Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Holiday Gift Guide for terrific National Geographic Kids books [Spotlight & 6-Book Giveaway USA]

This holiday season National Geographic Kids Books -- the gold standard in "edu-tainment" -- has perfect last minute gift ideas for every curious kid, from big, beautiful and WOW-worthy titles to a stocking stuffer that is, well, STUFFED with silly jokes, fun facts and photos galore.  

Here is a brief rundown of these holiday must-haves that are sure to be a big hit and keep kids engaged long after the batteries have run out on this season’s “it” toy. 

  • For Trivia Buffs and Armchair Travelers:  Weird But True World 2023 
  • For the Young Foodie:  National Geographic Kids Ultimate Food Atlas
  • For the Feline Fanatic: Ultimate Book of Big Cats 
  • For Kids Who Like Action Packed Mystery Adventures: Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret (Book #1 in 7-book series)
  • For the Animal Lover: Why? Animals
  • For the Family Jokester: Just Joking 7

For Trivia Buffs and Armchair Travelers:  Weird But True World 2023 

(Hardcover, $24.99, ages 8-12)   Discover Earth’s strangest animals, natural formations, festivals, ancient wonders, news, and more in this newest addition to the wildly popular Weird But True! family―an annual compendium of everything Weird But True! fans love ... and then some. Readers will journey across the seven continents, dive into the ocean, and even blast off into space to discover a whole wide world of weird. From the troll doll bug of Suriname to the Bog Snorkeling Championships in Wales to a technicolor village in Indonesia, Weird But True! World offers an unparalleled, adventure-filled exploration of our world’s amazing uniqueness. Buy here

For the Young Foodie:  National Geographic Kids Ultimate Food Atlas

From monkey bread in Niger to hokey pokey ice cream in New Zealand, the National Geographic Kids Ultimate Food Atlas (Paperback, ages 8-12, $12.99) takes young readers on a culinary journey, showcasing a mouthwatering mixture of foods, feasts and festivals from around the globe. Kids can also learn about the food industry, food attractions and traditional meals from every continent; put on their chef's hat and try one of the recipes in the book (cherry kompot from Bulgaria, perhaps?); and get some helpful foodie travel tips (when visiting South America, be prepared that the big meal of the day is lunch and dinner is more of a light snack like an arepa or bread and cheese).  Gorgeous full color photos highlight the food, culture, people, plants and animals on every continent. Buy here

For the Feline Fanatic: Ultimate Book of Big Cats 

(Hardcover, $19.99, ages 8-12) They’re strong. They’re powerful. They’re mysterious. Get ready to sink your teeth into the hidden worlds of the seven spectacular big cats―and meet some of their smaller cousins―with National Geographic Explorers Steve Winter and Sharon Guynup as your guides.  From rarely seen snow leopards high up in the Himalaya to tigers silently stalking prey through thick jungle to lions going in for the kill, you’ll get the inside scoop on the fascinating worlds of wild felines and what it’s like to live alongside them.  With exclusive National Geographic photographs and hair-raising behind-the-lens stories from Winter, this book takes you up close and personal with the coolest cats around.  Buy here

For Kids Who Like Action Packed Mystery Adventures: Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret

(Hardcover and Paperback, $16.99/$9.99, ages 8-12)  Cruz leaves his tranquil home in Hawaii to join 23 talented kids from around the globe to train at the Explorer Academy with the world's leading scientists to become the next generation of great explorers. But for Cruz, there's more at stake. No sooner has he arrived at the Academy than he discovers that his family has a mysterious past with the organization that could jeopardize his future. In the midst of codebreaking and cool classes, new friends and augmented reality expeditions, Cruz must tackle the biggest question of all: Who is out to get him, and why? The Explorer Academy seven book series incorporates fact-based fiction, scientific and cultural elements, codebreaking and ciphers, cool technology and gadgets, and a page turning adventure! The first chapter of Book 1 can be read HERE. Buy here

