Little Kids: Let’s Talk About Feelings

Hi, again! I’ve got a stack of new children’s books that will be coming out in the next few months sitting next to me. I sat down and picked a few of my favorites I wanted to highlight that I strongly feel should be on your radar over the coming months when they’re released. I noticed there was a trend though: they all deal with feelings in some capacity. Not all in the same way, but I liked that this tied them all together. I’ll explain more below…

Little-Kids-Book-Recommendations-About-Feelings

Butterfly graphic from DoKity

My Pop is a Pirate (3/1/15)
This sweet book is a dedication to grandfathers and touches on how special they are to grandchildren because they seem invincible. (Hint: this one might be a good one for Father’s Day this year!)

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff (8/11/15)
It’s about the things that frighten little kids and how to become brave — with super cute illustrations and a dog who helps the little boy tackle his fears.

What James Said (6/9/15)
Misunderstandings, at all ages, are no fun. Especially when they deal with rumors and friendship. This is my personal favorite from this month’s selections because people of all ages can benefit from the message!

Wild Feelings (8/4/15)
Children have quite a plethora of emotions and sometimes they don’t understand why they feel the way they do. This is a lighthearted book that provides a little bit of insight for them.

Crybaby (8/18/15)
Never discount the dog; maybe when everyone’s fumbling around trying to calm the screaming baby, we should take note of the dog who has the answers.

Luna & Me (8/2015)
This is a sweet story about a little girl who doesn’t want one of the oldest trees to be cut down so she climbs up high and lives in it. Gorgeous drawings + an extremely loving tale.

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Here are two sample pages from My Pop is a Pirate, thanks to the publisher!

Sample_My-Pop-is-a-Pirate_9780702253614_lr-4Sample_My-Pop-is-a-Pirate_9780702253614_lr-5

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Thanks for stopping by for Little Kids to talk feelings!
What are you favorite children’s books that have a great feelings message?

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz • Magan Reviews

Book Review for Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah MoskowitzNot Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz [twitter • website]
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: eating disorders, theater school, Nebraska, LGBTQ, black MC
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Etta is all of these things: black, bisexual, a former ballerina, lonely, recovering from an eating disorder, and anxious to get out of Nebraska. She and her best friends aren’t getting along anymore and while she’s in search of a way out of Nebraska, she befriends a new group, very different from her, but the gaping holes in her heart start to not feel quite so deep anymore.

• • •

Whew. Etta. She is … a character, a handful, a LOT to take in. She’s a bundle of constant energy with strong opinions, a lot of talent, full of run-on-sentences and rambling thoughts, and a lot of loneliness as she finds herself distanced from her best friends because she started dating a boy.

Yep, a boy. Etta was a part of the Dykes clique at her school, a group of girls who were out and proud of it, and yes, labeled as aforementioned. A group consisting of her very best friends that she dressed up in retro 70s clothing with and went to the town’s only gay club. But Etta’s never felt defined as wanting to date girls OR boys. It’s never been an either/or dilemma for her. So when she meets a nice guy, they date, and her friends abandon and begin bullying her, and Etta feels more lost than she ever has before.

Etta’s broken up with that boy, still not speaking to her ex-girlfriends, is attending weekly meetings for her eating disorder, and begins to meet with a group of people to audition for a New York theater academy. If only she can get out of Nebraska and be some place where there are more people like her, maybe life will improve. It has to. Etta’s new group is very different from her: Bianca is a very young, very sick anorexic, Christian girl with more talent than anyone Etta’s ever met. James is Bianca’s protective, kind older brother with secrets of his own. James’ best friend is Mason who becomes really protective of and enamored with Etta.

I admit it took me a little while to really get into Not Otherwise Specified. It’s written very freely and Etta’s inner monologue is wordy, sometimes all over the place. I suppose I’m also a little more polite and less abrasive than Etta, too, which I had to get over to embrace her. But when I did get into the rhythm of Etta’s craziness to see how all of these factors propelled her to want to get out and find her footing, I couldn’t stop reading.

