Thursday, October 27, 2022

Christmas from Candlewick Press: "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," & "A Very Mercy Christmas" [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Samuel Clement & illustrated by Matt Tavares ISBN: 9781536217995

My thoughts:
Many renditions of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas have graced homes and libraries since the poem's first publication. The cadence. The rhyme. The story of jolly Santa. The magic of it all has captured the heart and mind of young and old alike. Of course, it is all just a story, just nonsense, just a tradition but even so, it is also fun.

The illustrations by Matt Tavares in this edition are evocative of books of "yesteryear" and capture a feeling of the "warm-fuzzies" deep in our hearts. I love the black and white drawings reminiscent of books of old. I love how the richness of the Christmas season is captured.

If you love the poem, you probably want this copy for your collection.

About the book: Exquisitely detailed drawings by Matt Tavares embody the spirit of a magical night in a lavish, full-size gift edition marking the two-hundredth anniversary of the classic poem.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Once upon a time, children imagined St. Nicholas as a stern, skinny bishop who was as likely to dole out discipline as Christmas presents. But thanks to the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”—written by Clement C. Moore in 1822 and published the next year in the Troy Sentinel—a plumper, merrier St. Nick was born, transformed into the sleigh-riding, chimney-diving jolly old elf we now call Santa Claus. With gorgeous monochrome illustrations by Matt Tavares that are meticulously true to pre-Victorian times, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas Or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas honors the poem’s original language in a definitive keepsake volume.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost & illustrated by P.J. Lynch  ISBN: 9781536229141

My thoughts:  Everyone needs a bit of Robert Frost in his or her life. I love his attitude on "free verse" and prefer nice rhyming verse with lovely cadence.

P.J. Lynch's illustrations are breathtakingly lovely. They depict the failing light as evening encroaches and one is journeying down a lonely road on a snowy evening. It is dark. It is cold. It is lonely. The traveler contemplates where he is and whose woods he is traversing.

This is a beautiful book and a wonderful way to introduce one of America's great poets to children.

About the book: Just in time for its centennial, Robert Frost's cherished poem is showcased in a beautiful keepsake edition illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Whether memorized by schoolchildren or used to eulogize a president, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” written in 1922 and published in 1923, has found a place as one of the best-loved and best-known American poems of the last hundred years. Now, six decades after the passing of its author, Robert Frost, celebrated artist P.J. Lynch brings this classic to new life with exquisitely detailed illustrations, evoking its iconic moments and wintry setting on the outskirts of a small village. 

About Robert Frost: Flinty, moody, plainspoken and deep, Robert Frost was one of America's most popular 20th-century poets. Frost was farming in Derry, New Hampshire when, at the age of 38, he sold the farm, uprooted his family and moved to England, where he devoted himself to his poetry. His first two books of verse, A Boy's Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), were immediate successes. In 1915 he returned to the United States and continued to write while living in New Hampshire and then Vermont. His pastoral images of apple trees and stone fences -- along with his solitary, man-of-few-words poetic voice -- helped define the modern image of rural New England. Frost's poems include "Mending Wall" ("Good fences make good neighbors"), "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" ("Whose woods these are I think I know"), and perhaps his most famous work, "The Road Not Taken" ("Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- / I took the one less traveled by"). Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times: in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943. He also served as "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress" from 1958-59; that position was renamed as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry (or simply Poet Laureate) in 1986.

Frost recited his poem "The Gift Outright" at the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy... Frost attended both Dartmouth College and Harvard, but did not graduate from either school... Frost preferred traditional rhyme and meter in poetry; his famous dismissal of free verse was, "I'd just as soon play tennis with the net down."

A Very Mercy Christmas (Hardback) by Kate DiCamillo & illustrated by Chris Van Dusen ISBN: 9781536213607

My thoughts: 
Delightful Mercy pig and enthusiastic Stella Endicott set out to bring a bit of joy to the Christmas season by trying to garner interest in forming a Christmas caroling group from the neighborhood.

Sadly, she is met with rudeness, busy people, uncooperative folks. 

So she seeks other help. 

A sweet joyful book the littles in your clan will enjoy.

About the book: For fans of Mercy Watson, old and new, comes a joyful crescendo of favorite characters in a picture-book celebration of the quiet miracles the holidays bring. Mercy ornament included!

Stella Endicott felt joyful. She felt like something miraculous might happen. She wanted to sing.

When Stella gets the sudden idea to go caroling, she has a little trouble getting someone to join her. Her brother, Frank, is not good at spontaneity. The Watsons are very involved in a precarious fruitcake attempt (but happy to send their pig, Mercy, out for the occasion). Eugenia Lincoln declines, a bit rudely, to accompany on her accordion, and Horace Broom is too busy studying planetary movement. Will Stella need to sing by herself—with enthusiastic contributions from the pig, the cat, and the horse she picks up on the way? Or does the evening hold a miracle Stella hadn’t expected? With tender affection for Mercy Watson and all her Deckawoo Drive friends, Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen offer a picture-book homage to the season that is perfectly suited for family sharing—perhaps with some cups of hot cocoa and a stack of well-buttered toast. 