For the Animal Lover: Why? Animals

(Paperback, $12.99, ages 8-12) If you want to rule in your knowledge about the animal kingdom and become an expert on all creatures that crawl, wriggle, run, swim, leap, and fly, this is the book for you!  Want to know why octopuses shoot ink? Or why your cat almost always lands on its feet? Or why on earth penguins can’t fly? This clever Q&A book is packed with answers to your burning questions about animals -- like why pesky mosquitoes think your feet are especially delicious!  Buy here

For the Family Jokester: Just Joking 7

(Paperback, $8.99, ages 7-11) A perfect stocking stuffer -- sized just right! The seventh book in this fan-favorite series delivers 300 new laugh-out-loud knock-knocks, puns, question-and-answer jokes, tongue twisters, and more! Hilarious jokes paired with colorful, silly animal photos are sure to tickle the funny bones of kid comedians everywhere. Plus, the portable size is perfect for throwing in a backpack or tossing in the car for guffaws on the go. Buy  here

All 6 Books shown in this spotlight
Begins November 30
Ends December 16 @ 11:59 p.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I received copies of the books presented in this post. Giveaway prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. My recommendation is based on confidence in the publisher and quick perusal of books.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Movie opens in theaters December 1st - I HEARD THE BELLS" [Review & Giveaway USA]

The inspiring true story behind the beloved Christmas carol and its author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Check out this link for information & to purchase tickets: https://www.iheardthebellsmovie.com/

About I HEARD THE BELLS: The inspiring true story behind the beloved Christmas carol and its author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Known as America's Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow leads an idyllic life...until the day his world is shattered by tragedy. With a nation divided by Civil War and his family torn apart, Henry puts down his pen, silenced by grief. But it's the sound of Christmas morning that reignites the poet's lost voice as he discovers the resounding hope of rekindled faith. In theaters starting December 1st"

My thoughts: I totally enjoyed this beautiful movie for many reasons and on many different levels.

First, it is a beautiful telling biographically of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's life during this specific period of his life. His family. His being America's poet. His extensive writing of poetry. The loss of his wife and its effect on him. 

Secondly, the story begins on the cusp of the American Civil War and you see the impact it has on on the already bereft Longfellow family.

Thirdly, Longfellow's depression and how his writing suffered through this period.

Fourth, Longfellow's composition of the beautiful poem that is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." The strong statement of faith expressed in the song is doubly moving to me now since seeing the turbulence that gave root to its beauty.

Lastly, the cinematography is stunningly beautiful. The acting and period costumes well done.

I highly recommend this film and believe it will enrich viewers for its historic richness as well as the strong assertation that "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of peace on Earth good will toward men."

$10 Amazon gift card
Open: Nov. 28--Dec. 5 @ 12:01 a.m. ET         
*Note: This giveaway is limited to US winners only*
Sight & Sound® is a ministry on a mission to create spectacular entertainment experiences for the whole family. Since its beginning as a traveling multimedia show in 1976, Sight & Sound has inspired over 25 million people with stories of faith. Today, Sight & Sound owns and operates two live theater locations, immersing audiences in state-of-the-art original productions. Sight & Sound TV launched in 2020, and this online streaming platform has since welcomed a global virtual audience from over 175 countries around the world. Most recently, expansion into feature films was announced, with a first-ever theatrical release set for cinemas nationwide December 2022. For more information, visit www.sight-sound.com.

DISCLOSURE: I was able to view a pre-release screening of "I Heard the Bells" in the comfort of my home to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone. I was gifted a gift card in exchange for my review, though no effort to influence my opinion was made. The giveaway prize gift card is provided and sent directly to  the winner by the publicist. 

National Geographic Kids STEM series from co-creator of the American Girl series: Izzy Newton & the S.M.A.R.T. Squad #3: The Law of Cavities by Valerie Tripp & illustrated by Millie Liu [GIVEAWAY]



Meet the characters, watch the book trailer and check out the Educator and Reader's Guides on the series website here!

The S.M.A.R.T. Squad is back to tackle more middle school mayhem with science, technology, engineering, math, and friendship!

In this third book in the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series, best friends Izzy Newton, Allie Einstein, Marie Curie, Charlie Darwin, and Gina Carver set out on a mystery-filled Outdoor Adventure Camp experience.

