Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If you haven't heard...

I had a baby! Elliott Aaron arrived just over 7 weeks early on November 26th. He's a peanut, weighing in at just 3lbs 4oz at birth, but he's doing fantastic! We have a bit of road to go in the NICU before we're able to take him home, so the husband and I are living at a Fisher House for the next few weeks while the little guy gains weight and works on feeding. 

Posts will probably be sporadic, though I am still reading a bit and have a few guest posts set-up and ready to go. I'm sure you all understand that looking at this face:

is way more fun than blogging! See you soon!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shatter Me review

I had the "luck" last week to have to sit through a 3 hour glucose test. I sat in a freezing cold waiting room, with no television, and dozens of irritating people streaming in and out throughout the morning. What got me through this incredibly boring experience? Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me. I was able to read it in one sitting, as I read faster than I have in a long time. I couldn't help it...it's that exciting! 

The first in a new series, we're introduced to Juliette, a young girl, locked up in some sort of prison. We quickly learn that she hasn't had any physical contact with a person in almost a year. If she touches someone, they die. Uh...can we say, yikes? The new government has given her a choice: she either joins them as their weapon or she'll be killed. 

Juliette has to decide whether her life is worth torturing others for the Reestablishment's pleasure or if she'll fight against the regime. All this while attempting to deal with the horror of her condition...she can KILL people with a single touch. How does someone handle that fact?

This book hits readers on several different levels. There's the emotional aspect of what Juliette is going through with herself, the slight paranormal, the bits of romance, and then just the crazy fast pace the story moves at. The ending (no spoilers, promise), definitely has me wanting the next book, pronto! It was original and new, even in the midst of dozens of dystopian books released this year. A hard task to tackle at this point, I would imagine.

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Shatter Me
Tahereh Mafi
342 pages
Young Adult
HarperCollins
9780062085481
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week in Review

 It feels like this week has lasted forever, yet it's flown by. I'm sure that makes absolutely no sense to anyone, but that's how I feel! Lots of appointments and baby prep and almost no reading time, which makes this girl a bit unhappy. I'm hoping to catch up on some reading this coming week and really take it easy. I always say that, but I mean it this time!

Books:

I am deep in the middle of Pure by Julianna Baggott and absolutely loving it. I keep saying to Aaron that it reminds me of a mixture between The Hunger Games, Divergent, and I Am Legend (the Will Smith movie version). I can't put it down! Unfortunately, my reading time has been somewhat limited over the last few days, with driving for appointments and being so darn tired, but if I was on a normal reading pace I would have easily have finished this chunkster this weekend. It's that good!

I finished up The Death Cure by James Dashner this week, as well. Definitely exciting and will please fans of the series. I still wasn't as into this one (or book 2), as I was The Maze Runner, but overall, a good, fast-paced series.

Etsy:

Both Aaron and I have decided that our son NEEDS this:



I mean, seriously, his entire nursery is done in hippos and it's so stinkin' cute it makes me want to cry. Pregnancy hormones, I suppose. However, if someone DOES want to make this adorable hat happen for our little guy, you can buy it from the awesome Nini's Handmades. She has a super cute snail one too. Want!


Baby:

This week, we're the size of a large jicama (or a little under 4lbs). We had a lot of testing done this week, as I've started swelling more than normal and my blood pressure is much higher than anyone is comfortable with. Luckily, the baby is doing just fine, moving a lot and growing on track, so it's just me we're dealing with. I'm on modified bed rest, basically just taking it a little bit easier than I normally would, and I'm having to go in for twice-a-week monitoring. A pain in the neck, but I'll deal. 
On a FUN note, we have our tentative c-section date! It looks like I'm on the schedule for an amnio 12/19 and as long as it comes back as they would like, a c-section on 12/20. One month from today, we'll have this little guy in the world! It seems so, so soon, but the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. Let's hope things keep going alright and we keep that date!

Should have the nursery totally finished by next weekend, so pictures of that to come.


TV:

Haven't been watching a whole lot, to be honest. Good training for when the boy gets here! I'm just bored with every single show, except Modern Family and New Girl. Love those :) I'm also loving the Our America series Lisa Ling does for the OWN network. Haven't watched a single show other than that on that channel, but I love her non-biased approach to showing parts of our country we never think about. You should check it out if you haven't already. Sunday nights!

I've pretty much given up on Glee for this season and though A. and I both really like The Sing Off, the weekly two hour episodes are getting to be a bit much. There's only like 4 groups left and they drag it all out for sooooo long. We'll see if we can stick with it until the end.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Picture Book Saturday: Christmas books are arriving!

