Tag Archives: Family

Puzzle Review: Kodak Premium Puzzles: Sugary Shakes

This 1,500-piece puzzle featuring photographer Karen Romanko’s bright and fun photo is a nice challenge for anyone looking to spend more than a day or two on a single puzzle. Specialty milkshakes – filled with candy, cookies, and other sweet treats – sit upon patterned squares, all with enough colors and designs in common to make close attention to detail necessary. Pieces are “mounted on European Blue Board,” and feature unique, easy-connect shapes.

The manufacturer recommends this puzzle for ages 10 and up. My 17-year-old daughter (an avid puzzler) and I worked this puzzle together over 2-3 days and found it a small, though enjoyable, challenge at times, so I would recommend this for teens and above with patience and time on their side.

I give this sweet puzzle 5 out of 5 puzzle pieces.



The Boy Who Grew A Forest

by Sophia Gholz

Illustrated by Kayla Harren

An inspirational true story about how even the youngest among us can make a world of difference, Gholz tells of Jadav Payeng, an Indian boy whose river island village suffered from erosion and deforestation. When hundreds of snakes died, Jadav’s concern prompted his elders to give him 20 bamboo seedlings to plant. Over time, he devised a watering system, added grasses and fruit trees, and eventually planted over 1,300 acres, transforming the area into a lush haven. Kayla Harren’s beautiful illustrations transport readers into Jadav’s world, while Gholz’s lovely storytelling helps them come to understand and appreciate Jadav’s efforts and commitment.

When A Tree Grows

by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

Cathy Ballou Mealey has written a fun, clever book that’s all about a forest, animal friends and the possibilities and choices they face one day which lead them on a delightful adventure. When itchy Moose uses a tree as a scratching post, causing the tree to sway, two things could happen. The story moves forward with a chain reaction of (mostly) two possible outcomes, leading Squirrel to head to “the big city” and Moose to eventually bring him back home to celebrate with all their friends in an even better forest. Kasia Nowowiejska’s adorable, spirited illustrations add greatly to the humor!

The Lost Forest

by Phyllis Root

Illustrated by Betsy Bowen

Phyllis Root has created a lovely and reverent story about a parcel of forest in Minnesota that still holds big, beautiful trees which are hundreds of years old. In the 1800s, when land and trees were being seized from Native Americans by the U.S. government, sold off in parcels, and logged, a surveying crew’s mistake placed a lake where 114 acres of trees actually lived. Because this “lost forest” wasn’t discovered until 1958 when it was part of a National Forest, those trees still live on today. Extensive back matter and detailed, interesting illustrations round out the lyrically-told story.


Noah Noasaurus

by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Illustrated by Colin Jack

Everyone can relate to having a bad day, a “NO!” kind of day, and this book can help young readers see how to turn that around. In Noah Noasaurus, Elaine Kylie Kearns takes something kids love – dinosaurs – and something kids say – NO! (because they are in a bad mood) – and pairs them together with hilarious results, showing that even a bad day can turn out okay with friends. Illustrator Colin Jacks’ brightly colorful, adorably fun illustrations highlight the story and humor as well (the facial expressions on the dinos are especially delightful). Makes for a fun read aloud too!


by Fiona Woodcock

Fiona Woodcock is back after her charming book LOOK with this delightful ode to summer. Hello is a story about a brother and sister visiting a seaside amusement park and beach for the day, followed by a family camp out. The story is told mostly in words featuring double L’s – hello, roller coaster, thrill, jellyfish, shells, marshmallows, etc. – and Woodcock’s softly colored illustrations, created from stencils, children’s BLO pens, and other techniques and incorporating the highlighted words into the illustrations themselves, pair well with just enough white space to make this a gentle and fun look at the perfect summer day.

