Archives for December 2023

How To Get the Most Out of Retirement

You’ve reached your destination, retirement.  You can say goodbye to the everyday stresses of work, the traffic, the commute, the difficult customers and co-workers.  This is the life, right?

That initial feeling of relief can one day wear off and you find yourself asking, Now What?

There are things you can do to get the most out of retirement.

Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To

Give yourself goals and objectives.  Having something to look forward to, and working towards it helps to keep you looking forward and eager about life. 

The goals can be simple or complex.  For example, planning a trip to visit distant relatives or family next year puts something there for you to look forward to.  You have to plan your route, if you’re driving, or book your airline tickets and hotels.  You think about what gifts you want to take to share, and what activities you have to do.  These activities help focus your mind and create your future.

There is no shortage of goals you can set for yourself.  Lose 10 lbs, read 5 books, and take that dream vacation you’ve always wanted.  There’s a whole world to explore and experience.  Splurge on it!


You’ve made the move to a retirement village or Lifestyle Communities at Point Lonsdale, and have access to the facilities.  Go to the gym regularly

The benefits of regular exercise, in particular weightlifting, can’t be over-emphasized. 

Weightlifting improves your mood and outlook.  It will help you sleep better, it helps to strengthen your bones, it improves muscle mass and balance and more.  It will give you more energy and confidence to try other things you may not have considered.

Don’t worry if you’re not athletic or have never tried it before.  Consult your doctor, and work with a trainer to help design a program that you can stick with.

Take a New Job

Just because you’re retired from one job or career, doesn’t mean you can’t have another.

If work is not for you, consider volunteering.  There are lots of organizations that would love to get some extra help. Love pets, consider helping at your local kennel or shelter. Have special skills, try teaching at a local school or youth group.  There is no shortage of opportunity to volunteer your special skills and talents.

Research has shown that retirees who volunteer or take on a less stressful secondary career are often in better health, both mentally and physically and report higher levels of satisfaction with life.

You will meet new people, and experience new things, and this helps keep you young in both mind and spirit.

LouLou, Dec. 29 Pet of the Week


LouLou is a lovely domestic longhair, a gentle kitty without a mean bone in her furry body. She doesn’t hiss, scratch, bite, or act aggressively in any way—that is, if you happen to be a human. LouLou loves people but not other animals. If she’s the only pet in a loving home, her life will be perfect, and so will she! LouLou is spending her kennel time at the Paw Shoppe, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ offsite adoption center, located at 6416 E Spring St., Long Beach. To adopt or foster LouLou, visit her at the Paw Shoppe, and email to speed the process, or call (562) 570-7387. Ask for ID#A696570.

The Boy And The Heron * Gorgeous Animation By Renowned Animator Hayao Miyazaki With a Complicated Story

From Academy Award winning and internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy And The Heron follows the incredible journey of young Mahito. After he experiences the tragic loss of his mother, Mahito settles into a new town that is anything but ordinary. After several strange encounters with a grey heron, Mahito goes on a search for his mother that leads him to a magical world unknown. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning. A semi-autobiographical fantasy from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tia O. comments, “The Boy And The Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a very unique Japanese film. The amazing high quality sound effects and suspenseful background music are spectacular. However, this film does get confusing very quickly.” Avalynn G. adds, “The film The Boy and The Heron is unlike any film I’ve ever seen before. I was in awe with the beautiful scenery and the music that goes from simple piano notes to complex orchestrations.” See her full review below.

The Boy And The Heron
By Tia O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The Boy And The Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a very unique Japanese film. The amazing high quality sound effects and suspenseful background music are spectacular. However, this film does get confusing very quickly.

This semi-autobiographical animated movie follows the story of young Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki), who tragically loses his mother in a fire and  moves to the country with his dad Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) and his step-mom Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura). Action soon rises after Mahito interacts with a talking gray heron (Masaki Suda) who is revealed to be a shapeshifting avian guide. The gray heron alludes to Mahito’s mother still being alive and Mahito goes on a journey to find her.

The sound effects in The Boy And The Heron enhance the film tremendously. Even though this film is animated the sound effects make it seem almost as if it is a live action film. From realistic deep footsteps to the realistic sounds of crashing ocean waves; sound director Kôji Kasamatsu absolutely brought this movie to life. I also enjoyed the background music throughout this film. The music by Joe Hisaishi creates suspenseful and surprising moments that kept me engaged throughout my viewing experience. My favorite scene in the movie is when Mahito and a fisherwomen named Kiriko (Kô Shibasaki) watch the Warwara (creatures whole embody both life and death) be released into the normal world. The music is beautiful and creates a sense of awe and wonder. Who could forget the gorgeous animation by the world renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki? Every scene in this movie is animated to perfection. For example, when Mahito first enters this new world he lands on an island surrounded by a vast deep blue ocean and stormy clouds. The ocean waves crash very fluidly and the clouds are different shades of purple and move very realistically. The detail and fluidity of the animation does not go unnoticed. As much as I like this film, I did find it somewhat confusing. Over the course of two hours we primarily follow the main character searching for his mother, but this plot is somewhat drowned out by many other side plots taking place, which makes things murky and difficult to track.