Not Otherwise Specified is likely one of the most diverse books I’ve read in a long while, and I absolutely loved that we have this main character who is bisexual with a newfound best friend who is a devout Christian. Clearly they have some fundamental differences that separate them, but Moskowitz handled this in such a profound way. Granted, some of this wording may have changed in the final edits, but this section particularly made me happy to see. Etta’s not above trying to understand Bianca’s feelings even though they differ from her own:

“…obviously thinking that gay people are wrong is antiquated and messed up, but that idea is not what Bianca’s worshipping. She’s not in this to hate gay people. She doesn’t hate gay people. She’s just this girl who really loves her God and doesn’t want to do anything to pull herself away from him–sorry, Mason–probably just as much as she doesn’t want to be pulled away from her brother.

…but I don’t think we can just say that something she believes, something that she fundamentally wants to not hurt anybody is something she can, or should, just get over.”

Take a chance on Etta. Challenge yourself and read her story about loneliness, acceptance, moving forward, not feeling like you belong, and befriending people very unlike yourself. It might take a beat to adapt to Etta’s over-the-top personality, but once you do, you’ll anxiously be awaiting to see what happens next.

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book cover for The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman • Magan Reviews

book cover for The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 386
Target Audience: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Keywords: weight and obesity, stigmas, friendship
Format Read: Digital copy received from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Katie, Pixie, Ellie, and Jane are fed up with not seeing results at their weekly slimming meeting. They gossip and ignore the leader anyway, so they decide to ditch the meetings for something more adventurous. Each week they set out to do something fun and new, but things change when Jane doesn’t fit in a standard sized theater seat. They form a club with the intent to find things that won’t make them feel uncomfortable or like an outcast.

• • •

Katie. Pixie. Ellie. Jane.

The one thing they all have in common: they’re overweight (for some of them, obese). They met at and attend a weekly slimming meeting (a la Weight Watchers), but decide something’s just gotta give. They’re no longer helpful and the only reason they’re attending anymore is so they can hang out together. The time they spent in meetings becomes time they dedicate to doing something fun together. The plan seems golden until they visit a local theater and Jane doesn’t fit in a seat.

The idea arises that they should share the information with other people and ultimately launch a website, form a club, and attend events they’re guaranteed to enjoy. Thus, the birth of The Curvy Girls Club. Katie spends tons of her free time calling and arranging all of the get-togethers. Rob, another friend from their meetings, joins the club (yep, even guys are welcome!) and becomes their IT specialist by helping set up the website and keeping track of hits. He’s into the club for a bigger reason than being the internet guru; he and Katie have been friends for a long time, but his feelings have developed into something more.

One amazing thing about Rob is that he’s not shy about finally fessing up to his feelings. Who doesn’t like a guy that can take charge and own his emotions? Except things get a little complicated. Katie’s had a six-year crush on her boss, Alex. He’s flirty. He’s sexy. But is he into Katie for the right reasons?

As the girls turn this casual club into a booming empire, Katie begins to drop weight. She’s not changed anything about her diet, exercise, or otherwise, so she visits a doctor and receives some news that she should take more seriously than she does. She spends some time “thinking” about her options and enjoys the weight loss. Rob gets weirded out by her sudden change in attitude and appearance, and Alex is suddenly front and center. See where things are headed? Yikes.

The whole concept of The Curvy Girls Club is overall lighthearted, but feels extremely authentic, too. What girl wouldn’t understand why Katie would be excited about dropping the weight, finally, when nothing else has worked? And who wouldn’t be infuriated that her work never sends her out on face-to-face client meetings (ironically, she works for a nutritional supplement company) but docks her pay for not meeting their requirements? Katie’s desire is to see TCGC grow so that she can replace her desk job with something she’s actually passionate about.

Underlying Katie’s issues are Jane and Pixie who have suffering marriages and the inability to lose weight. Ellie is in a healthy relationship, but still packs on extra weight. Each woman’s journey had a touch of seriousness — verbal abuse, being weeded out of your job because of size, trust issues, not being able to lose pregnancy weight, and dietary supplements. I’d bet money on the possibility that the vast majority of us can relate to something in that list. And it’s for that sole reason that I loved The Curvy Girls Club. Fun concept, great characters you’d want to hang out with, and tons of depth.

(P.S. I love how eye-catching this cover is.)

