Book Review: The Little Shop of Monsters by RL Stine & Marc Brown

2016 Children's Choice Book Award Winner -- Kindergarten-2nd Grade Book of the Year

Summary: A frighteningly fun picture book adventure from two monstrously talented children's book icons--Marc Brown and R.L. Stine!

Are you are afraid of monsters?
Do they make you shiver and shake and shut your eyes really tight at night?

Welcome to the Little Shop of Monsters! Do you want a SNEEZER? A TICKLER? Or one of the CREEPIEST monsters of all? Come on in and choose your favorite, if you dare (before one of them chooses YOU!).

Renowned children's book creators Marc Brown and R.L. Stine join forces for the very first time-in Stine's picture book debut-with a tale that is monstrously good fun.

Release Date: August 2015
Age Group: Childrens, Picture books, All-Mankind (it's Stine)
Source: Purchased at Scholastic Book Fair
Reviewed By: Nat & The Boys

This little gem slipped by and I didn't spot it until I was spending my life's savings at my boys school book fair. Really, this book needs no review, it should be an auto-buy. But for those with little appreciation for twisted humor, here we go.

It is a well known fact that I buy all things RL Stine. If he sold gum, I'd have it as an auto-ship item in my Amazon cart. Yea, I'm like that. I'm a sheep, I'm a freaking Stine sheep.

Immediately the title made me think of the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors. Admit it, you just said "Feed me Seymour, FEED ME" *in the plant-eater voice. It's okay, I did too.

Upon further inspection I was kind of shocked to see that Stine had teamed up with Marc Brown, the creator of the Arthur series. I am well versed in all things Arthur because it is a common series that I use when creating different health lessons for young children. But the two have totally different feels. I wondered how creepy was going to mesh with do-good-er.
It was EPIC!

It was the perfect mix of giggles, fear, gagging fun all while trying to find the courage to turn the page. I read it aloud in my best creeper voice and didn't have to build up the anticipation because the text delivered! The text is interactive, full of rhymes and little snarky side comments like "I hope I'm wrong" and "that would be sad". You know, sad that your neighbor might have just been eaten!  

My eight year old thought it was great that his little brother was hiding his face and yelling "just turn the page, I'm scared" while they both laughed in fear and excitement. 

There were literally pages that made me want to gag. It was great! We made noises, discussed the pros and cons of the different monsters and determined how much we would be willing to spend on a Monster.  

This book is ideal for children between the ages of 4 to 8. It is different, interactive and just plain fun. We all need a little excitement! Grab it for your Little Monsters or buy it as a fun gift, you can't go wrong! 

The Ominous Eye (The Nocturnals #2) by Tracey Hecht

When a violent jolt fractures the earth, the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate its source. Along their journey, Dawn, Bismark and Tobin meet an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara named Polyphema—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. With help from owls, jerboas, and kiwis, a trap is set, since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

Release Date: September 2016
Age Group: Middle Grade
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Ms. Leger

Note to Reader: This is one of Ms. Leger's favorite Middle Grade series. She seriously doubts you will find any middle school science or ELA teacher that wouldn't instantly fall in-love with The Brigade. It is adventurous and not even the teacher can predict what rare animal they will meet. These books have made a "tour" through our middle school and have had raving reviews, we haven't had one disappointed reader yet! To read our first introduction to The Nocturnals World click HERE.

Meet Polyphema

The Brigade is back and ready to solve yet another mystery! The Ominous Eye (The Nocturnals #2) is a must read for any middle schooler who loves animals and needs a great mystery. Hecht is a master at creating suspense and has the ability to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. As a teacher, I am always looking for material to bring into the classroom and I can always count on the latest Nocturnals to introduce a rare and really forgotten animal. 
We meet an endangered species known as the Tuatara.  I was not familiar with this descendant of the dinosaur, so of course I had to stop and do some research. It was not easy to find! I had to follow bread crumbs just to find information on this rare animal. I actually discovered a board on Pinterest that lead to a fun little article (link below). I don't know what Hecht's formula is for finding and creating such tall tales with such unique animals but it is supurb.
All About Tuataras
I will not give any hints or details to the plot of The Ominous Eye because it just wouldn't be fair to the reader, you have to jump into this series blind! I would recommend this book to librarians, classroom teachers, and all middle grade readers. Nat also reports that this is also a great series to read-aloud, The Boys are really into The Brigade.

