Monday, October 26, 2020

4 Free Library Books About Elections


After months of waiting, my neighborhood library reopened, and I could borrow books again. Yahoo!!! I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, it's one of the finest places on earth. This time I found books on elections.

With the 2020 Presidential election upon us, I thought it imperative to read and review picture books on the topic.

I've done a series of mini-reviews to aid you in quickly finding quality books to read to your children.

1. Vote For Our Future

Author: Margaret McNamara

Illustrator: Micah Player

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books (Division of Penguin Random House)

ISBN: 978-1-984892505

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

Elections may by for grown-ups, but when Stanton Elementary School transforms into a polling place, the students become a vital part of the election process.

In no uncertain terms, these civic minded kids prove that despite being unable to vote, there are other ways they can get involved. After reading voter guides and researching election history, the students help spread the word about the upcoming election and why it’s so important to vote.

They help their adult family members make plans to vote and encourage their neighbors to take advantage of this opportunity to make changes.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “I don’t like lines either,” answered Nadiya’s auntie, “but if we stand in line for coffee, or for a movie, or at a bank…”

The perfect rebuttal for anyone who doesn’t like standing in lines to vote (provided the polling station’s waiting times are reasonable).


A marvelous tribute to children and future voters of America!

I enjoyed everything about this book! Let’s start with the title, Vote For Our Future. As parents and teachers, we all want to make the world a better place for our kiddos’ future. This book reminds us that voting is one way to achieve this goal.

The cover sends a positive message to children and adults. From the hopeful expressions on the characters’ faces to the camaraderie as they march in civic-minded unison. Talk about a grassroots movement, these children are motivated, educated, and dedicated to their cause.

The illustrations are adorable and capture the excitement for learning students feel when given the freedom to pursue their interests. As soon as you crack the cover, a collage of colorful voting stickers, with voting puns and positive phrases, catches your eye. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants their children to learn about elections and how vital they are to our democracy.

2. Duck For President

Author: Doreen Cronin

Illustrator: Betsy Lewin

Publisher: Anthem Books For Young Readers (an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division)

ISBN: 978-0-689863776

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

It’s election season on the farm and Duck is the lead contender against the incumbent farmer, Farmer Brown. Upon winning the popular vote, Duck takes over as farmer and soon learns that running a farm is hard work. Overworked and unsatisfied, he searches for jobs in loftier places.

He becomes Governor and shortly after, accomplishes what no other duck has done before—he is elected President of the United States. Through all of this, Duck learns one important fact, no matter what your profession, you can’t escape hard work. In the end, Duck reconnects with his roots. He returns to the farm and begins writing his autobiography.


Duck For President is one of my all time favorite picture books. Whenever I taught about elections or President’s Day, I always included this book in my lesson plans. Lewin’s watercolors encapsulate the hilarity of Cronin’s text. Children and adults will chuckle their way through the pages all the while learning a little about the electoral process.

3. Amelia Bedelia’sFirst Vote

Author: Herman Parish

Illustrator: Lynne Avril

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)

ISBN: 978-0-06209405

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

It’s election day at Amelia Bedelia’s school! Through a series of unlucky coincidences, Amelia helps her school pass new rules the students vote on. 


As with all of Amelia’s zany misadventures, she comes out on top. We can find a lot of great lessons between the pages of this charming book. I appreciated how effortlessly Parish wrote key vocabulary into the story (election related words like runoff, absentee ballot, swing vote, as well as words and phrases with double meanings like tie, hug the wall, and sleep on it).

4. Lambslide

Author: Ann Patchett

Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

ISBN: 978-0-062883384

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

Book Summary:

After misinterpreting lambslide for landslide, a flock of lambs campaign to have a giant slide built on the farm where they live.


A super cute story! I loved the play on words and the introduction to the democratic process. I also enjoyed how the characters cooperated to achieve their goal.

Glassers’ sweet illustrations perfectly capture the characters’ emotions.

