Posts in the ‘Children’s Books’ Category

Blurb Holiday Gift Guide & Sale

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Can you believe that the holidays are right around the corner? I am still trying to hold on to the freedom and sunshine of summer, but I must admit that I am loving the lovely red leaves on the liquid amber trees outside of my kitchen, and all of the fabulous fall boots in the stores. Before we know it – winter will be here…

Rather than waiting to the very last minute to shop for holiday gifts, I think it might be my year to get personal, unleash a little creativity, and create one-of-a-kind gifts for my family.  I know my parents and in-laws will love receiving something special and this is the weekend to get started…


Ready for a little inspiration? Check out Blurb’s 2013 Gift Guide which is full of fabulous gift ideas – from children’s books, photo books and cookbooks too. Don’t think you have the creative juices to design a book all on your own? Not to worry….The Gift Guide is also an instruction guide for how to make a beautiful Blurb book gift for anyone in your life. They will teach you everything you need to know. It’s so much easier than you think! Get a head start on your Holiday gifts by creating your own Blurb books and save 20% through 10/7/13 with code EARLYBIRD20.

flattenme Personalized Books & GIVEAWAY

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013


I have always loved giving and receiving personalized gifts. As much as I love my “C” necklace and my monogrammed tote bags, I think personalization is a particularly fun idea when you are shopping for babies and children. I know how easy it is to grab a box of Legos at Target on your way to a birthday party (while you are keeping your fingers crossed that you are picking the one box that the birthday child doesn’t already have!), but maybe this year you can consider buying custom, personalized books for all of those birthday parties. What do you think? They are just a click away…

A month ago I stumbled upon a company called, flattenme, and I was immediately intrigued. I just loved the unique name and was so curious to find out what they did. (Evidently I was a little late to the party as Orpah and team have already featured flattenme’s products in one of her gift guides. At least I know I am in good company…) When I checked out their site I read a fabulous story about how the idea for the business came to be and I loved their focus on imagination, inspiration and gifts of the heart. I knew this would be a perfect company to feature on Sweet Peas & Stilettos.

Owl Always Love You Carl arrived in the mail a few days ago. It is written by Robyn Spizman and illustrated by Erica Leighton.  After my son’s bath, when he curled up on the couch in his favorite blue stripped Hanna Anderson pajamas, I pulled out the book as a little surprise. His eyes lit up when he saw his name on the cover. “How did you do that Mommy?” It was a sweet bedtime story that was perfect for my 6 year old. With every turn of the page, he heard me read his name and he smiled in delight.


They also offer personalized books with photos. I love the Super Dad book and its humorous pictures. I knew at that moment that these high quality books with illuminating images would make wonderful gifts for kids of all ages. Who wouldn’t love receiving a customized superhero book? (even if dad looks a little silly in a cape…)

And while you are shopping at flattenme – take a look at these hysterical personalized water bottles. Such a fun way for your kids to keep hydrated all summer long…

JULY GIVEAWAY – If you want to WIN a FREE copy of Owl Always Love You that you can customize for your own child, simply let me know on Twitter or Facebook (see icons on top right of page). The winner will be randomly selected from entries and will be notified on July 31, 2013 after 12 noon, PST. Please note, the book if free and you will only be responsible for a nominal shipping charge.

I want to personally thank the team at flattenme for my copy of the book and for sponsoring this giveaway!

Personalized Books for Kids

Monday, October 8th, 2012


Every now and then when I am reading aloud to my son I will change the name of the character in the book to Carl. In that split second he spins his head around and his eyes light up in excitement with a sprinkle of disbelief. My son get a huge thrill hearing a story about himself or a story about a favorite character that shares his name. He loves it. Needless to say I purchased the entire collection of Alexandra Day’s Carl books!

I am thrilled to let you all know that Chronicle Books now offers personalized books so your kids can see their names in print. There is the Personalized Princess Book for your little princess, a Personalized Speedster Book for your little racer, and big brother and big sister options too.


