Review: Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum, written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Book Description (from NetGalley)


Mr. Owliver loves his job as nightwatchman for the Animaltown Art Museum, partly because he’s an owl and is up at night anyway, but mostly because he’s proud to protect such beautiful works of art. His friends think he must be lonely, but he has the company of the all subjects in the paintings. One in particular, the lovely Ms. Wren in Auguste Wrenoir’s The Loge, is his favorite. One night on his birthday he has a feeling things aren’t as they should be. That’s when he makes a startling discovery that begins a night full of surprises. This is definitely a birthday Mr. Owliver will never forget! This book is designed to introduce children to some famous masterpieces while entertaining the adult reader with visual puns.




My Review:


This is an utterly captivating book. The art is clever and amusing, the story is charming. This would be a marvelous way to introduce young children to the world of fine art. It would also be a great birthday book, as Mr. Owliver does have a most entertaining birthday party.


I do wish that images of the original versions of these art works might be included in the informative appendix that provides information about the art works and where the originals are to be found. Perhaps it was too challenging to get approval to show these images? But this book offers a great opportunity to provide children with some quality education in an appealing way. What a great gift!


My thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: The Blue Cat of Castle Town, by Catherine Cate Coblentz; illustrated by Janice Holland. Dover Books.

About the book: from the Dover back cover:


My review:

This is an utterly charming book, front to back. It is ostensibly a children’s book, but where is it written that only children get to have fun or enjoy beautiful offerings?

The Blue Cat of Castle Town is a fable about a beautiful blue kitten growing to cathood, based on 19th-century Vermont history and artifacts. First published in 1950 and a Newbery Honor book, Dover is offering this as a labor of love and a celebration of a time when beauty, peace, and contentment were valued qualities. I found this book just enchanting. I got the eBook version from NetGalley (thank you!) but the Kindle version they offered did not work on my device, so I purchased one from Amazon. I plan to obtain the Dover paperback version (multiples, to use as gifts) as soon as it is available. I give this book five stars. I would award more if they were available. I LOVE this book! It is a gem to cherish.

Review: The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm, by LeVar Burton & Susan Schaefer Bernardo. Illustrations by Courtenay Fletcher. Reading Rainbow.

This is a wonderful book! Having previously reviewed Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs and The Big Adventures of Tiny House, I am an unabashed admirer of the work of Susan Schaefer Bernardo and Courtenay Fletcher. Now, in this book, they have joined forces with the insightful and talented LeVar Burton.


In this story we encounter young Mica Mouse, so scared by a storm that she feels she has swallowed it and it is playing havoc with her feelings. Fortunately for Mica, she has a loving and caring Papa and a flock of understanding and helpful friends who help her find a way to quiet the storm and be at peace.


I am a licensed psychotherapist, and have worked with troubled children for many years now. Clinical literature tells us that, even in our 21st century, anxiety in children is not well understood. It is frequently under diagnosed or misdiagnosed. It is often mistaken for being oppositional, disobedient or defiant. In fact, these behaviors may represent the child’s desperate attempts to avoid or cope with disturbing feelings that they may not know how to identify and/or communicate. What is important for adults to understand is that the child, lacking the maturity and judgment to determine what dangers are real or imagined, is developmentally entitled to experience fears, and to feel anxious when he is afraid.


A child who is anxious or fearful may indeed feel he/she has swallowed a storm, as the central character in this story, and be very troubled and yet lack the means to identify the source of the fear, or to know what to do about it to quiet the turbulence.


So, this book is an outstanding resource for children, parents, teachers, and therapists. It presents a story that children can resonate to, and provides answers that they can feel comforted and soothed by. The story is beautifully and poetically told, and brilliantly illustrated. The time-honored approach of storytelling is used to fine effect here, and there is also a useful page of questions at the end of the story to help the reader/child to apply Mica’s story to his/her own experiences.


My thanks to Susan Bernardo for providing a copy of this book to read and review.

Review: The Big Adventures of Tiny House by Susan Schaefer Bernardo (author); Courtenay Fletcher (illustrator). Inner Flower Child Books

This is a wonderful book. I reviewed with great appreciation an earlier book by this same author and illustrator, Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs. It is so heartening to see another small masterpiece created by this pair.


The story of Tiny, an old farmhouse reborn as a wonderfully snug little home with wheels, discovering the big world mirrors the world of the child embarking on his own life journey of discovery.


The pictures are marvelous; the message is timely. In our world, home is becoming a central issue for our society. For children, home and security are essential to their sense of self and growth. As a licensed psychotherapist working with children and families for over twenty years, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly for parents and children to experience together.

My thanks to authors, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Zoo Zen, A Yoga Story for Kids, by Kristen Fischer and Susi Schaefer. Sounds True Publishing.

Zoo Zen is a charming book with amusing illustrations that is sure to be appealing for children. It is intended to use with children ages 4-8.


