The Pea Patch Jig by Thacher Hurd

Baby Mouse loves Farmer Clem's pea patch. As her parents prepare for their big party, she escapes from her bath and gets up past her bedtime to visit the pea patch. Color illustrations.

Release Date: April 1, 1995
Age Group: Preschool to Grade 1
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn


The Pea Patch Jig is a sweet and funny book about a little mouse family who lives on a farm.  Kaitlyn and I enjoyed this book a lot!

Mother and Father Mouse have a daughter, Baby Mouse.  Baby Mouse is kind of mischievous and gets into trouble a couple of times throughout the story.  Mother and Father Mouse must rescue her, but in the end it's Baby Mouse who rescues her family from a dangerous predator.

Kaitlyn's favorite parts were quite funny: one scene where Grandfather Mouses's head gets stuck in a tomato (thanks to Baby Mouse kicking it down from the tomato plant) really got her laughing.  She also liked the part where the party occurs and every mouse dresses up and dances under the moon, actually doing the Pea Patch Jig.  

I loved the illustrations, which reminded me of watercolor paintings.  They were soft around the edges but still bright and engaging.  I did think that the book was a little too long.  I noticed Kaitlyn starting to lose interest towards the end of the story, then it ended and she told me how much she liked it.  So, I guess the length wasn't a deal-breaker for her. 

We enjoyed The Pea Patch Jig and would recommend this book!

The Trouble With Destiny by Lauren Morrill

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey...

With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

Release Date: December 8, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli


The Trouble With Destiny was a very fun and funny read.  I highly enjoyed it!  

One thing I love about fiction is when authors don't try to make their books anything more than they are.  And, at its heart, The Trouble With Destiny is a story about a high school band in danger of being shut down due to budget cuts.  The book had a band-camp vibe, which made it even more fun.  I was in the band in high school, and it brought back those feelings of community and belonging.  

Liza is our narrator, and she was a great lead character.  She is the drum major, and is the only band member who knows that the band's future depends on winning the prize money from the cruise ship Destiny.  Therefore, she's under tremendous pressure to push the band members to perform at their best during the week-long competition. 

But Liza goes too far in her zeal to be the best, and the band members start to buck against her authority.  She's forced to let go of her tightly held reins, and let the music happen on its own.  In the process, she learns a lot about herself and those around her.  

In addition to this sweet and fun plot, there was an extra sweet romance in the mix.  I loved that aspect of the story.  And, there was an emphasis on friendship, especially resolving long-held conflicts.  I loved that aspect of the story.

The Trouble With Destiny was a great read.  I recommend it for upper middle grade and all young adult readers.  

Casey's Bright Red Christmas by Holly Dufek, Illustrated by Paul E. Nunn


It's Christmas time at Happy Skies Farm! Tillus the worm, Big Red, Sammy and the rest of the team are excited to celebrate the season. But Casey the farmer is busy working: feeding animals, repairing fences and planning for the year ahead. With so much to do, Casey wonders if she'll have time to prepare for the holidays. That's when Tillus and the team unite to make this Christmas extra special for their busy friend. 

Release Date: October 1, 2015
Age Group: 4-8 years
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn


Casey's Bright Red Christmas is such a sweet Christmas story!  Kaitlyn and I both loved it.  After being introduced to Casey and Friends in A Year on the Farm, we felt like we knew the characters and that made the book even more fun to read.

The story starts with Casey reflecting on all she has to do to get ready for Christmas.  She has to do her normal farm chores, plus all of the decorating and baking.  This feeling of being overwhelmed with a "to-do" list was authentically portrayed for a young girl who runs a farm and also stuck a note of sympathy with me, and probably most other parents who read this book.  Christmas is my favorite time of the year, but it's also the busiest time of the year.  

And then, Casey comes down with a cold and can't do everything on her list.  She plans to go to the shed to start decorating for her farm friends but falls asleep at her kitchen table instead.  Tillus the worm gathers everyone together and they decide to set Christmas up for Casey for a big Christmas surprise.  

As a parent with a chronic illness, I loved the theme of helping those in need, and doing for others when they can't do things for themselves.  Casey deserved a break, and needed help, and when the team recognized that Casey takes care of them all year long and that it was time for them to take care of her, it was a poignant moment for me.  That's the kind of love in action that I love to read about, and of course, experience in my own life!

And so, the theme of the book becomes about the true meaning of Christmas: giving, helping, and sharing.  The farm friends surprise Casey, and they spend Christmas together, singing carols and enjoying cookies and hot cocoa.  Kaitlyn loved the idea of the farm equipment setting up Christmas for Casey, and how each friend had their own way of doing things: playful, distracted, focused, in charge, particular, etc.  That was a nice metaphor for different personality traits and how each worked together to make Christmas special for everyone.  I should note here that while the first Casey book, A Year on the Farm, was geared towards ages 5 and up, this story was more appropriate for a four year old. 