For me personally, The Nocturnals is so much more than just a good MG series. The Educational Resources and interactive activities are so well planned and convenient. I even look forward to hearing what they posted on #wordwednesday on Twitter! Nat keeps me informed and sends me the images (I am too old to tweet).  And speaking of images, it wouldn't be fair not to mention how much I love the unique style of the illustrations. I love how everything that relates to this world always comes with a beautiful image.

Bravo Tracey! I can't wait to read The Fallen Star!

Ms. Leger 

Lesson Ideas: Plot Charting, Adaptations, Predator vs. Prey, Fossils, Landforms and Interactive Technology Based Learning. You could also really broaden vocabulary by doing "A Word a Week" with the meme #wordwednesday found HERE
Coming May 2017!

Series Review: The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, Aurore Damant (Illustrations)


When ghost boy Kaz’s haunt is torn down and he is separated from his ghost family, he meets a real girl named Claire, who lives above the town library with her parents and her grandmother. Claire has a special ability to see ghosts when other humans cannot and she and Kaz quickly form a friendship. The two join forces to solve the mystery of the ghost that’s haunting the library. Could it be one of Kaz’s lost family members?

Release Date: August 2014
Age Group: Childrens (Chapter Book)
Source: Review Copies from Publisher
Reviewed By: Maryn

Kaz is a timid ghost boy who knows almost nothing about the human world outside of his haunt (a house for ghosts).  When he is carried away by the wind, Kaz is separated from his ghost family and everything he's ever known.

There are two things you should keep in mind before picking up this series.
#1 - It is not like Goosebumps, or any other scary series that I've read. If anything, I'd say this series has more of a Nancy Drew meets The Mouse & the Motorcycle vibe. I can't imagine myself at a younger age being even remotely scared of the story and its content. If you're frightened easily, even these books won't give you nightmares. There is mystery and adventure.

#2 - Do not skip the page at the beginning. There are several words that ghosts use throughout the story that you wouldn't understand if you didn't read the word guide.

I really don't have anything bad to say about this series, it was fun. It has all the keys for a good beginner chapter book. The text isn't too complex and it's easy to follow for young readers, and the characters are fun, cute, and believable.  I had a lot of fun with these books, and I'd definitely recommend them to beginner readers, or anyone who wants a fast and easy read.  

Book Review: Summerlost by Allie Condie

Summary: It's the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Release Date: March 2016
Age Group: Middle Grade
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Maryn

Before you read this review I want to give an explanation of how this review transpired. There is a group of girls that frequent my house, I call them The Tweens. One of them is Maryn. Maryn is a book junky, spunky and she even sings... yea, she's just that cool. 

Everyone around me knows that my bookshelves are always open. Maryn is one that loves to come and see what I've got. I asked her if she would like to review a few middle grade books for me that I just hadn't had time to do and she enthusiastically accepted. When I pulled Summerlost from my shelf I told her that I didn't know much about it other than it came from a good author and that it was probably about death. She assured me she could handle the sad stuff. Maryn is like me in that we do not read the back cover of books, we go in blind! It's exciting and we agree that they usually spoil something.

Now read her review and then I will finish this touching tale.

I was  pleasantly surprised by this book. I say surprised because when I first picked it up, I had low expectations for it. Mainly because I didn't know the first thing about it only that someone died.
As I read this book, I became emotionally connected with the main character Cedar. I really got to see the world through her eyes and this story sent me on an emotional roller coaster. At times I felt happy, and a second later, I'd want to cry. It really hurt to see Cedar suffer when she lost her brother Ben.

Early on in the story, Cedar addresses that her brother had disabilities. This really broke my heart because I have two brothers with Autism. I saw traits in Ben that I see daily in Braden and Bradley (my brothers). Although a good portion of this book was sad, there was a lot of mystery and adventure for Cedar. Countless times I was left wondering what would happen next.
This was a touching story about family and friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it for all ages. 

