50 Cities of the U.S.A. Explore America's Cities with 50 fact-filled maps by Gabrielle Balkan and Sol Linero


From the team that brought you the 50 States comes 50 Cities of the U.S.A. Explore skyscraper streets, museum miles, local food trucks and city parks from Anchorage to Washington D.C., and discover more than 2,000 facts that celebrate the people, culture, and diversity that have helped make America what it is today.

I had the opportunity to participate in The 50 Cities Blog Extravaganza and I received a copy of this awesome book!

I really enjoyed seeing all the facts about Los Angeles!

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Here are many of the fun facts:

  • BILL PICKETT RODEO This annual rodeo is named for the cowboy entertainer who invented bulldogging a type of steer wrestling.
  • BURRITO This veggie, bean, and cheese-stuffed tortilla takes its name from the Spanish word for “little donkey.”
  • CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER Explore chemical reactions while making glow-in-the-dark slime in the Ooey Gooey Slime Lab here.
  • CHINATOWN A New Year Parade, lantern festival, Moon Festival, and firecracker run and fun walk are some events held here.
  • ECHO MOUNTAIN The Santa Monica Mountains teams with wildlife and runs through LA, giving urban dwellers a unique chance to experience hikes and nature.
  • GRAMMY MUSEUM celebrates the creative process of music with soundboards and costumes, like the light-up suits worn during the Daft Punk-Kayne 2008 GRAMMY performance.
  • HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME Big Bird, Shrek, and The Simpsons are some of the 16 fictional characters celebrated with this entertainment industry star.
  • LA BREA TAR PITS AND MUSEUM Ice Age fossils, like the skeleton of a Harlan’s ground sloth, are found in these still bubbling tar pits.
  • LOS ANGELES FLAG The three stripes of color represent the area’s plentiful olive trees, orange groves, and vineyards.
  • LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM The U.S. won a record 83 gold medals when L.A. Hosted the XXIIIrd Olympic Summer Games in 1984.
  • MEDICAL HISTORY In 1986, ophthalmologist and inventor Dr. Patricia Bath’s made history with her eye surgery patent, becoming the first African American woman with a medical patent.
  • MISSION SAN FERNANDO REY DE ESPAÑA In the 1800s, Spanish Catholics here raised livestock and made rawhide strips, used to build in the absence of nails!
  • MOUNTAIN LIONS Southern California’s largest carnivore lives and hunts in the mountains surrounding LA.
  • MUSCLE BEACH  Before L.A. Had a professional sports team, sports fans hit up the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica to see incredible feats of athleticism.
  • OLIVE TREES High in healthy fats, these veggies have excellent anti-inflammatory nutrients and are healthy for your heart.
  • PORT OF LOS ANGELES LOBSTER FESTIVAL This annual event has won four Guinness records and raises funds for local charities.
  • RAMEN This Japanese noodle soup is made with tonkatsu (pork)- and shoyo (soy sauce)-based broths.
  • SHANE’S INSPIRATION AT GRIFFITH PARK This Boundless Playground is fully accessible to disabled kiddos and has awesome features for everyone
  • SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET The L.A. coroner’s office sells souvenirs, like a beach towel that features a chalk-outline of a crime scene murder!
  • THE GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES Chicana artist Judy Baca, 80 kids,10 artists, and 5 historians painted this, one of the world’s longest murals.
  • THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN This 90-year-old sign has its own security system with helicopter patrols and infrared technology.
  • TRIFORIUM Joseph Young’s 60-ton, 60-foot-tall tower with rainbow prisms and bells was unveiled to great controversy in 1975.
  • URBAN LIGHT Chris Burden’s sculpture contains 200 street lamps from the 1920’s and 1930’s, arranged like a forest.
  • WATTS TOWERS For 33 years, an immigrant construction worker built these 17 structures, decorating them with found objects like ceramic tiles and seashells.
  • WHAM-O The first super ball was made here in 1982, by the same people who make Frisbees and Hula Hoops.

Find out more here!

Self Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book to participate in this Blog Extravaganza. Photos and facts were also provided.