The film’s message is to not let grief hold you back and to find different healthy ways to move on. However, this film delivers this message in a very confusing way. It’s important to note that this movie contains mentions of self-harm, minor cursing, gore and small jump scares that could be frightening to younger audiences. 

I give The Boy And The Heron 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters December 8, 2023. Make sure you give it a watch! 

The Boy and The Heron

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

The film The Boy and The Heron is unlike any film I’ve ever seen before. I was in awe with the beautiful scenery and the music that goes from simple piano notes to complex orchestrations. 

The storyline follows a family living during a time of war in Tokyo. Tragically, the main character, Mahito Maki’s (Soma Santoki) mother dies in a fire at the hospital where she works. Years later, Mahito and his father move from Tokyo to start a new life with his new step-mother. Outside this new home, Mahito is drawn to a gray heron that seems to be taunting him and leading him to a tower on the property.  His step-mother, Natsuko, (Yoshino Kimura) disappears and Mahito follows the heron into the tower in search of her. Entering the tower brings him into another world where he meets his mother from another time and together they race to find Natsuko while battling many obstacles such as pelicans, parakeets and the heron’s sneaky and selfish ways.        

I love the character, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki), both in her younger and older self. She is helpful and fierce and stays by Mahito’s side. The ship she lives on in the strange tower world is so beautiful and the idea of her taking care of the warawara before they float into our world and are born as human beings shows how nurturing she is. I really enjoy how this movie makes me think and make connections between parallel worlds. I knew that Lady Himi was going to be his mom and when I realized that he was meeting her during the year she vanished into the tower when she was younger, my mind was blown as the puzzle came together. I was also shocked when Natsuko said that Mahito’s mom is her sister! There are many twists and turns in this film that kept me on the edge of my seat. The artistry in the animation, by Hayao Miyazaki, is really neat to watch and made me want to research and learn more about the film and about anime. 

The film’s message is to find acceptance after the loss of a loved one and to find peace during a time of turmoil. Mahito struggles with personal grief while his country is also struggling during a period of war. 

I give The Boy and The Heron 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 8, 2023.

Holiday Book Round Up!

In the Holly Jolly North Pole

A Pop-Up Adventure

Joel Stern; Illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff

Publisher: Little Simon

Ages 3 – 5, Grades P – k

Join Santa’s helpers on a journey through his workshop in this cheerful, sturdy holiday pop-up book!

Whose Prints?

Kari Allen; Illustrated by Kim Smith

Publisher: Little Simon

Board Book/Shaped or Plus

Ages All Ages, Grades P up

Go on a snowy adventure through the woods and match animals to their tracks in this beautiful board book with die-cuts throughout!

Brave Little Bear

Steve Small; Illustrated by Steve Small

Paula Wiseman Books

Picture Book

Ages 4 – 8, Grades P – 3

From internationally acclaimed picture book creator Steve Small comes a tender story about fear of change and what it means to be brave.

Elves Are the Worst!

Alex Willan; Illustrated by Alex Willan

S&S Books for Young Readers

Picture Book

Ages 4 – 8, Grades P – 3

Gilbert the Goblin infiltrates Santa’s workshop to prove that goblins are better workers than elves in the side-splitting latest installment in The Worst! picture book series, where even the strangest of creatures can become the best of friends.

Cat Sees Snow

Laura Gehl; Illustrated by Fred Blunt

Simon Spotlight

Ready-to-Read Ready-to-Go!

Ages 3 – 5, Grades P – k

From Laura Gehl, author One Big Pair of Underwear and Goat Wants to Eat, comes another side-splitting Ready-to-Go! Ready-to-Read about three animal friends on their first snow day! Cat sees snow. Dog cannot blow the snow. Pig is slow in the snow. Can they still have fun in the snow?

A Gift from Daniel

Maria Le; Illustrated by Jason Fruchter

Simon Spotlight

Ready to Read Pre-Level 1

Ages 3 – 5, Grades P – k

A new generation of children love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, inspired by the classic series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!

Daniel Tiger makes gifts for family and friends in this holiday-themed Pre-Level 1 Ready-to-Read.

Red & Green

Lois Ehlert; Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Beach Lane Books

Picture Book

Ages 0 – 8, Grades P – 3

The classic story of the night before Christmas gets a humorous twist in this engaging holiday picture book filled with die-cuts from the acclaimed and beloved picture book creator, Lois Ehlert.

The Snow Man: A True Story

Jonah Winter; Illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Beach Lane Books

Picture Book NF

Ages 0 – 8, Grades 0 – 3

Meet the man living alone in the mountains whose hobby of measuring snowfall led to a global understanding of climate change in this nonfiction picture book from celebrated mother-son team Jonah and Jeanette Winter.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

Tomie dePaola; Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

S&S Books for Young Readers

Picture Book

Ages 4 – 8, Grades P – 3

In this holiday follow-up to Tomie dePaola’s Caldecott Honor–winning Strega Nona, our favorite Grandma-Witch is back and bringing her magic to Christmas with a town feast—can she count on Big Anthony as her only helper?

The Cat on the Dovrefell

A Christmas Tale

Tomie dePaola; Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

S&S Books for Young Readers

Picture Book

Ages 4 – 8, Grades P – 3

A very large cat may be the key to saving Christmas in this wryly humorous retelling of the Norwegian fairy tale The Cat on the Dovrefjell.