Begins October 27
Ends November 21 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA addresses
NO P.O. Boxes, please
Phone required for Canadian winners.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A Model of Devotion (The Lumber Baron's Daughters #3) by Mary Connealy [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts:  
The conclusion of "The Lumber Baron's Daughters" series by Mary Connealy was packed with humor, love, excitement, villains, heroes, sabotage, strong female characters, justice, and an exiting conclusion. I totally enjoyed this entire series.

The female lead, Jilly is the third daughter and her talent and intelligence give her the ability to design and carry out the building of a railroad in the mountains to carry the lumber down the mountain. This requires tunnels, trestles, and a swivel bridge over a river. 

Danger and villainy are in the midst of all this advancement. 

I highly recommend this series and believe that readers will thoroughly enjoy each book and especially this concluding story of Jilly and her love interest, Nick.

About the book: A brilliant engineer, Jilly Stiles has been educated since childhood to help run her father's dynasty. Now with the company safe after the marriages of her two sisters, Jilly can focus on her dream of building a mountaintop railroad--and never marry.

Nick Ryder came into Jilly's life when he saved her mother from her no-good stepfather, and he's prepared to protect Jilly from anything that threatens to harm her. Haunted by the pain of his own past, Nick is determined not to get his heart involved while protecting Jilly from losing her hard-won independence.

But when a cruel and powerful man goes to dangerous lengths to make Jilly his own, marrying Nick may be the only way to save herself and her dreams.

About the author: Mary Connealy ( writes "romantic comedies with cowboys" and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has sold more than one and a half million books. She is the author of the popular series Brothers in Arms,... Continue reading about Mary Connealy
Begins October 25
Ends November 21 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided by author and is shipped directly to winner. Chat With Vera is nor responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

ART WITH A HEART FOR UKRAINE Illustrated by Children of Ukraine: 100% of the book's proceeds go directly to rebuilding & supporting Ukrainian schools & communities

ART WITH A HEART FOR UKRAINE: UKRAINIAN CHILDREN’S ART PROJECT a collection of powerful artwork from the hearts and minds of Ukrainian children

NASHVILLE, TN – Complete strangers collaborate to create a powerful retrospective of art amidst war from the children of Ukraine.  Available October 15, 2022, as a softcover book, eBook, and digital retrospective, Art with a Heart for Ukraine features beautiful and heart-wrenching artwork from Ukrainian children, many of whom lost their schools completely.  This expression comes from the hearts of children depicting not only their despair and cruel reality but also their enduring belief in love and hope.

With the lives of millions of Ukrainians uprooted and hundreds of communities, including schools destroyed, Linda Ragsdale, a terror attack survivor herself and founder of The Peace Dragon, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching children about personal and world Peace connected on Facebook with perfect stranger Ukrainian-American, Inna Golovakha of Project SELO, a non-profit language-based organization who recognized their aligned missions.   The two organizations joined forces by reaching out to a network of Ukrainian teachers and parents, and within three weeks, over 150 pieces of emotionally driven works of art flooded in.  Today these two countries are forever connected through this honest expression from children living in a war zone combining the passion and purpose of two women dedicated to spreading world peace. 

Ragsdale enlisted the help of FlowerPot Press, publisher of her award-winning, The Peace Dragon Tales Series, who quickly donated their creative services to publish a soft cover and eBook called Art with a Heart for Ukraine, available October 15, 2022.

100% of the book's proceeds will go directly to rebuilding and supporting Ukrainian schools and communities destroyed by the war. Ragsdale and Golovakha are available for press interviews and can display the artwork digitally and tell this heart-wrenching yet uplifting story.

According to AP News Wire, over 260 schools simply do not exist any longer, and nearly 2400 have been severely damaged.  Another 3500 will operate remotely, but these children's resilience, honesty, and hope live on in their art. 

Purchase the book, please visit

"Art With a Heart for Ukraine" Illustrated by Children of Ukraine - US $25.00  | Softcover  | 32 pgs. | All Ages

BACKGROUND: The Peace Dragon: Linda Ragsdale founded The Peace Dragon after surviving the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and used art as an integral part of her recovery from her machine gun bullet wound.  It became an integral part of her life’s calling.  Today she travels the world to help students of all ages find, keep and inspire peace through stories, art, and activities. She created The Peace Dragon and, together with the world’s children, has drawn over 100,000 dragons, giving the children the opportunity to connect with the gift they’d like their dragons to bring to the world. With the war starting, Linda contacted schools to send cards to the displaced families to let them know they were seen, heard, and supported. She truly believes art, in all its forms, heals.

