Book review: Grow Kind, by John Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser, illustrated by Christopher Lyles

Lasser, Jon and Sage Foster-Lasser. Grow Kind. Illustrated by Christopher Lyles. Magination Press, 2020. $16.99. ISBN 9781433830501. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

How does one grow kind? Kiko starts by asking, “who helps you up in the morning?” By asking questions, the author invites the reader into the story. Kiko sees many fruits and vegetables. She is so excited! She wants to show her sister the garden, but instead she allows her sister to sleep a little longer. When her sister, Annie wakes up, Kiko shows her the garden. Kiko and her sister share their garden’s produce with people in their neighborhood. The story ends with Kiko asking what the reader does to grow kind. Illustrations show children of color, a same-sex brown skinned couple, a white woman who appears to be homeless, and other people in the neighborhood. Kiko and her sister present Asian and the parents present white, implying interracial adoption. Colorful collage-like illustrations show the girls gathering and handing out produce. End matter contains Notes to Parents and other caregivers on how to identify kindness when you see it, how kindness makes others feel, engaging in play that teaches kindness, and the importance of self-compassion.

This is the third book in the series. First one was Grow Grateful and Grow Happy.

Verdict: With the theme of positivity, empathy, kindness, sharing, this book shows diversity and acceptance among neighbors. I can see adults using this book to emphasize kindness and giving to others. While it has a good message, it may not be a book the children will want to read over and over.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Snitchy Witch, by Frank J. Sileo

Sileo, Frank J. Snitchy Witch. Illustrated by MacKenzie Haley. Magination Press, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781433830228. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P7 Q8

Children who like Harry Potter will enjoy Snitchy Witch. Wanda Witch is a snitch and tattles on all her friends to get them in trouble. Her friends cast a spell on her so that she doesn’t snitch any longer. The end pages are orange, lending to a Fall/October/Halloween theme. The illustrations are bright, animated, and colorful. The play on the word “snitch” may subconsciously remind children of the golden snitch in Harry Potter. The illustrations are striking. The book includes a “Note to Grown-Up Witches” that informs adults on how to teach children the difference between snitching and telling, why children snitch, and what one can do when their child snitches.

Verdict: While children will relate to the characters in the book, they will also be instructed on how to tell the difference between tattling or “snitching” and telling. The large colorful illustrations and engaging text make a great read aloud. Adults could use this book to start a discussion about telling vs tattling. I highly recommend this book for libraries and classrooms for elementary aged children.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias, by Claire A.B. Freeland and Jacqueline B. Toner, illustrated by Janet McDonnell

Freeland, Claire A. B., and Jacqueline B. Toner. What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Illustrated by Janet McDonnell. (What-to-Do Guides for Kids series.) Magination Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781433829741. 88 pages. Ages 7-11. P7 Q7

This astronaut themed interactive self-help workbook uses a gentle, systematic way to deal with phobias through exposure therapy. It defines what a phobia is, why one might have a phobia, types of phobias and how phobias interfere with life. Throughout the eight chapters, the reader learns true emergencies from false alarms, how to get used to certain situations, how to gauge fear, planning for obstacles, and helpful/unhelpful self-talk. It explains how children feel in varying situations, including the sensations their body feels and what they might be thinking. Through exposure, one creates ladders to face their fears. The workbook includes space for children to write, draw, and circle how they are feeling. Some information is written in table format, which makes it easy to interact with. Adults can use this book to help a child understand their phobias and develop new ways of thinking. The black and white illustrations match the text, reinforcing what the author is writing about. It is not a flashy book that will captive the reader, but the information is helpful.

Verdict: The straight forward approach in this book helps children identify their triggers, false beliefs and how to face the fear those beliefs cause. My daughter has struggled with anxiety and OCD most of her life. She is an adult and skills trainer. She said the information is very helpful and she would use the book with her clients at a psychiatric residential treatment facility as a resource for lower functioning teenagers. She feels the book would have helped her deal with her anxiety when she was younger.