Merry Mischief


Alan Katz; Illustrated by Sernur Isik

On Sale: 09/05/23


Chapter Book

Ages 5 – 8, Grades k – 3

The Elf Academy elves take on babysitting in this fourth and final book in a series about a young elf’s merry misadventures, part of the Aladdin QUIX line of fun-to-read, short chapter books that’s perfect for emerging readers!

Chiller Thriller!

Joe McGee; Illustrated by Ethan Long


Chapter Book

Ages 7 – 10, Grades 2 – 5

The Junior Monster Scouts befriend a lonely yeti in the hilarious seventh chapter book of the Junior Monster Scouts series!

A Lift-the-Flap Book with 35 Flaps! (Clever Publishing)

Clever’s popular board book series continues with Guess What’s for Christmas, which invites young readers to learn all about Christmas. Each full-page spread introduces a new holiday theme, from exploring Santa’s workshop to baking festive treats, finding gifts under the Christmas tree, and playing in the snow. Each turn of the page provides a new, engaging activity that will keep kids entertained.

Elena Feldman, Clever Publishing

It’s Christmas Eve, and the forest animals are excited for the holiday. But they’re worried, too—there’s no snow, so they’re not sure that Santa Claus will be able to visit them in his sleigh. Will they be able to find a way to make it snow? Christmas in the Forest is an interactive and fun story!

Winter has descended upon Hedgehog’s forest home! As he prepares his home for the chilly season, Hedgehog wonders: How does everyone else spend the season? Join Hedgehog on this colorful, brightly-illustrated journey as he visits all of his forest animal friends to make sure they’re prepared for the long months ahead! I love that kids will learn about Winter!

by Nora Watkins

Children will love to complete the 30 fun puzzles in this book! I loved the characters in this activity book. Children will have so much fun with this one! It’s a fun Christmas holiday book but also for the season of Winter! Snowy Mazes is sure to be a hit!

Christmas is one of the most special times of the year for the young narrator and her brother—and it’s even more special when they spend it with Nana and Grandpa! Children will love this Christmas story!

Happy Holidays!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to spotlight for the upcoming holiday. Cover images also provided.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Its Connection to Substance Abuse

As the days grow shorter and sunlight becomes a scarce commodity during the winter months, some find themselves grappling with a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression, often colloquially referred to as the winter blues, can have a profound impact on mental health.

Surprisingly, there is a growing body of research suggesting a link between Seasonal Affective Disorder and substance abuse. Unfortunately, loved ones who are alcoholics can often struggle even more with their addiction at this time of the year.

To better understand what is going on, let’s look at the intricate relationship between SAD and the misuse of substances.

Understanding seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is described as a subtype of major depressive disorder that occurs at specific times of the year. Particularly during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are limited.

The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of major depression and may include persistent feelings of sadness, low energy, and difficulty concentrating. You can also experience changes in sleep patterns and diminished interest in activities that you used to enjoy.

While the exact cause of SAD remains unclear, researchers believe that a combination of biological and environmental factors contributes to its onset.

The role of light and circadian rhythms

One of the leading theories explaining the connection between Seasonal Affective Disorder and substance abuse revolves around the role of exposure to light and its impact on circadian rhythms.

Reduced exposure to natural sunlight during the winter months can disrupt your body’s internal clock, leading to imbalances in serotonin and melatonin levels.

These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles. When these systems are disrupted, someone with SAD may experience a heightened vulnerability to substance abuse as a means of self-medication.

The path from self-medication and substance abuse

When someone is grappling with the persistent gloom of Seasonal Affective Disorder, substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drugs may seem like they offer temporary relief from the emotional pain.

This form of self-medication is a common coping mechanism for those attempting to alleviate the symptoms of depression. However, the relief is often short-lived, and the use of substances can quickly spiral into dependence and addiction.

Dual diagnosis – SAD and substance use disorders

The intertwining of Seasonal Affective Disorder and substance abuse often results in what mental health professionals refer to as a dual diagnosis. This dual diagnosis creates unique challenges as attempts are made to grapple with the complexities of both mood disorders and addiction.

Treating these co-occurring conditions requires an integrated approach that addresses both the underlying causes of SAD and the patterns of substance abuse.

Treatment strategies

Recognizing the connection between Seasonal Affective Disorder and substance abuse is crucial for developing effective treatment strategies.

Light therapy, or phototherapy, is a common and proven intervention for SAD. This aims to regulate circadian rhythms and alleviate depressive symptoms. Additionally, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and support groups can provide valuable tools for anyone dealing with the dual burden of SAD and substance use disorders.

Seasonal Affective Disorder casts a shadow over the lives of many individuals during the dark winter months, impacting mental health and well-being. The link between SAD and substance abuse highlights the importance of addressing both conditions simultaneously for effective treatment.

By understanding the complex interplay between mood disorders and substance misuse, healthcare professionals can develop targeted interventions to help break the cycle of self-medication and achieve a lasting recovery.

Holiday Book Guide 2023!

