Mom and Me Reviews: How to Write a Story by Kate Messner

Mom and Me Reviews: How to Write a Story by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Mark Siegel

How to Write a Story by Kate Messner

First Line: “Step 1: Search for an Idea– a Shiny one”

Summary: This book gives gentle encouraging instruction to young minds on creating stories. They may or may not be in book form. It is told as more than character arc– like “shiny ideas” instead of just a story idea. You want a “good” one.


                Maggie: 10 out of 10

                Conor: goo goo gah gah

                Mama Lala: 10 out of 10

Their Thoughts: “I dont know what about this story isn’t perfect!?” I like the illustrations. I like how it ixplains to us how to write a story so well.

Me: “You want to give it [writing a story] a shot?”

Her: “Mmmmmaybe. But, I’ll need that book again.”

My Thoughts: I love how simplified Messner made the complex task of writing a story. She took it from a mess, to an obtainable goal for children (and adults).

FYI: This is a new nonfiction book in or J (or elementary) section.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack

Mom and Me Reviews: Prince & Knight by Daniel Hack, Illustrations by Stevie Lewis

First Line: “Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, lived a charming prince who was handsome and sincere.”

Summary: This is the story of a prince who is ready to marry, but cannot find a bride. He searches everywhere, but cannot find “the one”. When a dragon attacks the kingdom, he goes to defeat the attacker and meets his one true love– a knight.


                Maggie: N/A

                Conor: N/A

Guest Reader (Anonymous): unable to score

                Mama Lala: 7 out of 10

Their Thoughts:

“Where is this place, ‘Far from here’?”

“It’s going to be a girl. The Knight is going to be a girl and the girl is going to be the one the prince likes” (cue penetrating stare at me).

It took them a long time after the book was over to share their thoughts. Then they said, “I don’t know if this is appropriate for my age group.”

My Thoughts: I love the bright vivid colors of the illustrations. I enjoy that it starts with ‘Once Upon a Time’, and ends with ‘Happily Ever After’. I think the book was well-worded. I also think it caused the child to think about and even evolve their thoughts of being gay. They assumed things about the story, and it made them uncomfortable when it didn’t conform to their assumptions. It made them uncomfortable that it made them uncomfortable, too. I think that is why they believed this was “not for their age group.” All in all, I am glad I read them this story at this age, and not a younger one– or too much older. I wanted to confront these assumptions at a younger age. The topic had been discussed before, and they are in contact with people who are gay, so this was not a new subject– it was a new perspective, though.

FYI: This story contains LGBTQ+ themes, and may require discussion with your little ones on the matter.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: Sometimes People March

First Line: “Sometimes Ants March”

Summary: Tessa Allen uses this book to explain the reasons people march (or protest) in terms your littles are more likely to understand. It does not argue that people should march, it simply explains why they choose to in as simple of terms as possible. For the older littles, there is also a reference at the end of the book listing which marches and protests are presented by the different illustrations, and what the main purpose of these protests were.


                Maggie: 9 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime

                Mama Lala: 10 out of 10

Their Thoughts: “I wouldn’t read this regularly. It’s not a ‘fun’ book, it’s a ‘life-lesson’ book. It’s a good book to know (of); read once. It’s about standing together, for justice.”

My Thoughts: I love that Tessa Allen has put these complex issues into understandable chunks of information. She makes the issues relatable and simple. I also appreciate the list of protests in the back, and especially the page numbers listed alongside them. When Maggie asked me what a sign meant, I could explain it to her because of this!

FYI: This book covers many controversial issues, past and present.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses

First Line: “She’s got a smile that it seems to me reminds me of childhood memories,”

Summary: In this storybook telling to the lyrics of Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine, a father and daughter bond over their love of music.


                Maggie: 8 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime.

                Mama Lala: 10 out of 10

Their Thoughts: It’s amazing that they put (the song) into words (storyform)! I think this isn’t for little kids– it’s for my age and older. Maybe more for the parents than for the kids. “It reminds me of a place that is beautiful, and keeps me warm and safe.”

My Thoughts: I love when artists of different genres work together. I’ve known this to be a wonderful song for, well, a very long time. It is easier to share that with my littles in this form– a storybook. Accompanying each line is a beautiful illustration, something to help them understand what it means.

FYI: Another great version of this to share with your children comes in song form! Check out the original, or the lullabye remake by Rockabye Baby!

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: One Little Bag

First Line: This is a WORDLESS book!