P. King Duckling: Seize The Day – A Plucky Duck and His Friends Seize the Day


Adventure takes flight with the plucky P. King Duckling! Meet P. King, a slightly hapless but intrepid young duck, and his two best friends, Chumpkins (a sarcastic pig) and Wombat (who helps P. King with his schemes even though she knows better)! Together, they work to seize the day: which always leads to wild adventures and hilarious consequences. Created by award-winning Josh Selig (Sesame Street, Wonder Pets!) and featuring music from Grammy winner Marty Beller of They Might Be Giants, P. King Duckling is a wholly satisfying family experience that engages children in problem-solving and creative thinking: all while quacking you up! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “The lessons that P. King Duckling, Wombat and Chumpkins teach are also quite useful. The animation in this show is simple with lots of colors and shapes. It is perfect for kids.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Rachael V. adds, “This is a cute show about a group of friends who take funny adventures and find solutions to problems along the way.” See their full reviews below.

  1. King Duckling: Seize The Day
    By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


The fun adventures shared here are creative and quite enjoyable. The lessons that P. King Duckling, Wombat and Chumpkins teach are also quite useful. The animation in this show is simple with lots of colors and shapes. It is perfect for kids. It is easy to follow and understand so you can do some of the experiments that they do in your imagination.

My favorite episode is “Wombats Big Surprise!” This episode is so funny and enjoyable because of the humor and how Wombat doesn’t know about her big surprise birthday party. I also love that Chumpkins and P. King Duckling hide things. It also teaches you about patience, which is a difficult lesson.

My favorite character is Wombat (Courtney Shaw). She is smart, creative and likes to help her friends. Wombat knows how to make lots of fun things such as painting pictures. Courtney Shaw voices Wombat and makes her sound very inquisitive and caring. She fills Wombat’s voice with lots of emotion in all the episodes, which is something I admire.  P. King Duckling (Marc Thompson) is very goodhearted and a silly duck who loves adventure. He finds new fun ways of doing things such as cooling the town he lives in during a heat wave, jogging the Great Wall of China and many more that have great moral values. Marc Thompson’s P. King Duckling has an adorable voice that sounds like a nerd which brings P. King Duckling to life and makes him enjoyable.

Chumpkins (Benjie Randall) is a computer geek and loves technology. Chumpkins is proud of this and wears a shirt with a computer on it. Whenever you need something delivered house right away, have Chumpkins order it online. He also knows a lot about gadgets and gizmos so he is the Pig to call. Benjie Randall makes Chumpkins sound older then he is and that is reflected in his personality and makes you believe he is very smart.

Some of the life lessons in this story are about being a good friend, what friendship really is, how to exercise creativity, using your imagination and learn how to work as a team. The lessons are very valuable, because even I forget how to be a good friend sometimes. It is a great reminder about how to be a good friend for older kids while teaching younger kids the basics of friendship.  It reminds you to use your brains and work with others when trying to solve problems.

I recommend this DVD for ages 4 to 8. Even tweens and teens will benefit from it the life lessons are priceless and everyone will enjoy the characters with their quacky, quirk personalities. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 Quacking Ducks. This is available now on DVD so, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. King Duckling: Seize the Day
    By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This is a cute show about a group of friends who take funny adventures and find solutions to problems along the way. P. King is a funny duckling who constantly gets the group into trouble with his big adventures. Luckily, he has two friends that help keep him centered and out of trouble. There’s Wombat who always supports P. King’s decisions and Chumpkins, an attitude-riddled pig who is the muscle of the group. He is my personal favorite because he is funny and sarcastic all the time. This trio deals with the bad guy, Greg the Goose and teaches us that there are many creative solutions to even the smallest of problems. My 19-month-old absolutely loves this program. The art style reminds me of Phineas and Ferb. I recommend this DVD for ages 3 to 7 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. My only complaint is its lack of story depth. Everything is over simplified, which is expected for the target age group, but I wanted more.



Brigsby Bear – Dramatic comedy with strange, yet fresh approach


Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tristan T. comments, “I expected to be bored, but instead I found this film highly entertaining and moving at times. Although it is definitely odd and had me asking lots of questions at the beginning, it is well done and I will probably go see this film again once it’s released in theaters.” See his full review below.


