Monthly Archives: December 2019


Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars

Written by Richard Ho

Illustrated by Katherine Roy

Simply told and gorgeously illustrated, this atmospheric look at the rover Curiosity on Mars encourages readers to open their minds to both current realities and future possibilities of space exploration. Ho’s friendly, succinct style and illustrator Katherine Roy’s creative perspective and use of red tones provide the feel of roaming the planet alongside Curiosity. Backmatter offers depth (The Anatomy of Curiosity, information about Curiosity’s history on Mars and more on the red planet itself), and breadth (Curiosity’s Friends, a look at other rovers that came before) for the “curious” minds who will be enthralled with the small but mighty rover.

Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet

Written by Curtis Manley

Illustrated by Jessica Lanan

Curtis Manley’s love for and curiosity about space shine through in this expanded picture book which asks the question: Is there another planet that, like Earth, is not too big, not too small, not too hot, not too cold, but “Just Right” for life? In an accessible way, Manley moves quickly through the history of this question into modern day, while following a young girl and her family as they explore a museum exhibit about these exoplanets. Lanan’s gentle and varied illustrations help bring concepts to life for young readers while encouraging “What if” and “Perhaps” daydreaming about this timely question.

Pluto Gets The Call

Written by Adam Rex

Illustrated by Laurie Keller

Chock full of heart, humor, and helpful information, Rex’s expanded picture book uses every bit of “space” to tell Pluto’s story of demotion to a Dwarf Planet and its hilarious ensuing search for answers. When Pluto, previously known as our ninth planet, gets a call from scientists on Earth with the bad news, he sets out to talk to the other planets – each with its own delightful personality based in facts and a bit of fancy – about why. Keller’s vivid and lively mixed-media style adds to the hilarity. Who knew our solar system could be so fun, funny, and fascinating?

Annual Favorite: A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife


box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!


Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:




Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

Story of Peace for the Holidays: The Bear and The Star

Written by Lola Schaefer

Illustrated by Bethanne Andersen

Lola Schaefer brings us a seasonal story of humanity, harmony, and community in this lovely and lovingly-told tale. Bear awakes one early December morning, seeing a star on the horizon, and knows it is time. Time for every person and creature around the world to come together. So he bellows to all ends of the earth and they come, joining together at last on a beautiful snowy night under a majestic tree, as the star rises high in the sky. Award-winning illustrator Bethanne Andersen’s soft style and snowy scenes bring this delightful holiday story to life, while Schaefer’s text flows gently across the page as it builds to the final point of the gathering – peace.