May 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Sophie’s Shell, by Jo Rooks

Rooks, Jo. Sophie’s Shell. (Once Upon a Garden series.) Magination Press, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781433830891. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Sophie, a snail, has lot of questions! She wonders why the sky is blue, why raindrops are wet and where does the sun go at the end of the day. She is so excited for school to start so she can find out the answers to her questions. When Sophie arrives at school, she has a wobbly feeling in her tummy. She is shy and pops into her shell. She does not understand why she keeps popping into her shell until a classmate, Stanley, says he is shy too and pops into his shell. Sophie decides to help Stanley and feels brave. The colorful illustrations will draw readers in. Some words and phrases are emphasized in bold text, which adds to the story.

Verdict: With the theme of friendship, kindness and empathy, readers will enjoy the journey Sophie goes on to become brave. Children who are shy will relate to Sophie while children who are not shy will gain empathy for their peers. I recommend this book for elementary age libraries. This is a book that children will want to read over and over.

May 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Red Yellow Blue, by Lysa Mullady, illustrated by Laurent Simon

Mullady, Lysa. Red Yellow Blue. Illustrated by Laurent Simon. Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781433830303. Unpaged. Ages 5-9 . P7 Q7

Red is all about his own business. He is annoyed and agitated when Yellow compliments him. Yellow is understanding and knows it is a big job to be a color, especially one of the three primary colors. In the end, Red realizes he needs others. The illustrations are red, yellow and blue, along with green and orange. It is a great introduction to art and primary colors. I especially liked the page where yellow (as a sun) and blue (as a rain drop) make a green plant grow. Includes advanced vocabulary that will need to be explained to children, such as hue, spied, concentration, irritability, remarkable, disposition, glum, and harsh. While I appreciate the advanced vocabulary words, it breaks the flow of the story when the reader stops and explains what the words mean. Red is much bigger than the other colors, showing how important he thinks he is. Some of the colors the illustrator used for the animals are not their true colors, which can lead to a discussion on creativity. Includes a “Note to parents and caregivers” on how to develop a healthy self-esteem, promoting respect for everyone, fostering forgiveness for yourself and others.

Verdict: This book helps children navigate the balance between knowing what is their business and how they can cooperate with others. Great for a friendship and art lesson combined.

May 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne, illustrated by Anne Passchier and Nyk Rayne

Gonzales, Kathryn and Karen Rayne. Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You. Illus. by Anne Passchier and Nyk Rayne. Magination Press/American Psychological Association, 2019. 278p. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4338-2983-3. Ages 14+. P7Q9

Hard questions about gender identity issues—including gender nonbinary, nonconforming, fluid, and questioning—are addressed with clarity and sensitivity in this compendium of topics such as developing bodies, reproduction and pregnancy, transitions (social, medical, and legal), dating, intimate relationships, and gender identity at home, school, and work. Information is supplemented with notes from the authors and responses from six different trans and nonbinary young people who write about their own experiences. Black and white illustrations primarily show a diversity of people and drawings for authors and responders, and anatomically correct expand the reproduction explanations. Each chapter is concluded with additional resources.

Verdict: The introduction accurately describes the book as “honest, all-inclusive, uncensored, real-world,” and the unintimidating format is inviting. From the question “What is gender?” to the final chapter, “Spirituality and Faith,” the book is useful in many arenas: counseling, schools, discussion groups, and personal interest. The “Dictionary” that defines terms also explains when some of these words are inappropriate. A must for all collections because of its educational value. [Note: this review was prepared from an ARC; it is to be assumed that typos and repetitions will be corrected in the final copy. Index not provided.]

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing, by Marge Pellegrino and Kay Sather

Pellegrino, Marge and Kay Sather. Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing. Magination Press, 2019. 104p. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4338-3049-5. Ages 10-13. P6Q5

The ten chapters of this book about developing personal writing discuss the use of details, similes, and brief poetry as well as making books.

Verdict: The book would be of more use for crafts than writing with its focus on making books from different materials. Writing information is slim and sometimes misleading—for example, confusing similes and metaphors. Neon might be useful for fun but not education.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.