read anything Jen Hatmaker wants to write – books, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, emails. You name it! She makes me laugh while “telling it like it is.” She is an encourager and an affirmer. If you’ve never read her stuff before, I’d recommend starting with For the Love.



Jennifer Lynn Barnes Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The book, The Fixer was my favorite book of 2015 – and I read over 300 books in 2015! The sequel, The Long Game: A Fixer Novel is shaping up to be my favorite for 2016. I tried her series, The Naturals, from the library after eyeing the covers in bookstores over and over. I fell in love with that series, too. There’s a smart, sassy quality to both series that I adore. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is my go-to recommendation when I am talking to people about books for teens.


Kate Messner Kate Messner

Capture the Flag was probably my first encounter with Kate Messner’s work and it remains my favorite book of hers to this day (although there is stiff competition!). I’ve also loved The Seventh Wish, All the Answers, and the Ranger in Time series (Rescue on the Oregon Trail – think Magic Tree House with a dog). She writes books – and characters – that connect with readers’ hearts. When she puts out a new book, I pay attention!


Jenn McKinlay Jenn McKinlay

The Library Lovers series (Books Can Be Deceiving) is the only one of hers I have read from start to the latest installment. But I like her writing style so much, I’ve picked up and started her cupcake bakery series and her hat shop series. I haven’t had time to really dig into those series, but I love her writing style. Her books click for me no matter what series she is writing.


Mo Willems Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny. The Pigeon. Piggie and Gerald. Diva and Flea. Leonardo. Edwina. Amanda and her alligator. If you’ve read these, you know what I am talking about. Funny, clever writing. Endearing characters. If you don’t know what these books are, get to a bookstore immediately! I recommend starting with I Will Surprise My Friend! or I Am Invited to a Party! . I’ll say “you’re welcome” now. I know you’ll love them!


Donalyn Miller Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller is known in teacher and literacy circles as “The Book Whisperer” (also the title of her first book). When Donalyn talks – about how to conference with readers, about what real readers do, about great books you should read – people listen. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits were my two favorite books when I was a teacher/ librarian. I love the practical advice given in them for teachers who want to build a classroom that celebrates reading. I recommended these to every teacher who talked to me about ways to improve the reading culture in their rooms. I attend any and every presentation she gives at a conference. I follow her recommendations on GoodReads and Twitter. She is the real deal for teacher resources. Even if I am not teaching when her next book comes out, I would buy it without hesitation.

Jarrett Krosoczka Jarrett Krosoczka

We were first introduced to Jarrett Krosoczka’s work with the Lunch Lady graphic novel series (Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute). Then we checked out his picture books. When he released the first Platypus Police Squad middle grade novel, I hesitated, wondering if he could handle a longer form like this. I should not have hesitated! I remember being delighted at the intricate mystery in book one (Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked). We loved the whole series. When Jarrett said he was picking up the Jedi Academy series (started by Jeffrey Brown), I was completely on board. I have seen Jarrett present at conferences, and I will forever be a fan after the way he interacted with my son several years ago when we met him in person.

Rick Riordan Rick Riordan

I don’t remember how we discovered the Percy Jackson series (The Lightning Thief ). I just remember our whole household fell hard for this series about a kid with ADHD who finds out he is the son of the god Poseidon. We have read them multiple times and have the books in multiple formats – physical, audio, graphic novel. We have read Riordan’s Egyptian series (starting with The Red Pyramid ), his crossover books between Percy, Annabeth, Carter and Sadie. We have started the Trials of Apollo series and are currently reading book 2 in his Magnus Chase series,Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2 The Hammer of Thor . The books are funny and completely engaging. The characters are kids you love spending time with. As long as Rick Riordan keeps writing them, our family will keep reading them.


So, what do you think of my list? Who would be on your “Must Buy” list of authors? Leave a comment below.

Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS: October 11, 2016

It’s Tuesday – release day! Eventually I would like to get these posted a few weeks in advance so you can check out and plan for books that are coming that you might want to read. For now, though, here are just a few of the books releasing on October 11, 2016 that you might be interested in:

Books for Kids

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant Crime Biters 2 It's a Doggy Dog World by Tommy Greenwald Peter Powers by Kent Clark Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus  The Fox Who Ate Books We Found a HatStowaway in a Sleigh

Cat Knit – a book about best friends, Cat and Yarn
It’s a Doggy Dog World (Crimebiters 2) – Book two in the series about a boy who thinks his dog might be a vampire crime-fighting dog
Peter Powers and His Not-So-Super Powers! – Superpowers story about a boy whose powers aren’t so super
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis – Picture book biography about the childhood of John Lewis
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold – Christmas books are starting to come out. This one has a clever twist.
The Fox Who Ate Books – What is a book-loving fox to do to get his fill of books?
We Found a Hat – Third book in an interconnected set of outstanding, funny books
Stowaway in a Sleigh – A cat follows Santa home.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults

Liberty by Kirby Larson The League of Unexceptional Children Get Smart-ish by Gitty Dane Shvari Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan MorrisonIsabella for Real by Margie PalatiniKyle Finds Her Way by Susie SalomSpy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs The Movie Version by Emma WunschStar Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston Black Widow: Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Liberty (Dogs of World War II) – Book three in this historic fiction series
The League of Unexceptional Children: Get Smart-ish – Book two in this mystery series
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme 2) – Book two in this fairy-tale inspired series
Isabella for Real – Girl becomes overnight YouTube celebrity
Kyle Finds Her Way – Sticking up for another student lands Kyle in a creative problem solving group at school
Spy Ski School (Spy School) – Book 4 in this spy school series
The Movie Version – YA about a girl whose life isn’t going they way she thought it would
Star Wars Ahsoka – The untold story of Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice (I have this one and can’t wait to read it!)
Black Widow Red Vengeance (A Black Widow Novel) (A Marvel YA Novel) – Book 2 in this series staring Marvel’s Black Widow
The Midnight Star (A Young Elites Novel) – Third and final book in this YA series


Books for Adults

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult The Mothers by Brit BennettA Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver
Small Great Things: A Novel – A black nurse defies orders to help the baby of white supremacists. Trouble ensues.
The Mothers: A Novel – This book about young love and big secrets is getting a lot of positive buzz.
A Most Novel Revenge: A Mystery (An Amory Ames Mystery) – Book 3 in this historic mystery series

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn by Dana Simpson


Phoebe’s best friend is a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Phoebe is a bit of an outcast at times. She has trouble with a mean girl named Dakota. She thinks her parents are weird. Through it all, Marigold is there to share secrets of magical creatures, extol the sparkly virtues of being a unicorn, and having Phoebe’s back every step of the way.

Graphic Novels for Kids - Phoebe and her Unicorn


I adore this series! If you are looking for a fun graphic novel for kids, check this series out!  I always find some laugh-out-loud moments in each book, and this is no exception. Marigold is a hoot! There are panels that beg to be read out loud, especially when she declares “UNICORN” in a fancy-shmancy font for the answer to anything. Phoebe’s parents are sassy and fun. Great stories in this book with Max, Phoebe’s friend at school, and Sue, a friend at camp. This is a great book/series for fans of Babymouse, Big Nate, Bird & Squirrel, Binky the Space Cat or the Sunday comics.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Pictures for the other books in this series are below.

Phoebe and her Unicorn series

Unicorn of Many Hats

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: My Favorite Teachers in Children’s Lit


Today’s post is all about TEACHERS! I love teachers. I loved being a teacher (One year I taught history and science to a split class of 2nd and 3rd graders. I taught a creative writing club to elementary students for 3 or 4 years.  And I was a teacher/librarian at an elementary school for five years. It was my most favorite job ever!). My father was a teacher for over 30 years as was my father-in-law. Many of my friends are teachers. Teachers are rock stars!

There are several literary teachers that I adore and I wanted to post about them today. Here they are:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds Vashti’s Teacher in The Dot

The woman never gets a name but she is a key component to how Vashti thinks about art. She challenges Vashti to make her mark and own it. And her encouragement gets passed on to another young artist through Vashti.

Teachers are inspiring.


Mrs. Granger in Frindle Frindle by Andrew Clements

At the beginning, Mrs. Granger calls Nick out for trying to distract her at the end of the day. Kids probably aren’t sure they like her at the beginning. Adults might cheer that she gets Nick with a pretty awesome consequence. This is not a soft and sweet teacher. She is tough. Her expectations for her students are high. But as the Frindle story unfolds, you start to wonder what those looks in her eyes might really mean. And at the end, you find out she was rooting for Nick all along!

Teachers see things in their students that the students don’t yet see in themselves and then try to call those things out.

Mr Terupt in Because of Mr. Terupt  Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Mr. Terupt is the rookie teacher for a group of fifth graders including the class clown, the genius, the kid who hates school, the mean girl, the new girl, the fat girl, and the outsider. These seven students share the story of their school year together with Mr. Terupt – their struggles, their triumphs, the times the grow, the times they fail, and the accident that changes things for all of them.  And this is just the first of three books where we get to watch these particular students grow. But we also get to see the impact Mr. Terupt has on them. He wants more for his students than occupying space in a classroom. He challenges them to creative projects to really cement the learning for his students. Mr. Terupt is inspiring!

Teachers are creative and innovative.

Ms. Bixby in Ms. Bixby’s Last Day Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

I posted about this book earlier this week here. You don’t get a lot of information about Ms. Bixby right off the bat, but as you read, you discover why she makes such an impact on her students, especially these three boys.

Teachers care about their students lives outside of the school day. 


Mr. Howell in Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Origami Yoda 4)   The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger

If you aren’t familiar with this fun series, you should really check it out. It starts out as a series about a kids with an origami Yoda puppet that gives advice. But the series becomes so much more  when the emphasis moves to the school’s program to improve standardized test scores. In this particular book, the students (with a plethora of origami Star Trek characters) stage a rebellion against the school’s inane test prep program. I can’t say too much about Mr. Howell’s role, because that would be a big spoiler. I’ll just say this:

Teachers go to bat for their students.

Mrs. Twinkle in Chrysanthemum  Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum feels special and loved. She especially likes her name. But when she gets to school, the other girls tease her for being named after a flower and for having such a long name. Poor Chrysanthemum starts to wilt at school. But when Mrs. Twinkle arrives and says how much she adores the name, how she is also named after a flower, and that she might even name her baby Chyrsanthemum, the other girls change their tune. And Chrysanthemum can bloom at school once again.

Teachers are clever, and understand group dynamics and how to diffuse difficult situations.

Do you have a favorite teacher from children’s literature?