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon

by Joyce Lapin

Illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli

Imagine doing all the usual birthday party activities – bouncing, dancing, and playing games; exploring around you; singing Happy Birthday; blowing out candles; eating cake; hitting the pinata; and more – on the moon, where EVERYTHING will be different! Lapin’s fun and funny look at a party on the moon offers easy-to-understand scientific explanations for these differences, packing pages with cool facts about space, the moon, gravity, astronauts, and much more, while Ceccarelli’s bright and lively illustrations help young readers imagine that it could happen for them one day soon. A Glossary and other back matter add to the learning.

Theme: Illustrations that POP in Nature-Themed Picture Books


by Carme Lemniscates

Vibrant digital illustrations highlight this look at the variety of birds children might see in their tree homes or in the air, while text reminds readers how birds make our lives more full, loving, and peaceful. Bold black and blue feathers on the bright white end papers offer extra POP.

From Tree to Sea

by Shelley Moore Thomas

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Neal’s soft mixed-media illustrations support the gently lyrical free-verse text in this ode to nature’s lessons for all of us. Readers will see how the sun, soil, trees, ocean, clouds, and even birds, bees, whales, and other animals can teach us about ourselves and the world around us.

I’ve Got Eyes

by Julie Murphy

Illustrated by: Hannah Tolson

Bright, varied illustrations bring to life this interesting look at animals and their eyes. Focusing on shape, function, size, number, and other aspects, Murphy offers a glimpse of both common and unusual animals and the roles their eyes play in their lives, while asking readers to consider their own eyes as well.

Theme: Fall into Halloween


by Lucy Ruth Cummins


What happens when a pumpkin’s greatest desire is to be taken home and made into a jack o’lantern, yet its appearance deters everyone from seeing its possibilities? Simple, straightforward text paired with interesting pop-of-orange illustrations tell the sweet story sure to inspire readers to look a little deeper.

Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

by Rachel Kolar

Illustrated by: Roland Garrigue

Mother Ghost

Not-too-spooky black, white, and purple-heavy illustrations are the highlight of this fun twist on classic nursery rhymes. Young readers and storytelling listeners can laugh too at Mary Had a Little Ghost; Zombie Miss Muffet; Mary, Mary, Tall and Scary; and other Halloween-themed takes on Mother Goose favorites.

Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein

by Linda Bailey

Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein

The tale of how Mary Shelley’s young life led her to imagine, perhaps even dream, of Frankenstein as part of a stormy-night parlor game, using her travels and knowledge of new scientific experiments as fodder for the story. Sardà’s sharp angles, pale colors, and chilling settings add to the creepy atmosphere.

Theme: Fun & Funny for Summer 2018

The Big Bed

by Bunmi Laditan

Illustrated by Tom Knight

The Big Bed

The Honest Toddler’s creator captures the quirky, straightforward, yet charmingly cunning personality of a very honest toddler as she offers her father a new sleeping arrangement AWAY from her beloved Mommy. Readers will giggle and delight in the passionate plan made all the more fun with inviting and colorful illustrations.

Monster & Mouse Go Camping

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Jared Chapman

monster and mouse go camping

This slapstick, everything-goes-wrong camping trip is A Walk in the Woods for the very young! When Mouse convinces Monster to go camping, readers see what is going wrong well before the campers thanks to clever illustrations. But the sweet friends still have a great trip and a surprise ending.


by Aaron Reynolds

Illustrated by Dan Santat


One word says it all in this clever and hilarious summer adventure story. Platypus and Beaver are surfing when Shark shows up. Dude! Will ice cream save the day? Gnarly silly and vibrant illustrations, plus a fun and zany tale of friendship, make this an awesomely bodacious read! Dude!

Theme: Bears, Bears, Bears!

10 Reasons to Love a Bear

by Catherine Barr, Natural History Museum

Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

10 Reasons to Love a Bear

Short, simple text makes this easy to read, and sweet yet realistic illustrations offer readers a chance to see eight species of bears in a variety of habitats and activities (ten to be exact!). Short sidebars also suggest ways readers can “Show You Love a Bear” with an environmental angle.

