There’s a Superhero in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

Superhero is trying to save this book from their nemesis, The Scribbler, who is “scribbling all over your book with her crayons!”

But Superhero can’t do it alone.

Readers can help Superhero by completing various activities, including tapping and lifting the book.

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Fans of this series will find some familiar faces along the way, all of whom need help from the reader. Kids will love the interaction and parents will love the message, because the strongest superpower isn’t strength or speed; it’s something we can all do.

I love Greg Abbott’s illustrations. They’re colourful, the expressions are easy to read and there’s something so cute about a superhero sticking out their tongue to help them concentrate.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Whoosh! A superhero has landed in your book! A new interactive adventure from the team that brought you There’s a Monster in Your Book and its companions.

Use the power of your imagination to unlock Superhero’s superpowers. But you’d better act fast before The Scribbler ruins your book completely! Readers will enjoy interactively tapping, stretching, and whizzing this book around as they help Superhero defeat the villain and save the day! As he did in all of the companion books, Tom Fletcher invites interactive fun while delivering a satisfying twist that celebrates the power of kindness and the true meaning of being a hero and a friend.

Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts – Ian De Haes

Simon’s anger is big and it’s only getting bigger. Beasts begin to appear whenever Simon is angry and they chase everyone away. For a while Simon enjoys feeling like his anger is powerful but eventually, when his anger comes without a specific reason, he notices how lonely he is.

No one wants to be around him anymore but he doesn’t know how to get rid of his anger. Finally Simon learns to take responsibility for his feelings and to manage them in a calmer way.

I really liked the illustrations, which clearly showed Simon’s anger.

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While plenty of time was spent watching Simon’s anger getting more and more out of control, there wasn’t much page time dedicated to explaining how he could learn to manage it.

I would have liked to have seen more of a learning curve for Simon once he recognised that anger was a problem for him. Although it made for a neat ending, it wasn’t overly realistic that the first time Simon tried mindfulness his anger simply floated away.

There are resources at the end of the book for parents and caregivers, explaining how to talk to children about their anger and ways they can manage it.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Simon gets mad, he gets REALLY mad. So mad that big, bad, angry beasts appear. At first Simon loves having the beasts around to help scare off anyone who upsets him, but over time he realises that no one wants to be around him or the beasts. This makes Simon sad, so he decides to try to still his mind and practice being calm. And the beasts disappear!

Featuring colourful and expressive illustrations, this insightful book helps children ages 4 to 8 learn how to handle their anger. A guide for parents and teachers in the back of the book features strategies for talking to children about their emotions along with various exercises they can use to cope with anger. 

Love Your Body – Jessica Sanders

Illustrations – Carol Rossetti

Every so often I stumble across a book I wish I’d had the opportunity to read when I was a kid. This is one of those books.

While acknowledging that all bodies are different (and this is okay!), the focus of this book is appreciating what your body can do rather than what it looks like. Examples include using your hands to create, your eyes to watch television or read and your nose to smell the sea or flowers.

Self care ideas for showing your body kindness are included and seeking help from others is normalised. What you can do for your body and what it does for you are addressed but you are also reminded that you are more than your body. You are kind, curious, passionate and so many other wonderful things.

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I absolutely adored the message of this book but it was Carol Rossetti’s illustrations that sealed the deal for me. So many different bodies are represented. Bodies of various colours, shapes, sizes and abilities are included. There’s even cellulite, body hair and stretch marks, and I love that!

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I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this book so far. Although the target audience are children, adults who didn’t receive this message as kids will also be able to use this book to challenge the stereotypes they’ve internalised about their own body.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What if every young girl loved her body? Love Your Body encourages you to admire and celebrate your body for all the amazing things it can do (like laugh, cry, hug, and feel) and to help you see that you are so much more than your body.

Bodies come in all different forms and abilities. All these bodies are different and all these bodies are good bodies. There is no size, ability, or colour that is perfect. What makes you different makes you, you – and you are amazing!

Love Your Body introduces the language of self-love and self-care to help build resilience, while representing and celebrating diverse bodies, encouraging you to appreciate your uniqueness. This book was written for every girl, regardless of how you view your body. All girls deserve to be equipped with the tools to navigate an image-obsessed world.

Featuring a special surprise poster on the jacket, this book will show you that freedom is loving your body with all its “imperfections” and being the perfectly imperfect you!

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost – Flavia Z. Drago

I have to be brave.

I have to let the others see me!

Gustavo is such a sweetheart!

This lonely ghost desperately wants to make a friend but he’s too shy to talk to them. Even when he’s near the other monsters, no one sees him.

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Finally, Gustavo comes up with a plan. Even though he’s filled with self doubt in the lead up to the Day of the Dead, Gustavo is determined to be brave.

I love that Gustavo’s plan involves an activity that he enjoys, that he doesn’t try to become someone else in order to get the other monsters to notice him. His courage is rewarded and this little spectral introvert finds not just one friend but many.

The illustrations are so cute, clearly showing the way Gustavo is feeling throughout the story. There are a variety of monsters and plenty of background details to enjoy.

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I’ve already read this book so many times that I’ve lost count. I only wish I had a little monster to read it to.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for introducing me to such an adorable kindred introvert.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This winning debut picture book from Mexican artist Flavia Z. Drago about finding the courage to make friends is perfect for the spooky season – or anytime.

Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. And he loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realises they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves? With fancifully detailed artwork and visual humor, debut picture-book creator Flavia Z. Drago’s vivid illustrations tell a sweet and gently offbeat story of loneliness, bravery, and friendship that is sure to be a treat for little ghouls and goblins everywhere.

Girl from the Sea – Margaret Wild

Illustrations – Jane Tanner

Who lives in that cottage by the sea?

I wish. I wish. I wish it was me.

This picture book has haunted me for two weeks. Each time I look at it the narrative I tell myself about the story changes, which is fitting as the author has deliberately left it open to interpretation.

A child watches a family who live in a seaside cottage. She yearns to live there too and to share in their life. She wants to belong and hopes they will ask her in.

The illustrations are where this story truly comes alive. They’re also where the ambiguity lies.

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The child is actually a ghost who has come from the sea.

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The family consist of a mother, father, son and daughter. The members of the family never get a voice in the words of this story so it’s up to the reader to interpret their story from clues given in the illustrations.

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My interpretation is that the ghost girl drowned at sea, possibly a long time ago, and that it may even be her weathered gravestone that sits off kilter outside the family’s property. I think the family has also experienced a loss, one that the mother still grieves. They may have buried a child of their own.

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The mother is often pictured at a distance from her husband and two children. I believe this is a way of showing how her grief has separated her physically and emotionally, causing her to feel alone despite being surrounded by loved ones.

But you know what? Because the author has not joined all of the dots, someone else might see something I haven’t or disagree with my interpretation. And for this specific book, I love that. Usually I would need to know and know for sure, but not here. What I do want to know is what other people see in this story that I don’t.

The illustrations really are the star of this book. They are absolutely gorgeous but also sad, full of yearning and quite haunting. The blue the girl brings with her from the sea is the only colour amongst charcoal. I found this contrast beautiful.

The cover illustration was inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea.

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The Monk by the Sea

This is definitely one of those picture books that adult me adores, knowing that child me wouldn’t have liked it. If I’d seen this book as a child I would have appreciated the pictures but I would have wanted more words. I know I wouldn’t have liked not absolutely knowing the truth of the story at the end of the read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A poetic, visual mystery that will leave the reader asking questions about the mysterious girl from the sea.

Boo Loves Books – Kaye Baillie

Illustrations – Tracie Grimwood

‘Every place is a place to read books,’ said Miss Spinelli.

Phoebe is a reluctant reader and is anxious about making mistakes when she reads aloud. When her teacher tells the class they will not be reading at school tomorrow, Phoebe is relieved – until she finds out they will be reading somewhere else instead.

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Magic happens when this young girl who is scared of reading meets Big Boo, a dog who is so used to people leaving him that he doesn’t expect anyone to stay.

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It’s such a lovely story but, because I could easily imagine Big Boo not trusting that any human will stay with him, I’ve found myself tearing up each time I’ve read this book. I loved that by accepting each other as they are, Phoebe and Big Boo are able to face and ultimately overcome their fears.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Phoebe is nervous about reading. She is embarrassed that she will say things wrong, so she just doesn’t read at all. When Miss Spinelli’s class goes on a field trip to the animal shelter to practice reading there, Phoebe is paired with Big Boo, who is scared of her like she’s scared of reading. When she starts reading, Big Boo and Phoebe warm up to each other and the two turn their fears into a positive experience.

Mercy Watson #0.5: A Piglet Named Mercy – Kate DiCamillo

Illustrations – Chris Van Dusen

Mr and Mrs Watson lived perfectly ordinary lives until Mercy arrived. Now life on Deckawoo Lane will never be unpredictable again.

This prequel is my introduction to Mercy Watson and I’ve already fallen in love with her. I don’t think that I’ve been introduced to a pig this adorable since I met Wilbur and Babe.

As a picture book, Mercy’s origin story isn’t especially detailed but it was enough for me to want to continue her story. Because I’m me, one of my takeaways from this book is concern for all of the pigs that didn’t fall off the back of the truck.

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Chris Van Dusen’s illustrations gave off such a wholesome 1950’s vibe, with the possible exception of cantankerous Eugenia Lincoln, that it felt like I was reading a classic rather than a recent release.

