Whether for yourself or a gift, the cool crafts, activities, and ways to be kind will keep “giving” long after you finish reading the book. With 125 kind things to do and say, like learning to say hello in several languages, being the first to say “good morning,” or helping someone without being asked. Bright, uplifting illustrations wrap around unique activities and clever ways to better the world Talk about a gift that keeps on giving, this book is a must-read for everyone, any age, who loves “paying it forward,” sibs, teachers, babysitters, and more. I highly recommend all books published by Storey Publishing, as excellent activity books for the entire family, ways to get outside and do things, with books that will appeal to adults as well, like gardening, woodworking, crafts of all kinds, and inspirational, like this book Be Kind, which will help people just think of ideas and easy ways to simply, well, be nice to other people, for no reason at all.  Learn more and follow on Twitter @NaomiShulman, and @StoreyPublishing.

Ages: 11+, crossover for older and younger readers

Genre: ​Nonfiction, Self-Help, Journal, Writing, Writing Life, Writing Fearlessly, Finding Your Voice, Gift Books, Educators, Homeschool 

For fans of The Hate You Give and Us on the Come Up, this guided journal also by Angie Thomas includes 24 illustrated and inspirational quotes from both acclaimed novels, and plenty of blank pages for your own words. In addition to leading readers to write fearlesslessly--which I absolutely love!--this journal also aims to inspire anyone who harbors a desire for the writing life--also absolutely love! With advice and doable tips for developing a true-to-you writing project. This book is perfect for the times, helping readers ages 11 and up but with crossover appeal for younger and adult audiences. Offering a way to explore deep emotions, while also providing a way for creative minds to channel their emotions and experiences into a story--whether they ever share the story or not. Includes step-by-step craft tips, writing prompts, and exercises for: Discovering Story Ideas, Creating Memorable Characters, Realizing Your Setting, Shaping Your Story, and Writing Your “Zero Draft." Also makes a perfect gift for ANYONE, ANY AGE, who are fans of Angie Thomas and her excellent books, The Hate You Give and ​Us on the Come Up. Find Your Voice: A guided Journal for Writing Your Truth, by Angie Thomas, Balzer + Bray, March 2020, 9780062983930, guides users to write fearlessly and find what is true and real to you. 

Storey Publishing

The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White
Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House LLC, New York), Nov. 5, 2019, $18.99
Ages: 12+, ISBN-13: 9780525581673
Genre/BISAC: YA fiction, fantasy, Fairy-Tale Retellings, Arthurian Legend, Merlin, Magic, Medieval Literature, Intrigue, Suspense, Romance, Fierce Heroines

Camelot is no longer what it once was. All magic has been banished, even Merlin, the main protector of King Arthur. Isolated and manipulated, King Arthur’s enemies attack and eliminate his allies and protections, including magic. Though thankfully still practiced outside Camelot's borders, Merlin concocts a way for protect King Arthur with a 16-year-old changeling who impersonates and becomes Guinevere, set to marry the king. But pulling off her impersonation becomes ever-more challenging in a place where magic is greatly feared. Yet Guinevere realizes it will take more than swords and Arthur’s knights to keep Camelot free. A highly imaginative look at the Arthurian legend by a witty and talented author, a fierce heroine, some well-done romance, humor, magic, in a well-developed fantastical world with a setting that adds to the story. Learn more @kierstenwhite on Twitter and @authorkierstenwhite on Instagram. Also learn more about the publisher and reading initiatives @GetUnderlined and GetUnderlined.com and @DelacortePress.

MY FURRY FOSTER FAMILY series, TRUMAN THE DOG, Book 1, by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Melanie Demmer
Age: 5-7; Grade Level: Kindergarten-2, Picture Window Books (Capstone), Aug. 1, 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1515844754 Softcover 
Genre: Pet Books, Children’s Orphans & Foster Homes, Bookselling, Bookstores, Veterinarian Career, Animal, Pet Care, Friends, Family, STEM
The Takano’s family’s first rescue pet is a dog Kaita name’s Truman—for tricks and trouble! Any dog owner will lough-out-loud as Truman goes through all the difficulties of being in a scary, new situation, and readers will cheer Kaita on as she wins his heart and trust, with the help of her best friend, Hanna, and Ollie, the family’s dachshund. Filled with great scenes kids will totally relate to as Truman eats various items of importance and Kaita has to clean up the aftermath. But in this book and all in this series, one particularly moving and highly-effective theme comes especially in book one, as Kaita has to say goodbye. Yet she is encouraged because she knows she has helped Truman and each pet find their perfect Forever Family. Highly recommended for dog-lovers and any families with young children thinking of getting a dog. Excellent info on approach, how to handle mistakes while training and gaining trust.