Brigsby Bear


By Tristan Tierce, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14



Brigsby Bear is a dramatic comedy with a strange, yet fresh new approach. I expected to be bored, but instead I found this film highly entertaining and moving at times. Although it is definitely odd and had me asking lots of questions at the beginning, it is well done and I will probably go see this film again once it’s released in theaters.


James (Kyle Mooney) lives in an underground bunker with his kidnapper “parents.” We quickly learn of his obsession with “Brigsby,” a television series about a bear and his adventures. Once he is rescued from his capturers, he attempts to survive in this massive new world, only to learn that his treasured show is not real. As he struggles to reinvent “Brigsby Bear,” he ends up not only completing the show’s story, but also finding completion to his own.


Star Wars fans will be interested to see their beloved Mark Hamill in a totally different role here. He plays the kidnapper, Ted Hope. I have to say, he completely nails the character and, with his grungy looking beard, I almost did not recognize him.


My favorite character is James. He plays a very quirky, awkward young man. He is inspiring and makes you feel an immediate connection. I not only found myself intrigued by his story, but cheering for him to achieve his goal. I like how, even though he grows throughout the film, his character never truly changes. Others ultimately accept him for who he is. This is something I would like to see in real life.


This film is rated PG-13 due to a few sexual references and some mature content although nothing is over-the-top. I rate this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 13 to 18. It opens in theaters September 21, 2017. You should definitely go grab some friends and check it out.



Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Releases Dan Zanes and Friends’ Lead Belly, Baby!


As a young boy, GRAMMY-winning children’s artist Dan Zanes was drawn to the music of Lead Belly in all of its magic, imagination, and mystery. This discovery completely changed his view of the world and his place in it. Zanes now presents a fresh vision of Lead Belly’s music for a new generation with a little help from his friends. Experience Lead Belly’s songs through a new lens as Dan Zanes and Valerie June, Chuck D., Billy Bragg, Aloe Blacc, and many others celebrate an American musical icon.


The album, Lead Belly, Baby! will be available on Friday, August 25. It includes a colorful 40 page booklet with full lyrics and liner notes by Zanes and Jeff Place, the Senior Curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.

More about Dan Zanes


Called “the family-music genre’s most outspoken and eloquent advocate” byTime magazine, Zanes, a New Hampshire native who made several albums as a member of the Del Fuegos during the ’80s, has been performing for families since releasing ‘Rocket Ship Beach’ in 2000. With his band, Dan Zanes and Friends, he has released more than a dozen albums and has toured the world sharing handmade 21st-century social music with enthusiastic crowds of kids and kid sympathizers. His ‘Catch That Train!’ won a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children in 2007.


Zanes and his fiancée, Claudia Eliaza, are pioneers in the sensory-friendly performance movement. The Kennedy Center recently commissioned the two to create the first sensory-friendly folk opera, “Night Train 57,” slated to premiere in October. “For me, the folk experience is about inclusion and participation – welcoming people in,” Zanes says. “The spirit of Lead Belly’s music that affected me as a 7-year-old drives me to want to create and present in a sensory-friendly atmosphere today.” In addition to making other national performances of Night Train 57, Zanes will tour as “The Lead Belly Project” beginning in fall 2017.


Credit: Sugar Mountain PR.

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Learn Your Messy ABCs with Oscar the Grouch & his Sesame Street Friends!

The Messy Alphabet Book

Looking for the perfect alphabet book? This one is fun and is personalized with your child’s name! It’s also approved by Oscar the Grouch!

“You know, it seems like every alphabet book I read is full of nice, clean things like cute kittens, cuddly puppies, and shiny new toys. I think it’s time for a new alphabet book, a MESSY alphabet book.” — Oscar the Grouch 

 In Sesame Street: The Messy Alphabet Book, a new personalized book on PutMeInTheStory.com, Oscar the Grouch and his Sesame Street friends teach your child their ABCs by splashing and crashing their way through the alphabet together!

I received a copy of this book and it’s adorable! We have a friend who just had a baby and decided to give this book as a gift! She loved it and I am sure baby will too!

I mean who doesn’t love Sesame Street?!  I’m a big fan of Elmo and Oscar too!

There is a Sweepstakes you can enter but you have to enter NOW!