Special Effects Lettering and Calligraphy

With Special Effects Lettering and Calligraphy, you’ll learn to master a variety of lettering styles and gorgeous mediums to create amazing lettered art.

This fun, colorful, and inspiring guide for lettering enthusiasts at all levels of experience is written and illustrated by popular lettering artist and Domestika instructor Grace Frosen of @gracecallidesigns, who shares her secrets on how to create vibrant and unique designs.

I love that this book is perfect for beginners!

Special Effects Lettering and Calligraphy

A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Amazing Lettered Art
Explore New Styles, Colors, and Mediums
by Grace Frösén$22.99
144 pages / Paperback
ISBN: 9780760380543

Gifts for Kids, Pet Lovers & Gifts that Give Back:

PT Runs Free”, written by Jason Kraus and illustrated by Connor DeHaan, is an inspirational story featuring real-life rescue dog PT, who now resides in Fort Myers, Florida, and his journey as a shelter dog to facing further adversity by losing a leg to finding his “furever” home with a powerful message he now delivers – to Never Give Up. Not only is this book written with an inspirational message, but the power of hope is being spread as all proceeds are being donated to animal rescue groups and humane societies.

Follow the real PT at

Readers can purchase at:

Amazon: PT Runs Free: Kraus, Jason, DeHaan, Connor: 9798218046088: Books

Barnes & Noble: PT Runs Free by Jason Kraus, Connor DeHaan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (

ETHAN AND THE STRAYS by Ezra Jack Keats award winner John Sullivan, illustrated by New York Times bestselling Hatem Aly, is on sale October 3rd! Ethan is a sweet boy whose parents has a strict no-pet policy. But when he notices three stray kittens on the way to school, he has to do something! So, with the help of his older brother and the local animal shelter, Ethan learns all the ways you can responsibly care for stray animals. Ethan and the Strays is a simple and heartwarming lesson for the youngest of readers about caring for stray animals. Backmatter and extra resources are also available for more in depth learning. Caring for stray cats is also a passion project for author John Sullivan, who has rescued dozens of cats in his hometown of Chicago.

WINTER by debut author Kelsey Gross, illustrated by the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner Renata Liwska. This picture book is a soft and fuzzy ode to all forest animals and the atmospheric magic of the winter solstice. On the longest night of the year, all the animals gather to watch the light fade into night with all their friends as the moon and stars shine down on a lone tree in the forest. This gentle and lulling picture book is the perfect celebration of the peace, quiet, and serenity found during the Winter Solstice! (or before bedtime)

In ready-to-read (Level 2), BUMBLEBEE’S BIG MISSION by Patty Michaels (out: 12/12/23) readers will get the scoop on how one of the most famous Autbots, Bumblebee, spends his days. Since the Transformers War ended, Bumblebee has been living under the radar, helping Optimus Prime whenever he needs him. Only a select few know his whereabouts and the top secret, super important missions he has completed. Perfect for kids 4-8 year olds.

In the illustrated chapter book, MAY THE BEST BOT WIN! by Ryder Windham (out:12/12/23), Robby and Mo show the youngest Terrans that a little sibling rivalry can be fun, during a Terran Triathlon! This action-packed illustrated chapter book is an all-new, original story featuring beloved characters from the show. Perfect for kids 4-8 year olds.

love this story!

 Give the Perfect Gift this Holiday Season: Unconditional Love Wrapped in a Heart-Warming Children’s Book!

Score major points with kids this holiday season by giving them the gift that keeps on giving, the acclaimed children’s book, “From the Pocket of an Overcoat” (Friendly Falls Press; Archway Publishing from Simon & Schuster), by author and illustrator Robert Vincent. Ideal for classrooms, gift exchanges, stocking-stuffers or a wrapped gift, this charming book about the adoption of a loveable cat captures the holiday spirit and is perfect for kids, parents, and pet-lovers alike.

Available online at, and at the book’s website,, as well as select bookstores, “From the Pocket of an Overcoat”  is based on the real-life story of a cat named Max adopted by Vincent’s son Matthew from a homeless woman in Dallas who found Max as a tiny kitten and had him in the pocket of her overcoat as she was trying to find him a home. The tale is about an affable cat, Max Buckles, and how he finds himself and his way to a new home – moving from the cozy overcoat pocket of Sally in the city, to the country with Farmer Buckles and his other animals, including four dogs – Sam, Tots, Scotty (who is not Scottish, but is plaid), and Junior Buckles. Along the way, he discovers a true sense of belonging within his new family. As told through the journey of Max the cat, this is a story about self-identity, acceptance, animal rescue, and adoption.

A portion of each book sale of “From the Pocket of an Overcoat” will be donated to organizations that promote animal rescue and adoption – The Humane Society and Best Friends.  Readers and fans of Max Buckles canlike and follow the book on Instagram and Facebook, and can also send an email to with proof of purchase to get a special Thank You note from Max himself. To learn more,

 THE LITTLE TIGER(Paula Wiseman)

From the beloved author-illustrator of the My Little Animal Friend picture book series, comes a new adorable story about new friends and birthday surprises. THE LITTLE TIGER(Paula Wiseman | On Sale 12/12/23) is a tenderly told, gorgeously-illustrated story about finding the courage to go into new experiences with excitement, confidence, and joy.