Linda is an author, illustrator, international speaker, and peace teacher.  She developed her Peace Dragon Tales picture book series to help children harness their fiery and emotional energies and redirect them into peaceful and productive outcomes. She developed a heart-centered curriculum that she takes worldwide, encouraging kids to set peace as the default response to any life challenge. Find her personal story of choosing peace, along with activities and downloads, at

Project: Inna Golovakha is the founder of Project SELO, which helps Ukrainian teachers practice their English with American volunteers. These interactions naturally foster an exchange between the countries. When the war started, it became a gathering place for survivors to be heard and seen. It was through Project SELO that a pen pals program, class connections, and art as a support mechanism were seeded. Through these joined connections, support has already been provided to schools, teachers, and students in war-torn Ukraine.

Inna is a Ukrainian-American whose life was always spent between two countries. In 2017 she started her non-profit Ukrainian Cultural Initiatives and published a quarterly magazine, The Ukrainian: Life and Culture, helping Americans become familiar with Ukrainian contemporary culture. This led her to Project Radowell, founded by local philanthropist Mykhailo Veselskyi to help children from local villages receive a public education with American teachers. Inna saw how the English language is needed but not accessible to teachers in the villages. This led her to form Project SELO, where American volunteers connect virtually to converse with Ukrainian teachers and practice their English.

DISCLOSURE: This is a charity posting. I was not compensated. The Ukranian war is heartbreaking on all levels but the effect on children simply breaks my heart.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

O Little Town (A Romance Collection) by Deborah Raney & Amanda Wen; Contributor: Janyre Tromp from Kregel Publishing (3 novellas)

"In this heartwarming compilation, three talented authors bring us the perfect blend of small-town nostalgia and holiday warmth . . . [as] timeless as the notes of a favorite carol and as softly luminous as lights twinkling on an evergreen tree."
--Amanda Barratt, Christy Award-winning author of The White Rose Resists

My thoughts:  What a fun, entertaining, clean collection of novellas set in a small town and sweet romances during different generational periods.

All three stories were delightful but I think my favorite would be "While Mortals Sleep" by Janyre Tromp. This was the middle story and took place during WWII and involved the little known fact of enemy dangers on American soil, mysterious death, and possible treason. It is all wrapped together with a childhood friendship that blossoms into a sweet romance.

I really enjoyed this set of novellas and they provided some hours of very pleasant reading.

About the book: In this charming collection of novellas, join three generations of Mapleview, Michigan, residents longing for love--and finding it--on the most wonderful night of the year.

"Hopes and Fears" by Amanda Wen

Emma Trowbridge is determined to give her students the Christmas pageant of a lifetime. The last person she expected, or wanted, to encounter in her two-room classroom is her childhood rival, Frederick Oberstein. He would rather be far away himself. He wants no part of cheer, Christmas or otherwise. Can they learn to see each other in a new light--and embrace a new season of hope and faith together?

"While Mortals Sleep" by Janyre Tromp

While World War II rages overseas, news reporter Eleanor Sweers returns home to Mapleview to face the repercussions of the death of her sister and her nightmare of Christmases past. But the homefront isn't as far from the war as she thought: a bomb has landed in the middle of the U.S. Now Eleanor and family friend Gideon Braum may have to choose between the scoop of a lifetime and the love of a lifetime.

"The Wondrous Gift" by Deborah Raney

High school football coach Caleb Janssen and music teacher Rachel Hamblin bond when they both lose their jobs at a Christian school. But when they discover their plans for the future are mutually exclusive, the fallout threatens to tear them apart.

Read an excerpt

Click here to see purchase options

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A chill in 'Carolina

 I just wonder how other folks here in middle North Carolina feel about being slammed with winter when summer had forgotten it was finished. Summer seemed to linger lazily amongst us letting us bask in warm sun and gentle breezes. (Of course, we will just ignore the fact that hurricanes do have more than gentle breezes and do blot out our sun!)

But really, yesterday morning I awoke to a "hard freeze" as we call it here in the Tar Heel state. The ground was crisp and frosty white. Leaves on hydrangea bushes blackened. Beautiful blue hydrangea blossoms chillingly browned.

And again today, we woke to cold. Tonight it is cold. Though our beautiful Carolina Blue skies and warm sunshine did make the day a joy.

So we're in for it now. Maybe there will be a bit of "Indian Summer" or maybe not. But in 'Carolina the saying is..... "If you don't like the weather, wait until this afternoon and it'll be a different season."

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas & Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Gift Edition) [Review & Giveaway]

"A Welsh poet recalls the celebration of Christmas in Wales and the feelings it evoked in him as a child." --by Dylan Thomas 1914-1953

My thoughts: Prepare yourself, and your child/children, for a journey back in time for boyhood stories spun from the pen of a Welsh poet. The poetic prose will draw word pictures your mind has forgotten how to frame.

Please note, this little book is not poetry. It is prose. The author, Dylan Thomas was a poet. Below I have shared one of his poems.

The stories begin with young boys out in the cold, snowy December afternoon on Christmas Eve and they spy some cats. So they begin to make snowballs to throw at the cats. When they hear a lady screaming "fire" and smoke is coming out of the house. 

Only that is my flat, plain way of describing the beginning story. Dylan Thomas' silver pen wraps words around each other and you can see deeper into the scene, feel the cold bite of the December snow, hear the action. 