Casey's Bright Red Christmas was an excellent read, and we highly recommend it!    

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

For fans of David Sedaris, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling-the new book from Jenny Lawson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED...

In LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos."

"Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'"

Jenny's first book, LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it's about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn't need a bit more of that?

Release Date: September 22, 2015
Age Group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kelli


I read and loved Let's Pretend This Never Happened (read my review here), so I knew that I would really enjoy Furiously Happy.  However, I didn't expect this book to touch my heart the way that it did. 

Jenny Lawson is a well-recognized advocate for breaking the stimga surrounding mental illness.  She opens up about her own struggles in Furiously Happy, and her transparency made me love her even more.  There were so many aspects of her feelings and life that I identified with, and I got a lot of peace in knowing that I wasn't alone.  

I also loved reading about how Jenny copes with her symptoms.  For example, Jenny has several sleep disorders which cause severe insomnia.  Instead of laying in bed fretting about not sleeping, she has cat rodeos in her kitchen at 3:00 am.  She straps her smaller taxidermied animals onto her cats and has them race to see which cat can keep the animal on their back the longest.  This scene was one of my favorites in the book and one that I keep coming back to when I struggle with insomnia. 

One might think that this book is heavy or depressing.  It's the complete opposite.  Jenny strikes the perfect balance between intense and light hearted emotion.  A chapter about her worst struggles is followed by a short chapter about her most recent fight with her husband Victor (these fights are always hilarious, by the way).  

At its heart, Furiously Happy is about making the best life out of your particular circumstances, whatever they may be.  It made me smile, cry, and left me with a feeling of intense hope.  Jenny's blog is a place where people can come together, share their struggles with mental illness, and feel accepted no matter what.  Furiously Happy expounds on this feeling of community and unconditional acceptance.  Even though I was reading this book in my own home, completely alone, I felt surrounded by the experience of all of those who have gone before me, and those going through a hard time with me right now.  And that's an incredible that is rarely found in a book.  I can't say enough good things about Furiously Happy.  I highly recommend it! 

Welcome to the Symphony by Carolyn Sloan, Illustrated by James Williamson

Using one of the most famous works in classical music—Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—here is the perfect way to introduce a young child to the world of classical music. This charming and interactive picture book with its panel of 19 sound buttons is like a ticket to a concert hall, taking readers on a journey from the exciting first moment when the musicians begin tuning up to the end of the first movement (attention newcomers: don’t clap yet!). At each step of the way, readers learn the basics of classical music and the orchestra: What is a conductor? What is a symphony? Who was Beethoven? The different aspects of music: melody, harmony, tempo, theme. And the families of instruments—strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

But the best part is that every critical idea is illustrated in gorgeous sound. The sound panel allows readers to hear the different parts of the symphony and voices of the music—the famous beginning of the Fifth, what a clarinet sounds like, the difference between a violin and a viola, what a melody is, and what harmony is. Kids will want to match their voices to the A note that tunes the orchestra, dance to the rhythmic passages—and, of course, sing along to da-da-da-daah!

Release Date: October 27, 2015
Age Group: 4-8 years
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli & Kaitlyn


Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is such a unique and fun book.  This is the first book with a sound bar that isn't just for toddler-aged children.  My daughter is four and loved pushing the buttons (as she always has) but this time she was fully engaged in the story.

Welcome to the Symphony answers the following questions: What is a symphony?  Which instruments are included, and what do they sound like?  And it also addresses melody, harmony, and themes.  On each page, there are sections of informative text, such as:
"A symphony is a long piece of music, usually divided into smaller sections, called movements.  It's played by an orchestra.  Ludwig van Beethoven wrote nine symphonies."  Welcome to the Symphony, page 7.
Also on each page are three cute little mice who are listening to the symphony from the rafters. It's their first time so they have lots of questions.  The mice are asking what the kids reading/listening to the book would ask.  They serve as the child's voice, and I loved that because it kept the book from feeling too didactic.  

Page eight is where the real fun begins: the cue to push the first music button is on this page.  It's the sound of the orchestra tuning, which Kaitlyn thought was so cool.  She pushed each button at least twice per page.  The majority of the buttons correspond to the different instruments included in the orchestra.  But several of them play longer sections of Symphony No. 5, which were our favorite buttons to push (and the ones that got pushed multiple times).  

Welcome to the Symphony was just the right length.  It ended right as Kaitlyn was saying, "Is this book long, Mama?"  It covered the first movement of the symphony, so I'm hoping there will be a sequel.  I've found Kaitlyn picking it up and "reading" it aloud on her own, pressing the buttons as they are numbered on their respective pages.  She loves this book and so do I. It's a learning book that is disguised as a really fun and entertaining read.  I can see Welcome to the Symphony being used in music classes, and also church choirs.  I highly recommend this book!