Now that Izzy’s finally found her voice in public speaking class and become an ice hockey star, she’s determined to conquer her “dizzy-Izzy-ness” in new situations―including caring for her brand-new braces on an outdoor education overnight and her friends’ good-natured teasing about her friend Trevor. But the forecast for fun turns cloudy when the girls discover their cabin chaperone is none other than Izzy’s tough public-speaking teacher, Ms. Martinez, and their junior counselor is eighth grade mean girl, Maddie Sharpe.

When an innocent exchange of harmless pranks with Maddie takes a turn for the worse, the Squad turns to science to prove their innocence. That’s nothing, though, compared with the terrifying swamp monster haunting their campsite, a catastrophe befalling Ms. Martinez, and a mysterious disaster threatening the future of camp itself.

With their very survival on the line, will science be enough to save the day?


"Wholesome entertainment for preteens, offering positivity without didacticism."

"It's one thing to have children's books about scientists or podcasts or stories about strong women in STEM, but it's another world entirely when your children get to feel represented by the characters they're reading about. The characters in the Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series are diverse, smart, and sure of themselves the way all middle school girls are---through their dreams and newly acquired skills they're still getting used to."


About the Creators

VALERIE TRIPP is the co-creator of the American Girl book series that includes titles featuring Felicity, Josefina, Kit, Maryellen, Molly, and Samantha. Tripp also wrote American Girl's Wellie Wishers titles, Hopscotch Hill School titles, numerous leveled readers, songs, stories, skills book pages, and plays for educational publishers. Tripp is writer and editorial director of the Boys Camp series, and a writer, editor, and art editor for Sterling Publishing Company. Tripp received a B.A. and honors as a member of the first co-educated class at Yale University and a master's of education degree from Harvard University.

Website | Instagram | Facebook

MILLIE LIU was born in sunny Pasadena, California, and has been drawing ever since she could hold a pencil. It did start with color pencils on walls but after some scolding, she decided paper was much better. She graduated from Otis College of Art and Design and went into the field of toy design shortly after, designing colorful toys for children the world over. Her favorite subject to draw is story-driven fantastical locations with a touch of magic. When not drawing, she loves to read, experiment with cooking, and keep up with her fierce, growing collection of house plants. She also makes a conscious effort to buy secondhand or used products, and tries to reduce her use of single-use plastic.



  • Three (3) winners will receive the complete 3-book Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad series: Absolute Hero, Newton's Flaw, and The Law of Cavities
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 12/11 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I received a courtesy complimentary copy of book #3 in the series as thank you for posting this information for MMPublicity and National Geographic Kids. No monetary compensation was provided.



Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Abide Bible NET from Thomas Nelson Publishing [Review & Giveaway]



The Abide Bible is designed to help you experience the peace, hope, and growth that come from encountering the voice and presence of God in Scripture. Every feature in Abide is designed to teach and develop Scripture-engagement habits that help you know the power and spiritual nourishment of abiding in Christ.

The Abide Experience: 21 Days in John is a FREE Video Devotion featuring Dr. Phil Collins, general editor of the Abide Bible, a Bible designed around five methods of Scripture Engagement that will change the way you read Scripture. The 21 Days in John FREE Video Devotion also provides a free download of the book of John from the Abide Bible.

My thoughts:  I received the NET (New English Translation) to use and evaluate. Since I'm not a qualified evaluator of Biblical translations, I can only say that my preference is still the King James Version. I've used it my whole life and though I've read other translations, the KJV still is my preferred version and I tend to trust it more. That is not to say that the NKJV and the NET are not qualified. They are still Scripture and should draw the reader close to God.

The "Abide Bible" is not a "study Bible" or reference Bible. It does not contain cross references and notes normally included in these. It is, instead, a method of focusing on the Biblical text being read and relating to the text individually via 1) praying the scripture, 2) picturing it in events, 3) journal about it in your life, 4) engage it through classic art works, 5)  contemplate - or meditate on it. These types of "engagement" are noted with guidelines in the sidebars as your read through the Bible. 