What a joy to read such descriptive prose. 

Then we continue on with another of the Christmas boyhood experiences. I don't know if the author told his remembrances of a single Christmas or over a span of years. But they are boyhood recollections. They are beautifully told. The boys actions speak to boys everywhere through the years. Boys in the cold snow. Boys with aunts and uncles at Christmas. Boys and their escapades.

Beautifully told, a treasure to have a recall the days when writing was replete with detailed descriptions, long and thorough sentences. 

I would be remiss to not speak about the wonderful illustrations. So many, so detailed, so expressive. They truly capture the time, place, emotions, actions. I love them.

ISBN: 9780823438709
$14.95 US

About the book: 
The enduring holiday classic, lavishly illustrated by multiple Caldecott Medalist Trina Schart Hyman, is now available in a gift edition for a new generation of readers.

This nostalgic recollection of Christmas past by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas evokes the beauty and tradition of the season at every turn: the warmth of a family gathering; the loveliness of a mistletoe-decked home; the predictability of cats by the fire; the mischief and fun of children left to their own devices; and the sheer delight of gifts—be they Useful or Useless.

Readers will cherish this beautiful hardcover edition of the classic A Child's Christmas in Wales complete with gold-foil stars, a debossed, glossy front picture, and sparkling snowflakes. Once inside, readers are rewarded with stunning, midnight-blue endpapers sprinkled with a flurry of more snowflakes. This book is a must-have gift for the season.

Brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott medalist Trina Schart Hyman with a combination of more than 40 full-color and sepia-toned images, this beautiful edition of Thomas's beloved classic will enchant readers of all ages, year after year.

I found a YouTube audio of Dylan Thomas himself reading this book. Wow! Wonderful! Click Here
Begins October 20
Ends November 15 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
        --Dylan Thomas

DISCOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by Holiday House Publishing or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Christmas books for kiddies: "Christmas Street," "Christmas Is Joy," & "Sing Along With Me! Jingle Bells" [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

Christmas Street by Jonathan Emmett & illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius (Ages 2-5, ISBN: 9781536227529, $17.99 US/$21.99 CAN)

My thoughts: 
 This is an absolutely charming, fun alphabet book focusing on Christmas. It is a fold-out book and as it expands it creates a street scene. On each page there are 2 lift-the-flaps that reveal a line of the lilting poem. Nice rhyming and cadence.

The illustrations are absolutely delightful. Cute. Lively. Lots of treasures to  find in the pictures.

The reverse of the fold-out-street scene is a lively snow scene where the children can formulate their own story telling.

A delightful book that has a ribbon closure tie to hold it all together.

I highly recommend.

About the book: This spectacular lift-the-flap Christmas alphabet story is a book, a fold-out play-scene, and a beautiful festive frieze to decorate your room—the perfect Christmas gift!

Everyone is busy on Christmas Street! Who is baking gingerbread? Who is wrapping presents? And who's that coming down the chimney? Find out in this follow-up to Alphabet Street. And after you read the rhyming story, lift the flaps to learn the letters of the alphabet and seasonal words. Then flip the book and have fun with the giant snowy concertina play-scene on the reverse! With two large, sturdy flaps on every spread; bright, cheerful artwork from Ingela P. Arrhenius, illustrator of the best-selling series of lift-the-felt-flap board books and the Peekaboo board book series; and a clever rhyming text from Jonathan Emmett, this is a charming Christmas alphabet book that little ones will return to again and again.

Christmas Is Joy by Emma Dodd (Ages 2-5, ISBN: 9781536215458, $14.99 US/$19.99 CAN)

My thoughts: 
 Illustrated with snowy scenes of reindeer in various groups with falling snow, evergreens, stars, sun, and a novel sprinkling of silver highlights on the scenes, it is a joy to read.

A simple poem of sweet emotions that often accompany one's Christmas experience, the words flow easily and speak to the heart.

Simple. Lovely. But not outstanding.  

Care should be taken when reading in groups of children as all children do not experience these lovely emotions nor have delightful experiences at Christmas. 

A lovely book for those whose families have lovely Christmas times.

About the book: An enchanting celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, featuring two adorable reindeer

Christmas is love that lasts all year.
It's all of us, together, here.

Christmas is peace, stars twinkling above,
a night of sweet dreams and a heart full of love.

Emma Dodd's joyful celebration of this wonderful time of year, as seen through the eyes of two reindeer, is a pure delight.

Sing Along With Me! Jingle Bells (Ages 0-2, ISBN:9781536227451, $8.99 US/ $11.99 CAN) 

My thoughts: 
 This is such a cute board book. The words of the song "Jingle Bells" is the text for the cute scenes of wintry time and Santa (bear) and his sleigh. Only this time the sleigh is pulled by a horse and not reindeer.

There are action pull-outs, turns, and fun pieces on each two-page spread providing interaction and fun for the wee ones.

There is a QRcode you can scan to listen to the sing & sing along. Here it is, too, on YouTube.