Every other year I've waited until the weekend after Thanksgiving to post about holiday books, but this year I thought I might start a little early. I've had the chance to check out a lot of fabulous books and I want to make sure you have plenty of time to get your hands on them! Parents, I know you'll be at your bookstores and libraries looking for books to make the kids happy this month, so take a look at these and hopefully you'll see something intriguing.

Oh, What a Christmas! by Michael Garland

I've always really liked Michael Garland as both an author and an illustrator. His books are funny, have silly illustrations, and get the reader hooked from the first page. His "Miss Smith" books are still some of my favorite to recommend.

This one is all about Santa losing his reindeer! Just as they are set to take off for their night of gift delivering, the sleigh separates from the flying reindeer, leaving Santa stranded. Luckily, he and the sleigh crash-land right next to a barn filled with animals, all very willing to help Santa out for the night.

A sleigh led by pigs, sheep, and cows may not be conventional, but the animals do a great job and are handsomely rewarded by Santa at the end. Cute!

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Oh, What a Christmas!
Michael Garland
40 pages
Picture Book
Scholastic Press
9780545242103
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Joy to the World: Christmas Stories from Around the Globe by Saviour Pirotta and illustrator Sheila Moxley

I love reading of other traditions from around the world during the holidays and this story collection would be a nice family read leading up to Christmas. It has stories from Mexico, Ghana, Malta, Syria, and Russia, definitely giving global coverage!

Some of the stories are a bit long for younger children to sit still and listen to, though the vibrant illustrations may help to hold their attention to the page. A great author's note is included, expanding on the specific country traditions and where the stories came from.


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Joy to the World: Christmas Stories from Around the Globe
Saviour Pirotta
48 pages
Picture Book
Frances Lincoln
978184782316
July 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker by Mary Engelbreit

I love the story of the Nutcracker (though I've never seen the ballet or a theatrical production) and Engelbreit's illustrations are some of my favorites. The story is not a whole lot different than other renditions I've read, except possibly being a bit more on the whimsical end, great for reading aloud as a family before the holidays!

The addition of the super-detailed illustrations Engelbreit is known for makes this a great gift to give for the holidays or to present to a young child before going to see the ballet. Some of the books I've seen have a tendency to lean towards the darker side the story, but this is bright, magical, and a lot of fun. A lovely book!

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Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker
Mary Engelbreit
40 pages
Picture Books
HarperCollins
9780060885793
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Michael Hague's Treasured Classics review

Since finding out I was pregnant back in May, I've been constantly on the lookout for great books to add to my new little one's enormous bookcase. I have some favorites of course, but I wanted a collection of stories that not only had nice illustrations, but also contained specific stories I knew and loved as a child. I want to use the book as a connector between my child and myself and finding the right story collection just wasn't happening. 

When this one came in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I was instantly taken by the cover. It looked old. Not old as in "dated and ugly," but old as in "from my childhood." Definitely a good thing! No bright, splashy colors, just a cool design depicting Jack from "Jack and the Beanstalk." 

I was THRILLED to find a listing of some of my favorite stories, including "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," "The Story of Chicken-Licken," and "The Ugly Duckling." The stories are pretty much as I remember them, though some changes may have been made...it's been quite awhile since I've actually read a lot of them, but for the most part they were just as I wanted. 

Just a quick side note. One of my favorite childhood memories is of my mom reading me "The Story of Chicken-Licken." Not sure when the silly name...which I love...turned into "Chicken Little," but I was really excited to see the original name.

The illustrations are excellent! Not too modern and fitting of some of the darker stories. I mean...the troll in "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is supposed to be scary...not cute, as is the wolf from "The Three Little Pigs." Yes, they might be a might evil looking for sensitive children, but I think they fit in with the stories perfectly. 

I can see myself giving this book as a baby shower gift, birthday gift, Baptism gift, etc. It's a book to grow with a child and be shared within a family. I'm so excited to have one in time for Baby Snow to arrive and I know his daddy and I will love reading him the stories as he gets older.

Buy from IndieBound
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Michael Hague's Treasured Classics
Michael Hague
133 pages
Picture Book Collection
9780911949043
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Haul-idays from Chronicle!

 

It's that time of year again!!

If you read this blog on a fairly regular basis, you'd realize how much I love the books from Chronicle. They're not only high quality reading material, but the actual physical books are always beautifully made, making for lovely gifts. My imaginary cart is filled up with $500 worth of fabulous books I would LOVE to win as a holiday gift for myself. And if I win? Someone from the comments will also win, as well as the charity of my choice, so make sure you leave a comment!