A Messy Alphabet Book Sweepstakes for a chance to win a Sesame Street personalized book bundle!


Enter through the Rafflecopterhttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7566/

Terms & Conditions:

No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.


Open to legal residents of USA who are 18 years or older. Giveaway begins September 11, 2017 at 12:01am and ends September 22, 2017 at 11:59pm (“Promotion Period”). Enter the Giveaway during the Promotion Period online by submitting the entry form. The entry form can be found on the following website at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/54ca7af7566/ . Winner will be selected by Random.org and be notified by email. Winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. ONE (1) winner will receive ONE (1) Sesame Street Personalized Book Bundle and Plush (approximate retail value or “ARV”: $155). By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Put Me In The Story. Put Me In The Story does not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of this giveaway. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are in no way associated with this giveaway.


o   Includes personalized copies of:

§  Sesame Street: The Messy Alphabet Book

§  Sesame Street: Just One You!

§  Sesame Street: I Love You Just Like This!

§  Sesame Street: Let’s Make a Friend

§  And an Elmo Plush

Self Disclosure: I received a free book to facilitate this post and participate in this blog tour. Images were provided.

Floogals: Mission Complete – A wonderful way for younger kids to learn about Planet Earth!


Join the Floogals on a mission of discovery as they explore Earth and the funny hoomans who live there! Each day, Captain Fleeker, First Officer Flo and Junior Boomer encounter something that sparks their curiosity, setting in motion the day s research project and triggering an exciting adventure! First, the Floogals have an adventure in which they must learn the difficult task of assembling the Girl Hooman’s jigsaw puzzle. They learn working in a team wins the day! The projects continue with investigating Boy Hooman’s building of a model rocket, learning how to fly a toy helicopter to rescue Boomer, discovering who stole Dad Hooman’s veggies in the garden and so much more! Adventure is everywhere they go. They’re the Floogals! 3, 2, 1, let s go! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dariana A. comments, “Floogals are such a great way to get kids hooked on learning. It has an amazing dynamic and a review of everything they learn at the end, so the kids don’t forget.” Samantha M. adds, “This hilarious animated series had me laughing the entire time. Seeing aliens interact with humans is something I’ve never witnessed before, and the obstacles that the Floogals face are incredibly unique.” See their full reviews below.


Floogals: Mission Complete

By Dariana A., KIDS FIRST Film Critics, age 11



Floogals: Mission Complete is a spectacular DVD. It has great animation, a great way to teach kids about day to day things and the Floogals are such a great way to get kids hooked on learning. It has an amazing dynamic and a review of everything they learn at the end, so the kids don’t forget. It also never has a dull moment, so it will keep kids very interested and wanting to watch more.


Floogals is about three little aliens that move into a “hoomans” house. Everyday, they discover something new about Earth and they investigate. While doing that, they teach kids about all those things. There is a wide variety of episodes from teaching kids how mail works, to finding out how seeds grow.


This show has such amazing animation. The Floogals are little animated aliens, but they live in a live action world. It’s so cool to see them pick up objects that aren’t animated and they still look like real objects. Another thing I really like is the personalities of all the Floogals. Take Boomer for example. He relates to kids that are shyer and helps them be more out there just like him. I also love the way each episode is formatted. Every episode starts with the Floogals seeing something they don’t understand. Then, they find funny uses for it and, in the end when they find out what it is, they go over everything they learned. It’s a great tool to help kids remember what they learn. One of my favorite episodes is “Project Mail.” I really like it because, as a kid, I never would have known how mail worked and this would have been really cool for me to watch at a younger age. If I could change one thing about the Floogals, it would be how long Boomer’s name is. On the show they call him Junior-Floogal-Boomer. I think it would be better as just Boomer.


The message of this show is that you should go out and learn something new every day. I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars for its great animation, awesome plots and incredible characters. I recommend this DVD for ages 3 to 6. This DVD will be released on September 12, 2017 so be sure to check it out.


Floogals: Mission Complete!