A Perfect Day

by Lane Smith

A Perfect Day

Softly textured mixed-media illustrations are a true highlight of this hilarious look at different perspectives. Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel are enjoying the perfect day UNTIL Bear comes along, disrupting theirs while enjoying his. Spot-on pacing, repetitive text, and sweet humor combine in a perfect way. Simply delightful!

Mother Bruce

by Ryan T. Higgins

Mother Bruce

Grumpy Bruce doesn’t like much, except cooking eggs using online recipes (!). But when one organic egg delivers four goslings, who think he’s their mother, hilarity ensues in his creative efforts to convince them to head south. Laugh-out-loud funny, sweet, and absurd all at once, with a surprise ending!

Theme: Amazing Author/Illustrator Books with Animals

Can I Be Your Dog?

by Troy Cummings

Can I Be Your Dog

Readers will find it impossible to NOT fall in love with Arfy, a clever letter-writing pooch searching for a forever home on Butternut Street. As his options dwindle (even his letter to the boarded up house at the end is “Returned to Sender”), an unexpected friend writes to Arfy with a wonderful proposal: “Can I be your person?”. Cummings’ sweet and often funny story blends seamlessly with his bold and colorful digital illustrations to create a fun read-aloud story with heart and hope. A short note from Arfy in the backmatter also offers simple ways to help homeless animals.

Hello Hello

by Brendan Wenzel

hello hello

Focusing on Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered animals, Wenzel uses mixed media to create eye-catchingly cute and clever renditions with a twist: as we meet them, we see what they have in common, be it “pattern, pose, shape, or show” (or numerous other categories such as sounds they make or size). Simple rhyming text pulls it all together, and abundant white space allows the fun, textured animal illustrations to pop. Backmatter offers a short message on how readers can help creatures in trouble, plus provides a “shadow-shape” index of animals Wenzel features in the book.

How to Be an Elephant

by Katherine Roy

How to Be An Elephant

What must it be like for a baby elephant, with so many things to learn in order to survive to adulthood in the African wild? Roy paints a thorough portrait of life in a herd on the savanna, offering expert insights into anatomy, herd dynamics, family relationships, and other aspects of the development and growth of these majestic animals through the story of an infant learning its way. Award-winning Roy’s stunning watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the information to offer additional insights while tugging at heartstrings. In addition, backmatter discusses modern threats to elephants, plus suggests sources for learning more.


Where Are All the Girls? How The Underrepresentation of Females in Children’s Books Continues in the 21st Century and How It Affects All Children

classic picture book collage

     As the mother of three daughters, I have always been on the lookout for strong female role models for them; role models who are smart, brave, kind, funny, talented, confident, strong and oh-so-amazing are the ones I hope to offer at each stage of their lives. When they were very young, for instance, I provided books featuring female protagonists and music by female artists, along with learning opportunities by female scientists and naturalists through my leadership with Girl Scouts for their various troops. As they entered middle school, I helped them find female coaches for sports and artistic endeavors. And now that my daughters are in their middle- to late-teens and early twenties, I still strive to help them find the female role models who can inspire them to be their best selves in learning and life.

     As a writer of picture books, I am also keeping an eye toward strong female role models for readers of both sexes, creating believable female protagonists who explore, imagine, learn, discover, and dream whenever possible. For young female readers, this allows them the opportunity to see themselves in the world and all its situations and possibilities. For young male readers, it shows them a new perspective which can counter the messages they face daily in other areas of their lives, including the media and society in general, that puts men and boys at the top of most lists.

     Yet, I sometimes feel I am struggling uphill with my efforts, and there’s good reason why. A 2011 study (by FSU’s Janice McCabe and four other university researchers) of almost 6,000 children’s books published in the U.S. during the 20th Century found that males were represented in 57% of the books while females were central characters in only 31%. This kind of disparity carried over into representation of: adult males or male animal characters (up to 100%) vs. adult women or female animal characters (33%) and males (36.5%) vs. females (17.5%) in children book titles.

     What kind of effect can this have on young readers? According to McCabe, “The widespread pattern of underrepresentation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters. This may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls and privilege among boys. The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children’s media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books.” McCabe also pointed out that even animal characters portrayed as gender neutral are usually perceived as male by both children and parent readers, contributing to furthering this pattern.