Choosing a charity was incredibly difficult, as there are so many different places I would love to give $500 worth of books to. The Libri Foundation has always stood out to me, as they attempt to place as many children's books in rural libraries as they possibly can. I grew up in an incredibly rural area and my library did not have an adequate children's section, especially for a voracious reader like myself. I would love to see $500.00 worth of great kid's books be given to them!

My "cart:"

Cake Simple by Christie Matheson
Treasured Classics by Michael Hague
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Face Stroller Cards by Jane Wattenberg
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duski Rinker
Press Here by Herve Tullet
Flour by Joanne Chang
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book
Gratitude: A Journal
Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden
Eric Carle Animal Flashcards
Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier
The Little Books boxed set by Amy Krause Rosenthal
In the Town All Year Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner
School Years: A Family Keepsake of School Memories
Blinky Bugs
Pretty Cupcake Kit
The Commonsense Kitchen by Tom Hudgens
Fresh from the Farmers Market by Janet Fletcher
New Vegetarian by Robin Aswell
My Quotable Kid
One Too Many by Gianna Merino
What Do You See Under the Sea? by Neil and Cassandra Lillard
Dinosaurs matching game
Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krause Melmed
The Giant Play and Learn Book by Pascale Estellon

I think it's a pretty great mix!

Remember, the contest ends on December 2nd, so make your lists, comment, and Tweet about the giveaway and enter your blog over here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week in Review

We had a family member staying with us this week, so I spent a lot of my time shopping and eating. I'm definitely not complaining about that, but I don't have a whole lot of book/tv news to share. I didn't finish a single book and my DVR is at almost 100%, so I think Aaron I will be spending our evening on the couch with homemade chicken soup and yummy crusty bread, catching up on shows.

Books:
I'm in the middle of Deb Caletti's newest (coming in April) The Story of Us. I'm really enjoying it so far! It combines a really nice contemporary story, which she seems to have become known for, and there's lots of dogs included. Perfect for me. 

I also just started Angelina's Bachelors by Brian O'Reilly, which has a lot more substance to it than it sounds. And there's recipes! I'm hoping to finish these two in the next couple of days. 

I do have an ARC giveaway going on until tonight and your chances are pretty great at this point! Last chance to enter, so head over here and check it out!

Baby:

This week, apparently this child is the size of four large apples. I totally laughed out loud when I read that. Really, we couldn't come up with a fruit/vegetable around 3lbs? Just four big apples? Anyways... he's growing, which is great, but I'm starting to have some of the excessive swelling and blood pressure issues that I had last time. I'm sure the doctor will have lots to say about it at my appointment on Tuesday, but I'm anticipating some bed rest in my future. Lots of reading time, which I'm totally ok with, as long as this baby can keep cooking a bit longer. I'm at 31 weeks today, so 5-6 more weeks to go. Crazy!

I need to pack up a hospital bag this week and wash a couple of outfits. 

Etsy:

I have a couple of new favorites when it comes to Etsy shops this week. My Aunt had never been introduced to the wonder that is Etsy, so though I didn't read or watch tv, I did spend a crazy amount of time browsing with her!

I love the handmade nursing covers and nursing pads from Ginger Snapzz.

These earrings just made my Christmas wishlist.

Still totally in love with this bag.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Scorpio Races review

Puck is the first female to ever enter the Scorpio Races. No one believes she can stay alive amidst the famed water horses who live only to kill whatever (or whoever) comes in their path, especially after they killed both her parents and seem to be subtly driving her older brother away from their island home, as well. Determined to prove them wrong, Puck trains with Sean, a fellow rider and lover of the otherwise feared water horses, both set on winning the race in order to prove something to themselves, their town, and even to the ocean and its horses.

Wildly exciting, yet beautifully written. I was completely enthralled with both Puck's and Sean's stories, frantically flipping pages in order to learn what would happen next. The mythical aspect was woven into the story without pause and left me wanting to research more on these water horses and the myths they take place in. Maggie Stiefvater has this unique way with words in which she can write the most exciting scenes in this calm, slow way that really makes the reader sink into the story. Her writing is just luscious.

That being said, my one small criticism is the length. I felt some passages went on a bit too long, making the overall book a little too long. The descriptions of specific settings, emotions, relationships, etc. were beautiful, but at times, wordy. A small amount of editing would have cleaned it up and left me feeling better about a fantastic 350 page novel, rather than a slightly too long 400 page novel.

As much as I loved this book, I'm really happy it's not the beginning of a new series. SO many dystopian series are out there already or just beginning, and it was refreshing to just have a really good story end. Kudos to Stiefvater for that, as well. 