By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17




This hilarious animated series had me laughing the entire time. Seeing aliens interact with humans is something I’ve never witnessed before, and the obstacles that the Floogals face are incredibly unique. As soon as I began watching the series, the Floogals have to face a giant cat, which did not fail to make me laugh. With many twists and turns, you will never get bored.
A story is about three aliens from outer space, Captain Fleeker, First Officer Flo and Junior Boomer who  experience many exciting adventures with humans. They must stay hidden, conduct research projects and report back to their space captain about what it’s like to live on earth. The Floogals learn about jigsaw puzzles, mail, a model rocket, a helicopter and so much more! And, if they do a good job with their research, they get badges to wear on their uniforms. Join Fleeker, Flo and Boomer as they learn what it’s like to be a “hooman.”


Rasmus Hardiker, who plays Captain Fleeker, is the lead Floogal. Fleeker always manages to come up with solutions to problems that the Floogals face. For example, when the Floogals ruin a jigsaw puzzle that a little girl built, they have to find a way to rebuild it before she comes back. Hardiker’s voice is very deep, but it’s also very optimistic, which makes his character very relatable. Hugo Harold- Harrison, who plays Boomer, is the funniest character I’ve ever seen. Boomer doesn’t think before he acts, which lands him in difficult situations. Boomer is in charge of watching the cat while the other Floogals rebuild the jigsaw puzzle. Harrison’s voice is filled with fear, which makes it hilarious.


The animation in this show is very realistic. The house that the Floogals live in looks just like mine! Their uniforms are the coolest uniforms I’ve ever seen. I wish I could be a Floogal! My favorite part about this series is its theme song. It is incredibly catchy, so prepare to have it get stuck in your head. I love the ending of each episode, because Fleeker, Flo and Boomer each provide their personal perspective about their daily adventures. It’s great to hear their differing opinions, which makes their friendship work. Fleeker, Flo and Boomer are undoubtedly best friends, and you’ll wish that you could join them on their adventures.
The message of this series is to explore everything that life has to offer and to keep an open mind. The Floogals are nothing like humans, but they learn to love what humans can do. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 4 to 8. With non-stop adventures and many jokes, there is something for everyone to enjoy. This DVD is available on September 12, 2017 so, be sure to look for it.  I can’t wait to watch the second series.



Monster Island – Unique Storyline and Great Animation


When not-so-popular Lucas finds out he is not really a human, but actually a monster, the news changes his whole world!  Embarking on a quest to Monster Island to discover his real roots, Lucas undergoes a journey he will never forget.  He finds himself face to face with more tentacles, fangs and far-out situations than he can shake one of his new wings at. Ultimately Lucas learns that being a freak, isn’t freaky—it means you’re a member of a brand new type of family that you can proudly call your own. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carla P. comments, “Monster Island is a great film because of its animation and unique storyline. I love how the monsters are animated.” Jolleen M. adds, “This animated film is hilarious and is made with great quality. I love the colorful and detailed animation. The storyline is different from other monster films, which makes it stand out. “ See their full reviews below.

Monster Island

By Carla P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


Monster Island is a great film because of its animation and unique storyline. I love how the monsters are animated. I also adore the storyline. It’s something I’ve never seen before.

Monster Island is about a boy named Lucas who’s a monster, but doesn’t know it since his dad hid it from him his whole life. His dad has given him a potion to stop him from turning into a monster by hiding it as an inhaler. When Lucas forgets his inhaler at home to go the biggest party of the year, he turns into a monster which scares everyone. Luckily, his dad comes to the rescue with his inhaler which turns him back into a human. His dad explains what’s happening and where he got his powers from. Turns out, they’re from an island called Calvera. Lucas goes on an adventure to find this island. But will he find it? Watch it to find out!

The animation reminds me of Frankenweenie and Coraline which are some of my favorite Halloween movies. Unlike Frankenweenie and Coraline, Monster Island is all computer animation. However, it looks like claymation. I’m fascinated by the attention to detail. Every monster is unique. There are squid monsters and humongous monsters who tower over people.

I love the characters in this movie. Two of my favorites are the two police officers. I love their banter as they try to catch Lucas, but always fail. I love how the pumpkin monster is the “brains” of their team while the deer head monster is the tough dumb one. They had me cracking up the whole time.