The Abide Bible I received is beautifully bound and has lovely gold-gild on the outer edges of the pages. The print text is comfortably large enough for my eyes to read - which is a real plus. There are a few pages of very nice maps at the back of the Bible. The Bible is quite hefty which would be a problem for some and might limit taking it about to church or other functions.

The main purpose, in my opinion, in this Bible edition is to inspire users to engage and relate the scriptures to themselves individually and in their life on a daily basis. 


Check out the 21 Days in John! CLICK HERE This is where you sign up to access. You will receive a daily email prompt once you sign up to begin your experience. This is FREE!!!

1 copy of The Abide Bible
Begins Nov. 22
Ends Dec. 1 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only

DISCLOSURE: Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Bibles for providing a complimentary sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  Winner's prize copy is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Christmas Holiday House classic secular kiddie books [Review & USA Giveaway]

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Tomie dePaola

My thoughts: 
Small enough for the very young to hold and carry about. Sturdy enough to endure much love and handling. Beautifully illustrated with detailed drawings that echo back to former days.

The beautifully written poem will simply roll off the tongue of readers to entertain young listeners and older ones alike.

A very nice, timeless book for those wee ones. 

About the book: A perfect stocking-stuffer edition of a beloved Christmas classic, from the creator of Strega Nona and Quiet.

With warm colors and cozy art, award-winning artist Tomie dePaola brings the beloved holiday poem to life. Detailed decorations and family portraits hang on the walls of a turn of the 19th century New England home as the family sleeps, snuggled into cozy geometric quilts—until the clatter of little hooves on the roof wakes them.

Rosy-cheeked St. Nicholas appears, filling the stockings with dolls and blocks, toy animals and candy canes, before taking off over the snow-capped hills in his sleigh. Framed by borders inspired by traditional New England quilts, the warm illustrations are full of cheerful details kids will love to pore over.

Called "a shareable Christmas treasure" in a Booklist starred review, The Night Before Christmas was Tomie dePaola's 100th book when it was originally published. A family favorite for more than thirty years, this beautiful rendition of a Christmas favorite is still a perfect read-aloud for snowy nights—and now, a perfect board book stocking stuffer, in just the right size for young readers to enjoy.

Tomie dePaola's Christmas Tree Book by Tomie dePaola

My thoughts: 
This is an "educational" book as it instructs in conversational telling. I discovered things about the history of the Christmas tree I'd never before heard. Interesting.

The setting is a family with grandmama helping to decorate the family Christmas tree. Questions are asked and graciously answered with information that will surprise readers. Directed to a young audience, the information will be learned in a pleasant way.

About the book: Fun facts and holiday cheer from the creator of Strega Nona and Quiet.

While picking out their Christmas tree, a couple of curious kids start to wonder where Christmas trees came from. Who invented the first one? How did they become so popular? And how have they changed over the years?

Celebrated children's author Tomie dePaola is here to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas trees—and everything you never even thought to wonder about. With bright illustrations and kid-friendly text, Tomie dePaola's Christmas Tree Book is full of facts, history, and legends.

Instructions on making your own Christmas tree ornament are included!

2 books for 1 winner
Run dates: Nov.20-Dec. 7
Open to USA addresses only.
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.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Forbidden Island (Explorer Academy book 7) from National Geographic Kids - STEAM reading for Grades 3-7 [Giveaway Nov. 14-27]


BuyGoodreads | Trailer

A heart-pounding final showdown changes the life of Cruz Coronado forever in the seventh and final book in this thrilling fact-based fiction series.

Amid assignments that take the Explorer Academy recruits from the iceberg-filled waters of Antarctica to the bone-dry deserts of Argentina, Cruz Coronado is scrambling to complete the last piece of the cipher. With Nebula agents and the elusive explorer spy still out there, his opportunity to recover his mother’s world-changing formula is slipping away. But as Cruz has learned from his time aboard Orion, true explorers must never give up.

Even after completing dozens of high-risk missions and traveling to all seven continents, Cruz could never prepare himself for one ultimate surprise.