Chronicle Books has also launched the option of personalized dedications in a number of their top selling children’s titles. You can upload a photo of your child and write a little note that will be printed in the book. How fun! Not sure what you would write? They have some sample messages to help. I think I am going to order a personalized copy of Dinosaur Bones for my little guy.

A little tip – Shop early for Christmas!

30% off Chronicle Kids Books

Book Cover T-Shirts

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Charlotte's Web Womens T-shirt

Out of Print celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Their products (t-shirts for men, women and kids, totes, coasters & more) feature iconic and often out of print book covers. The t-shirts are even treated to feel soft and worn just like a well-read book. Love that! And for every product they sell, Out of Print donates one book to a community in need through their partnership with Books For Africa. Help spread the joy of reading today.

The Duchess of Whimsy

Friday, March 2nd, 2012


The Duchess of Whimsy:  An Absolutely Delicious Fairy Tale, by Randall de Sève and Peter de Sève

Reviewed by Susan Fry

As my sons have gotten older, they’ve gotten pickier about who they’re willing to play with.  Kids who have been their best friends for years are suddenly boring, or bullies.  And forget about trying to include girls in anything.  Playdates that used to be carefree and fun have become downright challenging.

The other moms and I have tried everything from planning gender-neutral activities to meeting at parks to avoid toy tussles.  But at the end of some afternoons, I find myself demanding, “Why can’t you all just get along?”

So I’ve found myself reading The Duchess of Whimsy to my sons almost every night.

At the beginning of this witty story, it doesn’t look as though the Duchess of Whimsy and the Earl of Norm could ever get along.  After all, they’re completely different!

The Duchess is the life of the party, “known through the land for her extravagant soirees, her elaborate attire, her uncommon conversation, and her most peculiar pets and acquaintances.”  Her parties are enviable events:  fishes float in bubbles above crowds dressed in feathers and silk, and the Duchess frolics in a swing suspended by two fairies.  Even the Duchess’ hairstyle is over-the-top, with its grandiose, billowing waves.

The Earl of Norm, as his name indicates, is more down-to-earth.  He’s positively ordinary, in fact.  He’s far more interested in the kingdom’s roads than in fancy events.

Unsurprisingly, he makes the Duchess yawn.

So when the Earl falls in love with the Duchess, he tries to become more exotic to impress her.  The results are disastrous – and hilarious.  His display of unusual animals, for example, ends with the poor Earl clinging to the tail of a fleeing giraffe.  And his poetry?  Just terrible.

But then the Duchess’ cook gets sick right before a party.  The rest of her “fancy” friends run around trying to scare up elaborate ingredients, such as truffles and quail eggs, that don’t quite work out.  The Earl of Norm, on the other hand, makes a simple grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk.  Delicious!

The Duchess quickly discovers that ordinary things can be wonderful, too.  Soon, the two opposites discover they have a lot in common.  It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The romantic element is understated, which means the book isn’t too icky for kids who hate kissing.  And while there’s no overt magic in the story, the elaborate illustrations convey an otherworldly quality that will satisfy even the biggest fairytale fan.

Maybe the moral of the story can even spark some reconciliations on the playground.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Goodnight Construction Site

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

reviewed by Susan Fry

On one family vacation, I was horrified to discover that our hotel was right next to a construction site.  From dawn to dusk, enormous yellow machines whirred and dug, screeched and poured, loaded and dumped.  And did I mention the whirring and screeching?

But while this meant no naps for any of us, my two-year-old son was in heaven.  He sat on our balcony and watched those trucks all day long.

For machine-loving kids like him, it’s hard to imagine a better going-to-bed book than Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.   The book has just the right mix of soft and screech for even the most rough-and-tumble child.

All the machines on the construction site work hard during the day, “To build a building, make a road,/To get the job done – load by load!”  But when the sun sets, they finish their jobs, one by one, and go to bed.

Each truck stars in its own bedtime routine, spread over multiple pages, so kids get ample chance to see their favorites in action.  And each machine has a different, appealing personality.  The cheerful crane is drawn with a broad smile, while the “dizzy” cement mixer has googly eyes.