In honor of Multicultural Book Day 2020, I am honored to review the first four titles in My Furry Foster Family early-reader series, published by Picture Window Books, a Capstone imprint. Individual reviews on each title appear below, but I am genuinely so impressed with this series, and it is so much more than a series that celebrates diversity—both in characters and the brilliant use of animals—extremely effective for readers in its intended age group. I love the book immediately because eight-year-old Kaita Takano’s mother is a bookseller like me, and my husband is a veterinarian. We’ve rescued animals like Joss from Happy Tails Rescue in the books. Joss helps Kaita and her family become a foster family for rescued animals, taking care of them until they find their forever home. If fact, in my household of four children, over the years we have owned every animal described in the first four books—dogs, cats, hamsters, and two bearded dragons named Igor and Tony! 

In each of these titles, diversity is “shown” simply through the character illustrations, as well as the diverse animals. The concept of diversity is done exceptionally well, in that it is organic to the story. There’s no narrative on race or differences, in the simplicity of the child-like mind, all of the characters and animals are accepted, no questions or turmoil or comments on differences other than learning more about the animals and the habitats. The characters and animals are simply accepted, as is, just because. Even more, the diverseness “shown” through the animals is celebrated, as Kaita and her friends learn more about each animal and its natural habits and habitat. This series has excellent classroom use in letting kids "see" all kinds of different people working together, with no questioning or condemnation in any way. Another brilliant aspect of this series, these everyday characters interact in stories and situations that will strongly appeal to boys and girls in the age group—animal rescue. And of additional note, each book contains STEM-related back matter, glossaries, animal facts, questions, activities, and information about the real-life, 8-year-old Kaita, a Japanese-American who rescues animals and serves as the inspiration for this highly-recommended series. Especially appealing to young readers will be Kaita’s personal notes in the back-matter of each book, with pictures of her animals, including a real-life dachshund named Ollie like in the stories. And as an added bonus, the back-matter stories and content are unique in each book. PLUS, each of these titles can be read in any order! Enjoy!

BUTTONS THE KITTEN, Book 2 in the My Furry Foster Family Series, by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Melanie Demmer
Age: 5-7; Grade Level: Kindergarten-2, Picture Window Books (Capstone), Aug. 1, 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1515844747, Softcover 
Genre: Pet Books, Children’s Orphans & Foster Homes, Bookselling, Bookstores, Veterinarian Career, Animal, Pet Care, Friends, Family, STEM 
Five baby kittens! Kaita’s next foster animal family includes five of the most adorable and hilarious kittens anyone could every know! Except for Buttons. Buttons is really shy and won’t trust Kaita, no matter how hard she tries. One by one all of Buttons littermates are adopted, but noT buttons, until Kaita finds an unexpected way to comfort the kitten. When Kaita DOES end up helping Buttons find the perfect person, Kaita makes a huge sacrifice that all children will strongly relate to—(spoiler) she gives up her favorite blanket made for her by Grandma. I tried not to cry… Excellent for teaching kids empathy, understanding, and (wow) sacrifice, SHOWN through the story and illustrations, extremely well-written and effective. Highly recommended for classrooms, homeschoolers, parents, grandparents, educators, EVERYONE. 

APPLE AND ANNIE, THE HAMSTER DUO, Book 3 in the My Furry Foster Family Series
Age: 5-7; Grade Level: Kindergarten-2, Picture Window Books (Capstone), Aug. 1, 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1515845614, Softcover 
Genre: Pet Books, Children’s Orphans & Foster Homes, Bookselling, Bookstores, Veterinarian Career, Animal, Pet Care, Friends, Family, STEM 
Katia can’t wait to learn how to take care of her latest foster animal rescues—a pair of hamsters! Food, toys, bedding, no problem! Except—it turns out Annie and Apple love to play escape and hide-and-seek! It will be hard to adopt them out if Kaita can’t find them! 