Explorer Academy features: Gripping fact-based fiction plot that inspires curiosity with new technology and innovations; amazing inventions and gadgets; a cast of diverse, relatable characters; secret clues, codes, and ciphers to track down within the text; vibrant illustrations; elements of STEAM; National Geographic explorer profiles in the "Truth Behind" section.

Check out the Explorer Academy website featuring videos, comic shorts, games, profiles of real-life National Geographic Explorers, chapter excerpts and more. 


"Sure to appeal to kids who love code cracking and mysteries with cutting-edge technology."  

"A perfect blend of adventure with real science and technology!"
New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan

"A fun, exciting, and action-packed ride that kids will love."
—J.J. Abrams, director and screenwriter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost, Alias

"Inspires the next generation of curious kids to go out into our world and discover something unexpected.”
—James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and acclaimed film-maker


About the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

TRUDI TRUEIT has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of writing began in fourth grade, when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play. She went on to be a TV news reporter and weather forecaster, but she knew her calling was in writing. Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences, and her fiction novels include The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular, and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Her expertise in kids nonfiction encompasses books on history, weather, wildlife, and earth science. She is the author of all the narratives in the Explorer Academy series, beginning with Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret. Trueit was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Everett, Washington.



  • Three (3) winners will receive the COMPLETE 7-book Explorer Academy series and an Explorer Academy map, showing all the places around the world that Cruz and his classmates visit over the course of the series!
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/27 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I received a compliment copy of book #7. Post is supplied by publicist who is responsible for hosting the giveaway and providing the winners' prizes. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes nor selection of winning entries.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Matching Christmas PJs with a Biblical theme from Holy Pals PJs FEATURES star of the season! Jesus! [Review & Giveaway]

Keeping Jesus the reason for the season in fun matching family Christmas pajamas focused on the true story of Christmas!  We pray that Jesus is born inside the hearts of all who wear these pajamas. And that they may witness to their family and friends His amazing love.

  • 100% premium grade cotton, chosen for its coziness and softness 
  • The cotton was knit in such a way as to maximize stretchiness and breathability. They are SO comfy! 
  • Loves his new PJs!

    A small label has been stitched on the right arm of all our pajamas with the Bible passage the pajama is displaying, as a reminder to the child and the parents if they’d like to look up the story and read together.
  • In addition to Christmas prints, we also offer (Easter, Palm Sunday, Esther, Noah, Daniel, David & Goliath, Jonah, Adam & Eve, and more!)
  • These pajamas are snug fitting for women and children and loose fitting for men. 
  • Consciously sourced & produced. Made in India

"I'm snuggly now, Mommy!"

What I think about the PJs: 
I just love these sweet pajamas. Holy Pals PJs sent me a pair and I chose a size for one of my young grandsons. They sent me the Nativity Classic design which depicts Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and various cows, sheep, stars. Lovely. The fabric is a soft knit cotton with lots of stretch. An added feature, is a small label with the Bible reference for the story printed on it. They are, I believe, excellent quality and very well made. This is a great way to help children focus on the true meaning of Christmas. (Keep reading & enter the giveaway below.)

  • Teaching children the stories of The Bible in a fun and cozy way
  • A small label has been stitched on the right arm of all our pajamas with the Bible passage the pajama is displaying, as a reminder to the child and the parents if they’d like to look up the story and read together
  • Softness of cotton, Stretchy material
  • Fun prints that kids love
  • The various Bible story prints offered (ex. Easter, Palm Sunday, Esther, Noah, Daniel, David & Goliath, Jonah, Adam & Eve)

DISCOUNT CODE - 10% Use this link and discount code:  https:holypals.com/discount/VERA10 

CLICK HERE TO ENTER #GIVEAWAY - https://www.blessedfreebies.com/holypals.html

MEET HOLY PALS! and their mission....

  • Give children the opportunity to draw near to Christ, and to help parents teach their children about their faith.
  • To shine a light on child-focused charities in need of support, raising awareness of their worthy causes and supporting them alongside our customers.
Every pajama sale supports the Littlest Lamb Orphanage, a privately funded orphanage in Egypt. They have built a home for orphaned and at-risk children who have lost parents to death, imprisonment, or abandonment. The Littlest Lamb provides these children with everything they need to thrive – shelter, food, clothing, education and most importantly A FAMILY that loves them. 

