Posted in Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book

LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen


“A deluxe edition celebrating ten years of a beloved classic: the New York Times best-selling ode to that wonderful place, the library.”

When I was a child, the public library had rules, and they were followed, no matter what! The librarian was always circulating herself to make sure that we obeyed the rules and helped us find books to read.

Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, runs her library as she wants…with rules that are to obey.  One day, a lion wanders in.  When Mr. McBee sees the lion walk past his circulation desk, he runs to Miss Merriweather’s office.  He tells her there is a lion in the library. She reprimands Mr. McBee for running in the library and then asks if the lion was breaking any rules.  “Well, no,” was Mr. McBee’s answer.  She told him to “…leave him be.”

After sniffing the card catalog and rubbing his head against the new book collections (habits of cats), the lion goes to sleep on the beanbag in the story corner.  (What a delightful drawing this is!)  “No one was sure what to do.  There weren’t any rules about lions in the library.” 

The lion loved story hour.  Miss Merriweather could not make the lion budge so she put him to work until the next day’s story hour.  He dusted the encyclopedias with his tail, licked envelopes for overdue notices, and he let small children stand on his back to reach books above.  He makes a fine backrest for children listening at story hour.  He seems to be a great addition to the library with his big padded feet quietly walking around.


One day, an accident occurs and the lion helps in the only way he knows.  Can the library rules be broken for a good reason?  You will have to read and see…or is that read and roar?

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  The art and the story are just great for a good story time whether at the library, at home, or in the classroom.  Of course, it does not hurt that I am a (retired) children’s librarian!! 

Age Range:  4 – 8 Years

Awards & Honors

• A New York Times Best Seller
• A Junior Library Guild selection
• School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2006
•’s #1 pick for their list of the Best Picture Books of 2006
• Nick Jr. Family Magazine’s Best Books of 2006 (“Most Droll”)
• Publishers Weekly Cuffie Award
• Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2007 Platinum Award
• 2006 Wilde Picture Book Award
• Child Magazine’s Best Children’s Books of 2006
• Winter 2006–2007 Book Sense Children’s Picks List
• 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Children’s Illustrated Honor Book
• Irma S. and James H. Black Honor Book for 2006
• 2007 Time of Wonder Award winner
• The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association 2007 Picture Book of the Year


Michelle Knudsen has worked in libraries in New York City and Ithaca, New York.  She is a freelance children’s book editor and writing coach and a member of the MFA faculty in the Writing for Young People program at Lesley University.  She is a New York Times best-selling author of 45 books for young readers, including the picture book Library Lion (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes), the middle-grade fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, and the young adult novel Evil Librarian, which was awarded the 2015 Sid Fleischman Award for Humor. Her most recent book is the picture book Marilyn’s Monster (Candlewick, March 2015), illustrated by the wonderful Matt Phelan. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.  You can find Michelle Knudsen @

Kevin Hawkes is the illustrator of more than forty books for children, including The Three Mouths of Little Tom Drum by Nancy Willard; Weslandia and Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman; and Handel, Who Knew What He Liked and Me, All Alone, at the End of the World by M. T. Anderson.  Kevin Hawkes lives in southern Maine with his wife and children.  He can be found at

Library Lion was chosen as the featured cover art by the Association of Booksellers for Children’s 2006 program, “Books Make Everything Better.”  Here’s a look:


Each year, ABC supports the association’s national literacy campaign with a poster promoting the importance of reading in child development. For the past twelve years, this campaign has been known as the “Twenty Minutes A Day” campaign and has taken on a new life with wider age appeal as the revamped, “Books Make Everything Better.” The illustration will also grace the cover of the ABC Best Books for Children catalog. The poster will be printed and distributed prior to BEA — each member store receives free posters for distribution to their customers and reading community. The ABC Best Books for Children catalog is printed and distributed in September and is expected to have a circulation over 400,000. Selected books by the illustrator are also featured on the inside front cover of the catalog. Hooray!

Library Lion was also featured on the cover of Candlewick’s Fall 2006 catalog!