     Now, seven years on from this study and 17+ years into the new century, have we made any progress in the writing and publishing community to fix these inequities? Well, not much. While I do not have numbers for the breakdown of male-character vs. female-character books so far this century, I do have information showing which are getting the most attention, which often leads to publisher interest; success in the children’s book market; and availability in libraries, bookstores, and classrooms.

     The esteemed Kirkus Reviews listed The Best Picture Books of 2017 online. Of these 75 books:

  • 25 featured a male main character (33%)
  • 16 featured a female main character (21%)
  • 11 featured both male and female main characters (14.5%)
  • 11 featured no character (such as concept books) or an ambiguous main character (14.5%)
  • 12 featured only gender-neutral animals as main characters (16%)

     Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2017 (Children’s) included:

  • 9 books with male main characters (53%)
  • 4 books with female main characters (23.5%)
  • 3 books with both male and female main characters (17.5%)
  • 1 book with an ambiguous main character (.6%)

     Goodread’s 2017 Choice Awards for 2017 listed these children’s books:

  • 11 with male main characters (55%)
  • 5 with female main characters (25%)
  • 1 with both male and female main characters (5%)
  • 2 with ambiguous main characters (10%)
  • 1 with a gender-neutral animal as a main character (5%)

     From these lists, we can see the disparities remain today. In a culture of greater female empowerment and a strong move toward gender equality in pay and other areas, it’s time for the children’s book industry — including writers, agents, editors, publishers, professional organizations, media outlets, sellers, and buyers — to catch up and step forward. It’s time for all young girls and boys to see in the books they read what I have wanted my daughters to see for nearly a quarter of a century: that girls can be — and are — smart, brave, kind, funny, talented, confident, strong, and oh-so-amazing.



McCabe, J., Fairchild, E., Grauerholz, L., Pescosolido, B. A., & Tope, D. “Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters.” Gender & Society, vol. 25(2), 2011, pp. 197-226.





Want to find great children’s books featuring smart, confident, and courageous girls? Be sure to check out A Mighty Girl at https://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/picture-books (the website also showcases movies, toys, music, and clothing for girls along with other great resources for parents and teachers).

Find further insights and details on this issue in this excellent 2016 Washington Post article by Jennie Yabroff: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/01/08/why-are-there-so-few-girls-in-childrens-books/?utm_term=.1b9e460c4621

Kidlit Women Logo Box

Theme: Lyrical Books on Insects

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs

by Carol Murray

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Cricket in the Thicket

Thirty short poems offer charming, fun insights into favorite (dragonfly, ladybug, firefly) and not-so-favorite (cockroach, mosquito, dung beetle) bugs, while additional text and back matter add educational heft. Even better: Caldecott-winner Melissa Sweet adds whimsy to the excitement with her delightful mixed-media, collage-style illustrations.

Good Trick, Walking Stick!

by Sheri Mabry Bestor

Illustrated by Jonny Lambert

Good Trick, Walking Stick

Using lyrical storytelling, Bestor’s nonfiction book shows how this favorite insect survives and thrives throughout its life cycle. Readers learn the tricks it employs –  blending in, changing color, losing and regrowing limbs, and more – to survive as an egg, grow and molt numerous times, and mate in its short but interesting life.

Some Bugs

by Angela Diterlizzi

Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Some Bugs

A simple rhyming look at backyard bugs that will encourage even the most reluctant “bug lover” into outdoor exploration. With adorable, colorful illustrations, children will enjoy this adventure featuring caterpillars, bees, moths and butterflies, ants, crickets, and many more bugs! Back matter provides bugs’ names in a What’s That Bug? chart.


Picture Books Theme: Girl Power

Theme: Girl Power

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World

by Susan Hood

Illustrated by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet

Shaking Things Up

Celebrating the lives of 14 amazing young women in history who helped change and shape our world through their actions and words. Each poem rings true in its focus and style, while delightful illustrations by prominent female artists allow for a unique take on those profiled. Inspiring and powerful!