What books are you and your children reading about the upcoming elections?


Thursday, October 8, 2020

I'm A Messterpiece Book Review


Author: Lauren Eresman

Illustrator: Asya Kaznacheeva

Publisher: Sweet B Press

Released: October 2, 2020

Format: Kindle, Paperback 

ISBN: 9781999199647

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

I’m A Messterpiece follows the ups and downs of one little girl as she works through a difficult week.


The story opens with the principal character writing in her diary as she asks the reader, “Have you ever had a really tough week?”

What a fantastic story opener! It’s also a brilliant question to engage children from the get-go, and it’s something we can all relate to. Who hasn’t had a bad day or a terrible week?

The principal character then takes us on a journey with her, where she recounts her triumphs and failures each day. From self-portraits to soccer games, our heroine learns a vital life lesson—how to persevere through her mistakes.

During each struggle, a grown-up redirects her negative self-talk by pointing out the positives of the experience. One of my favorite quotes is from the art teacher, Mr. Wilross, “Art isn’t about perfection. It’s about being brave enough to be creative and express yourself.”

I appreciated how Eresman worked journaling and the days of the week into the narrative. The story begins with the principal character reflecting about her week and writing about it in her diary.

This models mindful thinking and shows children how to process things on their own. Yes, the adults helped the little girl find the silver lining in each struggle, but taking the time to record your thoughts and feelings about events has intrinsic value.  

Kaznacheeva’s illustrations are lively and cute. They hold an undeniable charm that will delight readers. It’s obvious she persevered and listened to her art teacher when she was younger.  

I give it 5 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

I’m A Messterpiece is an excellent source for an All About Me theme or a lesson on positive self-esteem. It would make a fine addition to a classroom library or the book bin of a student who needs a little encouragement.

After a read aloud of the book, children can decorate their own diary and write or draw in it every morning upon arrival to school. Every so often, students should go back and reexamine their entries. This simple exercise will honor their feelings and show them how much they’ve grown.


About The Author:

Lauren Eresman is one of those crazy over-committed moms that rarely says "NO."

Following a journey to find herself and build boundaries, she recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a children's book author.

Her desire to encourage young girls to feel empowered in their own skin has ignited a fire.

Lauren is passionate about telling stories that encourage girls to shatter the glass slippers, choose their own footwear, AND pick the path their feet will take. Making mistakes, being imperfect, or stumbling while they chase their dream is perfectly fine too.

Giving up is the only thing that's not allowed.

You can find Lauren online at

Lauren's Books:
The Cherry on Top (2019)
The Treehouse Trio (2020)



Friday, September 25, 2020

The Dirt Girl Book Review


Author: Jodi Dee

Illustrator: Jodi Dee and Ed Espitia

Publisher: Jodi Dee

Released: February 14, 2019

Format: Kindle, paperback, hard cover

ISBN: 9780998527703

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 3 1/2 Lemon Drops


The Dirt Girl introduces us to a flower child named Zafera. Zafera has a profound attachment to nature. This connection suffuses Zafera’s everyday life, from the flowers and twigs that adorn her hair, to the homemade wicker basket where she keeps her school lunch along with a few ladybugs and butterflies.

The story follows Zafera as she navigates through her first school experience. Initially, the other children scorn Zafera’s bohemian garb. For weeks, they tease and exclude her. At first, Zafera is confused and saddened by this treatment, but quickly learns to accept it and smile through it.

Despite the repeated snubs, Zafera invites her classmates to her birthday party and introduces them to a nature-based lifestyle. The children are thunderstruck with her Hobbit-like house and the vivid beauty that flourishes in and around her home. It’s no surprise that once they understand Zafera and her way of life, they come to accept and emulate her.

I appreciated the book’s positive messages of self-love and environmental awareness. Zafera remained true to herself and her naturalistic ideals.

In an age of digital saturation and civil turmoil, children need exposure to stories that honor diversity and our relationship to the earth.