Editions have been/will soon be published in the following countries/languages:

• United Kingdom
• Australia
• Japanese
• Korean
• Taiwan (Complex Chinese)
• Simplified Chinese (Mainland China, excluding Hong Kong and Macao)
• Italian
• U.S. Spanish-language edition
• France
• Spanish
• Catalan
• Dutch
• Finnish
• Hebrew
• Slovenian
• Hungarian
• Turkish
• Russian


Book Information:


Publisher:  Candlewick Press

Publication date:  07/28/2009

Edition description:  Reprint

Pages:  48

Product dimensions:8.80(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.20(d)

Posted in Adult Fiction, Book, Book Review, Reading



Set during and after World War II, Gretl Schmidt, six years old, is the daughter of a German soldier with a Jewish grandmother.  This Jewish relation drives her and family, firstly, to the ghetto, then aboard a train headed to Auschwitz, with her mother, grandmother, and sister.  Gretl and her sister are pushed between the bars by her mother and grandmother to escape certain death.

At the same time, Jakób Kowalski, a Polish resistance fighter (against both the German and the Russian forces), is placing a bomb on the tracks to blow up a scheduled German troop transport.  But an unscheduled train, headed for Auschwitz, comes through first, and is blown up by the bomb.  All on board are killed.  Gretl and her sister have escaped.

Gretl is taken into Jakób’s family’s crowded home.  Jakób is a young man at this time.  For three years, he and Gretl form a bond.  Many secrets must be hidden from Jakób’s Catholic family.  Gretl cannot stay with him though.  Jakób places Gretl in a German orphanage where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families in South Africa.  Once again, Gretl’s secrets must be kept, this time all alone—Jewish roots, Catholic education in Poland, and communist Poland.

Separated by years, continents, religion, language, even politics, it seems unlikely that Jakób and Gretl will ever see each other again. Yet, the human spirit and the human bond can overcome many hard circumstances.


Irma Joubert:  International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. She’s the author of eight novels and is often on the bestseller lists in The Netherlands as well as her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels.   She can be found on Facebook @ irmajoubertpage

My Honest Opinion

I loved so much of this story–the roots into just one segment of World War II, the hardships of the Jewish people, and the strength of the human spirit as they fight to survive alone, fighting to suppress enemies which dare to overtake them, and fighting to survive together.  The story is filled with the beauty of relationships between young, old, and all ages in between. Families share the willingness to love beyond the circumstances, through trial and tribulation, through war and famine, through fear and secrecy.  There are moments of sadness, survival, strength, and of pure joy, and unequivocal love.  

Biblical truths weave their way clearly and profoundly throughout the book.  I was glad and thankful to find each nugget as I read “The Girl From the Train.” 

I love historical fiction.  This book had a piece of history which I was unfamiliar with–the emigration of German war orphans to South Africa…Pretoria to be exact.  It was a small group of 83 which went there in 1948.  What this book lacked for me was more depth into the history of this event.  Plus I would have liked a bit more history of the times in South Africa:  What exactly was the “Catholic Threat” to the people in South Africa?  Were the South African British just as closed to the Jewish, Catholics, and Polish as the Dutch/Afrikaaners?  I would have liked more historical depth so that I did not have to look it up on the internet to find those extra details which I enjoy in a strong historical novel.

You can find more reviews @ Girl on the Train Reviews @ BookLook Bloggers

and the book listed @ Thomas Nelson

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., for this complimentary e-copy of “The Girl From The Train” by Irma Joubert through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a favorable review, but only to read this book in its entirety in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”






Book Information:

ISBN-13: 9780529102379

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Publication date: 11/03/2015

Pages: 384

Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Language:  English

Posted in Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book, Reading




In this day and age, electronic entertainment is so prevalent, even for the very young.  Ms. Yolen reminds us that a simple box can still engage the imagination of a child if left alone…with a box and his/her imagination.

The idea is almost like new…as if it were just thought of for the first time.  Yet, it is the way children once played with their natural surroundings, the great finds around the yard, or park, or street, or neighborhood.  Here we go…all over again.

And Chris Sheban’s artwork drew me right into the fun.  The two children and their dog find many ways to use a simple box, a large moving box.  The artwork is filled with texture and is described as “cardboard-esque” for it resembles the box which the children play in and over and under and around.