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Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne • Magan Reviews

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Dundurn Group
Pages: 224
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: missing parent, London, abusive parent
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Edie and her mom Sydney flee to London to get away from her abusive father; the day after her mom’s first night shift at her new job, she doesn’t ever return home. Edie decides she can’t go to the authorities because she doesn’t trust them (since her dad was a cop). She goes in search of Sydney with a guy from her school, Jermaine.

• • •

Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a really great “whodunnit” thriller if it had kept me on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, timing and unnecessary sexuality prevented me from staying hooked.

Edie and her mom, Sydney, pack up their lives within a few hours to flee Canada and take cover in London. For years they’ve been hopping from location to location to hide from her father. They left him when his abuse was no longer just verbal. He’s in law enforcement so outrunning him is difficult, but it is even less likely that someone would believe this cop is capable of being so aggressive.

Edie’s life in London is less than ideal — their apartment isn’t as homey as it is shabby (minus the chic). Forget about making friends; somehow she pisses off the mean girls on her first of school. Worst of all is that after her mom’s first day at her sketchy new job, she never reappears. Edie doesn’t receive a phone call from her and knows something’s gone awry; somehow her dad has always been able to figure out where they’ve gone. Has he resurfaced again so soon?

With a trail of lies following her and a lot of fear she’ll be thrown into the foster care system, Edie knows she can’t go to the authorities. She has to start the search for her mom on her own. She makes an unlikely “friend”, Jermaine, who has a rumor mill of gossip outlining his juvenile record. Jermaine and Edie set out to find Sydney, but hit dead end after dead end.

Edie’s story is an interesting one; I’m always fascinated by how people will get out of unbelievable circumstances. How would Edie and Jeramine do this on their own as two young teenagers with no detective skills scrounging for clues in London? That was the catch for me, but Since You’ve Been Gone lost its footing when things came to a screeching halt with a surprise revelation. It seemed like things were wrapped up abruptly from that point on. Essentially she had too much to handle and no way out without this loophole.

Quite possibly more upsetting was the escalation of the romance between Edie and Jermaine. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that not all books need a love story. It didn’t feel authentic here. These two really started out as enemies, two people who didn’t trust one another, when the story began. When less than 24 hours later, they find themselves in Jermaine’s house and Edie is contemplating having sex with Jermaine all while tangled up in this great search for her mother, things just didn’t feel convincing. Is it possible to consider losing your virginity with a boy you’ve just met that you didn’t even trust at the beginning of the day all while wondering if you’re mother’s been kidnapped or murdered?

My answer would be no.

Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a story I would have loved with more refinement and focus. I suggest you check out Liars, Inc. or Twisted Fate if you’re looking for a good “edge of your seat” book.

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The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand • Magan Reviews

book cover the last time we say goodbye cynthia hand, books about suicideThe Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand [twitter • website]
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: suicide, loss of a brother, life after loss, counseling
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Lex’s brother committed suicide and she’s not entirely sure why. She wants answers she’ll never get; she wants more than his one-line-post-it-note on his bedroom mirror. Lex wants to go back to way things were before.

• • •



The Last Time We Say Goodbye is going to be really difficult for me to review well. I wish I could draw a diagram for you that showed all of the emotions and feelings I experienced while slowly (because it’s like the best, most delicious meal you’ve ever had: it must be savored) worked through Lex’s story.

Lex’s life is divided into befores and afters:

Before when she was happy.
After her brother committed suicide.
Before when she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
After when she’s lost touch with all of her best friends.
Before when she was sure she’d met her soul mate.
After when she broke things off with him because it’s just too much.

Lex’s mom is barely functioning; she goes to work, comes home, cries herself to sleep in Tyler’s room, rinses and repeats. When her mom swears she gets a whiff of his cologne, Lex blows her off. But then a few things start happening to Lex and she’s positive her therapist will prescribe her medication if she tells him she has seen Tyler’s ghost. Or that she’s noticed photographs have been removed from frames throughout the house. Surely this can’t be happening, right?

