The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall

Being one of five kids living in a cramped city house, Josie Shilling feels invisible.  Except for gymnastics, Josie does not have anything that is truly her own.

So when Josie’s college age brother Tom brings home a piglet named Hamlet on Thanksgiving, Josie instantly clicks with the little runt.  She convinces her parents to let her keep Hamlet with the stipulation she must find the piglet a home by New Year’s Day.

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City will warm both your heart and soul.  As the New Year approaches, Josie discovers that her love for Hamlet opens her eyes and mind to her other talents besides gymnastics.  As a dog mom, I can totally relate to how my love for my pups changed my life. Josie also comes to realize that her family truly does see her and has and will always be her biggest cheerleader.  What powerful messages for readers for all ages!

Special thanks to Jodi Kendall who provided our #bookexcursion group with an ARC prior to The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City’s October 2017 publication.


Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Happy Book Birthday to Angela Dominguez and Stella Diaz Has Something to Say!

Stella Diaz is a third grade student who loves to write stories, draw, and read about marine animals. While she is a very good student, Stella is not confident in her language abilities; as a Mexican American, she accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and turns roja in embarrassment.   This year, school is also more challenging because her best friend Jenny is in another class, which makes Stella feel lonely.

Stella is excited about researching fish for her animal project, but she is nervous about having to present in front of her whole class including the new student Stanley. And it doesn’t help that one of her fellow classmates always picks on her for being quiet.  Fortunately, Stella has the support of her mom, older brother Nick, and best friend Jenny to make her realize her strength.  As her mom told her, “That’s why your full name is Estrella.  You’re my star.  You can light up the dark.”  Can Stella live up to her name?

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say is such a delightful novel.  Children can identify with Stella with a variety of reasons.  Her parents are divorced and she has a strained relationship with her father.  She is shy and finds it difficult to make friends.  I fell in immediately fell in love with Stella and was rooting for her to find her strength.  I appreciate the author’s note where Angela Dominquez shares that Stella’s story is 82.9% based on her own childhood and how like Stella, we all must discover our inner starfish. In addition, Dominguez’s black and white illustrations appear throughout the novel and visually enhance Stella’s story.

Special thanks to Angela Dominguez for sharing an ARC of Stella Diaz Has Something to Say with our #bookexcursion group.  It will be released on January 16, 2018.

This review was originally published on December 11, 2017. Please click here.


Fenway & Hattie Up to New Tricks by Victoria Coe

Happy Book Birthday to Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks!

In the third book in the series, Fenway has definitely adjusted to his new suburban home. Told from his point of view, Fenway shares his excitement playing with Hattie in the Dog Park (backyard) and hanging out with his canine neighbors, Goldie and Patches.  But Fenway does not like the chipmunk that is invading his territory and spreading its horrible odor everywhere!

While enjoying a game of keep away, Fenway spies that menacing chipmunk. In his quest to catch the chipmunk, Fenway gets stung on his paw by bees. Ouch! The story continues with Fenway’s account of visiting the vet (aka Spicy Breath and Table of Panic) and enduring the Cone of Doom. Hattie is supposed to his best buddy but she keeps giving him baths in a wading pool and applying yucky cream on his paw. Being a dog is tough!

Etta can emphasize with Fenway. She has first hand experience with the Cone of Doom.  She did not like it either Fenway!

img_1401Each time I read Fenway & Hattie, I know that I am blessed to have Etta (and now Bella) in my life. Having the unconditional love of a dog is a precious gift. Thank you Victoria for that beautiful reminder.

After reading Fenway & Hattie for the Global Read Aloud, a second grade class at my school continued and read Fenway & Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang. I can’t wait to share Up to New Tricks with the class tomorrow!

Special thanks to Victoria for providing our #bookexcursion group with an advance reader copy of Fenway & Hattie Up to New Tricks, which was published today on January 2, 2018.


The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd


The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd  Illustrated by Julie Sarda

When their family bungalow in the Swampy Woods blows up, the seven Problim siblings, Mona, Toot, Wendell, Thea, Frida, Sal, and Sundae (all born on a different day of the week), are homeless.  To make matters worst, sibling Thea keeps seeing sevens and “when you are a Problim and sevens start piling up, trouble is headed in your direction.” But oldest sibling Sundae reminds everyone of the family motto-every Problim is a gift. Thankfully, Sundae recalls seven years ago she buried the deed to their Grandpa Simon’s house, and views this document as their family’s new beginning.

On the very day the Problem children arrive in the town of Lost Cove to move into their Grandpa’s house, Number Seven is up on the auction block.  Thump, bump.  Desdemona O’pinion, owner of House Number Five, has been impatiently waiting for seven years to purchase Number Seven and does not want the Problim children thwarting her plan. As a compromise, the mayor decides that the siblings have 21 days to produce documentation that they are indeed Problims.  If they cannot prove their lineage, Desdemona’s threat to separate them and send them each to a different continent could become a reality. Thump bump.

While the siblings work together to uncover their grandfather’s secret and keep their family intact, one sibling Thea grapples not only with her relationship with her twin Wendell but also with her own identity. I must admit that Thea is my favorite Problim. Always viewing the old phrase “Thursday’s child has far to go” as a negative, Thea learns to think differently. Instead of trying to catch up, perhaps Thea can go anywhere she wants.

The Problim Children is a story that has it all-eccentric yet loveable characters, a family secret, magic, mayhem, a dastardly villianess, and last but certainly not least, over 200 types of toots.* You will laugh, cry, but most of all, cheer for the Problims! Collectively, the siblings teach us “when you are loved, you are never alone.”