JESUS is the reason for the season!

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary pair of Holy Pals PJs to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Giveaway is hosted by publicist who will provide prize and send directly to the winner. Chat With Vera is not responsible for hosting this giveaway nor notifying the winner.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Beneath His Silence by Hannah Lidner from Barbour Publishing

My thoughts:  With a rapid beginning, Beneath His Silence, galloped to an exciting and delightful conclusion. 

Well developed characters that ranged from butler to maid, from villain to hero, from lovely lady and dashing lord to the sweet innocence of a young boy. 

The action was quick with no slow clogging through unwanted descriptions. Each action, each scene, each character deftly drawn and presented to the reader in 300 pages of "can't put it down" reading.

A lot of melodrama is tucked away in this story and you wonder if the trouble and drama will ever end? It does end and quite well but not before fear and pain have had their full play.

I look forward to more from this author. New to me.... Hannah Linder.

About the book: Will Seeking Justice Lead to Her Own Demise?

 A Gothic-Style Regency Romance from a Promising Young Author

 Second daughter of a baron—and a little on the mischievous side—Ella Pemberton is no governess. But the pretense is a necessity if she ever wishes to get inside of Wyckhorn Manor and attain the truth. Exposing the man who killed her sister is all that matters.

 Lord Sedgewick knows there’s blood on his hands. Lies have been conceived, then more lies, but the price of truth would be too great. All he has left now is his son—and his hatred. Yet as the charming governess invades his home, his safe cocoon of bitterness begins to tear away.

Could Ella, despite the lingering questions of his guilt, fall in love with such a man? Or is she falling prey to him—just as her dead sister?

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Celebrate Sukkah & Hanukkah with picture books exploring diverse mosaic of Jewish culture & history

Kalaniot Books is a Jewish children's publisher whose mission is to help young children and their families explore the diverse mosaic of Jewish culture and history with exciting picture books that entertain, educate, and inspire engagement with this storied tradition.

The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda by Shoshana Nambi (ISBN: 978-1-7350875-8-0; Hardcover $19.99; Ages 5-10) 

What is Sukkah: - Festival of Booths: Sukkot is a Torah-commanded holiday celebrated for seven days, beginning on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei [October]. It is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals on which those Israelites who could were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. (Wikipedia)

My thoughts:  This is an interesting children's book featuring a small community of Ugandans who converted to Judaism in the 1920s. They are celebrating Sukkah. During this holiday period each family builds their own "dwelling" of branches and other miscellaneous materials. The holiday is in celebration of the end of their wandering in the desert. 

I did not realize that there was a competition where the community voted to determine which Sukkah was best, but that is  the emphasis of this picture book.

I'm not particularly fond of the style of illustrations used and the strong, dark coloration it incorporates.  The book and story are interesting and will help children understand Jewish culture and observations. There is interesting back matter with information on the origin  of the Abayudaya (this community of believers in Uganda) and a glossary of terms.

About the book: Who has the most amazing sukkah in the Abayudaya community of Uganda? Only one sukkah can be the best, but everybody wins when neighbors work together.

Sukkot is Shoshi’s favorite Jewish holiday. She and her brothers love to decorate their sukkah, the hut where her family will celebrate. But who will win the Ugandan Abayudaya community’s annual sukkah contest? While only one sukkah can be the best, everybody wins when neighbors work together.

The story introduces readers to the culture and traditions of a little-known Jewish community in Uganda, and features an empowering theme of community involvement that will resonate with kids and adults alike. Back matter includes notes about the Sukkot holiday, the community’s history, a glossary, and a look at the musical traditions of this culture to allow for further exploration.

Author info: SHOSHANA NAMBI grew up in the Abayudaya Jewish community in the eastern part of Uganda. When she finishes her rabbinical training in 2024, she will be the first female rabbi in Uganda. This is her debut book.