Kids will catch on right away to the similarities between the trucks’ bedtimes and their own.  Crane Truck “raises one last beam,” then “tucks himself in nice and tight” with a teddy bear in his folded arms.  After Cement Mixer makes one final spin, “he takes a bath, gets shiny-bright,/Pulls up his chute, turns off his light.”  And as for Bulldozer?  “No one’s as tough and strong as he,/But now he’s sleepy as can be.”  He curls into a “soft dirt bed” as if he’s cuddling with a blankie.

Lichtenheld’s oil pastels let the texture of his paper show through, which gives the drawings a friendly, touchable quality.   The colors change from the warm yellows of daytime to a cool blue night that isn’t too dark.  And as the rhymes gradually move from jaunty exclamation points to a quiet “Shh . . . . goodnight,” they might just inspire some other noisy machines to go to sleep, too!

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Rama and the Demon King

Friday, February 10th, 2012


Rama and the Demon King: An Ancient Tale from India, by Jessica Souhami

Reviewed by Susan Fry

Get ready for some culture.  Oh, and also for some Demon fighting!

The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India.  It was written in Sanskrit around the 4th century B.C., supposedly by a poet named Valmiki.  In its more than 50,000 lines, the poem explores the nature of parenthood, kingship, and marriage, among many, many, many other things.

Pretty heavy going for a five year old, right?

Not if you read Rama and the Demon King.  Souhami has managed to distill the poem down to its essence.  She’s also captured the reason the tale has survived for so long:  it’s a gripping story filled with demons, kidnappings, betrayal, and true love.  And a flying monkey king!

The hero, Rama, seems to have it all.  He’s a prince with a loving wife (Sita) and a loyal brother (Lakshman).  But then Rama’s stepmother persuades the king to banish Rama.  Rama, Sita, and Lakshman find themselves battling demons in the forest.  The biggest, baddest demon of them all is the ten-headed Ravana.  Ravana kidnaps Sita, and Rama asks the flying Monkey King, Hanuman, for help.  After a huge battle, Rama kills Ravana and saves Sita.

Souhami chooses simple words in short sentences.  But her descriptions are so clear and original they amplify the drama:  “A terrible battle began.  The demons tried all their evil tricks.”  Ravana didn’t just smile, he “smiled ten horrible smiles.”  Cliffhangers will keep kids turning pages eagerly until the end, when “Ravana was DEAD.”

Like the language, the illustrations are both beautiful and simple.  Blocky, stylized figures in warm yellows, oranges, and browns leap across spare, white pages.

Hopefully Souhami will tackle Paradise Lost next.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Get a $10 iTunes Code & Save 10% on Flowers & Gifts $49.99+ at! Use Promotion Code ITUNES at checkout. - 300x250

Seek & Find Books

Friday, February 3rd, 2012



Seek and Find Books Reviewed by Susan Fry

My children love puzzles, and they love books.  So the following seek-and-find books, in which the illustrations do more than just tell a story, have them hooked!

Escape of Marvin the Ape, by Caralyn and Mark Buehner

It’s feeding time at the zoo, and Marvin the ape slips out while the zookeeper isn’t looking.  The book follows Marvin’s adventures in the big city as two clueless police officers hunt for him.  Children will delight in spotting Marvin as he hides behind a menu at a restaurant, swings through the trees in a park, and catches a fly ball at a baseball game.  But don’t stop there!  Really observant children will also find the ostrich, cat, and dog following Marvin, too.

Spot It!: Find the Hidden Creatures, by Delphine Chedru

This surprisingly beautiful book hides a different animal on each page. Read the clues such as, “Find the owl who needs her glasses.”  Then, seek the animal among the stylized designs — charming, retro-looking wallpaper, striped arches, and red-and-blue pom poms.  Sometimes, even adults might need a few tries to find everything.