Thank you so much Natalie Lloyd for sending an ARC of The Problim Children to my #bookexcursion group.  In true Priblim fashion, readers should pile up and pre-order now, for Problim Children will be released in February 2018.

*All courtesy of Toot Problem


The Art of the Swap by Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone

The Art of the Swap is an intriguing and fascinating mystery of two 12 year-old girls who switch places in time. Hannah Jordan lives in the present day at The Elms,  a mansion-turned-museum with her caretaker father. In 1905, Margaret, known as Maggie, Dunlap  is an American heiress who spends time at the Elms as a guest of her aunt and uncle.  By way of a mysterious mirror, Hannah and Maggie swap places with each other.  Hannah goes back in time to 1905 whereas Maggie lands in the modern world.

At first, Hannah and Maggie are unsure of why the switch occurred.  Soon they realize that the swap took place on the very day that Maggie’s portrait painted by the now famous Mary Cassatt was stolen before its unveiling at a grand party at the Elms. Hannah and Maggie must collaborate quickly to solve the legendary art heist in order to return to their proper places in time.

I adore this novel on so many levels.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction especially when there is a mystery to be solved.  As a child, I loved the book Freaky Friday where a mother and daughter swapped places.  As an adult, my husband and I regularly vacation in Asheville, North Carolina.  On every trip, we always visit Biltmore, built by the late George Vanderbilt.  Not long after I started reading, I quickly discovered that The Elms was a real residence in Newport, Rhode Island, not far from the Marble House and The Breakers, both owned by the Vanderbilt family.  Having toured Biltmore many times, I can picture not only Hannah living in a historical mansion but also Maggie back in the Gilded Age. What a treat to experience both periods through Hannah and Maggie’s time travel.

What I love most about the novel is how the authors depict the role of girls/women has changed over the last century.  By traveling to the present day, Maggie shares that she does not want to be known as spoiled and useless, would rather read than sew, and relishes the fact that she can wear trousers, run, and climb trees in 2017.  Meanwhile, Hannah realizes that she has been raised with a completely different mindset-she can do and be anything.  Hannah though admits to Maggie that while women have equal rights on paper, women still have to earn them in people’s hearts.  At the end, both girls learn an important lesson about their purposes in life and how they can each make a lasting contribution to society, which to quote Hannah and later Maggie is pretty cool!

Special thanks to Kristine Asselin and Simon & Schuster/Aladdin for sending an ARC of The Art of the Swap to our #bookexcursion group. It will be published in February 2018 so pre-order now to reserve your copy!


Thornhill by Pam Smy

“All I wanted was a friend.”

I love a good mystery so I was so excited to read Thornhill. At first, I was overwhelmed by the length of the novel, about 530 pages, but Thornhill is unlike any other book I have ever read. Not only is the novel told in two different time periods, 1982 and 2017, but also it is written in two different forms. In 1982, 12 year old Mary tells her story about living in the orphanage Thornhill through her journal entries. Fast forward to 2017, a young girl named Ella has just moved into the house near the now vacant and dilapidated Thornhill. What is fascinating about Ella’s story is it is solely depicted in haunting black and white drawings. Once I began Thornhill, I couldn’t put the novel down and pretty much read it in one sitting.

1982-The bulk of Mary’s story revolves around her relationship with another orphan who lives at Thornhill. Through Mary’s journal entries, she shares how she is tormented and bullied by this girl. At first I felt total pity for Mary, but this feeling began changing to some doubt and uncertainty; since Mary controls the narrative, the reader is only privy to Mary’s point of view, and I was never quite sure of her reliability.

2017-Looking out her window one day, Ella spies a shadow of a girl on the grounds of Thornhill. The eerie yet poignant illustrations reveal Ella’s attempt to uncover what she is really seeing- is a real girl or a ghost? I must admit I hesitated to turn each page for fear of what Ella would discover. Through the drawings, the readers learns a little more about Ella’s life which made my heart break for her.

Towards the end of the novel, Mary’s and Ella’s stories begin to intersect and the harrowing ending gave me chills that remained long after I finished reading, which is precisely what a good thriller should do.

Special thanks to the author Pam Smy for providing our #bookexcursion group with a copy of Thornhill.


The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Christmas should be a time for celebrating but on December 20th, the Vanderbeeker family’s reclusive landlord Mr. Beiderman abruptly informs the family that he is not renewing their Harlem brownstone lease. To make matters worse, the family must be moved out by the end of the month. Desperate not to leave the only house that is home to them. the five Vankerbeeker children, twins Jessie and Isa, only boy Oliver, pet loving Hyacinth and creative Laney embark on Operation Be Nice to Biederman in an effort to change his mind and give their parents the Best Christmas Present Ever.

During their first Beiderman meeting, Isa proclaims they need to find “a way to show him that us living here is better than us not living here.”  Throughout the story, the Vanderbeeker children try various ideas to win over Biederman but sadly, their efforts fail miserably.  Finally, the Vanderbeeker children come to the conclusion that perhaps simple acts of kindness may be the best plan. When the children and their parents though do learn details about Biederman’s past, they realize that home is much more than the place you live. Home is family.

I absolutely fell in love with the Vanderbeekers! Like any family, all is not perfect but it is clear by their words and actions how much they all care and support each other.  And who can forget all their precious pets especially Frantz the basset hound who was Etta’s favorite!

Karina Yan Glaser’s story is so heartwarming that I was so sad that it had to end. Fortunately, readers only have to wait a year, for another Vanderbeeker adventure will be published in Fall 2018.

Special thanks to Karina Yan Glaser for providing #bookexcursion with an advance reading copy of this beautiful book.  Pre-order now, for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street will be released on October 3, 2017.