Illustrator info: MORAN YOGEV is an Israeli illustrator and graphic designer. She graduated with distinction from the Minshar School of Art in Tel Aviv. She lives in Kibbutz Hagoshrim in northern Israel with her husband, Nis, sons Adam and Omer, and their lovely dog, Menny.

Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up by Chana Stiefel & illustrated by Daphna Awadish (ISBN: 978-1-7350875-7-3; Hardcover $19.99; Ages 4-9) 

What is Hanukkah? - Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. (Wikipedia) [Observed 2022, December 18-26]

My thoughts:  This is such a funny and sweet story of mess-ups by a young Jewish boy as things seem to always go wrong when he is involved in celebrating Hanukkah.

Yet, this year the Rabbi asks him to drive the special van around the city informing folks of Hanukkah celebration. Then...... the really big mess-up!

I really enjoyed this story. The back matter has a brief history of Hanukkah, a glossary, and instructions on how to play Dreidel. 

About the book: Mendel can never seem to get anything right. But when he steps up to spread Hanukkah joy, he finds his moment to shine.

Mendel is always messing up. So, no one is more surprised than he, when the rabbi asks him to drive the Mitzvah Mobile through the streets of New York and invite everyone to the Hanukkah bash. What if he messes up again? As Mendel begins to spread the joy of the holiday, he learns that mistakes can happen and sometimes the results can be miraculous.

Humor and joy abound in this delightful Hanukkah story. Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up by Chana and Larry Stiefel and illustrated by Daphna Awadish is a wonderful portrait of New York City as the quintessential melting pot. Back matter includes notes, a glossary, and a recipe for latkes to allow for further exploration of the holiday.

Author info: CHANA STIEFEL is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries and sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. Her husband LARRY STIEFEL is a pediatrician and author of the The Maggid of Bergenfield short story blog, from which this book was created. Chana and Larry have four children and live in New Jersey.

Illustrator info: DAPHNA AWADISH is an Israeli illustrator and filmmaker living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and from AKV St. Joost Master Institute of Visual Cultures.

Begins Nov. 5 - Ends Nov. 28
Open to USA addresses only
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. Prizes are provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher or publicist.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker and illustrated by Paran Kim [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: 
A look into the family as they deal with small children and parental illness. In the home the young child is so dependent on the mother that seeing them sick for an extended period, and even worse - a terminal illness, can be a life-changing devastation. So being able to live bravely through such an event is best demonstrated via the sick parent staying strong and brave. Then the child can see and emulate bravery as they live through their parent's illness. 

This is a softly sweet little book centered on the small child's experience through a parent's chronic, or terminal, illness. The bravery of the sick mother is first presented and its impact on the family. Then the young child's bravery as they face everyday fears is given. The child has learned to be brave as is the mother and so both face their fears.

This is not a book for every home, but will be a real asset in those homes with young children impacted with the chronic illness of a parent. Beautifully written and illustrated, the  book delivers an important message of courage to live through difficult situations. This is a very special book.

About the book:  (Beaming Books; November 1, 2022; ISBN: 978-1506483207; Hardcover $17.99; Ages 4-8; 32 pages). 

She cradles my sister and me and tells us she’s sick.
Sicker than bubblegum medicine can fix.
She tries different treatments now, hoping one day they will make her feel better.
My mom is strong.

As one girl watches her mom battle illness, she sees Mom being strong, brave, and fierce on both good days and bad ones. Mom is fierce as she catches and wrestles a fish and brave as she endures needles from the doctor. The girl wants to be brave like Mom! As she worries about her mom's health, the girl realizes that bravery comes in many forms and that she can be brave too.

Brave Like Mom teaches children courage, empathy, compassion, and about female strength and endurance. It is a poignant and sensitive story about a loved one living with a chronic illness, and an important lesson about how being brave doesn't mean you aren't scared.

About the author: Monica Acker is a writer and educator. She holds a BA in creative arts and a MAT degree in childhood education. Monica is a member of SCBWI, 12x12, and Children's Book Insider. She lives in Reading, Massachusetts, with her family.

