Pumpkin Heads! – Wendell Minor

The illustrations are everything in this book, so detailed and realistic. Each of the pumpkin heads have so much personality, providing inspiration for cute, creepy and whimsical designs. The text is very sparse, making this an ideal book to introduce young children to this aspect of Halloween.

There‘s a pumpkin snowman (I want to frame this picture), scarecrow, witch and cowboy, along with those that are expressing a variety of feelings.


I particularly loved the witch


and the haunted house.


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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Halloween is time to pick pumpkins and carve them into pumpkin heads – jack-o’-lanterns of every shape and size!

Award-winning author and artist Wendell Minor uses simple language and striking autumn settings to celebrate pumpkin heads in this reissue of a Halloween classic.

The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep – Adam Gustavson

I love the concept of this book: a group of frogs who try to get out of going to bed using increasingly imaginative excuses. Parents are already well versed in the usual suspects: another story, another glass of water… The froggies come up with much more interesting scenarios to postpone their bedtime.

Kids will love seeing these realistic frogs acting out a series of unrealistic froggish activities, from shooting themselves out of cannons while singing opera to flying spaceships.


The illustrations are very detailed, with some fun things to discover, like a frog who’s been drinking a bottle of Croak. Kids will enjoy the humour of the illustrations and may be inspired to come up with some better excuses themselves for why they can’t possibly go to sleep yet.

This book is marketed as a bedtime story and given it’s about frogs at bedtime, that should make sense. My reservation is that it’s not a soothing bedtime story. I’d expect kids to be more hyped up after having this book read to them, which defeats the purpose. I’d be testing this one out well before bedtime first to see how the kidlets respond.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Prepare for a different kind of bedtime book – a zany, imaginative adventure to send your little froggies off to dreamland. Not since David Weisner’s Tuesday have frogs had so much fun!

Why go to bed when you can play the accordion, dance underwater ballet, and hold burping contests with strange alien lifeforms? For every kid who ever came up with an outlandish excuse for why it can’t be bedtime yet, these froggies’ antics will delight and entertain. Acclaimed illustrator Adam Gustavson’s raucous authorial debut shows parents there’s more than one way to do bedtime.

The Eyeball Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta

Illustrations – Shennen Bersani

Jerry Pallotta takes readers on an A to Z tour of eyes, providing fun facts about a variety of animals, both those you will already know well and others you may not have heard of before. The facts that I found particularly interesting were:

  • A giant squid has the honour of seeing with the world’s largest eyes; they’re the size of a basketball.
  • Horses have oval-shaped pupils.
  • Tarsier’s eyes are larger than its brain.

In addition, an explanation of how eyes work is accompanied by an illustration with labels for the different parts of your eyes, including the retina, cornea and lens. Each page also explains what different eye idioms mean, from “a sight for sore eyes” to “without batting an eye”.

Another pair of eyes means help from someone else.

I never would have thought a book about eyes would be so beautiful. Shennen Bersani’s illustrations truly are eye-catching. They’re so realistic that if I didn’t know otherwise I would have told you that some of the images in this book were photos.


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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Best-selling author Jerry Pallotta takes a peek at eyes from across the animal kingdom in this hilarious and fact-packed alphabet book.

The eyes have it! Laugh as you learn by staring right into the eyes of familiar animals (is for alligator eye) and not-so-familiar ones (is for zebu eye!). Readers of all ages will be entertained with every page turn. Language learning bonus: each page defines an idiom that includes the word “eye”!

Someone Else’s Shoes – Ellen Wittlinger

Twelve year old Izzy wants to be a comedian but life hasn’t been funny for a while now. Since her parent’s divorce she rarely sees her father. He’s remarried to someone too young for him and they’re having a baby soon so Izzy feels like she’s been replaced. Izzy lives with her mother who seems too preoccupied with everyone else’s problems to listen to Izzy’s.

Her mother’s dentist boyfriend has a 16 year old son, Ben, who is mean and scary. Plus Izzy now has to share her home with her annoying 10 year old cousin, Oliver, and her Uncle Henderson. Oliver’s mother died by suicide and while Izzy is sad about her aunt’s death she doesn’t really understand why it happened or why it’s making her uncle act so strangely.

Izzy knew from experience that when something bad happened to you, your friends got scared, as if they could catch your problems.

Izzy, Ben and Oliver come from different worlds and don’t seem to have any common ground but they wind up on a road trip together searching for Uncle Henderson when he suddenly goes missing. The three kids, through death or divorce, have all experienced the loss of a parent and they all feel abandoned. They each deal with feeling invisible in their own way. They’re kids that wouldn’t normally choose to spend time together but discover they’re not so different after all.

I initially found Izzy’s attitude annoying and sorry, Izzy, but I think your comedy routine needs some work. She grew on me though. Throughout the book Izzy becomes more empathetic and learns that not all change is bad. I thought Oliver was a sweetheart from the beginning. The character that surprised me the most was Ben who, while I think we’re supposed to dislike him (at least initially), I loved from our first meeting.

“Be always tender, a little fragile. It’s not a weakness if your heart breaks just a little.”

I loved that this book didn’t shy away from difficult discussions. Izzy asks questions about her aunt’s death by suicide that I expect would be typical of any child trying to understand and I thought her mother’s answers were quite sensitive and age appropriate. I appreciated that grief wasn’t one size fits all in this book; each character responds to loss in their own way.

I did have a problem with one aspect of the discussion surrounding suicide. I’m not sure how others will feel about this and perhaps I’m being overly sensitive but I was wary of the discussion of the method used. While all of the details are not revealed enough were that I wondered about the wisdom of their inclusion.

Given the subject matter this could have been a devastating book but it was ultimately hopeful, with a focus on the children supporting one another and becoming family.

Content warnings include death by suicide and bullying.

10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day. In America National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday of the week surrounding this date. In 2018 this is 9 to 15 September.

If you are thinking about suicide, please know that you are not alone and help is available.

In Australia you can call 13 11 14 or visit https://www.lifeline.org.au

In America you can call 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

A list of international suicide hotlines can be found at https://www.befrienders.org

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Izzy, a twelve-year-old budding comedian, feels pretty miserable about her family life – her father is remarried with a new baby on the way, her mother is dating Izzy’s dentist, Dr. Gustino, whose rebellious sixteen-year-old son Ben is a huge hassle, and now her cousin Oliver and Uncle Henderson are moving in with Izzy and her mother. Of course, Izzy feels bad for her ten-year-old cousin – his mother recently committed suicide – and Uncle Henderson has become zombie-like ever since.

When Uncle Henderson disappears one day, Izzy finds herself on an impromptu road trip to upstate New York with Oliver and Ben, the three of them seeking family and acceptance.