The illustrations are bright, colorful, and visually invite the reader to explore Zafera’s extraordinary world.

I liked the story, but I must address a few things that confused me. First, I was unable to discern Zafera’s age range. At the beginning of the story, I thought she was in Kindergarten or First Grade, but the dress styles and body language of the other characters suggest they’re older—more like middle-school age.

The fact that Zafera easily brushed off her schoolmates’ mistreatment seems impractical. Ostracization from peers takes a toll on children’s self-esteem. It affects them socially and emotionally.

I also wondered where the adults were during all of this. There’s little to no representation of adults in the text. We don’t even see them as a background character in an illustration. The only time grown-ups appear is after the story’s resolution. Where was Zafera’s mother or father when she started her first day of school or during the birthday party at Zafera’s house?  

A conversation with a grown-up addressing Zafera’s problem would have rounded out the story better. The birthday party idea could have resulted from this discussion.

I give it 3 1/2 Lemon Drops! 


Classroom Connection:

The Dirt Girl would work in conjunction with other stories that address accepting differences and the environment.

After a reading, students can arrange flowers in vases, go for a walk in the park, and discuss what makes each member of the class special. 

About The Author

Jodi Dee is a multi-award-winning Author, regular columnist for Bay State Parent Magazine, and an avid blogger. She is a mother of three with more than 20 years’ experience in early childhood and education.

Jodi has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & History and a Master's in Education from Clark University. She is a passionate advocate and teacher of emotional maturity, early childhood education, and empowering children to learn through creativity, autonomy, self-exploration, and discovery.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Let's Meet On The Moon Book Review


Author: Lauren Muskovitz Ranalli 

Illustrator: Emily Siwek

Publisher: Lauren Ranalli

Release Date: October 2020

Format: paperback

ISBN: 978-17731433-2-5

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

A long-distance friendship that will stand the test of space and time! I love the title; it draws you right in.


What do you do when your best friend in the whole wide world moves away? You keep in touch with them by writing imaginative postcards to each other.


I felt an instant connection to the young characters in this story and the unlucky predicament they found themselves in.

Let’s Meet On The Moon brought back the sad memory of my best friend, Larry, moving away when I was little. At the time, I was heartbroken. We kept in touch at first. My family and I visited his new house a few times, but then things petered out. Such is the way of life, I guess.

If only Larry and I had written postcards to one another, like the youngsters in the story. Such a cute and clever way to get kids writing and dealing with their feelings.

It’s apparent from the little boy’s first vivid postcard he expects to remain close to the little girl even though they’re far apart. By the end, I got the feeling they’d be friends for ever and ever.

In the Covid-19 era, the story applies to all of us, no matter how near or far we live from our friends and family. For many, social distancing has kept us apart. It’s requisite to save lives, but we still seek a personal connection with the people we love. In the digital age, Let’s Meet On The Moon offers children another more tangible alternative to stay in touch, and let’s face it kids love to get mail. There’s something truly special when you receive a handwritten note from your best friend.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Let’s Meet On The Moon would make an excellent addition to a classroom or homeschool library and writing center. To extend the book, stock your writing center with index cards, markers, pens, pencils, and stampers. Children can utilize the materials to design their own postcard, write their message, and mail or hand deliver it to their recipient.

Students could write postcards to their classmates and pop it in a classroom mailbox. When the moment is right, one or two children could be the classroom letter carriers and deliver the postcards to everyone.

You could also do this postcard project schoolwide. Older students could write to younger students, who then write a reply. You could send postcards to nursing home patients or to students in another state and country.

With a little creativity, Let’s Meet On The Moon, proves the possibilities will take you to the moon and back!  

About The Author

Laruen can wander for hours in bookstores. She absolutely loves a freshly sharpened pencil (like realllly loves it). And she has found so much joy in pursuing my dream of being a children’s book author. Inspired by her own high-spirited children, she aims to create stories that excite curiosity and broaden our sense of community.