This was my first of Cynthia’s books and I have to say I’m just so incredibly in love with her storytelling. I’m an “issues” kind of girl when it comes to books so I’ve read a number of books that deal with a similar situation. But man, it felt like Cynthia really forced me into this world. Everything just felt so right with the pacing, the environment, the friendships, and Lex trying to figure out how to move forward. There’s an added element of Lex’s journal entries that her therapist forces her to write, and honestly, sometimes these kinds of things can feel jarring because they break up the story. It worked so, so well here. (Especially when everything really came full circle at the end. Cue the tears.)

The Last Time We Say Goodbye is heartbreaking and takes a good, long look at a family after the surprising loss of a son and brother. There are so many questions and so, so few answers. It’s less of an emphasis, however, on Tyler and the choice he made, and more about accepting his decision and how Lex and her mom move forward. Just in case you’re wondering if this is a ghost book, my answer would be no. It’s a very realistic adaptation of a grieving family with a very logical explanation for why these things are happening to Lex and her mom.

I caution you to prepare a continuous stretch of time for The Last Time We Say Goodbye. You won’t want to move an inch. And quite possibly, if you’re like me, you’ll be angry you haven’t read Cynthia’s work until now. Don’t worry — I’m off to correct this!

• • •

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Promposal by Rhonda Helms • Magan Reviews

Promposal Book Review by Rhonda Helms

Promposal by Rhonda Helms [twitter • website]
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 224
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: promposal, public displays of affection, LGBT, Dive Into Diversity
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: When best friends Camilla and Joshua find themselves in less-than-ideal situations for prom, one of them going with someone she doesn’t want to date and the other lusting after his male best friend who wants to ask someone else to prom, their usual gleeful attitudes become quite glum and they don’t know how to turn things around for themselves.

• • •

In case you’re unfamiliar, a promposal is an often public proposal, in which one person asks another to the prom, eliciting joy or mortification. (Definition was copied from the Goodreads summary.)

Here’s a really sweet example to get you acquainted with the idea:

I’m going to make this a Why in 5 review to keep things short and sweet because I know you’ll get carried away watching more promposals after seeing the one above…

  1. Camilla has a massive crush on a boy named Benjamin. While they’ve spoken very little, she hopes that he’ll pick up on her crush-vibes and ask her to Prom. That isn’t exactly how things pan out; she’s asked to prom on live television by a guy she barely knows. How does she turn him down in order to seek out Benjamin’s potential offer? The answer: she can’t because she refuses to publicly humiliate someone. Camilla is a sweet, smart girl who finds herself in a sucky situation. It’s her senior prom and she’s going with someone that’s annoying the crap out of her. She’s got a huge heart and is so, so kind.
  2. Her best friend, Joshua, is by her side offering his best advice throughout her whole ordeal, but he gets a bit sidelined by his own drama. He’s gay and his second best friend, Ethan, has been his crush for years. Ethan is also gay, but seeks Joshua’s help asking another guy to prom. This entails brainstorming ideas and Joshua trying to disguise all his hurt because he wishes he could be honest with Ethan about his feelings.
  3. Camilla and Joshua’s situations aren’t enviable, but they’re handled really maturely and respectfully. A promposal, to me, is a little silly and I think in many regards it’s unnecessary. But it’s a thing now and I kind of had to get past my adult notions to embrace the concept. Helms did a great job including a current trend and not allowing it to feel extremely cliche and silly. I came to admire Camilla and Joshua as they grew to understand that the only way out of both circumstances was to either suck it up and be a loyal friend or to speak up and be honest. I really appreciated that Helms presented the idea of a Promposal as something a person might not be expecting and how it might feel to be on the receiving end of that; I’d never even considered this before.
  4. Promposal reads easily and was a quick, enjoyable book. The story is about two genuine, innocent characters who want things to finally work out for them. My one issue is that maybe sometimes Camilla and Joshua seemed a bit younger than they were, as in the language didn’t always match the mindset. (But I have to remind myself that I was that naive, happy-go-lucky senior so maybe I’m seeing the characters through my adult microscope.)
  5. The chapters alternate between Camilla and Joshua’s perspectives and neither story outweighs the other. This is a really well-balanced Dive Into Diversity book; we’re given an inside look into Joshua’s divorced family and how his Dad supports his sexuality and nudges him to make a few decisions regarding Ethan. (No, I’m not telling you what happens. 😉

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