The idea here is for children to learn some basic yoga poses by emulating the animal illustrations for each pose, along with helpful tips. It is described as “an imaginative book that combines the benefits of yoga with kid’s natural love for animals to create a magical learning journey that parents and children can enjoy together.” The helpful creatures include balancing bears, gliding cobras, proud eagles, roaring lions, bending camels, perching crocodiles, swimming dolphins, scaly lizards, screeching gorillas, hip-hop frogs, and a serene pink flamingo.


This seems like a good book for parents and children to pursue together. I’m sure the children would love emulating the poses, and an adult could help them to follow the additional tips about breathing and relaxation. Perhaps this could be used as a textbook to accompany a children’s yoga class. I do think adult supervision is wise, at least while children are first learning the poses.

Review: Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs, written by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrated by Courteney Fletcher Independent Book Publishers Association IBPA) Members

As a licensed psychotherapist who has worked with children for many years, I know how utterly essential it is for children to feel loved. This book conveys the concept of love with a lyric beauty that is difficult to describe. It uses the child’s innate capacity for seeking knowledge by asking questions, and those questions are answered in ways that are concrete and symbolic, multifaceted and specific.

The pictures are charming full of color and movement. I would highly recommend this book for any child, particularly those who are feeling in need of comfort, security, warmth and safety.

I read this on a Kindle format, but this is one book I would recommend best used in hardcover form, to fully appreciate the visual delights it has to offer and to feel the substantive presence of a “real” book.

My thanks to authors, publisher, and NetGalley for making this copy available to read and review.

Commentary on the Commenting Process

Today, I removed a post I had made some months ago, a review for a lovely children’s book called Abigail the Whale. I got some favorable responses, and for those I was grateful. But I also got a massive quantity of spam messages. Today, regretfully, I have deleted the Abigal review to turn off the spam machine on this post. For those who really care about the book, I am re-posting the review, below.

Review: Abigail the Whale. Written by Davide Call. Art by Sonja Bougaeva. Owlkids Books

I requested this book from NetGalley because it deals with a pre-teen girl and her anxieties, particularly around her body image. I am a licensed psychotherapist, and I know from years of experience how sensitive girls of this pre-teen and early teen age can be about themselves, and their body image in particular. In the story Abigail’s swimming teacher helps her with her problems through creative visualization technique. I use this very approach–visualization and mindfulness– with my patients, so I looked forward to reading the book.

Indeed, the book offers evocative pictures and conveys the idea of Abigail gaining self-confidence through her thought processes. For that, I can highly recommend it for girls of this particular age group. Abigail is a fortunate girl, to have a caring and wise teacher to guide her. The teacher helps Abigail to learn that “we are what we think”, and urges her to “Try it!” Abigail is a bit skeptical at first, but she is a brave and adventurous girl. She tries her hand at thinking, finding key words such as “light” and “water.” She also learns that whales can do pretty amazing things, like swimming and high diving. She finds that she is actually a–SUPER WHALE!

Good for Abigail! She finds that what she thinks is important, and she can help herself with her life’s challenges. It is very empowering to people of all ages to learn the power they possess to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.


This is an excellent, attractive and helpful book. I highly recommend it.

My thanks to author, artist, publisher and NetGalley for making a copy of this fine book available for me to read and review. My thanks also to Allison MacLachlan of Owlkids for resolving a question I had.

The Importance of Play for Children

Girls and boys, come out to play,

The moon doth shine as bright as day;

Leave your supper and leave your sleep,

And come with your play-fellows into the street

ChildrenPlayingCleanedUp copy 2

Play is vitally important to children. The singing game quoted above dates from at least the early 18th century, a time when most children worked all day. Here, they are exhorted to leave their supper and sleep in favor of playing in the moonlit streets.

 Children have played since ancient times. There are Biblical descriptions of children playing in the streets, and of Wisdom playing in the world at the dawn of creation. In ancient Egypt, the tomb of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun was filled with treasure and playthings for the young King’s final journey.

Children play in the midst of war. During World War II, Anna Freud was in England, caring for children who had experienced air raids, were separated from their mothers, and had varying experiences of disruption and loss in their family lives. But Freud writes descriptions of children playing joyfully in bomb sites and throwing bricks retrieved from crumbled walls.

 Children play when there is nothing to play with. Ella Lyman Cabot (1921) relates the story of settling her three-year-old daughter for an afternoon nap. Tiptoeing back an hour later, she was met with merry sounds. Mystified, she opened the door and found that the resourceful tot had removed a lacing from one of her shoes and had transformed her right foot into a spirited steed racing at great speed, controlled by shoe-string reins.

 Play is essential for the child’s development. In 2011 the developmental and relational importance of play was reaffirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.



Cabot, E. L. (1921). The art of play. In Seven ages of childhood (pp. 28-39). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company/The Riverside Press Cambridge. Retrieved from

Freud, A., & Burlingham, D. T. (1943). Children and war. New York: Medical War Books/ Ernst Willard.

Milteer, R. M., Ginsberg, K. R. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media  Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (2011). Pediatrics; originally published online December 26, 2011; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2953   Retrieved at