She wrote her first book, The Great Latke Cook Off, shortly after her oldest child was born. As part of an interfaith family, her son received a number of lovely Christmas books during his first holiday season. She went out with the intention to purchase some Chanukah books for him, but she couldn’t find any stories that resonated with her own cultural experience. So, she decided to write her own.

Flash forward several years, and she is now working on her fourth self-published book, with many other stories rolling around in her mind! She has been fortunate to have the opportunity to share her work with readers across North America, as well as support other aspiring and self-published writers in their own author journey.

If you’d like more information on her work, scheduling an author visit or interview, or signing up for her online course, please get in touch! She would love to connect with you.



Sunday, September 13, 2020

Counting And Math With Pasta And Meatballs Workbook Review

                                                      Available on Amazon

Author: Amelia Griggs

ISBN: 978-1733066648

Publisher: Green Ridge Press

Released: September 5, 2020

Format: Paperback

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops


Counting And Math With Pasta And Meatballs is the second book in Amelia Griggs’ activity books for young learners called The Bella And Friends Learning Series.


Like its predecessor, ABC Letter Tracing PLUS Coloring And Activity Fun, Counting And Math With Pasta And Meatballs is an activity book created to accompany her Bella and Mia Series.


Counting And Math With Pasta And Meatballs is best suited for youngsters ages 4-6. It has counting and traceable numbers for Pre-Kindergarten as well as addition and subtraction activities for Kindergarten through First Grade.


Right off the mark, the text engages children by introducing them to the characters and inviting them to hunt for these characters throughout the book. This seek-and-find gives kids an entertaining task that requires focus and attention to detail; two precursors required of effective learners.


There is also multi-racial representation which allows young learners to identify a piece of themselves and their friends in the book while learning basic math concepts.


Besides math concepts, the book offers an assortment of fun exercises that children will enjoy like coloring pages, finding differences among a group of related items, a maze, and a list of various pasta. Two things worth mentioning: Each number is presented in numerical and written form. This a wonderful strategy to introduce and reinforce site word recognition. There are directions for writing each number that include a visual prompt.

The math worksheets would make a wonderful supplement to a math center or a small learning group; these same activities would supplement at home learning and homework assignments.


For fun and educational activities, you can count on this workbook to deliver! As a former Pre- Kindergarten/ Kindergarten teacher, I highly recommend this book for anybody who teaches beginning math skills.

Classroom Connection:

A Hands-On List Of Book Extensions:
After reviewing the different pasta in the workbook, mix a batch of various dry pasta together and sort it. Count how many pasta are in each group.
Make pasta patterns
Instead of tracing the numbers with a pencil, use pasta to outline them.
Paint the pasta then string it to make a necklace.
Make pasta salad
Graph your favorite pasta

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

About The Author

Amelia Griggs is a Writer, Instructional Designer, eLearning Developer and Authopreneur. Her background is IT support and training in the corporate setting. In addition to being a tech-geek and always wanting to troubleshoot and figure out anything you want to know about computers, she enjoys researching, designing, and developing all kinds of educational materials, and writing instructional articles.

She has always loved to write. Even as a child, she loved composing stories and drawing pictures. She started out writing training manuals, but over the years, she wanted to get more creative, so after working in IT for 15 years, she went to grad school to study Instructional Design and Technology.

She fell in love with the creative process of designing training programs, developing online courses, and incorporating animation. She also discovered another untapped interest: writing and self-publishing.

For years, she focused on “technical” writing and designing but something was missing. Her creative juices continued to flow as she discovered yet another passion: composing short stories, and more recently, writing children’s books. This allowed her to harness her love of rhyming.

Do you love to read? Do you love to write? Either way, you have something in common with Amelia. If you’re thinking of writing a book and need help with the process of writing, self-publishing and marketing, her next book series will be devoted to helping others pursue their dream of writing and self-publishing a book.