As Maryn read this book she stopped by and told me that she thought Ben had autism. I immediately panicked because I knew where it was headed. I couldn't believe I asked her to read a book about the death of an autistic brother. You see, Maryn has an older and younger brother with autism. For that, I think she is an expert in the day to day life of children with autism. She described the different situations happening in the book and told me that she was pretty sure this boy had autism. She talked a lot about how the author must have done a lot of research and how she had gotten so many little "ticks" right. We talked a lot about what goes into writing a story and how you have to know your facts. This couldn't have been an easy read for Maryn. I know she felt a lot while reading and she really related with the character Cedar because in some aspects, she is Cedar.

While this is a heavier read for middle grade students, I think it is also pure genius. It really packs an emotional punch and makes them reflect on family relationships, loss and just what it really means to have #thefeels. I know that this is a middle grade read but I think it is also ideal for junior high kids too. 

Hats off to Allie Condie, I do believe middle grade lit. is your niche! And excellent debut review to Maryn, you're going to move mountains kid!

A Teen Voice for ISRBR: Introducing Maryn, Teen Reviewer

I am SuPeR eXcItEd to introduce you to my new teen blogger, Maryn! I have been on the lookout for a teen reviewer since Maddie B had to go and grow up on me... dang girl. 

Maryn is an avid, non-discriminatory, teen reader......... do you have any idea how hard it is to find a teen with this skill set?! It's hard, really hard. One day I noticed that she always had a book in-hand, I took note. So, I began to test the teens' Jedi skills. You know, questions like: So, did you see the last Haunting Hour? What did you think of MockingJay? And the winner, What won't you read? "I'll read anything, even if I don't really like it. I just have to finish."

She will be the teen voice for ISRBR. And when you think of her literal voice I want you to think peppy meets Southern charm, it's super cute and full of enthusiasm.  Maryn will be reviewing YA & MG books. Her favorite genre's include: dystopian, mystery, fantasy and paranormal {she seriously should have been my kid}. And her favorite series is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. She feels for Meyer what I feel for Stine. #patientlywaitingforthecall

Welcome to I'd So Rather Be Reading, Maryn!

Vlog Review: Dr. Fell & the Playground of Doom by David Neilsen

Summary: When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell.

Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.

Release Date: August 2016
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Macy Kate aka Southern Belle

image source:

Book Review: The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

Summary: I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

Release Date: October 2016
Age Group: YA
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

So I jumped into this one knowing two things, one: I was completely unbiased because I knew absolutely nothing about the story and two: I've never read a Kami Garcia book {*gasp* I know, I have no justification for this}.

New Author + YA  = Could Be Awesome

I was blown away! It has been awhile since I have found a true YA standalone that I couldn't put down. This book took 5 hours, one pee break and two snacks followed by dreams of street racing. I really liked Garcia's style of writing, it was so fluid. I stayed engaged and couldn't predict the story line, I mean I thought I had it figured out then BAM, I was wrong. *I only like to be wrong in terms of fiction. 

The best way to describe the main characters, Frankie and Marco, might be to say they are a Gone in 60 Seconds meets Jacob Black who runs into Romeo & Juliet in Downtown LA.

I really fell for all the characters, they were all fleshed out and relatable. Some I hated and others I just wanted to hug and make them cookies. There are several story lines that are relatable to teens from all different backgrounds and situations-- finding that one teacher that really cares, the "throw-away" kids, what it means to come from the hood, teens of privilege, parents who care versus parents who are there but absent.

Most of the time when I read a YA book the parents are non-existent and I think, where do their parents think they are during all this?! But Garcia did a good job of delivering several types of parental circumstances, it wasn't flat and one dimensional.

Plain & simple, The Lovely Reckless is a must- read for all YA fans. As in, right now, Kindle it up! You will not regret it.

PS: I immediately gave this book to a friend to read and one day later I got this text:

"I am sad it's over!" 

Me to Suz, me too.

{Garcia could easily add to this story from at least three different POV. Novella please. #fingerscrossed}

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: The Ceruleans Series


>>First book is FREE on Kindle!<<


Death Wish (Ceruleans #1)


Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit: run away from school, join a surfing fraternity, drown in a tragic ‘accident’.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to an isolated English cove to uncover the truth. And, as it turns out, to fall in love with the place and its people, especially a certain blue-eyed surfer with a serious case of the heroics.

