Foreword Reviews

Indie Kids' Books Bring Home the World


An image from The Squickerwonkers by Evangeline Lilly, illustrated by Johnny Fraser-Allen.

From China to Zimbabwe, from Lebanon to Japan, from Istanbul to Greece—even from one pole to the other—these sixteen children’s books stretch across the globe to expand a child’s imagination. All featured in our Winter 2015 issue, they’ll open young minds up to the diverse possibilities their world has to offer.

Rafa Was My Robot

Book Cover
Alexandra Dellevoet
Ken Turner, illustrator
Annick Press
Hardcover $19.95 (32pp)
Buy: Amazon

Imaginative world traveler Jacob and his robot, Rafa, are close as friends can be—like a child and his favorite stuffed animal. But one day, Rafa’s battery starts dying, and Jacob traverses the galaxy in search of a replacement. Comfortingly dealing with the process of grief, this lovable tale tugs at the heart as the characters’ facial expressions and bold use of color reveal both solemnity and joy. Ages four and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

The Squickerwonkers

Book Cover
Evangeline Lilly
Johnny Fraser-Allen, illustrator
Titan Books
Hardcover $16.99 (42pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A royal pain with a red balloon strays from a fair and into an abandoned marionette auditorium where several spooky kooky puppets (called Squickerwonkers) reside. A disembodied voice introduces to the impetuous young heiress each of the Squickerwonkers and their corresponding deadly sin, and she soon learns of the consequences of her own demise-inducing vice. Mystery, misanthropy, and mischief combine in this delightfully dark cautionary tale, written in an absorbing limerick style. The creepy, yet stunning visuals hint at surrealism with a Gothic air. Enter at your own risk! Ages four and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

This Is the Greatest Place!

The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals

Book Cover
Brian Tse
Nancy S. Steinhardt, editor
Alice Mark, illustrator
Ben Wang, translator
China Institute in America
Hardcover $12.95 (36pp)
Buy: Amazon

What could make a more beautiful palace than nature? Drawing attention to a natural world that is too often ignored, an architect named Uncle Builder shows a handful of animal friends that their forest home is worthy of a king. The awe of a cute rabbit and his companions will be shared by children as they read, lift flaps, and gaze in wonder at the Forbidden City in Beijing, learning about Chinese history and culture. Ages five and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Chizi’s Tale

The True Story of an Orphaned Black Rhino

Book Cover
Jack Jones
Jacqui Taylor, illustrator
Keras Publishing
Hardcover $16.99 (32pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

This magical true story is both heartwarming and funny in its narrative of an orphaned black rhino and its adoptive human family in Zimbabwe. Luscious illustrations pair with the engaging text to entertain young readers and interest them in endangered-species conservation. With a perfect balance of fun and tact, and with 100 percent of the proceeds going to a rhino charity, Chizi’s Tale succeeds in illuminating the needs of a precious ancient species. Ages five and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Porter Searches for Santa

Book Cover
Jonathan I. Gonzales
N.B. 498 Press
Hardcover $16.95 (36pp)
Buy: Amazon

Living at the South Pole, Porter the penguin has never heard of Santa Claus. When he receives a letter addressed to Santa, the curious bird ventures with his friend Franklin to learn the identity of the gift-giving man. The unique photos of clay scenes give the book that classic Christmas kid-movie feel, replete with an angry, misunderstood monster in a snowy cave and accessories that give the players and settings cute character. This book is perfect for a Christmas Eve read to enhance the magic of the season. Ages four and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Imani’s Moon

Book Cover
JaNay Brown-Wood
Hazel Mitchell, illustrator
Hardcover $17.95 (32pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Small Imani learns a lesson on perseverance when pursuing her fervent dream of touching the moon, in this gorgeously illustrated picture book. Taking after her storytelling mother, ignoring the teasing children of her village, and emulating the majestic warriors in their tribal jumping dance, this delightful heroine overcomes her short stature and inspires young dreamers to similarly reach for the stars. Ages six and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Athens, Greece

Book Cover
Shannon Jones
Casey Uhelski, illustrator
Calithumpian Press
Hardcover $16.99 (40pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Adorable cartoon calico KeeKee approaches Athens, Greece, with a researcher’s fervor and a child’s innocent curiosity in this latest installment in Shannon Jones’s series of informative picture books. Exploring the Parthenon, the Olympic Stadium, Santorini, and Greek cuisine with other animal guides, this clever kitty introduces icons of the country to eager readers with funny dialogue, approachable factoids, and images that will amuse and delight. Ages six and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