Buy from IndieBound
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The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
400 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic
9780545224901
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher



I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest Post and giveaway: Andy Marino, author of Unison Spark


A huge welcome to Andy Marino, author of the action-packed thriller, Unison Spark! Today's social network-obsessed teens (and adults...ahem...) will love the fast pace and the super cool setting. Appealing to fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series for sure! 
I'm really excited about this post, as Andy has been kind enough to share some of his favorite books with us! I love learning about what authors like to read and where their writing style may have come from. You never know what you can lean about someone simply by asking them about their favorite books!
Read Andy's post and then see how you can win a copy of Unison Spark for yourself!

Today’s the day that UNISON SPARK hits shelves, and to celebrate I thought I’d mention a few books that have inspired me over the years. I’ve never been too picky about genre, target demographic, or intended age level (although I will own up to getting sucked in by awesome cover art). When I was a kid I read both YA and adult fiction of all kinds, and the same is true now. To honor this distinction, I’ve divided my short list into age-defying categories.
Adult novel I loved as a teen:
THE STAND by Stephen King
I had the mammoth “complete and uncut” edition, the author’s equivalent of an extended director’s cut. King restored a few pages that had ended up on his editor’s floor, bringing the word count up to approximately fifty million. At the time, the book felt BEYOND huge. I was already a Lord of the Rings fan so I was no stranger to sprawling works of fiction, but something about the “real-world” setting of an America decimated by a killer superflu made The Stand feel even bigger. And the abandoned cities and empty countryside were much creepier than Mordor. With the aid of some tape, the ragged mass-market paperback with newsprinty pages that I bought as a kid still lives on my bookshelf.
YA novel I loved as a teen:
REDWALL by Brian Jacques
I think I received this one as a present – I was into fantasy novels, so anything with anthropomorphic rodents, castles, and medieval weaponry on the cover was a pretty low-risk gift for me. This book (the first in a long series) is about an order of peaceful mice who defend their abbey against a roving horde of evil rats and other malevolent creatures. I remember it being so ridiculously exciting and unputdownable that it inspired me to write the author a fan letter (you can read his kind and encouraging reply on my blog). I was never quite sure about the size of the abbey – whether it was a mouse-sized building or an abandoned human-sized building populated by mice. I’d sort of like to think it was the latter.
Adult novel I love as an adult:
CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell
David Mitchell is a stone cold genius. I remember reading a review that likened the structure of this novel to “nesting dolls,” and that’s as good a description as any. Here’s how it works: the first section drops the reader onto a boat near New Zealand in the 1850s. Then the story jumps to Belgium in the 1930s at what seems like a strange place for a chapter break. These jarring time-skips continue through four more chapters, until we find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic future. This chapter is complete from beginning to end and serves as a bridge back to the second half of the fifth chapter, which transitions to the second half of the fourth chapter, and so on down the timeline until the book ends with the completion of the first chapter, back in the 1850s. Oh, and each chapter is written in a different style (my favorite is an interrogation of a genetically engineered clone-servant in dystopian future Korea).
YA novel(s) I love as an adult, 2011 edition:
I’ve read several great new YA novels this year, from the post-apocalyptic (Jeff Hirsch’s THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE) to the superheroic (Karsten Knight’s WILDEFIRE) and beyond. If adventure stories aren’t your thing or you’re just looking for a change of pace, check out IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma. Maybe I’m biased because it takes place in upstate New York, where I was born and raised, but it certainly deserves a mention because of its unexpected qualities. The book is haunting in an off-kilter kind of way that evokes David Lynch, although it doesn’t rely on the brain-melting weirdness of his movies. It’s not exactly a horror novel either, although it does sustain an atmosphere of creeping dread. A plot encapsulation won’t do it justice, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I’d recommend it if you like stories about complex sibling relationships, small towns, or the disturbingly thin line between the living and the dead.
Thanks so much again for stopping by, Andy! 
If you'd like to receive an ARC of Unison Spark, leave a comment on this post by Sunday night. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on 11/13. Two are up for grabs!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Balloons Over Broadway

What a FABULOUS book! I cannot say enough good things about Melissa Sweet's latest book, as it's not only packed with a unique, informative story, but the illustrations are just amazing. My poor husband was getting annoyed with me as I read through it, constantly telling him little tidbits of information about Tony Sarg and his Macy's puppets. So much to learn and about such a cool subject. Kids AND adults will be clamoring for this one, I think.

Readers are able to learn about the journey that all started with a 6-year-old boy wanting to become a marionette man when he grew up. That boy ended up helping to create the puppets that make up the world famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, through hard work and a fair amount of genius when it came to marionettes and puppets. I mean, really, who would think to turn a marionette puppet upside-down?? Obviously, Tony Sarg was much smarter than me.