But as Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery: of what it means to conquer fear, to fall in love, to choose life, to choose death.

To believe the impossible.

The Ceruleans: soulful, coming-of-age romance with a paranormal edge. Five books, one question – if the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint?


Buy links


Charlotte Wilson (pen name Megan Tayte)

Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess. ‘Write, Charlotte,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.

Thirty-odd years later, Charlotte is a professional writer. For authors and publishers, she writes and edits books as The Book Specialist. For herself, she writes soulful, coming-of-age romance for young adults.

Charlotte grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in a village of Greater Manchester with her husband and two children. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, baking up a storm, or embarking on a DIY project. She recently achieved a lifetime ambition of creating a library in her home to house her ever-increasing collection of books. She pretends not to notice that the shelves are rather wonky.

You can find Charlotte online at:


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Vlog Review: Mouse Scouts: Camp Out by Sarah Dillard (Book 3)

Look out Macy Kate has earned another badge! Watch her review of Sarah Dillard's latest Mouse Scout! 

Book Summary:   
Badges are better when you earn them together! The Mouse Scouts are ready to earn a new badge . . . but can they make it in the wild without their fearless leader?

The Scouts are hitting the nature trail to earn their “Camp Out” badge. But not all of the troopers are gung-ho about sleeping beneath the stars. Violet can’t bear the thought of leaving her comfy bed behind, while everything about the great outdoors seems to make Junebug sneeze.

But when Miss Poppy goes missing, can the Scouts work together to track down their troop leader?

Brimming with lively black-and-white illustrations—including pages from the official Mouse Scout Handbook—these darling stories about the smallest Scouts with the biggest hearts are just right for fans of Ivy and Bean.

This series is one of Macy Kate's favorites. She enjoys the strong characters, good values, friendships and of course the fact that these are cute little mice. See her review of books 1 & 2 HERE.

Book Review: When You're Feeling Sick by Coy Bowles

This laugh-out-loud picture book from Coy Bowles, guitarist for the Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band, will have sick kids feeling better in no time!

Sneezing? Coughing? Taking a sick day? Don t worry, you ll be feeling better soon thanks to this hilarious picture book from Coy Bowles, guitarist of the Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band. Full of encouraging and super-silly rhyming advice on how to face sick days with courage and a positive attitude, When You re Feeling Sick is just what the doctor ordered! Comes with a sheet of stickers to bring a smile to every sick kid s face.

Release Date: January 2017
Age Group: Children's
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat & The Boys

This book couldn't have come at a more perfect time of the year, flu season! Sickness of varying viruses are hitting homes across the country with loads of Kleenex, Sprite and chicken noodle soup being the staple at dinnertime.

The Sickness Song
When You're Feeling Sick is a really cute rhyming text, picture book with bright and bold images. At times the actual text made me think of a good 'ol country boy reading this book to his sick kid with words & phrases like "cuz" and "oh man". Throughout the book it identifies the feelings and emotions we have when we just feel bad and makes light of it with silly faces and sick day protocols. Come to think of it, this might be ideal to read to husbands too... YOU WILL LIVE GUYS.

Something unique and cool about this book is the fact that Coy sings The Sickness Song and it can be downloaded for free. {Click on the Sick Bug to listen & download}

This is one that I recommend as a gift. It is the ideal book to give as a Get Well gesture accompanied by a can of chicken noodle soup & lots of hugs {and maybe a bottle of GermX}.

Teacher Note:
  • ideal target audience: pre-K to Kindergarten age children
  • easy introduction to sickness & signs/symptoms
  • identify caregivers and their role in children's care (i.e. doctors, nurses)
  • sick day protocol 
  • ideal to incorporate music into learning environment
  • I created a lesson plan and you can view it HERE and use it!
Side Note: When I am creating a lesson for a younger audience it is rare that I find a song to add-in. For instance, when I teach the food label I add a food label rap song, sounds super corny but it gets their attention. When Bobby Bones came out with The Planet Song I called my mom and told her I had the perfect song for learning the planets {My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas}. Teaching with music is awesome and can really set the mood. Sorry... my inner teacher came out.