Pigs from A to Z, by Arthur Geisert

A group of pigs are building a tree house.  Along the way, kids can find letters ingeniously concealed in the branches, tools, and surrounding meadows.  One letter appears five times on each page, along with the letter preceding and following it, so kids can learn the order of the alphabet as well as the letter shapes.  Geisert’s woodcut-inspired pigs aren’t too cutesy, and fans of construction sites will find plenty to love.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

When a Dragon Moves In

Sunday, January 29th, 2012


When a Dragon Moves In, written by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

I can usually tell when my son is making something up.  Did he brush his teeth?  Did he eat his brother’s cookie?  And did he really put away that pair of socks?

But there are times when I wish his imaginings could come true.   That’s the beauty of When a Dragon Moves In.   The book manages to show both a real world and an imaginary one, and it lets the reader choose which one to believe.

When a little boy builds a sandcastle on the beach, a dragon moves in.  Or does he?

The story is told in the second person, addressing the reader as “you,” which encourages kids to imagine they’re actually the main character:  “ . . . . you’ll wonder how you ever got so lucky.  With a dragon in your castle, you’ll have a built-in marshmallow toaster, your very own raft, and a kite that practically flies itself.”

The cartoons of the boy and dragon playing together are colorful, heartwarming, and detailed enough to be as believable as any dog-and-boy story.  Even as a grownup, I wanted to dive right into the picture of the boy floating happily through the ocean on the dragon’s stomach.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, father, and sister are having a more typical day out: lighting the barbeque, putting on sunblock, and sitting under an umbrella.

At first, the boy tries to hide the dragon from his family.  He conceals the dragon’s smoky breath with the family barbeque and erases the dragon’s prints on the beach.  Eventually, however, the boy breaks the news to his family.  Or, at least, he tries his best.  They are less than interested, even downright skeptical.  “Mmmm. . . .hmmm,” his mother murmurs, not even looking up from her book.

When the boy sets out to prove the dragon’s existence, the reader gets double vision:  every adventure with the dragon visually overlaps a mundane explanation.  The dragon’s breath, for example, could easily be smoke from the barbeque, and the dragon’s footprints look suspiciously like the boy’s flippers.

But when the dragon starts to misbehave, the boy gets blamed.  Who really ate his sister’s peanut butter sandwiches?  Or the family brownies?  The boy decides he’s had enough and banishes the dragon.  Luckily, just when regret sets in, the boy builds another sandcastle, and his dragon returns.  With friends.

I especially liked the warm and close relationships in the family.  Even though they may not believe the boy, father tickles him with a dragon/seagull feather, and the mother and sister want to play with him.

If only I could be so patient about my own son’s socks.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Chicken Big Book Review

Friday, January 20th, 2012


Chicken Big by Keith Graves, reviewed by Susan Fry

There are times when every child wonders whether they really, truly belong in their family.  As a vegetarian, spicy-food loving gal, I would regard my own parents’ British, meat-and-pudding lifestyle with astonishment.  “I must be adopted,” I’d hope, even though I looked exactly like my grandmother.  And who knows what my parents thought when I served them tofu . . . .

Chicken Big’s dilemma is much funnier.

“On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, humongous, egg.”  When a big, humongous chick hatches out of the egg, all the other chickens are perplexed.  “What is it?” they wonder.

The smallest chicken, “not the sharpest beak in the flock,” has an answer.  “It’s an elephant!” she announces, confidently.

The other addle-brained chickens believe her, and Poor Chicken Big is forced to sit outside.  “I wish I were a chicken,” he thinks, forlornly watching his family in their coop.

But when crises arise, the mysterious creature comes to the chickens’ rescue again and again.  Do they recognize him as one of their own?  Unfortunately – and hilariously – not.  When the smallest chicken thinks the sky is falling, Chicken Big simply eats the acorn that hit her on the head.  “He must be a squirrel!” she proclaims.  When Chicken Big shelters the others from the rain, the smallest chicken decides that he’s an umbrella.

Even Chicken Big realizes that “These are not bright chickens.”

But, as with the best of families, he still loves them and wants to belong.  Finally, after Chicken Big rescues stolen eggs from a thieving wolf, the others persuade the smallest chicken that only a chicken, after all, could be so smart, warm, and brave.

Even if he snores like an elephant.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

Custom Rings from Gemvara