Summary: This book is difficult to summarize, as each reader finds a different story within the image. My daughter and I interpreted the story as this (SPOILERS!):

A Tree is cut down then driven to a paper mill. The tree is shredded, made into paper, and folded into brown paper bags. The bags are boxed then shipped to different locations. One bag is given to a father and son while purchasing a flashlight. It is reused as a lunch sack, and a LOT of other things. The boy grows up using and reusing his brown paper sack. He even takes it to college, where he meets a girl. They fall in love, get married, and have a baby. Now, the baby grows up with the brown paper bag. He takes it to his grandpa, the original boy’s father. They make memories together with it. They put new memories into the bag. Grandpa’s chair is empty now, maybe he died. They look at the memories the little boy made with his grandpa, stored in the brown paper bag. They plant a new tree in the old brown paper bag. Full circle!


                Maggie: 10 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime.

                Mama Lala: 8 out of 10

Their Thoughts: It would be easier to understand if it had words, but (I) like that it let (me) decide the story. I wish the grandpa didn’t die. I like that he grew up with (the bag), and he didn’t throw it away.

“Can we read it again, mama?”

My Thoughts: I love how my little loved this story. Her heart seemed to sink into the book. The author’s note at the end of the story was interesting, but I wish I hadn’t read it aloud to my daughter. It confused the story for her. She had trouble remembering which details were in the story, and which happened to the author.

FYI: There is the possibility of death as a discussion topic in this book.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: Stand Up! Speak Up!

First Line: “Wake Up.”

Summary: A girl is inspired to make change. She is part of a protest for the climate change revolution. She sees stories on the news: the protest, wildfires, pollution, floods. She is discouraged, but she finds a way to do something about it.


                Maggie: 10 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime

                Mama Lala: 9 out of 10

Their Thoughts: “It made me know (and feel bad) about what we’ve done to the planet. I dont know how to fix it. It’ teaches us how we can fix it. I like that the pictures are mostly black and white, with a little green. Like “green”, get it!?”

My Thoughts: My daughter is moved by the conservation movement. My husband and I try to do what we can and, most of all, try to remain educated on the issue of climate change. I’m sure this affects her passion for the issue. I like that this book can show children that the issue isn’t too big for them. Everyone can make (at least) a small difference– even small people. The content is complex enough for older children, but the phrasing is right for the preschool aged children as well.

FYI: This book discusses climate change and protesting.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth The ABC Storybook

First Line: “Sarah wants to be an actress.”

Summary: If you’ve seen the movie by the Jim Henson group (with David Bowie), then you know the storyline.

Basically, a teenage girl is left to babysit her little brother. She becomes annoyed by him as she is trying to read and rehearse lines from her play. She wishes that the “goblin king” would take her brother away, like the girl in the story she’s reading does. The Goblin King grants her wish, and Sarah has to solve a labyrinth within 13 hours to get her little brother back. As expected, the labyrinth is filled with magical tricks that make her journey even more difficult.


                Maggie: 9 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime

                Mama Lala: 7 out of 10

Their Thoughts: I like the movie, and the story! It gives you such an imagination. I like all of the magical characters. It’s an ABC book, but it reads like a storybook instead of a baby ABC book. The pictures are good. If you haven’t seen the movie, the story doesn’t make sense… it doesn’t “fill in the gaps”. It just didn’t “move me” enough to get a “10”.

My Thoughts: I appreciate that this book is both an abc book, AND a storybook. It helps to bridge the gap between my two kiddo’s wide age range (2 and 9). My kids have seen and, as they should, LOVE this movie. IF they hadn’t i’m not sure it would be clear what happens in this story. Some characters are introduced, but their presence isn’t explained. All in all, I’m grateful this has been made into a storybook, but I had higher hopes for it. The illustrations are magically marvelous, though.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom and Me Reviews: The Tempest

First line: “My noble master, Prospero, is a clever magician.”

Summary: This book retells William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest as a Children’s picture book. If you haven’t read Shakespeare’s play by the same name, here is a quick overview: Prospero, duke of Milan, is overthrown by his jealous brother, Antonio. Alonso and his brother Sebastian help Antonio accomplish this. Antonio puts Prospero and his daughter in a boat and casts them out to sea. The boat washes ashore an island where an evil witch and her son rule. He rescues the spirit (our narrator) from the witch, then uses him for his own gain. Years pass. One day a boat carrying the people who wronged Prospero passes by. Prospero calls on the spirit (our narrator) to seek revenge on them– not to kill but to scare, and possibly abandon on an island, the way his has been abandoned. The spirit and prospero try to manipulate the island’s inhabitants to a fate of their choosing.

Ratings: Maggie gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars. Conor did not hear this story. Mama Lala also gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars.

Their Thoughts: I shared this book with my oldest, Maggie. She is nine. She liked that “it was magical”, and “it was colorful”. She had trouble understanding the book also because “my age group doesn’t read those kinds of things.” She had trouble connecting with the book, she said.

My Thoughts: The illustrations are beautiful. This retelling, though shortened for the benefit of a younger reader, still seems out-of-range for most picture book readers. I’d say this one is more for the parents, than the children it was intended to be read to. That said, Ellinas did a decent job of shortening the story to important plot points, in an understandable language for children.

