Waiting on Mr. Sloth – Katy Hudson

Sasha Patience Pruitt and Mr. Sloth are best friends. In Mindful Mr. Sloth, Sasha learned that if you live your life on fast forward you’ll miss out on the beauty that can be only been appreciated at a slower pace.

Still not one to live up to her middle name, Sasha wants to go swimming and she wants to go NOW! First, Mr. Sloth takes much too long to get ready. Then one thing after another delays their swim. Eventually it all becomes too much for Sasha.


Sasha finally gets to go swimming but it turns out it isn’t as much fun without her best friend.

I love Mr. Sloth. He’s never in a hurry and he’s a master of mindfulness.

Throughout the story readers see Sasha and Mr. Sloth using different strategies to try to remain calm. These are reinforced at the end of the book, with a list of practical suggestions for when you’re feeling frustrated.

As I’ve come to expect from Katy Hudson’s books, the illustrations are gorgeous. Mr. Sloth is adorable and Sasha is very expressive.


Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The sun is out. The temperature is hot. And Sasha has everything packed and ready for a full day of swimming! But Mr. Sloth is taking for-eh-ver! Sasha does NOT like to wait. However, her best friend is never in a hurry. Will Sasha learn to be patient, or will her quick temper ruin a memorable summer outing?

Mindful Mr. Sloth – Katy Hudson

Sasha Patience Pruitt lives her life on fast forward and her middle name is a bit of a misnomer. Her new friend, Mr. Sloth, is, well, a sloth and let’s face it, algae doesn’t typically grow on your fur if you’re quick enough to outrun it.

This friendship of opposites has the potential to either be the best thing ever or a super fast/super slow disaster in the making.


Katy Hudson is one of my all time favourite illustrators. She’s the picture equivalent for me of that one author you’re certain could transform a shopping list into a literary masterpiece. I’m sure I’d be captivated if Katy drew a stickman.

Which made it disconcerting when I didn’t immediately fall in love with Sasha. I’ve adored every character I’ve met in Katy’s previous books and I loved Mr. Sloth at first sight. I read and reread this book until I finally figured out what the problem was. Me.

It turns out I have a bias where picture books are concerned. I can tolerate, and even find cute, all types of bad and/or potentially annoying behaviour from animal characters but apparently I judge humans differently. Not that Sasha was going around chucking tantrums or anything but her impatience frustrated me time and time again. I thought back to when I read Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle, where Squirrel is the speedy equivalent of Sasha, and not once was I frustrated by Squirrel.

Having done a deep dive into my soul, I reread this book once again, with a new understanding of myself as a reader. This time Sasha was simply a young girl with a lot of energy, someone who doesn’t realise she’s missing out on a variety of amazing things because they’re a blur to her. Once she slows down enough and pays attention, she discovers the beauty that surrounds her and learns that some things are best enjoyed at a different speed.


Once again, the illustrations in this book were absolutely gorgeous. Bonus points for the cameos of the author’s previous books.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sasha has one speed – fast. She loves to do lots of things, all at once, as fast as possible. Mr. Sloth has one speed – slow. He loves to do things one at a time, at a nice, easy pace. Can Mr. Sloth’s mindful ways teach Sasha to slow down and enjoy life? Best-selling author Katy Hudson gently weaves a mindfulness theme into this unlikely friendship tale between an energetic girl and a sloth, encouraging children to stop, breathe, and be present in every moment.

So You Want to Build a Library – Lindsay Leslie

Illustrations – Aviel Basil

I’ve loved libraries for as long as I can remember. They provide access to books that you’re allowed to take home with you for free (!), whose pages allow you to explore infinite worlds, learn and escape from reality for a while. Any building whose primary purpose is to help facilitate reading is already a magical place, so what could possibly make it better? If a child had the opportunity to build the library of their dreams.

One young reader shows us how they would go about creating the “most MIRACULOUS library ever!” From the location to the types of books that would fill the shelves and the inclusion of pretty much everything you’d need so you’ll never have to leave, including a sundae bar and trampolines, this book encourages you to let your imagination go wild.