Here’s a list of her websites for reference:

* Amazon Author Page:
* Computer learning website:
* YouTube Channel:
* Online articles:
* Tech Tips Blog:
* Pinterest:
* Instagram:
* Amelia’s Writing Corner Blog:

Friday, September 4, 2020

Can I Ask You A Question?


I know this may be an easy answer for most of you, but I choose to sip tea with Teddy. Naturally, as the author of the forthcoming children’s picture book, Teddy Bear Tea I’m a tad partial, but hear me out.

Of course, I love Winnie-The-Pooh and all his lovable friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. The story and characters are beloved and classical, but everyone knows the story of Pooh Bear.

I’d like to meet some new friends and read about the fun they have in the woods. A Teddy Bear Tea in the middle of the forest with a group of adorable woodland animals sounds like a fun time. And if you’re a big hunny lover, I’m sure they’ll have some for you to stir into your tea!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Adventures Of Monkey And Toad Two Remarkable Friends


Author: Donald Lloyd, Jr.

Illustrator: Donald Lloyd, Jr.

Publisher: Halo Publishing International

Released: July 14, 2020

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 978-1612448718

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops


The Adventures Of Monkey And Toad Two Remarkable Friends is a great story that couldn’t have come at a better time! Two unlikely friends prove that anyone with an open mind and heart can be friends.


Ever wanted to make a new friend but were not sure how? Have you ever met someone and instantly knew that you would be friends? “The Adventures of Monkey and Toad: Two Remarkable Friends” is a story about finding a friend, learning how to be a friend and realizing that a true friend can be anyone from anywhere!


A cute rhyming story that breaks down preconceptions and teaches us to overcome rigid social patterns.

Monkey wants to be friends, but Toad’s not so sure. What would a monkey and a toad do together, they have nothing in common? Though Toad doesn’t see it, Monkey has the answer.

It takes a little persuasion, but Toad agrees to play with monkey, and the two spend the day learning new things and having the best time.


Classroom Connection:

A great story that teaches young readers about inclusion, tolerance, and diversity. This book would make a nice supplement to a unit on friendship and accepting others. It could be read at any time, but I recommend reading it at the beginning of the school year when relationships are forming.

One way to extend the book is to invite children to read and discuss the book together in pairs. Afterward, they can draw a friendship picture on the same piece of paper or create a friendship chain.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Black History Month And American Heart Month: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams

Originally appeared on CHW on February 28, 2018.

Since February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, I thought writing an article commemorating both is appropriate.

Daniel Hale Williams, an African American, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pa on January 18, 1856. He died on August 4, 1931, at Idlewild, Michigan, at the age of 75.

Dr. Williams studied medicine at Chicago Medical College via Northwestern University. After earning his medical degree in 1883, he became one of Chicago’s first black physicians. This was a considerable accomplishment for a black man during the post Civil War era.

Dr. Williams is called “the father of black surgery” and is most remembered for the open-heart surgery he performed on July 9, 1893, in Chicago. A man had suffered a serious stab wound close to his heart in an area called the pericardium. The pericardium is multi-layered tissue that surrounds the heart and the adjacent large blood vessels. Using his cardinal skills, Dr. Williams repaired the injury and saved the man’s life. While being a major medical milestone, it was also only the second successful surgery of its kind, performed in the United States.

In 1891, Dr. Williams opened the Provident Hospital and Training School. It was the nation’s first exclusively black-owned and operated hospital in the country. The hospital was extremely progressive for its time, employing an interracial staff and training African American women as nurses.

Dr. Williams made other notable contributions to the medical profession. He worked for a short time in Washington, D.C at Freedmen’s Hospital, where he improved medical practices and began its first nursing school. He helped establish the National Medical Association in Atlanta, Georgia. He conducted yearly, pro-bono visits to Meharry Medical College as a clinical professor of surgery, and he published nine scientific papers.