It is really cute and a fun read.  Maybe even an inspiration for some in this day!

Reading Level: Grades 1 – 3 (ages 6-8)



Jane Yolen has been called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” and “the Aesop” of the twentieth century as she has written over 300 books, contributing tremendously to children’s literature, especially to the fairy tales genre. She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature.

Owl Moon, Winner of the 1988 Caldecott MedalJane Yolen’s Owl Moon won the Caldecott Medal, while other stories have won two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.  She has also been awarded six honorary doctorates in literature.  She lives in Massachusetts and Scotland.  You can find Ms. Yolen @ where she shares far more than her books.  There are great resources for teachers,  parents, and librarians.  She has a blog there too.


Chris Sheban illustrates children’s books, including A Night on the Range, The Shoe Tree of Chagrin, and Red Fox at McCloskey’s Farm. His work has been honored with three gold and three silver medals from the Society of Illustrators.

He grew up in Ohio, attending Kent State University in 1976.  After two additional years of graduate work, he moved to Perugia, Italy where he worked for a year as a graphic designer and part-time illustrator.  Then he returned to the United States and currently lives in Chicago.

Mr. Sheban’s artwork has appeared in PRINT magazine, Step-by-Step Graphics, and numerous Communication Arts Illustration Annuals. He’s been awarded three Gold and three Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York.

Mr. Sheban can be found @ where you can see his fine artwork for the books he has illustrated as well as ads and other types of artwork he has done.

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Book Information:


Publisher:  The Creative Company

Publication date:03/08/2016


Product dimensions:8.90(w) x 10.60(h) x 0.50(d)






Posted in Book, Book Review, Middle Readers, Poetry, Reading


inside out

This award-winning story is told from Ha’s perspective in prose of somewhat broken English, yet typed in a poetic format.  It is easy to read, short lines, few words on each page, every one to three pages is a new day.  The story begins in Saigon where Ha, her mother, and three older brothers live.  Ha’s father has gone missing in action.  The family is trying to hold onto hope while Vietnam is filled with war and strife.  The war has not yet come to Saigon.

The author’s firsthand experiences as an immigrant, torn a way from her native land of Vietnam when she was ten years old is the structure upon which this novel is based.

For one year, we follow Ha’s thoughts, emotions, and actions, written into her diary.  In the beginning, Saigon seems far from the war zone so life seems fairly normal from a ten year old’s eyes and heart.  She knows and loves this city.  The disappearance of her father as he serves in the South Vietnamese army brings the war much closer to Ha’s heart, yet she still goes about her days.  The Vietnam War quickly moves closer to Saigon and the family must flee.

We follow Ha as she boards a ship to the United States, eventually landing in Alabama. Living there brings on a whole new set of problems for Ha.  She is young and vulnerable as an immigrant.  Bullying and teasing are a daunting  reality for Ha, yet there are others who truly care about Ha and her family.  Caring comes through an American teacher as well as from the man who “sponsored” them.

The story seems and feels so real.  This is the diary of a girl in an extremely difficult period of her young life.  Thanhha Lai writes from personal life events, placing some of those into Ha’s hands.  Her words are written superbly bringing a story of what a child, a ten year old, experiences in having to flee her native country and only home she has ever known.

The ESL teacher who cares about Ha and her family is real for me.  I was an ESL teacher to sixty elementary-aged children for a number of years during my teaching career.  There were thirteen languages spoken among those sixty children.  Even the children could not communicate very well at first with one another.  The language barrier was HUGE!  It was vital that the children learned the language of their new country because they became the bridge for the parents in many cases.  The children took their English lessons home each day to teach their parents and others in the neighborhoods where they found themselves.  Immigrants from many Far Eastern countries, Mexico, Central America, and even one child from Romania were among my children.  See how I still call them “my children.”  I just loved them and wanted the best for them as they had lost so much.

English is a tough language to learn.  There are so very many exceptions to the rules, so many words that sound alike but mean different things.  So much to try to understand.

Ha writes:

“August 30

Fourth Rule

Some verbs

switch all over

just because.