The visuals are outstanding, allowing us fascinated readers to spend lots of time on each page, looking at the quirkiness that Melissa Sweet has created. Her mixed-media collage illustrations are bold and definitely standout. 

This was a part of history that I had not been familiar with previously and I'm sure a lot of other children and adults will appreciate learning all about how the Macy's Day parade came to be. It's a whimsical book, filled with fun and wonder, making the educational experience an absolute treat. I loved it!

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
Melissa Sweet
32 pages
Non-Fiction
Houghton Mifflin
9780547199450
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stumbling into Grace review

Over the years that I've been using different devotionals on a daily basis, I've come to realize that those that tend to work best for me, in connecting me not only to Scripture, but to how those words work into my life, are the ones that are ultimately personal. Lisa Harper writes from her heart and interjects awesome amounts of humor into the stories of how she's stumbled in grace and learned Godly lessons along the way. That particular way of writing makes it real for me and I loved this book.
Broken up into short chapters, perfect for a daily devotional, the readers are given an often humorous story of how Harper went astray at some point, did something embarrassing, etc. and how God led her back to him. Included in the chapter is a section from the Bible on how part of Jesus' journey helps work her to work through, and ultimately learn from, her own mistakes. 

There's also discussion questions at the end of each chapter, great for group discussions or simply personal reflection, as I used them for. A prayer is also included and ideas for journal entries, if you're journaling.

This has been one of my favorite devotionals to use and I'll definitely be seeking out more books by Lisa Harper. I loved the funny parts, the serious parts, and the dedication to learning that she has seamlessly blended into the book. I learned a lot AND laughed a lot, while connecting with God. 


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Stumbling into Grace
Lisa Harper
224 pages
Christian Non-Fiction
Thomas Nelson
9780849946486
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher


I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle and illustrator Matt Phelan

The picture book version of this was published way back in 2007, but since it's just now coming out in board book form (and it's a new-to-me book altogether), I thought it should count for a Picture Book Saturday post. And I love Matt Phelan. He's my illustrator crush (along with Kadir Nelson and John Rocco, of course).

When I read this, I couldn't believe I hadn't read it before! I fell in love with the sweet story of a very hairy bear (except for his no-hair nose) and the lovely flow Schertle created. We follow the bear through the seasons as he searches for salmon, snacks on yummy blueberries, and eventually cuddles up for a nice, long sleep. 

The story is utterly charming and the illustrations are just lovely. A fantastic and unique choice for a story time, as it's quieter than most, but engrossing, and perfect for a one-on-one read with your toddler or preschooler. I loved it!

Buy from IndieBound
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Very Hairy Bear 
Alice Schertle
30 pages
Board Book
Houghton Mifflin
9780547594071
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Winter is coming...where do the animals go?

I was originally going to post these books as a Non-Fiction Monday post later in November, but after the freak Northeast snowstorm this past weekend, I thought teachers and parents may want them earlier! Both are great for educating kids on what happens during the winter months of the year in the animal/insect kingdoms. 

Not a Buzz to Be Found by Linda Glaser and illustrator Jaime Zollars

Where do all the insects go during the snowy, cold winter? Glaser examines 12 different insects and their habits during the winter. And cool insects too! Ladybugs, wooly bear caterpillars, dragonflys, etc. The illustrations are excellent, a bit unique, which is always nice to see when you've looked at thousands of books.


The flow of the rhyming is a tad awkward at times, but the inclusion of facts into the rhymes, as well as the use of insects that many of us may not automatically think of, made up for that...at least for me. I may not use this as a read aloud, but to discuss insects in winter, definitely.

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Not a Buzz to Be Found: Insects in Winter
Linda Glaser
32 pages
Non-Fiction
Millbrook
9780761356448
November 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and illustrator Christopher Silas Neal

This was uses a sweet story of a child and her father spending time together, skiing through the woods in the winter, discussing where all the animals go during the cold season. He refers to it as a "secret kingdom" under the snow, which is a pretty fabulous description. We may not be able to see what the animals are doing, but Messner shows us that through clues, we can discover a lot. 

The flow of the text is perfectly paced and the softness of the illustrations, combined with the subtly of information makes this a really nice bedtime read. Teachers, don't worry, you're kids won't fall asleep if you read it in class, however it makes a nice one-on-one read as well. I really loved it! 

A small section in the back expands on each of the animals and their wintry habits.


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Over and Under the Snow
Kate Messner
44 pages
Non-Fiction
Chronicle Books
9780811867849
October 2011
Review copy provided by publisher




I am an affiliate of both IndieBound and Powells and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.