Beloved author-illustrator Nicola Killen’s characteristic “understated charm” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review for The Little Reindeer) shines with this heart-warming bedtime story’s limited color illustrations accented with lovely foil and interactive die cut pages. This is a wonderful bedtime story book!

Dogtown is a shelter for stray dogs and discarded robot dogs, whose owners have tired of plugging them in, and keeping their parts in working order. We want to adopt ALL THE DOGS: Orphan dogs, real and robot, are irresistible. This book is about empathy as well as adventure. But at its core Dogtown is about friendship and having the courage to find out where you belong. Or as Chance says, “Your heart is a muscle. It grows stronger the more you use it.”

Fantoons Celebrates The Timeless Music Of The Beach Boys With First-Ever One-Of-A-Kind Official Coloring Book

Showcasing artwork driven by the band’s enduring legacy, unforgettable harmonies and good vibrations, the 72-page new-yet-classic coloring book pays homage to the vast array of sights and sounds of the band’s music, and eclectic artistry. Each page encapsulates the iconic essence of the band, while providing an original spin for old and new fans alike. 

For the first time in Fantoons’ acclaimed history of coloring books The Beach Boys: Official Coloring Book includes a special QR code linking to a custom Beach Boys Playlist

Available at with limited edition collector’s items, and at all the best bookstores in the United States and worldwide.

by Jesse Byrd (Author), Sandy Kaur Gill (Author), Monica Paola Rodriguez (Illustrator)
Paw Prints; May 30, 2023; Ages 5-8; 40 pages
Hardcover; $19.99; 978-1223191492; 10 1/4 x 10 1/4
Paperback; $9.99; 978-1223186986; 10 x 10

After Kavya and her family are flooded out of their home in Southeast Asia, they have to make the difficult decision to return and try to rebuild or move away from their native land. Two of the creators of Seeking Shanti are also behind the non-profits Create-Structure and Better Shelter. Over the past five years, Better Shelter has collaborated with leading UN organizations, NGOs, governmental donors and the private sector to provide shelter for the displaced due to climate crises. So far, they have provided 60,000 shelters that benefit displaced families, classrooms and health care facilities in over 60 countries.

About the Author: Jesse Byrd is an award-winning author of six traditionally published children’s books. As an editor, consultant, and art director, he’s helped develop more than 40 children’s books in the last three years, with most of those centering and being by diverse people. He has led creative projects for the NBA, PayPal, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Brex, and more and is the youngest NPR Foundation Board Member. In 2022, he was one of the top-selling literary agents in America, selling 21 titles to traditional publishers, with most of those titles being from first-time authors and illustrators from marginalized backgrounds. He believes in championing a spectrum of diversity and “own voices” across immigrant experiences, ethnic diversity, differently-abled communities, age, nationality, and more.

by Carina Ho (Author), Jesse Byrd (Author), Monica Paola Rodriguez (Illustrator)
Paw Prints; May 30, 2023; Ages 4-7; 48 pages
Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1223186306; 10 1/4 x 10 1/4
Paperback; $9.99; 978-1223186313; 10 1/4 x 9 2/5

A young girl aspires to dance despite her physical disability. Welcome to Sametown, where everyone and everything is…well…the same. Except Mara! She’s a little different. She’s bright. She’s sunny. And, unlike her classmates who are all planning on performing a similar magic show act at the school talent show, she is going to dance, dance, dance! One problem: everyone in Sametown – her classmates, her teacher – they all think she shouldn’t do it. And it’s not just (it seems) because dancing isn’t the status quo in Sametown…It’s because they just don’t believe in Mara because she uses a wheelchair. Mara won’t let their dissuading and their heckling rock her spirit, though. She’s Mighty Mara and she’s about to shake she some new life into her homogenous hometown in the most surprising and beautiful of ways.

About the Author: Carina Ho is a Bay Area-based music producer, award-winning dancer, and author who uses a wheelchair. As an electronic music producer, she creates work under the moniker ONIKHO and melds her influences of blues, soul, and pop. Having formerly danced professionally with AXIS Dance Company, she often blends dance and music through collaborations with artists both with and without disabilities. She is a Fulbright Fellowship recipient and has toured both the United States and internationally to teach and perform. As an advocate for inclusion and accessibility, Carina’s mission as an artist is to champion greater visibility for people with disabilities. Mighty Mara is her first book and she hopes that it will inspire young readers to practice inclusive behavior throughout their lives. Carina is represented by Jesse B. Creative and you can see her work at and follow her on Facebook and Instagram

by Malik Sickstein (Author), Paige A. Mason (Illustrator)
Paw Prints; May 30, 2023; Ages 5-8; 48 pages
Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1223186566; 10 1/4 x 10 1/4
Paperback; $8.99;  978-1223186573; 9 1 /2 x 10

Kiss stage fright goodbye…
You’re super fly.
Grab that mic!

I Grab the Mic is the first in a picture book series featuring kids overcoming socially-challenging scenarios and building confidence, all written in lyrical hip-hop inspired verse. In this first story, a young girl and her friends grapple with the nerves that come with public speaking. Ultimately the kids all find the confidence to share their voice!