I loved the dragons and pie-baking snail but my favourite illustrations included the roller-skating sloth, who seemed to be having the time of their life.


Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There is no better place in the world than a library. Especially a library that kids create! A million stories high? Sure. Bathtubs? Absolutely. A full-service sundae bar? Of course. Everything is possible in this library – just like in books! 

The Perfect Birthday Recipe – Katy Hudson

I absolutely fell in love with A Loud Winter’s Nap and The Golden Acorn, and I have read this one so many times now that I’ve lost count. Some of the most adorable children’s book illustrations I’ve come across are from this series. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even care what a Katy Hudson story is about anymore; I need it in my life regardless.

Beaver is a perfectionist. His latest project, which he’s been planning very carefully, is a birthday cake. Not content with anything less, this will be a “PERFECT birthday cake”. Beaver’s friends, Tortoise, Rabbit, Bird and Squirrel, decide to help. Only they don’t have Beaver’s attention to detail.

Rather than the perfect layers of sugary goodness Beaver had imagined, his friends’ help has instead resulted in layers of panic, frustration and ultimately a perfectly dramatic temper tantrum for Beaver. Beaver finally decides that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself but ultimately discovers it’s a perfectly lonely way to celebrate a birthday if you have alienated all of your friends.

I understand Beaver’s perfectionism, possibly too well. After spending so long reading and rereading this book, and agonising over finding the perfect words to include in this review, my advanced copy of this book has morphed into an ‘oops, this book has now been published’. Apparently I still need to read this book a few more times.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions for the opportunity to read this book. Now all I need to do is find a copy of Too Many Carrots and I’ll have a go to book for every season. I wish there was a fifth season so I could look forward to another book in this series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Summer birthdays can be lonely, but not when you have great friends like Beavers! This year Tortoise, Bird, Rabbit, and Squirrel insist on baking Beaver’s birthday cake, but Beaver isn’t so sure. He is the ultimate perfectionist and would rather do it himself, following the recipe exactly. Will Beaver’s nitpicky ways ruin his birthday and his friendships?

The Perfect Birthday Recipe is the fourth and final story in Katy Hudson’s best-selling set of seasonal picture books, including Too Many Carrots, A Loud Winter’s Nap, and The Golden Acorn.

A Many Feathered Thing – Lisa Gerlits

I would have talked about the wings. His and mine and everybody’s.

In order to become tortured enough to consider herself to be a real artist Clara decides she needs to do hard things. She begins by doing the hardest thing she can imagine, talking to a stranger, Mr Vogelman, who is rumoured to collect teeth.

Knocking on Mr Vogelman’s door isn’t the only scary thing Clara needs to face. There’s a new girl in her class, her friendship with Orion (who she’s known her entire life) is changing and, possibly scariest of all, she needs to find her voice so she can deliver a presentation at school.

Drawing had saved me where my voice failed.

I had planned on reading this book sooner but put it off for several weeks. From the first sentence I knew that no matter what else I found in this book, an ugly cry was certain and I wasn’t in the right head space at the time. Now I’m on the other side of my ugly cry and I can say that although there were several times where it hurt to read this book, hope was also threaded through it.

I loved Clara’s best friend, Orion. His integrity and loyalty endeared him to me and I wanted to watch him as he focused on making things and worked on his intricate knots. I liked Clara most of the time but was anxious for her to pay more attention to other peoples’ struggles and be a better friend. I’d like to spend more time with Elise, the new girl in Clara’s class, who sometimes behaved as though she was much older than eleven.

“You’ve got to have something inside you that no one can take away”

Birdman, as we come to know Mr Vogelman as, teaches Clara about much more than art.

“Every effort is valuable. We must not rub out our failures. They are most important to our success.”

Although I managed to catch a few glimpses of his life outside of his friendship with Clara, I would have liked to have learned more about him. He had a complexity that I wanted to be explored further.

While I understood why this was the case, Frouke’s character felt two dimensional until very near the end of the story. Even now I’m not entirely sure what her relationship was to Birdman … Housekeeper? Friend?