The Possible Police

Book Cover
Wylde Scott
Hannah K. Shuping, illustrator
Wylde Press
Hardcover $17.99 (32pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Dreamy purple and sunshiny swirls juxtapose with the dark attire of the authorities as the visionary protagonist of this book proves his creative superiority to enforcers of the limits of the imagination. Rainbows, stars, and smiling animals highlight the quixotic nature of this doe-eyed dandy. His poetic volley of dialogue with the officers reveals Wylde Scott’s talent for capturing the rhythm of creation through words, while Hannah Shuping’s spirited illustrations urge everyone to follow their fancy. Ages five and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

My Kiss Won’t Miss

Book Cover
Lesley Dahlseng
Mirela Tufan, illustrator
WhetWord Press, LLC
Hardcover $17.99 (32pp)
Buy: Amazon

Blown kisses swirl through the air in search of their designated child in this loving bedtime story whose rhyme and repetition sings like a lullaby. Flowery illustrations portray exquisite locales—from a child drifting to sleep in a barn, to one in a desert, another on the moon—to show that a parent’s tuck-in ritual will reveal their love no matter the distance between them and their kin. Ages two and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

The Olive Tree

Book Cover
Elsa Marston
Claire Ewart, illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
Hardcover $16.95 (32pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The high yield of an olive tree on one side of the fence—but with branches reaching over to the other—precipitates a neighborhood feud about who actually owns the precious fruit. Shades of brown, green, and orange evoke the Lebanese countryside in this story of community efforts and treating others as you would like to be treated—much the same as one child extends an olive branch as a peace offering to another at the conclusion of the finely wrought tale. Ages five and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)


Time Flight

Book Cover
Susan Syers Stark
Leaf Storm Press
Softcover $14.95 (246pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

His mind perpetually drifting where his creativity and optimism take it, distracted Anthony one day follows a paper airplane into a portal that takes him into another universe. Like Alice in Wonderland, Anthony’s quick-changing, ridiculous adventures and the bizarre creatures he encounters teach him how to find balance between his strengths and weaknesses in order to succeed. His love of big words and books provides a sly message about paying attention in school. Ages eight and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Mr. Katz Is a Zombie

Book Cover
M. C. Lesh Publishing
Softcover $9.99 (140pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

When J.D. and his disaster-inducing friends, in possession of an ancient spell book, accidentally turn their teacher into a zombie, they must wrangle him (before he eats anyone’s brains) and turn him back before time runs out. J.D.’s appealing, goofy narrative voice will attract trouble-seeking young readers, as will the fun yet spine-tingling Gothic themes, J.D.‘s ghostbusting parents, and random illustrations of donuts and milk cartons. This chaotic adventure has all the elements that make kids giggle, and they’ll keep turning the pages to see if Mr. Katz ever returns from the dark side. Ages eight and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Running with Cosmos Flowers

The Children of Hiroshima

Book Cover
Shizumi Shigeto Manale
Richard Marshall
Pelican Publishing Company
Hardcover $16.99 (152pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Shizumi Shigeto Manale and Richard Marshall’s delicate and heartrending narrative details the life of a young girl living in a town near Hiroshima after the bombing in 1945 and offers a message of hope and cultural understanding. The narrator, Hanako, brings an empathetic perspective to this story as she experiences a range of emotions—from fear, confusion, and grief to hope and joy. Photos scattered throughout the text remind readers that the story is based on historical fact. Because of the often graphic content, this book would make an excellent tool for the classroom, to help children better comprehend this tragic event. Ages ten and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

My Friend Is a Muslim

Faith in Friendship

Book Cover
Khadija Ejaz
Purple toad Publishing
Hardcover $29.95 (48pp)
Buy: Amazon

Elementary-school social studies classes should cheer for this accessible introduction to Islam, told through the story of a girl and her Muslim friend who are creating a powerpoint to share their research about the religion to her class. Tactful discussions of the hijab, prayers, holidays, and other traditions offer the opportunity to stress the importance of tolerating other cultures, while empathizing with people who are different. This timely story entertains as it educates, as the girls enjoy the process of discovery. Ages eight and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Uncovered in Istanbul

Book Cover
Melissa Mahle
Kathryn Dennis
SpyGirls Press
Softcover $8.99 (196pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Narrator Anatolia Steppe is a rebellious twelve-year-old, and wise beyond her years. While these traits may irritate adults and nannies, they are perfectly conducive to solving mysteries with international intrigue. In Istanbul, Turkey, Ana and her foster brother, whose sleight of hand is immeasurably convenient, discover an eighteenth-century French girl’s journal, launching the detective duo on a hunt for treasure, while seeking to understand Ana’s father’s disappearance. With humor and snark, Ana sneaks, translates, and troublemakes her way to answers—fighting pirates, wrangling canines, and apologizing to her caretakers on the way. Ages ten and up.

AIMEE JODOIN (November 27, 2014)

Aimee Jodoin

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