Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mama’s Belly has a sister growing in it!

Mama’s Belly, by Kate Hosford/Illustrated by Abigail Halpin, (Apr. 2018, Abrams), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419728419

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young girl feels excitement and trepidation at the upcoming arrival of her new baby sister. The text’s language is just beautiful, beginning with the sentence, “Mama has a belly rising up, like a wave. Inside is my sister, waiting to meet me.” The girl talks to Mama’s belly, sings to it, hugs it; she dreams of holding and caring for her baby sister, but she’s also nervous: does she have to share her blanket? Will Mommy ever have a lap again, and will she still have space for her? Will Mama have enough love for both siblings? With gentle text and soft, illustrations, Mama’s Belly is an empathetic, loving story that assuages children’s concerns and warmly welcomes a new family addition.

I love that Mama gets some storytime here, too: as her pregnancy progresses, we learn that it’s not easy carrying a baby! “Mama’s belly is making her grumpy. I haven’t seen my toes in weeks!” Mama’s also tired and achy, laying down on the couch with a tender back while the girl draws for her. It helps explain why pregnant moms and caregivers may not always be able to play as baby gets closer to being born, and it models wonderful behavior: when Mama can’t see her toes, the girl counts them for her, letting her know that she still has 10. When tired Mama asks for a picture, the girl draws a multi-page “magic energy machine” to invigorate her. Papa and Mama love their little girl, and let her know that she’s an important part of their family, and that’s the most important part of getting a new sibling-to-be ready for baby. This is a nice addition to new baby collections, and a great baby shower/big sibling gift idea.


Want to see a little more? Enjoy the book trailer.

Kate Hosford is the author of several picture books, including Infinity and Me, which was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book award winner and named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, French, and Romanian. Kate lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her author website and follow her on Instagram @katelhosford.

Abigail Halpin is the illustrator of many children’s books, including Finding Wild. She lives in Southern Maine. Visit her on the web or on Instagram @abigailhalpin.


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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

A mother’s love letter to her daughter: When I Carried You In My Belly

When I Carried You In My Belly, by Thrity Umrigar/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen, (Apr. 2017, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6058-8

Recommended for readers 3-7

A mother explains where all of her daughter’s wonderful qualities were born: as she grew in her mother’s belly. Her mother laughed so hard that baby laughed, too; that’s why she has a great laugh today. Her grandmother’s loving hands built her crib, and grandfather made sweets to eat; that’s why she dreams softly at night and is so sweet. Her mother sangs joyful songs in different languages, and that’s why the girl feels at home anywhere in the world. It’s a sweet love story between mother and daughter, but also illustrates the love and importance of family.

This is a first picture book for author Thrity Umrigar, who hopes that children will come away understanding the importance of family and the importance of being kind and generous. Her text – a mother lavishing praise on her daughter while reminiscing about her pregnancy – combined with Ziyue Chen’s joyful illustrations featuring multicultural characters, invites children to laugh and play together, part of a world community.

This is a great baby shower gift: the story embraces motherhood, empowers mothers to love their bodies (mom happily belly dances with a beautiful bare midriff), and encourages mother-child interaction from the womb. I remember the little tickles and wiggles I felt with each of my boys even now. I remember playing with them, pushing on my belly in one spot and the delight in seeing a little hand (or foot) push back in response. It’s also a good reading choice for a discussion group, to get moms talking with one another, and their children, about their own pregnancies and what they love about their children. When I Carried You in My Belly is a love letter from mother to child, and a love letter to mothers everywhere.

Display this with books on family and individuality. I like Mary Ann Hoberman’s All Kinds of Families, Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, The Family Book, by Todd Parr, and What I Like About Me, by Allia Zobel-Nolan.

Thrity Umrigar is the bestselling author of a memoir and six novels, including The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and The Story Hour. Her books, articles, and more information is available via her website. Ziyue Chen’s work has been recognized in the 3×3 Picture Book Show (2014), SCBWI’s SI Scholarship (2013), the Society of Illustrators’ Student Scholarship Show (2013), and Creative Quarterly (2012). You can see more of her illustration at her website.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

See the animal mommies, count the baby animals!

Count the Baby Animals, by Guido van Genechten, (March 2017, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1605-37324-9

Recommended for readers 2-5

This fun die-cut book shows a pregnant animal mommy; with a flip of the page, she’s surrounded by her babies! Sweet rhyming text throughout invites readers to count each group of animals while offering descriptive details.

This is an adorable book to introduce to toddlers, who can point to and name animals as you read along. Encourage them to make animals sounds for each one to extend the fun. There are oodles of fun animal coloring sheets and activities available online; matching games with moms and babies would be a great choice for older toddlers and early preschoolers. You can pair this with books like P.D. Eastman’s classic, Are You My Mother?, or Nancy Tafuri’s All Kinds of Kisses (one of my personal faves).

Originally published in 2016, this is the English translation of Guido van Genechten’s original Dutch. His artwork is child-friendly, with gentle, cartoony faces and smiles. Endpapers with frolicking baby animals bring the reader right into the fun, and the sturdy paper stock will hold up to exploring little hands, who will love turning the half pages back and forth to see each mommy animal with a round belly, and later, surrounded by her babies.

How Many Baby Animals is a fun addition to toddler bookshelves and would make a fun sibling-to-be gift, too.

Posted in Fiction

Religious thriller: Cradle and All

cradleCradle and All, by James Patterson, (Sept. 2016, jimmy patterson), $18.99, ISBN: 9780316315265

Recommended for 18+

Two teenage girls fall pregnant: one in New England, one in Ireland. Both virgins; one blessed with the child of God, the other, with the child of Satan, and no one knows which mother is carrying which child. It seems like the world itself is reacting, with outbreaks of polio, famine, floods, and droughts. Former nun turned private investigator Anne Fitzgerland is sent by the Archdiocese of Boston to investigate.

This is a 1980 James Patterson book that’s been “reworked” to be YA, but I have to be completely frank here: this is not YA. I don’t know what the original book read like, but the only thing that remotely makes this book YA is the fact that there are two pregnant teenagers who aren’t even the main characters in the story. There’s sexual violence, discussions of infanticide, let’s not even get into the religious issues, and the fact that a 23 year-old woman is a Harvard graduate, hard-boiled private investigator, and well-published authority on children and teenagers. Oh, and she’s a former nun who left the convent when she fell in love with a priest, who just happens to be assigned to the same cases.

There are huge plot holes. HUGE. One of which makes the entire premise of the book fall apart at the end, if you’ve read that far. There are over 100 chapters in the book, all ranging from about 1 1/2 pages to 4 pages, which makes for some choppy reading (at least for me). It was a disappointing experience for me, and it’s not because I read children’s and YA books over adult books (because I’ve seen that leveled at some folks, believe it or not) – it just wasn’t that good of a book, and I’m a little irritable that James Patterson and his people would even consider releasing this as a YA novel (again, because, pregnant teens).

I’m clearly not the audience for this book. I’m bemused that the jimmy patterson imprint will release this along with books like his excellent Middle School series, and the Maximum Ride YA series that disappears off my shelves. Read this one for yourselves and use your own judgement; I was not a fan. I’ll go re-read Good Omens next time I want to read about a rumble between Heaven and Hell.


Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Vault of Dreamers continues with The Rule of Mirrors

rule of mirrorsThe Rule of Mirrors, by Caragh O’Brien (Feb. 2016, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596439405

Recommended for ages 12+

About a year and a half ago, The Vault of Mirrors had me on the edge of my seat with its mindgame narrative and cliffhanger ending, so when I saw that its sequel, The Rule of Mirrors was finally available through Edelweiss, I was all over it. I was not disappointed.

Rosie is back, but she’s not at Forge School anymore. She’s not in the vault of dreamers anymore. Actually, Rosie’s not in just one place anymore: she’s been mined, and one of her dream seeds has taken root in a coma patient: a pregnant Latina girl named Althea.

Told in first person narratives, we get Thea’s and Rosie’s stories. While Rosie’s consciousness lives on in Thea’s body, Thea appears to be gone, and she struggles to make sense of everything around her. Rosie is desperate to escape her circumstances and get revenge on Dr. Berg, the Forge School dean who imprisoned her.

This second book in the Vault of Dreamers trilogy is just as gripping and plays just as many mindgames as the first. If you thought there were moral quandaries in the first book, you haven’t read anything yet. O’Brien presents a host of new dilemmas in Rule of Mirrors, including pregnancy, keeping a coma patient alive, and what happens when one person’s consciousness is transferred into another person’s body?

This is a brilliant trilogy that shouldn’t be missed. Great for teens, great for adults, great for dark fantasy fans. Don’t miss!