At its heart this is a book about friendships and having the courage to face the hard things. It’s also about finding ways to connect with people, even if it’s through failed knock-knock jokes. It’s about tying knots and unravelling them. It’s about seeing, truly seeing, by looking deeper and continuing to look even when you think you’ve understood all there is to see. It’s about hope and love.

“Love is not one shape. It is not always a red heart. Sometimes it is a tree. Or a bird. Or a bicycle bell.”

I’m always drawn to books where children connect with and learn from older people. I’m especially keen when I get the opportunity to peek into the lives of the people who live in the neighbourhood’s scary house. You know the one. It’s the house that children avoid on Halloween. There are rumours about the horrors that may befall you if you wind up on the wrong side of the door. The outcasts, the recluses, the mysterious. Birdman is one of those people. I dare you not to fall in love with him.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eleven-year-old Clara is known as the girl who draws, but she’s not tortured enough to become a real artist. Her only suffering, besides embarrassment over her real name Clarity Kartoffel, German for Clarity Potato is a crippling inability to speak in public. When Clara and her oldest friend, Orion break their neighbor’s glass gazing ball, Clara decides that in order to suffer like a true artist, she will do every hard thing in her path … starting with knocking on scary old Mr. Vogelman’s door. That’s when she meets Birdman. That’s when she sees his swirling painting. And that’s when everything changes.

To pay for the broken glass ball, Clara begins working for Birdman in his atelier. He challenges her to throw away her eraser and draw what she sees, not what she wants to see. But as Clara discovers, seeing, really seeing is hard. Almost as difficult as befriending the new girl at school, or navigating awkward feelings for Orion or finding the courage to speak in front of the entire class. But little does Clara know, the biggest challenges are yet to come. To cope with tragedy, she will have to do more than be brave. As Birdman teaches her, she will have to bring the hope. 

Help Wanted, Must Love Books – Janet Sumner Johnson

Illustrations – Courtney Dawson

Shailey loves reading bedtime stories with her father but since he started his new job he’s been too busy.

Shailey’s solution?

Fire her father and advertise for a new bedtime storyteller.

A host of fairytale characters apply for the job but none of them are quite right. Shailey begins to wonder if she’ll ever be able to find a suitable replacement for her father.

Some of my fondest childhood memories include trips to my local library to find new treasures. I always love books about books! I appreciated the inclusion of fairytale characters as it was a reminder that books are always there for you, even when you feel like you’re alone.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Shailey’s dad gets a new job, she loses her bedtime reading partner. She immediately starts interviews to fill the position and is thrilled when her favourite fairy tale characters line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can’t stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings her whole team. Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever? 

Rating Your Bunkmates and Other Camp Crimes – Jennifer Orr

I need to preface everything I say about this book with: I’m not the target audience. Sometimes this doesn’t matter as I consistently read books that are intended for readers born in a different century than I was. However, I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older my tolerance for friendship drama has decreased exponentially.

Socially awkward twelve year old Abigail Hensley may have skipped three grades at school but she’s never had a friend. It’s not from lack of rigorous anthropological research on her part. Unfortunately other girls her age simply don’t share her interests – fencing, time travel, anthropology and French cuisine. They also have a bad habit of intruding in her personal space bubble, even though she has generously narrowed the recommended four feet to three and a half.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to successfully befriend a girl my age. It’s like I’m helium, physically unable to mix with any other chemical element. Bonding with girls my age just doesn’t seem part of my atomic makeup.

Joining Abigail in Clovis Cabin are:

  • Sofia, Fia, Fia, with her impractical bejewelled fingernails
  • Quinn, who speaks like she’s a Magic 8 ball
  • Rachel, with her crooked name sticker and rule breaking tendencies
  • Mary Elizabeth George (Meg), who lives in the shadows of her perfect older sister
  • Gabby, who’s enthusiastic and agreeable. She’s Abigail’s roommate.

Despite being oblivious to social cues Abigail is trying her hardest to figure out the science of making friends. She’s determined to crack the code this week and will be making extensive Field Notes to help her navigate the process.