Dear Girl,

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal

Dear Girl

This mother/daughter writing team offers down-to-earth advice and reach-for-the-stars inspiration for girls, encouraging them to be true to themselves while also being brave, strong, curious, and thoughtful. Each short love letter is highlighted by Holly Hatam’s simple yet lovely illustrations, making this a great read.



by Stacy McAnulty

McAnulty takes common ideas about what makes a “pretty girl” and turns them upside down to show that beauty is more than good looks. Even when splashing in mud and doing science experiments, girls are beautiful because they are also strong, passionate, and unique. Bold, colorful illustrations add to the powerful message .

Theme: Preparing for the Super Blue Blood Moon

Coyote Moon

by Maria Gianferrari

Coyote Moon

In this softly poetic tale, a mother coyote in a suburban setting hunts for food for her pups by the light of the moon. Powerful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline showcase the coyote’s efforts and use of all her senses to hunt at night, while sparse text sets the mood.

Follow the Moon Home

by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson

Follow the Moon Home

Vivid watercolor illustrations accompany this story of a girl, new to her school, who leads her classmates’ efforts to save hatched loggerhead sea turtles. When the students learn the turtles are confused by nearby household lights, leaving them stranded on the beach, they rally the community to join in the cause.

Full Moon Lore

by Ellen Wahi

Full Moon Lore

Lovely illustrations set the tone for this sweetly soft look at the full moon of each calendar month, with its related name and back story. Nature is the focus as readers learn about the Snow Moon, Strawberry Moon, Sap Moon, Harvest Moon, and others, while backmatter offers additional information.

Picture Book Weekly: Fun Animal-Themed Fiction

I enjoy reading picture books on a daily basis – which is good, since I’m passionate about writing them! I also study them in-depth. Below are short reviews (50-ish words) of some picture books I recommend, which I will update weekly. Follow my blog – add your email address to the right – to discover great fiction and nonfiction picture books throughout the year.

A Loud Winter’s Nap

by Katy Hudson

Charming and bright illustrations highlight this story of a turtle whose body is telling him to sleep in winter, but whose surroundings have other – loud – ideas of winter fun. After several misses, he discovers some of the joys of winter might just make the season okay after all.


Shake a Leg, Egg!

by Kurt Cyrus

A cute rhyming entreaty to an unhatched egg to come on out and experience all the joys of pond living as a Canadian Goose in the springtime. The illustrations are vivid and colorful, putting the reader up-close with the egg, its siblings, and other residents of the pond.


I Won’t Eat That

by Christopher Silas Neal

A fun, cumulative story of a cat in search of something a bit more exciting to eat. Until, that is, he realizes some culinary choices of the animals he meets might be a bit TOO exciting. In the end, he finds the perfect possibility. Simple text and illustrations make this a great read-aloud.

Christmas Gifts Sure to Make Them Say Wow 2nd Edition


If you are still looking for the perfect gift for that certain someone, and you’ve already given everything I suggested via Christmas Gifts Sure to Make Them Say Wow 1st Edition (not sure? you can find it right here: https://tanyakonerman.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/christmas-gifts-sure-to-make-them-say-wow-2/), look no further. I’ve scoured the web for some of the best ideas to help you wrap up your shopping in no time flat. No, no. No thanks needed. I’m just glad I can help you find an oh-so special item for THAT person in your life!

  1. Shotgun Plunger                        shotgun-plunger
  2. Muffin Top Bakers                             muffin-top
  3. Selfie Toaster selfie-toaster
  4. Shower Gel Nose Dispenser                  shower-gel-nose-dispenser
  5. Bag of Unicorn Farts unicorn-farts
  6. V.I. Poo  v-i-poo
  7. Finger Hands                      finger-hands
  8. Monkey Head Tissue Holder monkey-tissue-holder
  9. Poo Earrings poo-earrings
  10. iArm iarm

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!