About the Author: Malik Sickstein is a Master’s level counseling professional, hip-hop historian, proud Bison, and recording artist who co-authored the critically acclaimed YA novel Let Me Hear A Rhyme. He is a committee panelist for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival and is passionate about writing children’s and adult non-fiction that express life lessons. He is the product of three places: Harlem, NYC (where he was born), D.C. (his second home), and the SF Bay Area (where he lives). Malik Sickstein is represented by Jesse B. Creative and you can find him online at and follow him on Instagram

by Rev Valdez (Author, Illustrator)
Paw Prints; May 30, 2023; Ages 5-7; 48 pages
Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1223186399; 10 1/4 x 10 1/4
Paperback; $9.99; 978-1223186405; 9 4/5 x 9 4/5

Meet Bunso, a boy with a really scary problem. It’s the Mumu, the Filipino version of the Boogeyman, who likes to frighten kids who don’t do as they are told by their elders! The Mumu will not let Bunso draw (on the walls), eat ice cream (before dinner), or play video games (his older brother’s). But Bunso has had enough! Gearing up to fight back against this destroyer of fun, Bunso makes surprising discoveries about the Mumu (and himself) in this fun, comic-like picture book that introduces children to Filipino culture and words.

About the Author: Rev Valdez is a Filipino-American illustrator based in San Francisco, CA. He’s passionate about introducing young readers to the myths and mythical creatures of Filipino culture through fun and funny visual storytelling. He is the author and illustrator of Bunso Meets a Mumu and is represented by Jesse B. Creative. Follow Rev on Facebook and Instagram

by Mikki Hernandez (Author), Victoria Lewis (Illustrator)
Paw Prints; July 4, 2023; Ages 5-8; 32 pages
Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1223186429; 8 3/5 x 11 1/3
Paperback: $9.99; 978-1223186436; 8 1/2 x 11

A young mixed-race girl named Remy, encounters that intrusive question, “What are you?” during her first day at a new school, which sends her on a journey towards self-acceptance. Feeling confused about where she belongs, Remy learns about ethnicity and what it means to be mixed by doing her favorite activity with her mother: baking. When she then returns to school, Remy shares the importance of celebrating different backgrounds, as you would the ingredients that make up a delicious cake, with her classmates.

About the Author: Mikki Hernandez is an actress, voiceover artist, and writer. She attended UCLA earning a degree in Communications and works in entertainment. She is of mixed-race heritage and enjoys discussing culture and new perspectives on her blog MixedKids&Co. Her debut children’s book, Cake Mix: Learning to Love All Your Ingredients, is now available. In her free time, she can be found dancing, taking long walks in the sun, or planning her next international trip. Mikki lives in Los Angeles and is represented by Jesse B. Creative. Learn more about her at and follow her on Instagram.

by Janeen Jackson (Author), Brittanie Gaja (Illustrator)
Paw Prints; August 22, 2023; Ages 4-7; 40 pages
Hardcover; $18.99; 978-1223186535; 11 x 8 1/2
Paperback; $8.99;‎ 978-1223186542; 10 3/4 x 8 1.2

Young and in love, Momma Red and Poppa Yellow Tomato decide to have a baby tomato. However, Momma and Poppa quickly learn that they cannot properly care for their sweet seedling the way they want and make the difficult decision to release her to another loving tomato family in Hopewell Garden, using the assistance of a helpful ladybug adoption agent. Hello, Sweet Baby is a heartfelt, magical story by a bright new talent about adoption, making tough choices, honoring differences, and celebrating different types of families.

The Sun and Planets
Patricia Geis 

Filled with pop-ups, pull-outs, sliders, and foldouts, this interactive nonfiction book about our Solar System will blow children’s minds. This is a great book to introduce the solar system to children!

HC 9781638192084

Pop-up Book 

Ages 5 to 10 / 14 pages / $29.99 


Imprint: Bushel & Peck Books

Nana and Me
Special Poems Just for Us
Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Sejung Kim

From the pen of world-reknowned poet, author, and Nana, Jane Yolen, come 19 poems about grandmothers from around the world.

HC 9781638192145

Ages 4 to 8 / 32 pages / $18.99


Imprint: Moonshower

Body Music
Poems about the Noises Your Body Makes
Jane Yolen & Ryan G. Van Cleave
Illustraten by Luis San Vincente

“Yolen and Van Cleave give voice to bodily noises—from butts that “BOOM” to giggles and gasps—in a riotously silly poetry collection perfectly tuned to a toilet humor–loving audience.”—Publishers Weekly

HC 9781638192015

Ages 4 to 8 / 32 pages / $18.99


Imprint: Moonshower

Stronger Than She Thinks
Nancy Kerrigan
with Ryan G. Van Cleave
Illustratrated by Arief Putra 

In her first book for children, two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan shares scenes from her childhood as she learns how to work hard, to believe in herself, and to land her first axel jump.

HC 9781638192077

Ages 4 to 8 / 32 pages / $18.99 


Imprint: Bushel & Peck Books

Workman Publishing: Indestructibles, Sesame Street Edition

The original INDESTRUCTIBLES® series—the bestselling chew proof, rip proof, and 100% washable line of books—is thrilled to collaborate with Sesame Street to launch an exciting team-up.

The first two books in a planned six-part series are Sesame Street: Elmo Says Surprise! and Sesame Street: Starring Abby Cadabby! Ages 0+; $5.99. These adorable new additions will encourage a love for reading as little ones join their favorite Sesame Street friends on delightful adventures.

It’s Elmo!


Indestructibles are books built for the way babies “read”: with their hands and mouths. Chew-proof, rip-proof, and drool-proof, they’re printed on a unique 100% nontoxic, paperlike material that holds up to anything babies can throw at it—gumming, spilling, dragging across the floor. Indestructibles are the little books that could. And if they get dirty, just wash them off. Beloved by babies and their parents, Indestructibles were invented by Amy Pixton, a mother of triplets, after bits of traditional board books found their way into her babies’ mouths.

New Cookbook Creates a Lively and Fun Way
to Think About Plant-based Cooking

This Plantastic Cookbook is a flavorful collection of plant-based recipes developed by Hollywood caterer and Edible Schoolyard Chef/Director Gwen Kenneally.

Renowned chef and food enthusiast, Gwen Kenneally, has released her highly anticipated second cookbook.  The Plantastic Cookbook offers home cooks a delightful array of delectable recipes that will tantalize the taste buds of both vegans and omnivores alike. Kenneally, a celebrated chef with over two decades of culinary experience, has crafted a cookbook that reflects her passion for sustainable and delicious plant-based dishes.

The Plantastic Cookbook is a culinary journey that showcases the incredible versatility of plant-based ingredients, bringing a burst of vibrant flavors to your table. Sections include toasts and jams, soups and stews, greens and sides, jackfruit, quinoa, grilled entrees, party fare and sweets. Over 90 recipes to expand the vegan palate and introduce new flavors and cooking techniques to those not yet familiar with the joys and benefits of plant-based eating.

Some of the recipes in the book include:

  • Fava Bean Mint Toast
  • Beet Soup with Cashew Crème Fraiche
  • Crabby Jack Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce
  • Breakfast Quinoa
  • Cedar-Planked Pecan, Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Vegan Brie
  • Vegetarian Moon in the 7th House Rolls
  • Jambalaya
  • Cajun Grilled Eggplant
  • Rice Pudding with Whipped Cashew Cream
  • Lotus Kitchen Cookie

I love the Cajun Grilled Eggplant recipe!

Connect with Gwen at,

Facebook: Gwen Kenneally

Instagram: @gwenkenneall

by Kris Cramer
Ulysses Press; June 2023; $19.95

Looking to eat more plant-based this upcoming new year? Trader Joe’s has you covered with this one! 150 Delicious Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes Using Foods from the World’s Greatest Grocery Store. I love the Tasty Tofu Scramble! You can find this one on You can also purchase and find out more here.

Know a Wednesday show fan? This is a must!


By Editors of Ulysses Press

Color your way through Wednesday’s dark and twisted world with original, hand-drawn illustrations that will pull you by your braids into Jericho, Vermont and leave your head spinning.

You can find out more and purchase here.

by Iphigenia Jones

Here’s another one that is sure to be a hit with Wednesday show fans!

Grab your favorite knives, guillotines, and other torture devices and join Wednesday Addams on a culinary journey through Nevermore, Jericho, and beyond with 66 deliciously dark and twisted recipes inspired by the hit Netflix show. You can find this one on “Secret” Ginger Snaps is perfect for the holidays!

Perfect book for any cat lover!

Photographs by Mark Rogers.

By the Editors of Ulysses Press.

Discover the secret thoughts of our cheeky yet charming pet cats, with 50 adorable, full-color photos of cats paired with their hilarious commentary.

Find out where to buy here.

This one is great for cooking with kids!

I love this cookbook and it’s perfect for kids 10+. Craft some fun kitchen magic just in time for Halloween with this kid-friendly follow-up to the USA Today best-selling The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook. It has fun recipes such as Harvest Vegetable Pizza and Fully Charged Crystal Candy. Find out more here.

Love the drawings in this one!

by Mikayla Sherfy

Celebrate New York City’s best borough as you color your way through detailed illustrations of architecture, local spots, and more iconic scenes from Brooklyn. I have to admit that I have never been to Brooklyn or New York but after seeing this book, it is definitely on my bucket list! You can find it on and find out where else to buy here.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this holiday book guide. Cover images and information were also provided.

Holiday Pet Guide

Alzoo Hip & Joint Mobility Soft Chews

If you are like me, then your fur baby is definitely on your holiday shopping list! Here are a few favorites!

Soft Chews (90-count): Potent, natural blends of ingredients specifically formulated to improve target areas for your beloved dogs:   Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil and flax seed oil work wonders in Skin & Coat Soft Chews.

       Probiotics, fennel, and other immune-supporting ingredients keep dogs’ seasonal allergies in check in Allergy Soft Chews.

        Botanicals like chamomile manage stress (from fireworks to car rides to separation anxiety) for Calming Soft Chews.        Powerful antioxidants support normal inflammation response in Hip & Joint Mobility Soft Chews.