About the illustrator: Paran Kim grew up in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to Tokyo when she was twenty to study fine art. She realized her true passion lay in making picture books and became a full-time illustrator. Paran now lives in Dresden, Germany, with her husband.

Dates: November 3-26
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Fractured fairy tales and lady fire fighters from Peachtree Publishing and Holiday House Books [Review & USA GIVEAWAY]

Three Little Vikings by Bethan Woollvin (Peachtree, for ages 5–9, available 8/30/2022)

My thoughts: 
A trio of little girls in the Viking village are observant and see signs of unusual activity going on around the village and woods. They investigate and then alert the Chieftain of their findings. He discounts their concerns and says things are ok and he knows best but they go on to prove him wrong.

A cute story but not overwhelmingly interesting or fun. It does show girls being proactive, strong-minded, and problem solvers. But it also seems to be a bit male-bashing, too. I'm not familiar with the fairy tale of which it is suppose to be a fractured version. 

A good school or public library source.

About the book: Gather around for a romping, stomping story with gripping tension and lots of silly mischief and mayhem. From the creator of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book, Little Red, comes another thrilling and spunky fairy tale retelling about three very brave and rebellious Viking girls. Someone—or something—is CRASHING and BASHING near a village of Viking folk! Three little Viking girls know just what the trouble is, but the silly chieftain won’t listen to them! Can this gumptious trio work together to raise their voices and prove who knows best, after all? Bethan Woollvin excels at creating fractured fairy tales with feminist twists. For more, check out Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretel, and Bo the Brave.

“Female smarts and planning save the day, a village, and its treasure. Clever and timely.”—Kirkus Reviews

Author information: Bethan Woollvin graduated from the Cambridge School of Art with a First Class Degree in Illustration. She has since made a name for herself with dark and witty twists on traditional stories. Her first book, a fractured fairy tale, Little Red, won the prestigious Macmillan Prize for Illustration and was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book. She also wrote and illustrated Rapunzel as well as Hansel & Gretel. Bethan lives in England, where she continues to create extraordinary books. 

Firefighter Flo! by Andrea Zimmerman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Holiday House, for ages 3–6, available 10/4/2022) 

My thoughts:
The main character is Flo, a female firefighter and she leads the crew of firefighters on a night-time excursion to put out a fire. From the moment the phone sounds the alarm and the firefighters hustle to go to the fire to when they return to their firestation, their actions are captured in terse text that small listeners can join in by repeating words.

Book has particularly dark pages which are representative of night time. It does seem a bit stark.

A fun read for little ones who always love fire trucks and firefighters.

About the book: Ring! Clang! Firefighter Flo jumps out of bed! Follow along as Flo and her fellow firefighters race to stop a fire in this picture book filled with bold art and fun onomatopoeia. With dynamic artwork from Dan Yaccarino, Nickelodeon character designer for The Backyardians, and energetic verse from Andrea Zimmerman, best-selling author of Trashy Town, Firefighter Flo is the perfect read for kids who love to watch the big red fire trucks rush by.  The CLANG of the siren and WHOOSH of the fire will have parents and kids reading aloud together. The title kicks of the Big Jobs, Bold Women picture book series, which will focus on the empowering diversity of women in historically male-dominated occupations. Crane Jane! will be available in Spring 2023.

“Readers will be happy to have Flo in their homes day or night! This book’s on fire!”—Kirkus Reviews

About the author: Andrea Zimmerman is the author of many beloved books for children, including the bestseller Trashy Town, co-authored with her husband, David Clemesha, and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. She enjoys gardening, going for walks, and visiting museums. Andrea has three grown sons. She lives with her husband in Southern California. You may visit her website at 

About the illustrator: Dan Yaccarino is the author and illustrator of more than fifty books for children and the creator and producer of three animated series. He is also the character designer for the animated series The Backyardigans. Awards and honors include the Bologna Ragazzi Award, The New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books, ALA Notable Children’s Books, and the Parents’ Choice Award.

Begins November 1
Ends November 22 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary books from Holiday House Publishing and Peachtree Publishing to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher or publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.