BETTY THE BEARDED DRAGON, Book 4 in the My Furry Foster Family Series, by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Melanie Demmer 
Age: 5-7; Grade Level: Kindergarten-2, Picture Window Books (Capstone), Aug. 1, 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1515845591, Softcover 
Genre: Pet Books, Children’s Orphans & Foster Homes, Bookseller, Bookstores, Veterinarian Career, Animal, Pet Care, Friends, Family, STEM 
Ah how this book made me miss my own, old beardies Igor and Tony. We had them for 10 years (they can live up to 25 years!) until we had to move and find our own animal rescue near us! We were fortunate to find a special veterinarian in our area who specialized in adopting and finding homes for reptiles. I know Igor and Tony found their perfect Forever Family. Though Kaita has a harder time learning about Betty the bearded dragon. Betty requires completely different kinds of care, like she needs to eat crickets! But before Kaita even has time to bond with Betty, she’s already getting adopted! And Kaita is shocked to discover who is going to be Betty’s new Forever Family. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR
Debbi Michiko Florence writes books for children in her writing studio, The Word Nest. She is an animal lover with a degree in Zoology, and has worked at a pet store, the Humane Society, a raptor rehabilitation center, and a zoo. She is the author of two chapter-book series: Jasmine Toguchi (FSG) and Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books). A third-generation Japanese American and a native Californian, Debbi now lives in Connecticut with her husband, a rescue dog, a bunny, and two ducks. 
Melanie Demmer is an American artist born and raised in Plymouth, Michigan. She has been drawing since she was a little girl. Back then, her favorite canvas was pavement and her go to medium was sidewalk chalk. Nowadays, Melanie likes create artwork digitally but also enjoys using watercolor, markers, colored pencils, and acrylic paint. Oh, and sometimes a pinch of glitter too!  Melanie is a 2013 graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan where she earned a BFA in Illustration. The Michigan-native has since relocated to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career in illustration and design.

Bible Gems to Remember Devotions for Kids:52 Devotions with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less, by Robin Schmitt, Zonderkidz, Aug. 2019, $14.99, ISBN-13: 9780310746256, Ages 8+, YA and Adult Interest crossover
Genre/BISAC: Juvenile Nonfiction, Christian Devotions & Prayer, Religions, Christian, Inspirational, Home Schooling, Youth Groups, Gift Book, Holiday

healthy hobbies for hard times: journaling 

Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place! 125 Kind Things to Say and Do, by Naomi Shulman, illustrated by Hsinping Pan, Storey Publishing, $12.99, Ages 5+, preschool-3, All Ages, ISBN-13: 978-1635861549
Genre: Picture Book Nonfiction, Inspirational, Activities, Gift Book, Values


Bible Gems To Remember Illustrated Bible: 52 Stories with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less, by Robin Schmitt, illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod, Zonderkidz, $18.99, ISBN-13: 9780310746881. 

The related Bible Storybook Devotional also by Robin Schmitt is perfect for younger readers ages 2-7, gorgeously illustrated, reasonably priced at $18.99, Bible Gems To Remember Illustrated Bible: 52 Stories with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less, illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod, Zonderkidz, ISBN-13: 9780310746881. Both available now… the Reason for the Season. . Truly makes a perfect gift for anyone, ages eight and up, and I mean adults too. Both available now… the Reason for the Season.
Genre/BISAC: Picture Book, Bible, Storybook Bible, Nonfiction, Christian Devotions & Prayer, Religions, Christian, Inspirational, Home Schooling, Youth Groups, Gift Book, Holiday

I had the honor of working with author Robin Schmitt during my time at Zondervan (Adventure Bible Handbook for one), and not only is he a Man of God and wonderful person, Robin Schmitt knows how to write wisdom for kids, and he does it VERY well. In his latest book of devotions, Robin delivers positive, uplifting, powerful Scriptures to meditate and reflect on—in five words or less! At a time of media-driven, 10-second attention spans that must be fed or lost to the next item, this book offers nuggets of relatable stories and ways for busy families to engage. Short, sweet, memorable Scriptures and 52 devotions designed to be done once a week offer powerful “gemstones,” Scripture of  five words or less. Gorgeous, four-color photographs throughout reiterate a sense of beauty while reminding us of our rock-solid God. This book is perfect for anyone suffering from too-busy syndrome and desires to get back into God’s Word, great gift for holidays, teachers, youth group leaders, new Christians, homeschoolers, Christian educators and libraries, oh, and middle grade boys and girls!