The message of this movie is to accept yourself. Lucas’ uncle tries to become a monster since he never became a monster. He felt left out because all of his family are monsters, but he isn’t. Although his family loves him either way, he still tries to find a way to become a monster through science.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 6 to 10. You can find this incredible movie online now so, go check it out. Available on YouTube, Google Play, Budi and more.

Monster Island

By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12


This animated film is hilarious and is made with great quality. I love the colorful and detailed animation. The storyline is different from other monster films, which makes it stand out.

The story line is about a boy named Lucas, who doesn’t know that he is a monster. His dad has been keeping the truth from him, until he is ready to handle it. Lucas takes medicine every 24 hours so he doesn’t get “sick.” At least that is what his father told him. But one night he forgets to bring his inhaler with him and he turns into monster form. He is completely shocked, as is everyone around him, for he did not know he had this inside of him. His dad gives him a small explanation, but Lucas, wanting to know more, goes on a journey back to his birthplace. He goes back to Monster Island, to figure out who he really is.

The Director Leopoldo Aguilar has created a very original and interesting film. The style of animation that Art Director Jorge Carrera has created really detailed and realistic, without looking too scary, animation. The animation is so colorful and pleasing to the eye.

The music of this film by Ricardo Solis, really sets the tone for the film and adds suspense, which makes everything interesting. The music can tense you up or just make you feel really happy for no apparent reason. The music is a crucial part of any movie and Solis’s score truly makes this film even better!

My favorite scene is when Lucas turns into his monster form for the first time at a party. I really enjoyed this scene because everything is put into play. The music adds to the suspense, the animation of Lucas  transformation and the zooming in increases the tension. This scene has a lot of key elements that makes it my favorite.

The message of this film is to embrace who you are. Lucas, at first, does not like the idea of being a monster, but he soon realizes that it’s not so bad. Just because you are different doesn’t mean that you are alone. This is a really important lesson to teach kids because, some kids want to fit in and be like everyone else. If they aren’t, they think that they are not good enough. But Lucas shows that no matter what, you are special in your own ways even if you don’t realize it. There is always someone out there who will love you for who you are.

Monster Island is inspirational and just a very interesting film to watch. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for the ages of 4 to 12. Monster Island is available online at YouTube, Google Play and other locations now so, go check it out.



September Book Picks!

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THE MERMAID’S SECRET (978-0-7653-8130-9; $27.99; June 14, 2016), the sophomore women’s fiction/fantasy novel by Katie Schickel is a must-read!

THE MERMAID’S SECRET is  a wonderful, seafaring tale of magic, family and identity.

Set on an island off the Maine coastthis sophomore novel is the ultimate in beach reading.

It’s “Splash” meets “Jaws” with a touch of magic and adventure, appealing to both women’s fiction and fantasy fans alike.

In a recent 4-star review, RT Book Reviews said that the new novel delivers a “fast pace and believable emotion from the characters.” Schickel’s debut novel, HOUSEWITCH, was one of Booklist’s Top 10 Women’s Fiction for 2015.

Book Cover

t’s that time of year again when beleaguered parents constantly remind disobedient children that it’s more important than ever to do the right thing.

Otherwise, they could end up on Santa’s notorious naughty list – the one specially reserved for kids who fight with siblings, refuse to do their homework, throw temper tantrums and don’t eat their vegetables.

While banishment to the naughty list has long been a handy tool in the disciplinary arsenal, any responsible parent wants their children to be good the rest of the year, too, when the threat of empty stockings holds less sway over those impressionable minds.

“I suspect most children deep down want to do the right thing, but they struggle with temptation,” says K.J. Hales, author of It’s Hard to Be Good, the first volume in the Ellie the Wienerdog (www.elliethewienerdog.com) series of educational picture books for children.

“A lot of it comes down to self-control – being able to control both your emotions and your actions when things don’t go your way or you don’t get what you want.”

Hales, who creates teachers’ guides and educational activities to go along with the lessons in her books, says the earlier parents start teaching children to do the right thing, the better.