Happy Reading, our friends!

— Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

Mom & Me Reviews: A Super-Heroine Guide

If you are a lover of the comic superhero realm, you’ve likely been asked this classic question:
Marvel or DC?

It is a timeless question with many variations of answer.

Sam Maggs, a comic book maker, suggests we might love both. She wrote both Marvel Fantastic and Fantastic– Female Super Heroes Save the World, AND Brave and Bold!– Female DC Super Heroes Take on the Universe.

The Top 10 Greatest Female Superheroes In The History of Comic Books

First Line:

(Brave and Bold): “In a universe filled with adventure and danger, the brave female Super Heroes of DC’s comic books change the world and shape the future.”

(Fearless and Fantastic): “Students, warriors, secret agents, inventors, crime fighters, journalists… the inspiring female Super Heroes of Marvel Comics make their marks in many different ways.”

Summary: The two books aver compatible in organization, illustration, and writing. If you are looking for a brief introduction to the heroes of both the DC and Marvel world, these two books are a decent place to start. If you are particularly interested in the FEMALE superheroes, this is a GOOD place to start.

Considering the size of each book, Maggs does a good job choosing which POPULAR FEMALE COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS FROM MARVEL AND DC - Comic Book and  Movie Reviewscharacters to introduce to the audience. Fresh artwork of each character fills one of two pages allotted to them. About two paragraphs lie on the adjacent page– words devoted to a brief description of WHY this character got into the superhero business, and where their abilities lie. One of the most interesting features of these books, is the footnote at the bottom of each entry, directing the reader to two to four other superheroes who are “friends, allies, and role models” of the character in question. Of course, only other heroes listed within the book are included. Pepper Pots might love Tony Stark, but he is not listed among the allies at the bottom of her page.

My Thoughts: One caveat of these books are the age directed, when reflecting the writing. Carrying a Lexile of approximately 1200-1400, one would suggest this book be directed to 5th graders (at the youngest). However, because the content is at such an introductory level it could also be directed to younger age groups. In these cases, I’d suggest the content be read aloud by an adult to the young ones. (My daughter is in 2nd grade, at the time of reading, and this worked well for us. Every once in awhile I had to explain the meaning of a word, but it wasn’t often enough to make it not worth the while.)

Today is a great day to introduce your littles to these “wonderful women”. Boy or girl, young or old, having women worth looking up to is important. Though fictional, these women are a great place to start.

Happy reading, my friends!

Mama Lala (Chelsea) & Maggie

I Tried Reading Seven Books in Seven Days

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I attempted to read seven books in seven days. Spoiler alert: I was super close! The week was insane and besides getting a major head start on my yearly reading goal, I was sleep-deprived, over caffeinated, and incredibly behind on laundry. It was all worth it! How did I do it? I participated in the Winter Biannual Bibliothon.

The internet is filled with read-a-thons, many of which are sponsored through a special sect of video makers on YouTube called Booktubers. From The Reading Quest to Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, there are so many exciting challenges held every month online and all you have to do to participate is pick a challenge, gather up your books, and start reading!

I’ve always wanted to participate in online read-a-thons and made sure to mark my calendar for the first big challenge of the year, the Winter Biannual Bibliothon. Check out the Bibliothon’s YouTube Channel here!

This week-long read-a-thon is held twice a year by a group of Booktubers and includes seven reading challenges, video challenges, giveaways, twitter reading sprints, and Instagram challenges. Participants can be as active or passive as they want during the read-a-thon and there’s no cost or sign-up to worry about.

Here were the seven reading challenges and my selections for each one:

  1. Read the group book: OTHERWORLD by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Every Biannual Bibliothon, the hosts choose a book that everyone can read together then watch or participate in the Live Show on YouTube to discuss it in a similar fashion as a book club.

  1. Read a sequel

I chose Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, the second book in the YA Steampunk series, Finishing School.

  1. Read a book you’ve never heard of before

As a librarian, I’ve heard of a lot of books so to really make sure I picked a book blindly, I used a number generator and a blindfold and went randomly into one of our shelves. I chose the book, The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.

  1. Read a book about mental illness

I chose a book that’s been on my to-read list for years; Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly.

  1. Read a book that was mentioned in another book/movie/show, etc.

In the movie, The Jane Austen Book Club, a character recommends the book Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin so I thought I’d give this one a chance.

  1. Read a book under 200 pages

My original intention for this challenge was to read A Room with a View by E.M. Forester, but I ended up reading Library Wars: Love and War by Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi. More on what happened there in my wrap-up below!

  1. Read a backlist title

This just means to read a book published before 2017 so I picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, published twenty years prior in 1997!