I am

She is

They are

He was

They were

Would be simpler

if English

and life were logical.”

“September 30

Spelling Rules


the spelling changes

when adding an s.

Knife becomes knives.


a c is used

instead of a k,

even if

it makes more sense

for cat to be spelled kat.


a y is used

instead of an e,

even if 

it makes more sense

for moldy to be spelled molde.

Whoever invented English

should have learned 

to spell.”

And there are many more delightful insights into the language I call mine.

This window into a ten year old’s shattered and changing life is filled with introspection and insight into what children go through when we, as adults, are busy trying to care for them and handle everything else, living in the stresses of war, emigrating, loss of a husband, and so much more.  The children are going through their own battles and have years ahead of them in which to live with these life-changing events in their own ways.  With our world of today (2016) filled with war-torn countries, families fleeing for their lives, fleeing to safety and hope, this one year from a girl’s heart, soul, and mind gives the reader a real glimpse into the lives of many we may have in our own neighborhoods.


I wake up with


zipping through

my gut.

…It helps that

the morning air glides cool

like a constant washcloth

against my face.

Reading Level: 8 – 12 years


Thanhha Lai was born in Saigon, Vietnam.  After the Vietnam War in 1975, her family immigrated to Montgomery, Alabama.  She currently lives north of New York City.

“Most importantly, I’ve started a not-for-profit organization called Viet Kids Inc. to buy bicycles for poor students in Vietnam.”

You can find Ms. Lai here.

A second novel has recently been published and is a bestseller too:  Listen, Slowly


  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2011
  • Newbery Honor, 2012
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor for Older Children, 2012
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book 2012, Middle
  • Booklist 2011 Editors’ Choice, Books for Youth, Fiction, Middle Reader
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2011
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2011, Fiction
  • SLJ Best Books of 2011, Fiction
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Social Studies
  • Notable Children’s Book in the English Language Arts, 2012
  • CCBC Choices, 2012
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2012, World History & Culture

Book Information

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (January 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061962791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061962790
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches



Posted in Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book, Reading

WAITING by Kevin Henkes



Kevin Henkes has written and illustrated so simply, so beautifully, so sweetly…once again. The gentleness of patience alongside of friendship is the essence of this book.  Friends are waiting…five friends, five animal friends, five little animal toys sit on a windowsill waiting and watching.  They each wait for something different yet they all wait together.

Watch and wait with them as you turn each page.  Intently ponder the muted color illustrations along with the few words.  They blend into a special story.

The illustrations are done in brown ink, watercolor paint, and colored pencils on ivory paper.  The colors are muted: pink, aqua, tan, green — an olive green shade, and light green.  The font is brown, melding with the colors as the animals on the windowsill are woven together in friendship.

Reading Level:  4 – 8 Years


2016 Caldecott Honor Book

2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book

Boston Globe’s Best Kids Books of 2015

Horn Book Fanfare Best Picture Books of 2015

New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2015

New York Times Notable Picture Books of 2015

Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Picture Books of 2015

Wall Street Journal’s Best Children’s Books of 2015

Kirkus named this one of the Best Books of 2015



Kevin Henkes considers writing and illustrating the only real job he has ever had.  He began drawing as a young boy.  The summer after his freshman year in college, he headed to New York with his illustrations and a list of his favorite publishers.  The very first one signed him, then and there.  That was Greenwillow Books, headed at the time by its founder, Susan Hirschman.  She saw that this young man was the type of author/illustrator she was looking for.  Mr. Henkes took the fall semester off to work on a “dummy book” which became his first published picture book, All Alone (1981).   He never looked back.  Thirty-five years later, he continues to write and illustrate books that are and will remain in many-a-family’s library, remembered as favorites.

“Books are often the first exposure to art that children have. Keeping that in mind urges me to make the very best books possible. I know how important the books from my childhood were (and are) to me. Without them, I might not be a writer and artist today.

“…most of all, I love sitting alone in a quiet room drawing and painting and writing. I love my job.”  Kevin Henkes

Join me with him in his studio:

You can find him @ and several other videos too.

Book Information:

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1St Edition edition (September 1, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 0062368435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062368430
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11.5 inches