About the book: An elegant cut-paper edition of the classic Christmas song transforms with each turn of the page and offers a spectacular pop-up finale.

Written by American songwriter James Lord Pierpont for Sunday-school children to perform at an 1857 Thanksgiving concert, “Jingle Bells” is now an irreplaceable part of Christmas traditions around the world. Niroot Puttapipat’s exquisite cut-paper edition, with their silhouetted illustrations at once bold and delicate, follows a sleigh ride across a snowy landscape. Featuring scenes that change on every spread and a stunning 3-D pop-up at the end, this holiday keepsake captures the thrill of a winter adventure and the magic of the season.
Begins October 19
Ends November 14 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA addresses
NO P.O.Boxes, Canadian phone required
DISCOSURE: I received complimentary books to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Prizes are provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Beginner's Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine & illustrated by André Ceolin [Review & Giveaway]

A Beginner's Guide to Being Human, ISBN: 978-1506481739; Hardcover $17.99; Ages 4-8. 32 pages)

Welcome to Humanity!

You’re really going to enjoy it.

The human species has so much to offer:


Opposable thumbs.

And a tremendous amount of diversity.

Put these all together and you’ve got an amazing life ahead of you!

However, to get the most out of your human experience, there are a few things you should know.

Being a human is a lot of work! Thankfully, humans experience many of the same feelings, situations, and challenges, so we don't have to figure it all out on our own--we can help each other navigate the ups and downs. Full of humor and heart, this engaging guide inspires kids to be humans who are kind, empathetic, and thoughtful. No matter what our day brings, we can choose to practice self-control, compassion, and forgiveness. Don't worry, young human, it's okay to make some mistakes along the way--just remember that it's love that keeps us all afloat at the end of the day.

Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Kids of 2017. His picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021), co-authored with Charles Ghigna, was deemed "a necessary addition to picture book collections" by ALA's Booklist. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children's Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020).

André Ceolin, illustrator, studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has illustrated over twenty books for children. André lives in Brazil with his family.

My thoughts: The concept of the book is good in that it teaches that humans experience behaviors and emotions that set them apart from the animal kingdom. We do, as humans, need to learn and practice these differences because we are prone behave or feel the opposite of them.

I am sure that parents and teachers can find good use for this book.

Begins October 18
Ends November 4 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publicist or publisher. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. NOTE: I personally do not care for the "two-daddies" illustrations on several of the pages. I personally believe in the Biblical construct of marriage and family which differs. The text does not indicate the different style families, just the illustrations.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Away in a Manger illustrated by Jean Claude from Kregel Children's Books [Review & Giveaway USA]

ISBN: 9780825447662
Price: $15.99
My thoughts:  This old, beloved Christmas carol is illustrated with dark scenes that capture the night when stars shone brightly and the Christ child was born. The words of the classic hymn-carol, "Away In a Manger," flow across the pages as illustrator Jean Claude deftly recreates the Biblical narrative drawing the young child's attention and bringing him delight.

Not too cutesy nor truly realistic, there is joy and delight in the scenes. And as the sweet song ends, a blessing is invoked for "all the dear children in Thy tender care."

Truly a classic every child should learn. A treasure.

About the book: A classic carol reimagined in a beautiful picture book

This delightful, full-color picture book brings "Away in a Manger" to life for three- to six-year-olds. Filled with characters and animals from the nativity scene, this Christmas book for kids illuminates the wonder of the Christmas story through the lyrics of the beloved carol.

With stunning illustrations from artist Jean Claude, this book is ideal for reading together, or singing along, as a family. Parents and kids alike will discover afresh the joy of one of the most well-known Christmas tunes in the world. It's also a wonderful tool for introducing young children to the Christmas story in a way that's easy to remember and is utterly engaging. Buy it:

Illustrator: Jean Claude is a self-taught illustrator from the UK, currently living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. His previous work includes Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies and Albert Einstein from the “Little People, Big Dreams” series.

Begins October 13
Ends November 7 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions expressed are solely my own and are freely given.  Giveaway prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by Kregel Publications. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex: A Grady Whill Adventure by Carole P. Roman [Giveaway]

About the book: (Read an excerpt) 
Templeton Academy- the superhero high school is finally open! The prestigious institution is recruiting the best of the best to enroll in its student body. The school is as mysterious as it is exclusive. 

Grady Whill thinks there is nothing special about him to make the grade. However, his best friend, Aarush Patel has been selected and thinks Grady has the right stuff. Even school bully, Elwood Bledsoe is attending. If Grady is fortunate enough to be picked, his guardian has forbidden him to attend.