How Did It Go? (a.k.a. The Wrap Up)

Day 1 – Saturday, Jan. 20

Fifteen minutes after midnight, I started reading Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly. You might not have heard of this book because it was published in 1887! Nellie Bly was an amazing investigative journalist who feigned mental illness for ten days so she would be committed to an asylum. She discovered horrific things while she was there and opened the conversation about quality of care in institutions.

By 1AM, I’d gotten half-way through the book before responsibility took over. I had work in a few hours and needed to sleep! I finished Ten Days on my lunch break and was off to a great start!


96 pages read

1 book finished

Day 2 – Sunday, Jan. 21

A day off from work and I was ready to read! The Left Hand of Darkness seemed like a complex book that would need a lot of attention so I dived right into it the moment I woke up. I immediately realized that I hated this book. I’m so sorry if you’ve read it and liked it, but for me, it was so convoluted and offensive and just ugh. I even had to read chapter summaries BEFORE reading each chapter just so I could understand what was going on.

I wanted to actually read each book I’d picked for the challenges so I crawled through this book to finish it. It took most of the day, but by 7pm, I’d finished Left Hand of Darkness, ranted about it for nearly an hour, then proceeded to throw it on the floor.  It still counts though!

Side note: Hopefully it’s unrelated, but the author Ursula Le Guin actually passed away the following day. It’s totally unrelated…right?


384 pages read

2 books finished

Day 3 – Monday, Jan 22.

After the strain of the day before, I was losing a little steam, but I was excited to start reading The Doldrums, a book I’d never heard of before and went into without expectations. I tried to get a little reading done in the morning, but after working most of the afternoon, I had to read the majority of the book at night. The book was decent, not terrible, but not the best, and I was pretty weary by the end of the day. I finished the book, but the initial thrill of the Bibliothon had gone. Uh-oh!


748 pages read

3 books finished

Day 4 – Tuesday, Jan. 23

Not only was I pretty tired from the past few reading days, but I felt a cold coming on (thanks, Kansas!) and I was super busy all day. With yoga training in the morning and work all afternoon and evening, I didn’t have time to even open up A Room with a View until 9PM. Thank goodness this book was small. I could do it!

By page three, I was falling asleep. The book may have been good, but it was not capturing my attention hard enough to keep me reading. I decided to forgo my hope of reading all seven intended books and picked up another book instead. Library Wars: Love and War was  interesting and quickly paced enough to get me through. While I probably won’t continue the series, it was a really fun story and even more fun to look up the anime and live action movie made in Japan!


934 pages read

4 books finished

Day 5 – Wednesday, Jan. 24

I definitely wasn’t feeling 100% for most of the day. Whether a cold or allergies, my energy was zapped, and I was stressing over my ever-growing to-do list. Thankfully I knew what to expect in terms of pace, character, and content with the sequel challenge. During my lunch break, I read a chapter of Curtsies and Conspiracies, but after getting some bad news about the loss of a friend, I didn’t read again until later that evening. As a motivator to finish the book, I did a few reading sprints (reading as fast as one can within a set amount of time). I managed to get through the book which definitely wasn’t as good as the first in the series. We were coming into a Bibliothon low point.


1244 pages read

5 books finished

Day 6 – Thursday, Jan. 25

I barely read a thing. Besides feeling sick both physically and emotionally, I had so much work to do that reading took a back seat. I managed to read about 10 pages of Otherworld at night before falling asleep with the book on my face.


1254 pages read

5 books finished

Day 7 – Friday, Jan. 26

The last day of the Bibliothon was here, and I came out guns blazing! After my morning meeting, I went home and did nothing but read. Otherworld, while flawed in some ways, was a really quick read and I was able to finish it by 12:30pm. I had to be at my second job by 5pm so with the time I had left, I dived into my seventh book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The problem for me with Harry Potter, especially the first book, is that I can’t read it fast. I like to savor it and even re-read entire passages while imagining Jo Rowling in her coffee shop, scribbling words on a napkin. I’d gotten through half the book before work, and when I got home, it was 10PM. I had two hours left and eight chapters to go. I tried my best, but when midnight hit, I was on page 244 of a 320 page book. So close and yet so far away!!

Final Stats:

1843 pages read

6 ¾ books finished

Lessons Learned

My experience with the Winter Biannual Bibliothon was a roller coaster, but despite the challenges, it was definitely the most I’d ever read in a single week. I managed to get through 7 books (I finished Harry Potter after midnight of course) and read books that I might not have given a chance otherwise. For future read-a-thons, I would probably consider picking smaller books and picking books that I had more information about. I also have totally learned that it’s okay to stop reading a book if it’s not working for you.

There are so many read-a-thons going on this year online! I’ll make a blog post in the future with a full calendar for you in case you want to participate, and I’ll share my future reading wrap-ups with you. I’ve got my sights set on tackling a 24-Hour read-a-thon next!