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I’m expecting sisters Eugenia and Baby Lincoln will compete to become my favourite human character as I continue this series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Every porcine wonder was once a piglet! Celebrate the joy of a new arrival with this endearing picture-book prequel to the New York Times best-selling Mercy Watson series.

Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson live ordinary lives. Sometimes their lives feel a bit too ordinary. Sometimes they wish something different would happen. And one day it does, when someone unpredictable finds her way to their front door. In a delightful origin story for the star of the Mercy Watson series, a tiny piglet brings love (and chaos) to Deckawoo Drive – and the Watsons’ lives will never be the same. 

Bears and Boos – Shirley Parenteau

Illustrations – David Walker

It’s Halloween and almost time for Big Brown Bear, Fuzzy, Yellow, Calico and Floppy to go to the parade.

The young bears are eager to find the items they need for their costumes and in the rush Floppy is knocked over.

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Only one item remains in the box when the other bears are done and it’s not enough for a costume. One by one the other bears share an item from their costumes with Floppy. Then it’s time to go to the parade.

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With an emphasis on learning to share, Bears and Boos is an introduction to Halloween, minus the scares. I always find bears easy to love; the colour palette used in the illustrations made this book’s bears even more adorable. I particularly liked Calico, who’s wearing the wizard’s hat.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The adorable bears are excited to dress up for Halloween – but are there enough costumes for everyone?

Big Brown Bear and the four little bears can’t wait to dress up for Halloween. Everyone grabs their costumes from the costume box, but – oops! – in the rush, Floppy is knocked on her furry behind, and now there are no costumes left for her! Fuzzy says she’s sorry and offers Floppy a golden gown. Then each of the other bears shares an item with Floppy, and soon she’s dressed like a queen – just in time for the parade! Shirley Parenteau and David Walker combine cheerful read-aloud rhyme and irresistibly charming art in another story for the youngest cubs and their big bears.

Bunnies on the Bus – Philip Ardagh

Illustrations – Ben Mantle

It’s been six and a half weeks since the first (and only) time I’ve read this book before today and throughout that time my brain has involuntarily and quite randomly been singing/chanting at me:

Bunnies on the bus!
Bunnies on the bus!

No wonder there’s a fuss
about the bunnies on the bus!

So, parents beware: this book comes with its own built in earworm. And I still love it!

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The repetition not only helps the rhymes to flow well, but also gave me the same weirdly soothing feeling as The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.

Besides the chaos caused by the bus roaring past the citizens of Sunny Town, there’s another adventure being told solely through the illustrations. There are plenty of details to enjoy over multiple readings.

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I get the feeling this isn’t the last time I’ll be reading this book.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A romping, riotous read-aloud from best-selling author Philip Ardagh and award-winning illustrator Ben Mantle.

Bunnies on the bus!
Bunnies on the bus!
No wonder there’s a fuss
about the bunnies on the bus!

There are bunnies on the bus, and they’re causing mayhem in Sunny Town! Watch as they whiz past the bus stop, fly by the swings, and zoom over the crosswalk – these bunnies aren’t stopping for anyone. They finally reach the station, but where are they hopping off to now? Uh-oh … Acclaimed author Philip Ardagh’s rhyming, high-energy text and “Bunnies on the bus!” refrain is ideal for library or classroom read-alouds, and Ben Mantle’s colourful illustrations are chock-full of zany details perfect for repeat reads.

Little Green Donkey – Anuska Allepuz

Parents of picky eaters will definitely empathise with Little Donkey’s mother. All Little Donkey wants to eat is grass.

It’s green and yummy and they don’t understand the need to eat anything else.

Their mother tries and tries to get them to try a new food but they don’t want to hear it … until they go too far and turn green!

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Finally their mother succeeds in getting them to attempt some other foods and Little Donkey discovers a new favourite.

This was a really cute book and I loved the ending. This story reminds me of someone I knew as a kid who ate so much of a specific food for so long that their skin finally betrayed them, tinted with the colour of the food.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Little Donkey doesn’t want to eat anything but yummy grass. Oh, dear – he has turned green! Is it time to try some other foods?

Little Donkey loves eating grass. Grass is so juicy, zingy, sweet, and tangy! Mom asks him to please have a tiny taste of something else – oranges, watermelon, broccoli? – but a life of eating grass is just fine with Little Donkey. Until one day he spies his reflection in the watering hole and sees that he has turned green. Mum resumes her persuasion with new urgency. Apples and grapes? Yuck! No thank you! But carrots – carrots are crunchy, crispy, and delicious! Little Donkey is delighted with his new carrot-only diet and happy to transform from his all-green self to – oops! Pictures full of color and movement bring to life a charming story that will resonate with choosy eaters.