Will a family secret prevent Grady from becoming the superhero he was destined to be? Find it on Amazon

Begins October 12
Ends November 7 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy. I have not read the book nor can I endorse it without reading it. The author has written a lot of younger children's books which I have gladly read, reviewed, and endorsed. I expect this middle school age book to be fun and an enjoyable read for the age group. Giveaway winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by the author or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Monday, October 10, 2022

If Mama Ain’t Happy: Why minding healthy boundaries is good for your whole family by Rachel Norman [Giveaway]

If Mama Ain’t Happy: Why minding healthy boundaries is good for your whole family

My thoughts: 
Personally, I'm way past the "mama to a slew of kiddies" stage of life, but this book resonates deep within my being. It is a hard life being mama when the chores, daily schedules, lack of empathy, constant demands on one's being, and a constant general malaise seem to be your existence. But how to change it? How to still be mama and meet the demands on your core being. 

The author's approach seems, to this grandmother, to a nice and workable way to reach a point where you can do and still be healthy.

I didn't read the entire book but listened to excerpts and I like what I heard. I think she's really onto something. The old saying "If mama ain't happy....." was a harpy way of saying keep the  mama of the roost happy or ELSE you'll regret it. That IS NOT what this author is touting. 

About the book: 
Rachel used to be a mom who spent her days weary, anxious, and guilt laden. She had five kids in five years, lived on three different continents, and then was blindsided by a devastating health diagnosis. Neglecting her own physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs for so long—in an effort to be a selfless mother—had left her utterly depleted. And physically unwell. Then she began asking a question she’d never considered before: Could it be that taking good care of myself is not actually selfish, but maybe, just maybe, something a responsible adult does? 

In this countercultural book, Rachel takes some weight off your shoulders by:

Offering hands-on, rubber-meets-the-road strategies to cultivate a life you aren’t trying to constantly escape

Teaching you to discover and claim your own limits and boundaries so you can be a calm, resilient, peaceful mother

Showing you how to shape your daily life and values around the few things that really matter, and how to let the rest go

If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But when mama is at peace? Everyone benefits!



Author accounts:

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy to facilitate a review/post. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Giveaway is hosted by publicist and prize is provided and shipped to winner/s by publicist, publisher, or author. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Fabulous Dinosaur Atlas from National Geographic Kids [Giveaway - USA/CANADA]

Welcome to the National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of the National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas on September 20th, come along on a blog tour that spans the continents as we showcase not only the most awesome dinosaurs, but also highlight the geography, environment, and climate that supported these ferocious, fascinating, and fabulous creatures. This is a blog tour to really sink your teeth into!


More dinosaur fossils have been found in Asia over the past few decades than on any other continent. During the Mesozoic era, the Asian deserts, plains, and mountains of today were covered in plants and swamps. As the land shifted, lakes and mountain ranges formed across East Asia. Dinosaurs roamed the region. Today, dry deserts and rocky mountains keep their fossils safe. More and more people are looking for fossils in Asia—and finding them!

click to enlarge

Dinosaur Nesting Ground
In 1976 in South Africa’s Golden Gate Highlands National Park, eggs were found with baby Massospondylus fossils inside. In 2006, paleontologists found 10 more groups of eggs. One group had at least 34 eggs! Massospondylus mothers raised babies here about 200 million years ago. That makes it the oldest known site where dinosaurs nested in groups. Back then, this area was near a lake. When it flooded, the eggs were covered with sediment and became fossils.



In 1976, Thailand’s first dinosaur fossil was found—by accident! Geologists were searching the area for a metal called uranium when they came across a fossilized dinosaur knee bone. The place where it was found, Phu Wiang National Park, is now known as one of the world’s biggest dinosaur graveyards. Paleontologists have found fossils of many animals—from theropods to small crocodiles to mussels—in the Phu Wiang mountains. During the time of the dinosaurs, this northeastern part of Thailand was full of giant trees. A big group of rivers split the area into islands. Then, later in the Cretaceous period, it became a desert.

Dino Discoverer: Xu Xing
Microraptor was announced in 2003 by paleontologist Xu Xing. He has found more than 60 fossils in China. He has named more dinosaurs than any other paleontologist alive. That’s how he’s earned the nickname “China’s dinosaur king.” He spends his summers looking for fossils in western China.


MEANING: “Phu Wiang lizard” 
PERIOD: Early Cretaceous 
Only a small part of this 50-foot (15.2-m) sauropod skeleton was found in 1982. But when paleontologists came back to the site in 1993 they found two more pieces of neck bones. These helped them figure out that this fossil was a very early titanosaur. In 1994, it was named Phuwiangosaurus. Later, in 2009, a much more complete Phuwiangosaurus was found nearby. It included parts of the skull. Now Phuwiangosaurus is Thailand's most complete fossil. 

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How Do Dinosaurs Get Their Names?
When paleontologists find a fossil that doesn’t look like anything that’s been found before, they get to come up with a new name. Sometimes they use the name of the place where the fossil was found. Or they name the dinosaur after one of its unique body parts. Other times, they name it after a person. That’s how a name like Sirindhorna khoratensis came to be. The genus name uses Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s last name. The species name comes from the place the fossil was found: Khorat, in northeastern Thailand.


About the Book


With more than 75 prehistoric creatures featured, the National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas takes readers on a tour of every dinosaur-inhabited continent, from Pangea to the modern day, revealing which creatures lived there, what their habitats were like and where dinosaur bones are being found today. Special sections introducing the dinosaur family tree, a prehistoric era timeline, the geography of the prehistoric globe, what happened to the dinosaurs, and a dinosaur dictionary  (with phonetic pronunciations) are also included . Readers will find inspiration from profiles of diverse paleontologists from around the world. 

The oversized hardcover format showcases stunning, full color dinosaur illustrations on every page and the custom-made, kid-friendly maps were created by National Geographic's legendary cartography and exploration experts. Vetted and curated by Dr. Steve Brusatte -- a paleontologist on faculty at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburg, a PhD recipient from Columbia University, and the science consultant for the Jurassic World franchise -- this atlas contains the most detailed and accurate information not only about dino "fan favorites" but also about the most recent dinosaur discoveries from less explored dig sites around the world. 

For more fun information about dinosaurs, visit

About the Creators

Website | Twitter

About the Expert Reviewer, Professor Steve Brusatte:
STEVE BRUSATTE, a paleontologist on the faculty of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, served as the expert reviewer for this atlas. He grew up in the midwestern United States and has a B.S. in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago, M.Sc. in Paleobiology from the University of Bristol, and Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Columbia University in New York. He has written more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers during his 15 years of research in the field, named and described over a dozen new species of dinosaurs and mammals, and led groundbreaking studies on how dinosaurs rose to dominance and eventually went extinct, and were then replaced by mammals. Among his particular research interests are the evolutionary transition between dinosaurs and birds and the rise of placental mammals. He is also a noted specialist on the anatomy, genealogy, and evolution of the carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor. His 2018 book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, was a New York Times best seller, and he is the science consultant for the Jurassic World film franchise.


Website | Instagram

About the illustrator, Franco Tempesta: 
Born in Milan, Italy, FRANCO TEMPESTA has loved drawing animals, dinosaurs and dragons since he was a child.  Franco specializes in naturalistic illustration, and in the last twenty years has focused his attention on the realization of realistic images of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.  In April 2014 the Museum of Paleontology of Naples hosted a permanent exhibition dedicated to his illustrations of dinosaurs and in 2016 the Science Museum of Camerino hosted an exhibition of his paleo art.


  • Five (5) winners will receive a copy of National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas (ARV $25)
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 10/16 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below
  • Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Blog Tour Schedule:

October 3rd Whirlwind of Surprises
October 4th Nerdophiles
October 5th Pragmatic Mom
October 6th From the Mixed-Up Files... of Middle-Grade Authors
October 7th Chat with Vera

Disclosure: Post information, links, and giveaway are provided by MMPublicity and National Geographic. This is a courtesy post.

Millstone of Doubt (Thorndike & Swann Regency Mysteries #2) by Erica Vetsch from Kregel Publications

My thoughts:
This story is set during an explosive time in mankind's progressive history. The poor and working class are furious and given to festering outrage, destruction, and protest over the encroaching industrial revolution that will rob them of their ability to earn a living. Machines replacing people. Hence the poor get poorer while the wealthy get richer.

It is a time when gentlemen and gentle ladies, the dukes and earls, set the social mores and rules of social engagement. It is also the story of a poor boy, now grown, who has been the recipient of an unknown benefactor providing him with a life of ease, education, acceptance, good clothes, a good life.

The story also is about solving the mystery of a suspected mill's destruction and coincidental murders that take place in the environs.

The source of all this mystery, mayhem, and murder was hidden until it was reveal near the end of the book. Good job of keeping this reader wondering. The Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries are quite enjoyable reading and Erica Vetsch always has a way with Regency stories that capture our hearts.

About the book: Regency London's detective duo is back on a new case--and this one is going to be a killer Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street Runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill's owner dead of an apparent gunshot.

Even though the owner's daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, it seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can't take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can, because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage--and his job as a runner--comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him to the fates.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha's bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. Still, her instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation. But circumstances intervene, dropping her into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case--and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publications on behalf of the author to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Celebrating families in a variety of children's picture books from Candlewick Press [Review & Giveaway]

A sweet focus on family is told in a variety of stories in these delightful children's picture books for youngsters age 2 to 8 years. Babies, mommies, grannies bring joy and smiles to one's heart.

I Am A Baby by Bob Shea (Ages 2 to 5)

My thoughts: 
I'm not sure just whom this cute book is intended as the "appropriate" audience, but it is very cute. Obviously, a wee little baby is the source of all the issues covered as being affected because "I am a baby." And obviously such a wee one can't understand the nuances of the text. But little ones do enjoy parents who giggle when reading a story to them. And parents will giggle when they read this little book.

A fun gift addition to tuck into a baby shower gift. Or just a fun book to have to read that tells the tale as it is true in households where there is a baby on board.

About the book: From the creator of the mega-popular Dinosaur vs. series comes a hilariously deadpan look at new parenthood—from a baby’s point of view.

I am not sleepy.
I am not sleepy because I am a baby.
Mommy is sleepy.
Mommy is sleepy because I am a baby.

With humor and sympathy, Bob Shea looks at the chaos of life with a baby as amiably narrated by the new arrival. Repeating the mantra (and blithe explanation) “because I am a baby,” the tiny narrator leads us through scenes of exhaustion, grumpiness, squishy diapers, spilled milk, cowering kittens, and chubby overfed pups (oopsie!). Playing against the simple, matter-of-fact text are freewheeling illustrations of mess and mayhem, in which the grown-ups’ exaggerated body language is sure to send older children into fits of giggles. With its endearing, unabashedly self-pleased star, I Am a Baby will find a place at showers, in nurseries, on parents’ shelves, and in the hands of appreciative big siblings, as it celebrates the changes a little one brings, at once challenging and full of love.

Mum, Me and the Mulberry Tree by Tanya Rosie (Ages 3 to 7)

My thoughts:  A sweet story of a child and her  mother on their annual outing to pick mulberries. Told in a sort of rhyme that doesn't really fit a pattern that I could discover, but that does have a pleasant cadence.

The bond between mother and child is obviously strong and sweet and will perhaps help those whose family aren't as connected to seek to emulate the experience for themselves. Hopefully that is so.

At the end of the story, they bake a pie using their freshly picked mulberries. You can almost taste the pie as they enjoy it together. 

About the book: A tender story follows a mother-and-daughter pair enjoying a ritual to remember: a bus ride to the countryside, baskets full of berries, and a fragrant pie.

As the sun starts to rise, a young girl and her mother set out on the bus, riding knee to knee to visit their mulberry tree in the English countryside. With buckets and tubs in hand for collecting berries, the two spend a day picnicking, waiting out a summer shower under their tree, and climbing as high as they can to pick the best mulberries, the ones that are tucked away from the world. When the sun starts to set, they head home to bake a delicious pie, all the while knowing they’ll be back next year to do it all again. Author Tanya Rosie makes her picture book debut with a heartfelt story honoring family traditions and time spent together with someone you love.

Mommy’s Hometown by Hope Lim (Ages 3 to 7)

My thoughts: 
A sweet story of a Korean child and his mother who live in America. The mother shares her experiences of growing up in a small village in Korea and the sweet life she enjoyed. They soon leave the United States and travel to Korea for a visit to the village in which mother grew up.

When they arrive, the dirt road and small houses have disappeared and been replaced by a bustling city with tall buildings crowded together. The babbling, rushing river is confined within cement walkways and not pebbled shores.

One thing has remained unchanged..... Grandma. She greets them with love.

While visiting the "village," they go on an excursion through the area, wade and play in the river, and experience the beautiful red sunset.

The story is beautiful and yet sad as it tells the global story of change in our environment, loss of the small and natural world, and loss of the quiet and gentle way of life.

About the book: When a young boy and his mother travel overseas to her childhood home in Korea, the town is not as he imagined. Will he be able to see it the way Mommy does?

This gentle, contemplative picture book about family origins invites us to ponder the meaning of home. A young boy loves listening to his mother describe the place where she grew up, a world of tall mountains and friends splashing together in the river. Mommy’s stories have let the boy visit her homeland in his thoughts and dreams, and now he’s old enough to travel with her to see it for himself. But when mother and son arrive, the town is not as he imagined. Skyscrapers block the mountains, and crowds hurry past. The boy feels like an outsider—until they visit the river where his mother used to play, and he sees that the spirit and happiness of those days remain. Sensitively pitched to a child’s-eye view, this vivid story honors the immigrant experience and the timeless bond between parent and child, past and present.

Well Done, Mommy Penguin by Chris Haughton (Ages 3 to 7)

My thoughts: 
Children have a fascination with penguins. They love penguin movies, books about penguins, and stuffed penguins. They will surely love this story of mommy penguin's determination and skill at getting dinner for her baby.

Daddy stays with baby penguin while mommy dives into the big sea seeking fish. The trip to return with her catch is fraught with obstacles and danger.  She is skilled and determined.

Illustrated with stark simplicity using strong blues, white, and orange the visual appeal is an acquired taste. Not a style I particularly like, but I don't dislike it. It is just a bit different.

About the book: With his vibrant, stylish art and spot-on visual storytelling, Chris Haughton turns to Antarctica for an irresistible ode to family bonds and awesome moms.

The sky may be dark over icy waters, but Mommy Penguin is off to catch some fish for dinner. As Daddy and Little Penguin watch in suspense, Mommy swims, jumps, and climbs up a slippery slope, barely avoiding a plunge back into the sea. Well done! There's just one more hurdle to overcome, past some grumpy, just-awakened seals, before she returns to her anxiously waiting family. With a nod to the fascinating nature of penguin parenting, this boldly illustrated adventure from the creator of Little Owl Lost and Oh No, George! will have little ones happily on the edge of their seats as they root for Mommy Penguin.

4 Books for 1 Winner
Begins October 5
Ends October 28 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
NO P.O.Boxes
Canadians must provide phone number
DISCLOSURE: I was provided complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's copies are  provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.