Despite his outstanding achievements, Dr. Williams’ name cannot be found in many medical history books. This is a shame, not only for the black community but also for the United States as a whole. We should honor every professional who has made exemplary contributions to our society. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was a man with true heart, who overcame adversity to reach his full potential. His story is like so many other successful American’s stories who achieved their dreams. In a time when our country’s cultural identity is being questioned, Dr. Williams’ story reminds us of what the United States stands for, and it deserves to be heard.


Are You Codependent?

Originally appeared on CHW on March 12, 2018

Personal Experience

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve recently learned that I am codependent. It came as quite a shock. I kept thinking how could I be codependent? I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic. I am certainly not an underachiever; in fact, I am quite the opposite. I have achieved many of the milestones I set for myself in life. I earned a Master’s Degree in Education, I worked in my career for 20 years, I started a family, I own my home, and I am pursuing a writing career. I moved away from the codependent people in my life, keeping them at arm’s length, in order to protect myself from more hurt. I couldn’t stand to watch their constant self-destructive behavior any longer. It was too painful.

It was so easy to judge the people around me who were codependent and ‘know’ that I was completely different. Or was I?

As someone who is now learning the full meaning of codependency, I wanted to share what I’ve discovered. Like many others, I knew it was a symptom of a dysfunctional relationship, where one person enabled another’s addictive or underachieving behavior. What I didn’t know is there are other symptoms to this maladjusted relationship that involve an unwitting enabler like me. Behaviors I learned as a child has carried over into my adult life. Some of these behaviors I may have unknowingly passed onto my children. This fact was the hardest one to face. Like every parent, when I brought my children into the world, I wanted the best for them. I didn’t want them to have to deal with my issues like I did with my parents.

Before I had my children, I swore that I would take the lessons of my parents’ mistakes and never repeat them. I used my education and child development classes to nurture and guide my children through childhood, adolescence, and now young adulthood. In my arrogance, I never realized that there were inherent traits within me that I wasn’t aware of –traits that my children might naturally adopt.

In order to understand this cyclical relationship, we need to know the proper definition, all of its symptoms, as well as its causes.


On, Ross Rosenberg, M. Ed, LCPC, CADC, CSAT defines codependency as, “a problematic relationship orientation that involves the relinquishing of power and control to individuals who are either addicted or who are pathologically narcissistic.  Codependents are habitually attracted to people who neither seem interested nor motivated to participate in mutual or reciprocal relationships.  Hence, the partners of codependents are often egotistical, self-centered and/or selfish.  Typically, codependents feel unfulfilled, disrespected and undervalued by their relationship partner.  As much as they resent and complain about the inequity in their relationships, codependents feel powerless to change them.”


*The term codependent was introduced in the 1980’s.

*It has its roots in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, which began in 1936.

*It has developed negative connotations such as, weak and emotionally sick.

*Codependents become immoderately attached to another out of need.

*Codependents blame themselves for the problems in their relationships.

*Codependents derive from dysfunctional families or from taking care of a sick family member at a young age.

*Most families in America are dysfunctional.

*You don’t have to have every symptom to qualify.

*It’s reversible with proper therapy.


(Comprehensive list by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT)

*Low Self-Esteem

*Constantly trying to please others

*Inadequate personal boundaries




*Dysfunctional Communication




*Problems with Intimacy

*Painful emotions

This information is a lot to take in, especially when you’re hearing that you’re codependent for the first time. Like many others, I envision the satirical depictions of codependent people, which makes it embarrassing for me to admit that I have been diagnosed with it. Now that I’m aware that I have this personality flaw, I’m working on correcting the negative behaviors I’ve adopted over the years. One of the hardest things for me is telling people no because I have a problem with setting boundaries for myself. But, I’m learning.

If you found yourself identifying with some of the symptoms listed above, don’t fret, you’re not alone. If you’d like to be proactive and take charge of your life here is a list of organizations that can help: