Category: Book Review

Book Review: “The Magdalene Malediction”

Book Review: “The Magdalene Malediction”

“The Magdalene Malediction” is the final book in the Ordeal by Fire trilogy by F. Scott Kimmich. Historical fiction at its finest, Kimmich takes readers on a treacherous journey at the end of the Albigensian (Cathar) Crusade.

Picture Book Review: “We Go To Bo”

Picture Book Review: “We Go To Bo”

Author: Larry Baum
Illustrator: Joanna Pasek
ISBN: 9781519197962
Publisher: CreateSpace 2015
Age Range: 2-5
Grade Level: Preschool-Kindergarten

Amazon Synopsis

Learning to read is difficult. We need to recognize that certain combinations of letters correspond to certain sounds and meanings. That’s not easy for adults when learning a new language. Imagine how hard that is for children, both because they’re so young and because they never made this mental breakthrough before.

When I taught my kids to read, I tried to make this big leap a little easier by choosing books with the shortest possible words. But every book I found had some long words. I wondered if a book could be written using only short words. How short? 4 letters? No problem. 3 letters. Sure. OK, then, let’s push it further. What about 2 letters? Hmm, that would be a challenge, especially to make a story that’s interesting, with characters, action, and humor. I listed the common 2-letter words: very few verbs, plenty of prepositions. How could I use this odd vocabulary? Bubbles move all sorts of ways, thus they were a great prop to soak up many 2-letter prepositions. I discovered Joanna Pasek’s charming watercolor illustrations online, and we worked together to create WE GO TO BO. We aimed to make the book as easy as possible for beginning readers. We chose large, capital letters to make words clear and obvious. I hope you can use this book to introduce children to the wide world of words.–Larry Baum

My Review

“We Go To Bo” is a charming story about friendship and is a perfect book for beginning readers. Simple in nature, this book uses only two-letter words to tell the story, making it an ideal choice for teaching your little ones how to read. 

Not An Easy Feat

Creating a book using only two-letter words sounds like an easy task, but when you think about it there aren’t very many two-letter words you can string together – to construct a story that makes sense, you really have to get creative.

Writing and Illustrations

I think the author did a nice job given the limitation on the number of words available. The illustrations tie the 2-letter-word story together beautifully, as shown below with Ed and Bo sharing a laugh as one bubble lands on Ma’s head and another in Ed’s mouth!


Having a story that connects with kids is essential and this playful tale does just that while also providing a comfortable atmosphere with words that won’t intimidate budding young readers. The bold words stand out and the beautiful illustrations are enticing and enrich the story.

The Bo Series

Since releasing “We Go To Bo,” Larry Baum has since written a series of books for beginning readers: a 1-letter word book, a new 2-letter word book and a 3-letter word book to expand upon this concept.  Joanna Pasek has started the illustrations for this new series, and a Kickstarter Campaign is running during June 2019 to help fund the project.  Check it out.

About the Author

Larry Baum grew up in Los Angeles, studied at Harvard College, and earned a PhD in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. He worked as a biologist doing research on Alzheimer’s disease and other brain diseases. He lives in Hong Kong, where his children Ryan and Ianna were born in 2003 and 2005.

When they were old enough to start reading, he looked for children’s books with simple words so that learning would be easier. But all the books he found had a mix of short and long words. He wondered whether he could write a children’s book with only short words. Using words no longer than 4 letters would be feasible. What about 3 letters? That should still be doable. Two letters? That would be a big challenge, but he tried and came up with We Go To Bo.

After being too busy with work for several years, he finally decided to hire an illustrator and publish the book himself, making the e-book free and the printed book cheap so that as many children as possible could benefit from it. Joanna Pasek’s charming illustrations caught his eye, and they completed the book in October 2015.

Review Copy

I obtained a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal”

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal”

Diana Raab
Loving Healing Press (2019)
ISBN 9781615994274
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19)

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal” by Diana Raab is the perfect complement to her book, “Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life.” Having read the book, I was eager to dive into the companion journal.

When the author was ten years old, she was given a journal by her mother to help her cope with the death of her grandmother. She has been journaling ever since. Diana Raab views journaling as her spiritual practice, providing a path to identify her priorities, an outlet for self-discovery and examination, and a way to be alone with her thoughts. 

Structured yet free-flowing.

In this companion journal, Raab provides readers with structured space to explore the world of journaling and the benefits it provides with regular practice. As with her book, the companion journal guides the reader through the process of writing for transformation and bliss.  I say structured space but feel I must clarify. The structure is in the way the book is presented, divided into different categories. From self-awareness to recalling memories, examining your life, writing about relationships and difficult subjects, writing using different devices and writing for joy and expression, the topics cover everything you need on your journey.

Remember, it’s a journey.

As this is an actual journal, it is not a book to be read through in a week.  Work at your own pace – unwrap the layers buried within yourself as you are ready.  I had a plan when I first opened the book – which included starting at the beginning and going through the exercises in order to the end. I quickly found there were some areas I was not mentally capable of exploring – yet. To me, that is part of the beauty of self-discovery. It’s not easy – it takes time, a steady practice and a commitment to see it through.

When I let go of my perfectionist tendencies and approached the entries as a tool for growth and not a “writing assignment” it was an entirely different experience. And, though I’m still not writing every day, keeping this journal on my night stand encourages me to pick it up and write whenever I need a moment to collect my thoughts or even just slow down for a bit.


“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal” by Diana Raab will appeal to a wide audience and is a worthy guide for all levels of writers. Whether you are looking of a place to begin your writing journey, are experimenting in different ways of healing, are interested in writing memoir, or an experienced writer wanting to get back to your roots – the thoughtful, inspirational guidance found in these pages will help you achieve your goals.

Review Copy

Diana Raab
Loving Healing Press (2019)
ISBN 9781615994274
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19) 
Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

Picture Book Review: “If I Could Drive, Mama”

Picture Book Review: “If I Could Drive, Mama”

If I Could Drive, Mama

Author: Cari Best
Illustrator: Simone Shin
ISBN: 9780374302054
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2016)
Age Range: 4-6 Years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1

Amazon Synopsis:

When Charlie turns a plain cardboard box into a zippy new car, he can’t wait for Mama to have the first ride. He adjusts the mirror, checks to be sure there is enough gas, and reminds Mama to buckle up. Then off they go―REV REV VROOM! There are places to visit and bumps along the way. There is even a traffic jam! By the time they return home, Mama is exhausted, but Charlie can’t wait for her nap to be over so he can drive her someplace else.

My Review

This is an adorable story about a little boy who wants to take his mother to all of her favorite places (around their home) in his new car. In the story, Mama and Charlie spend the day together in an imaginative role-reversal setting, visiting the dress shop (mom’s closet) that has all the right-sized clothes; the library (living room) with its massive bookshelf full of books; the playground (backyard), etc. After a busy day, while Mama naps, Charlie washes his new car, getting it ready for the next adventure.


For me, the story carries sweet sentiments of days past, when my own son was an imaginative little boy, and that sweetness permeates throughout the book. The mother-son relationship – an unshakeable love and bond.

The Characters

Charlie takes center stage, as he should. His delightful imagination is fun, creative, and takes “playing grownup” to another level. Mom is a great sidekick and Dad even makes an appearance, but it’s clear that Charlie is in charge of the story, doubling as the narrator.

The Writing

Overall, the writing is good, I love the storyline and the concept. It was, however, just a bit choppy for me. There are too many dialogue tags that make it a bit confusing and redundant, for example:

I say, “Which one would you like?”
And you say, “The one with pink and green.”
“That’s my favorite, too!” I say. “You can wear it to
Charlie’s Diner, which is where we are going for lunch.”

It’s a matter of preference, I think, and while it certainly doesn’t kill the story for me, I maintain it would be less confusing without all the tags.

Subtle Lessons

There are subtle lessons about car safety, sprinkled throughout the story, such as adjusting the car mirror, checking the gas level, buckling up, using turn signals, etc. These “lessons” are introduced in such a manner that kids can pretend to perform all these actions along with Charlie while they listen to the story.

The Illustrations

The illustrations are soft and muted and sets a comfortable mood and setting for the story. Charlie is an adorable toddler and his sparkle and energy jump off the pages. The pictures of the various rooms in the home and yard create the cozy feel of a child comfortable in his environment.


Overall, “If I Could Drive, Mama” is a delightful story that sparks the imagination and is a fun, creative adventure.

About the Author

Cari Best is the author of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! She grew up in New York City and lives in Weston, Connecticut.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

Picture Book Review: “This is a Good Story”

Picture Book Review: “This is a Good Story”

This is a Good Story

Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Magali Le Huche
ISBN: 978-1481429351
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2017)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Amazon Synopsis:

From E.B. White Read Aloud author Adam Lehrhaupt comes an inspiring new picture book that takes apart the pieces of a story—hero, heroine, setting, conflict—and asks the reader to put the story back together again.

As a child takes her pencil and begins to draw pictures for a story, the narrator takes her and the reader through a rollicking sequence of events in this classic tale of bad guys and townsfolk and dungeons. With simplicity and flair, Adam tells a story and then a meta-story of the parts of the story at once! A wonderful primer on the parts of a story and an imaginative way to encourage creative thinking, writing, and storytelling.

My Review

This is such a fun book that encourages young readers and future authors to write their own stories!  The author takes all the elements of a story (setting, conflict, plot, etc.) and weaves them into a story about writing a story.  Here’s an example:

“Our Story begins with Hero and Heroine.”

Picture introducing the protagonists in "This is a Good Story"

The elements of the story are boldly displayed and capitalized. Another example:

“They live in a good town, filled with good people,
called our Setting.

As with any Good Story, ours has a
Conflict, a problem that needs fixing.
and it’s a good thing, too, because without
a Conflict there would be no Plot.”

Picture describing the setting of "This is a Good Story."

Whenever there is a problem with the story (which is being written by a little girl), the narrator comes back and encourages little girl to revise her storyline.  For instance, when the little girl creates a wishy-washy antagonist, readers can feel the the narrator almost stopping her in her tracks (notice the look on her face),when he says,

“That’s not an Evil Overlord!
Come on. That’s barely a Creepy Sidekick.”

Picture of the Evil Overlord in "This is a Good Story."

The Illustrations

The pictures are amazing! I love the little girl who is “authoring” the story.  Though the narrator does all the talking, we can see how the little girl is working through the writing of the story through the pictures. Some of the looks she gives the narrator are priceless!

Glossary – An Added Bonus

There is also a one-page glossary in the back highlighting and defining all the elements of a story. This is a great addition kids can use to make sure they have all the elements included in their story.


Overall I absolutely loved this book. It’s fun, it’s creative and will inspire the imagination of  budding young authors! The age range listed on this book is 4-8 years. I’m thinking kids at the higher end of that range will enjoy it more, though the younger ones will definitely enjoy the lively, fast-action pictures!

About the Author

Adam Lehrhaupt is the award-winning picture book author of Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, Please: Open This Book!, Chicken in Space (A six book HarperCollins series continuing with Chicken in School June 20, 2017), I Will Not Eat You and I Don’t Draw, I Color as well as the upcoming Wordplay (Scholastic, July 2017), This is a Good Story (S&S, September, 2017), Idea Jar (S&S, Spring 2018) and several more he is not yet at liberty to discuss. Among the awards his titles have won are the E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor, the Wanda Gag Read-Aloud Award and the Hudson Readers Thumbs Up Award. His books have also been honored among ALA notable books, Huffington Post notable books, CCBC Choices, Bank Street Choices, Ontario Library Association ‘Best Bets’ and more.

Adam has traveled to six continents, performed on Broadway, and lived on a communal farm. He firmly believes that opening a book is a good thing, even if there are monkeys in it. Adam currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife, two sons, and two bizarre dogs. 

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!