I plan to use these notes to help me with my ongoing experiment: finding a friend.

Unfortunately for Abigail this social experiment may not be as easy to implement as she hopes. Shortly after arriving at Hollyhock something is stolen from another Clovis camper and she’s the prime suspect.

While I’m always drawn to books where I get to attend summer camp vicariously (this was not something that was available when I was growing up and I’ve always felt I missed out on a rite of passage), too many of the conversations in this book revolve around accusations for my liking, so I didn’t enjoy my time at Camp Hollyhock as much as I had anticipated. I hope (and expect) younger readers will disagree wholeheartedly with me.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone Editions for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Twelve-year-old Abigail Hensley is a socially awkward aspiring anthropologist who has always had trouble connecting with her peers. Abigail is hopeful that a week at sleepaway camp is the answer to finally making a friend. After all, her extensive research shows that summer camp is the best place to make lifelong connections. Using her tried-and-true research methods, Abigail begins to study her cabinmates for friendship potential. But just when it seems that she is off to a good start, her bunkmate’s phone gets stolen, and Abigail is the main suspect. Can she clear her name, find the real culprit, and make a friend before the week is done?

My Footprints – Bao Phi

Illustrations – Basia Tran

I’ve read this book so many times that I’ve lost count but each time I’ve tried to write my review I haven’t known what I wanted to say about it.

Thuy has been bullied at school again. She is angry and upset, but on her way home she notices her “jagged footprints”.

When she sees a lone bird, she imagines what it would be like to be able to fly away from danger and recreates its footprints in the snow. She continues to imagine other animals and makes their footprints her own as she arrives home.

“I want to be the biggest and strongest and scariest monster,” Thuy says, “so that if kids at school make fun of me for having two moms, or tell me to go back to where I come from, or call me names, or bother me because I’m a girl, I can make them stop!”

Together Momma Arti, Momma Ngoc and Thuy talk about which animals are strong and which are their favourites. Then Thuy imagines the best animal of all.

I loved Basia Tran’s illustrations, particularly Thuy’s Arti-Thuy-Ngoc-osaurus.

This imagined creature has footprints shaped like hearts, which I absolutely adored.

While I don’t think I would have appreciated this book as a child, adult me loves its messages. Thuy’s story tackles the impacts of bullying but also highlights the importance of having a supportive family. She is learning about courage and perseverance, and the power of her imagination, and I love her and her family more with each reread.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Every child feels different in some way, but Thuy feels “double different.” She is Vietnamese American and she has two mums. Thuy walks home one winter afternoon, angry and lonely after a bully’s taunts. Then a bird catches her attention and sets Thuy on an imaginary exploration. What if she could fly away like a bird? What if she could sprint like a deer, or roar like a bear? Mimicking the footprints of each creature in the snow, she makes her way home to the arms of her moms. Together, the three of them imagine beautiful and powerful creatures who always have courage – just like Thuy.

The Friendship Lie – Rebecca Donnelly

Cora is 11 years old and has a twin, Kyle. She also used to have a best friend, Sybella, who she met on the first day of second grade. The twins’ parents both work in environmental science.

Their dad ran a garbology project that studied what happened to peoples’ trash and recycling after they put it all in their curbside bins. Their mother worked on the technology that tracked each lucky piece of garbage that was part of the project.

Now it’s the fifth grade and Cora and Kyle’s parents are divorcing. Their parents are so separated, in fact, that their mother is working in Belgium for a year while she thinks about the future. Meanwhile her kids are still in California and Cora thinks her life is garbage, what with her mother on the other side of the world and in the wrong time zone to be able to give Cora much needed advice about her friendship problems.

Their father wants to “show the world what happened to the things it tried to get rid of.” However he appears positively clueless about how sad both of his kids are; while Cora is obviously sad throughout the book, Kyle hides his sadness behind a wall of positivity. I wasn’t a fan of either parent and found some of the father’s garbage related behaviour downright creepy.

I know it was all about the ongoing environmental message but the twins’ father continually bringing all of their neighbours’ garbage into their apartment and sorting through it in their bathtub horrified me. If I discovered my neighbour had been regularly stealing my trash and rummaging through it I would send them my own message, likely in the form of some very expired dairy product poured all over whatever I was discarding that week.

While there was some diversity included in story, with a teenage girl who has girlfriends and another character whose mother is white and father is black, it felt like its inclusion was token rather than having any bearing on the plot. Both topics were barely mentioned before disappearing from the narrative. Homelessness is also included in this story, mostly as a way to track a specific item’s movements through the book, and the opportunities to either make a point about homelessness or provide resolution for this specific character were missed.

I loved everything about Aquafaba and how it fit into the story, and I liked Auntie Lake. I wanted to hang out with Auntie Lake more. I think I would have really liked Kyle if his personality extended beyond loving dogs, and being the nicest and most positive person on the planet. On the flip side, I detested new girl Marnie from the first time I met her, both because she was so irritating but also because she was practically two dimensional and didn’t appear to have a back story.

The first half of the book is told exclusively from Cora’s point of view, starting with ‘After’ and then catching up to now with ‘Before’ chapters. There are a couple of chapters in the second half of the book from Sybella’s perspective, a character I liked much more than Cora. There are also diary entries from 1974 written by a then-seventh grade Penny and odd little public service announcements Cora leaves on her mother’s voicemail.

Since everyone is so garbage conscious in this book I wasn’t sure why the research assistants were setting up the Trashlympics in a way that created more trash, like using duct tape to mark the lanes for the relay race Trash and Dash. Given the other clubs the school was offering focused on art, robotics and gaming, I was surprised there was enough interest from elementary school aged kids for there to be a Trash Team in the first place.

Although there’s also some friendship drama thrown in as well, big chunks of the early part of this book felt like extended public service announcements for all things environmental – sustainability, making sure you put your trash in the correct bins, the problem of plastic in the ocean. I found the second half of the book interesting and this mostly made up for the parts in the first half where I really struggled to want to continue reading. However, had I not committed to reviewing this book I wouldn’t have continued reading long enough to get to the parts I enjoyed.

I expect if I was reading this book as an environmentally conscious 9 to 12 year old this could be an entirely different review. Maybe I’ve forgotten what is considered fun at that age. Maybe Trashlympics are one of those things. I’m interested to see what the actual target audience think about The Friendship Lie.

Thank you to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels to be thrown away. Between her mum and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster.

But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: things don’t always go where they’re supposed to and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems.

Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.

The Golden Acorn – Katy Hudson

When Squirrel learns that the Golden Acorn Hunt is going to be a team event this year she’s not happy. Squirrel has won the competition for the past eight years and wants to add another trophy to her collection. Beaver, Rabbit, Tortoise and Bird eagerly join her team but Squirrel doesn’t think her friends will be fast enough to win. The day of the race arrives and Squirrel finds herself in a position where she needs to decide what is more important to her: winning or her friends.

I adored Katy Hudson’s A Loud Winter’s Nap so I was keen to get my hands on this book, especially after I fell in love with its gorgeous cover.

This picture book was written with 3 to 6 year olds in mind. There are plenty of themes to discuss with children, including the importance of teamwork and the value of friendships. If I was reading this to a child I’d also be talking to them about Squirrel’s competitive nature and that, while winning can be fun, it’s not everything.

I loved the illustrations, particularly the ones showing all of the different teams scurrying around the tress in search of the elusive golden acorn. While I smiled my way through all of the images my favourite was this one, showing the friends enjoying a picnic together.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Whoosh! Squirrel takes off at full speed through the autumn leaves. But pump the breaks, because this year the Golden Nut Hunt race is a team event. Squirrel reluctantly enlists his friends and is not impressed. Will Squirrel’s competitive spirit take over or will he learn how to be a team player?

Best-selling author Katy Hudson (Too Many Carrots and A Loud Winter’s Nap) proves that winning isn’t everything in this energetic picture book about friendship, teamwork, and forgiveness – and that’s something to go nuts about!