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"Poppies & Roses: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast"

Allison Norfolk's book is a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" set during the waning days of World War I. It is the story of an independent young English nurse who returns home from the front lines to care for the local lord's strange battle injuries. The nurse quickly discovers that the lord's wounds are the result of a curse and together they work to weaken it. This fast, romantic read with a magical twist is perfect for fans of "Downton Abbey." $3.99 or free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Available through: Amazon Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

"Dog on the Floor"

The beloved children's entertainer Raffi has a new album, "Dog on the Floor." It has no less than three songs inspired by Raffi Cavoukian's new puppy Luna: the title track, "Walking My Dog" and the self-explanatory "Luna's Song." "Listen to the Horses," "Dragonfly" and "Mary Had A Little Lamb" add to the animal fun. Other album highlights include the rousing instrumental "Fiddle Dance" and a memorable interpretation of George Harrison's classic "Here Comes the Sun." Your kids will find this latest album by "Raffi" irresistible. $13.98 on Amazon and available wherever music is sold.

— Jenny L. Heinbaugh

Book Reviews

Back-to-School Books

By Mary Quattlebaum

babies / tots

The Itsy Bitsy School Bus

Tots headed for preschool will connect with the cheery main character of this sturdy, brightly colored board book. A simple rhyming text and reassuring tone set the stage for the small school bus' first day of school. Off it goes with a "backpack full of lunch and books" to a classroom for little vehicles, presided over by a kindly, bespectacled car-teacher. They draw pictures, listen to stories and return home with their parents at the end of the day. Little ones will love examining the expressive illustrations for details reflective of their own school routine.

ages 4 – 8

The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School

Two squirrels prepare for a new school year in a playful story delightfully accompanied by author-illustrator Nancy Rose's photos of the furry friends in her backyard. Rose creates little stages for Mr. Peanuts and Rosie, who are enticed by hidden peanuts to enter and interact with various props. The squirrels are shown riding atop a toy school bus, diving into a box of playground equipment and lunching at a teeny table. They even shop for school supplies with a miniature cart! Kids will get a kick out of the juxtaposition of the orderly school setting with curious wild critters. Who knows, this lively duo may inspire youngsters to pen tales of local animals and illustrate them with photos taken with cell phone cameras.

ages 9 – 12


A girl and a boy--Mickey and Lev--alternate chapters to tell the story of their evolving friendship as members of the school's wrestling team. Mickey is really good, Lev discovers, and she's also fiercely determined to excel at a sport dominated by boys. Award-winning local author Laura Shovan brings humor, heart and superb pacing for sports drama to this nuanced novel. A surprise ending revolves around a choice that Mickey makes at the state championship---and why.

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 25 award-winning children’s books, most recently “Hero Dogs,” a National Geographic nonfiction chapter book about amazing animal heroes. Mary is a popular school and conference