She says some of the ways they can reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior include:

• Be generous with praise. Don’t underestimate the importance of your words. It’s easy to notice when children do the wrong thing and to chastise them about it. But take note when they do the right thing, too, and praise their good choices or good behavior.  “Everyone loves words of approval and children will want to please you as a result,” Hales says.
• Make good choices a fun activity. One way to encourage good decisions could be to set aside one week in which each day you ask your children to write or draw about a good decision they made or they saw someone else make. Hales says this is an activity she suggests for classroom teachers, but it can work in the home as well. Be sure to discuss those good decisions with the children.
• Reward them. Discipline so often focuses on punishments for bad behavior, but children should also be rewarded for good behavior. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive. A reward could be a picnic in the park or a favorite dessert after dinner.

“I’m sure every parent wants their child to gain independence, grow emotionally and learn to make good decisions about their own behavior,” Hales says. “And this is important 365 days a year, not just in the weeks before Santa Claus comes to town.”

This truly is a delightful story that I recommend for young children! ~SoCal City Kids. 

About K.J. Hales

K.J. Hales (www.ellietheweinerdog.com) is author of the Ellie the Wienerdog series of educational children’s books for children. The first volume in the series is It’s Hard to Be Good. The Ellie character is based on Hales’ own dachshund also named Ellie.


Fly away with English actress Cerrie Burnell’s newest title and help Harper search for the city’s missing cats!


Harper and the Scarlet UmbrellaHarper and the Scarlet Umbrella
by Cerrie Burnell

Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson


This is a fun story that I specifically think that young girls will love!

Harper lives in the City of Clouds, an enchanting place where it rains every day and an umbrella is always a good idea. With her Aunt Sassy, her beloved cat, Midnight, and all of her neighbors in the Tall Apartment Block, every day is full of possibility.

But when every cat in the city goes missing—including Midnight—Harper is determined to find all of the precious pets. And she’ll need a magic, flying umbrella to help her in her search. Recruiting friends from her building to help, the magic umbrella whisks them into the sky on the trail of the cats and an adventure.

About the Author and Illustrator

Cerrie Burnell (author) is a presenter, actress, and writer, best known for her work in British children’s TV. She was featured in the Guardian’s 2011 list of the one hundred most inspirational women. She divides her time between London and Manchester, England.

Laura Ellen Anderson (illustrator) has been a children’s book illustrator since graduating from the University of Falmouth. She is the creator of the Evil Emperor Penguin comic and the illustrator for many books including the Witch Wars series. She lives in the United Kingdom.

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Looking for a great read for young boys? This one is a must!

Henry Hunter and the Cursed Pirates: Henry Hunter Series #2 
by John Matthews.

Henry Hunter’s friend Charlie is desperate for help. His parents have gone missing in the Caribbean Ocean, and no one will believe him that something sinister is afoot.

The only lead Henry and Dolf have is the sighting of a ghostly galleon and a huge tentacle of mist. Exploring the local pirate history and myths, Henry and Dolf uncover a cursed crew of pirates, led by no other than the deadly Edward Teach—Blackbeard himself. But what’s keeping the pirates sailing beyond their deaths? And how and why are they building a crew of live prisoners? It’s up to Henry and Dolf to survive monster waves and befriend a crazy local sea dog to solve the mystery and put the pirates back in their watery graves!

About the Author

John Matthews is a historian, folklorist, and author. He has produced more than ninety books on the Arthurian Legends and Grail Studies. He has devoted much of the past thirty years to the study of Arthurian Traditions and myth in general. He lives in Oxford, United Kingdom.


I love these Wee Gallery books! These are just perfect for the really little ones!

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Baby’s First Soft Books

Friendly Faces in the Wild: 9781609929138

Friendly Faces in the Yard: 9781609929145

Activity Books

Dog’s Day Out Activity Book: 9781609929176

Cat’s Playgroup Activity Book: 9781609929183

Find out more here!

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Sharks and Dolphins

By Kevin Kurtz

Sharks and dolphins both have torpedo-shaped bodies with fins on their backs. They slice through the water to grab their prey with sharp teeth. But despite their similarities, sharks and dolphins belong to different animal classes: one is a fish and gets oxygen from the water and the other is a mammal and gets oxygen from the air. Marine educator Kevin Kurtz guides early readers to compare and contrast these ocean predators through stunning photographs and simple, nonfiction text.

This one can be found at Arbordale Publishing. I love their books because they are fun to read and educational!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to feature. Info and images were also provided.