With additions to their popular concentrated shampoo, they will also add a concentrated stain and odor remover, as well as a new plant-based mobility collar and severe accident remover. Perhaps the most noteworthy of ALZOO’s new product offerings is a new category of natural soft chews, designed for your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Please see below for more details on all ALZOO’s new product innovations.

Concentrated Shampoos: Three new concentrated powders omit single-use bottles and never ship water while working wonders on your pet’s bath routine. In three varieties (Soothing, Puppy Care, and Deep Conditioning) these shampoos will be a new go-to.

Mobility Collar: The first dog collar to naturally soothe joint discomfort with essential oils, ALZOO’s clinically studied innovation showed to reduce stiffness and improve mobility within 3 days of usage. Each collar lasts up to 30 days and is waterproof.

Severe Accident Remover: This highly absorbent lavender powder easily cleans up the worst types of messes pets leave behind without leaving behind any residue.

Concentrated Stain & Odor Remover: A more sustainable option to remove pet stains and odors while reducing carbon footprint with NO water shipping and no single-use plastic.

All Alzoo products are available on Amazon, and other national retailers and specialty stores.

For more information, please visit:

Self Disclosure: I received information and images to post.

Family Travel Essentials this Holiday Season

Keep Going First Aid Kit

Whether your adventures take you around the world or close to home, the handy, compact Keep Going First Aid Kit has all the essential first aid supplies you need. From burn relief to bandages, your family will be ready for anything! TSA approved, the lightweight kit is packaged in an organized, stylish water & stain-resistant case for at home or on-the-go. Created by a mom of four for parents, travel and adventure loving families, the Keep Going First Aid Kit is an essential for the entire family. Four kits are available, including the SuperKit (270 pieces), GoKit (130 pieces), NEW MiniKit (60 pieces) and KidsKit (44 pieces). A variety of stylish, trendy patterns and colors are available. The kits can be found on the website and on I absolutely love this kit and keep one in my car all of the time!

Price: $14.99 (KidsKit) and up


Alarmee Self-Defense Keychain

Introducing Alarmee, the rechargeable personal self-defense keychain alarm from 3DActive. The stylish personal alarm is sleek and small in size, but powerful and loud when pulled! Ideal for travelers, as well as anyone walking, hiking, jogging or taking their pet for a walk. Simply attach the Alarmee directly to your keys, waist, purse and more using the included carabiner. Simply pull the ring to emit a loud 130db siren and bright strobe light to attract attention. To deactivate the alarm, replace the ring. Made from premium quality, impact-resistant materials with an integrated internal structure, Alarmee is durable and made to last. Alarmee features a rechargeable Lithium ion battery and low battery warning so you can recharge in as little as 60 minutes. The alarm can run continuously for up to 70 minutes. A USB-C Charging Cable is included for fast charging. Learn more at Available on, as well. 

Price: $23.99


Water Bottle Bands

Avoid water bottle mix-ups and back seat squabbles with the handy Water Bottle Bands from Mabel’s Labels! It’s easy to personalize and identify your child’s water bottles with reusable silicone name bands. Designed to stretch and fit snugly over most sized bottles, the bands are dishwasher and microwave-safe, so you won’t have to worry about them falling off! The Water Bottle Bands are also sterilizer-safe, BPA-free, durable and reusable. With font and design customization options, the bands are available in two sizes and six bright colors. Choose 2, 3 or 4 bands per package. In addition to the new Water Bottle Bands, Mabel’s Labels offers a vast collection of durable, waterproof labels & more that are ideal for getting your kids organized for daycare, school, camp or any other activity. Learn more at

Price: $15 and up


Handzies Soap + Water Wipes

Get a ‘soap and water clean’ anytime, anywhere! Individually packaged and perfect for on-the-go, Handzies Soap + Water Wipes give you fresh, clean hands using only natural castile soap, water and essential oils. Say goodbye to harsh hand sanitizers, Handzies do not contain alcohol, BZK, triclosan, artificial perfumes or dyes. Gentle for use by the entire family! Ideal for keeping in your carry-on bag, laptop bag, purse or backpack while out and about with your family. 

Price: $7.99 and up


Baby Car Seat Mirror

Car rides with your baby feel like a breeze with KeaBabies Baby Car Seat Mirror. Whether a daily drive to run errands or an adventurous road trip, the mirror enables you to check on and stay connected with your baby while staying focused on the road. Drive with peace of mind while your baby is nestled safely and comfortably in their rear-facing car seat. The mirror is scratch-free, shatter-proof and crash-tested. Suitable for all car types. Available in two sizes.

Price: $21.96


New Swift Diaper Changing Mat

From the backseat, the park, a busy airport or rest stop to even the grandparents’ home, diaper changes become a breeze with the new Swift Diaper Changing Mat from KeaBabies! With an innovative one-hand design, you can simply whip out your Swift Diaper Changing Mat from your diaper bag and unfold it with one hand while holding your baby. Easy to clean, waterproof, portable and compact for quick diaper changes on-the-go! Available in 9 modern colors and designs, including Woods, Acacia, Rainbow, Clouds, Gray Mod, Black Geo, Navy Blue, Sweet Pink and Classic Gray. Learn more at

Price: $13.96

Happy and safe travels this holiday season!

Self Disclosure: I received free samples of the above products. Images were also provided.