2023 Picture Book Reviews

In August 2022 I started writing and posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as a means of uplifting my fellow picture book authors. I hope my attempts at bringing attention to these books will boost sales. If you would like to see these reviews, their titles, dates of posting, and links are below. I will be updating these links monthly. Enjoy.

MARCH 2023 (by date of posting)

10: Sitting Shiva: Loving gentle text by Erin Silver plus calming art by Michelle Theodore offer a sensitive account of the Jewish ritual of mourning. Each element of sitting Shiva is explained in a way a child can understand. This book has already won several awards.

16: With Lots of Love: When children move, they will miss much about the old place. Rocio is no different. She misses her Abuela’s pinatas, cooking, and hugs full of love. But when her birthday arrives, so do gifts from her beloved Abuela that remind her that love isn’t that far away. With lively artwork from Andre Ceolin, Jenny Torres Sanchez’s lyric prose that mixes Spanish and English helps soothe the longing.

FEBRUARY 2023 (by date of posting)

5: It’s A … It’s A … It’s A Mitzvah: In which acts of loving kindness are demonstrated by a gang of lovely animals drawn by Laurel Monk, written by Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman.

21: If I Had a Unicorn: A child’s visit to a museum where she admires a medieval tapestry of a unicorn in captivity sparks her curiosity. What would she do if she had a unicorn. Told in rhyme and illustrated with humor, by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow.


DECEMBER (by date of posting)

14: By the Hanukkah Light by Sheldon Oberman, illustrated by Neil Waldman, in which a grandfather parallels the ancient Hanukkah story with events of WWII – proving Hanukkah’s relevance and significance in modern times.

22: Ride, Roll, Run: I was fortunate to be in a read-aloud for this new Valerie Bolling book. The children were engaged and anxious to share their own favorite outdoor games – and ready to go out and move!

NOVEMBER (by date of posting)

4: Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman in which a visiting family discovers the many cultural, religious, agricultural sides of Israel while saying “hello,” “goodbye,” or “peace.”

9: Cow Says Meow by Kirsti Call with art by Brandon James Scott, in which an ever growing and infuriating collection of animals speak in the wrong language accompanied by puns and onomatopoeia.

28: Over, Bear! Under, Where? by Julie Hedlund with art by Michael Slack is neither over-done nor under-done, but is a heartwarming tale of making a new friend.

30: Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert describes the food, family, and fun of Hanukkah. The Marc Chagall-inspired artwork by Karla Gudeon give this book an extra kick.

OCTOBER (by date of posting)

1: Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor’s Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars by Elizabeth Brown

1: I Miss My Grandpa by Jin Xiaojing in which a young girl finds out how like her unknown grandpa she is.

15: Don’t Sneeze at the Wedding by Pamela Mayer and art by Martha Aviles in which a young flower girl gets dubious advice from one and all on how to stifle her sneeze at her aunt’s wedding.

28: And There was Evening and There was Morning by Harriet Cohen Helfand and Ellen Kahan Zager (who also illustrated) in which the Biblical 7-day creation story is told in rhyme and amazing artwork.

30: Tofu Takes Time: In which a granddaughter and grandmother make tofu together. The little girl learns patience and all the complex elements that go into making a dish. Gently illustrated by Julie Jarema.

SEPTEMBER (by date of posting)

1: Nathan’s Song by Leda Schubert, art by Maya Ish-Shalom: A Jewish immigrant’s story

9: Good Boy words and art by Sergio Ruzzier: A relationship between a boy and his dog. In the end we aren’t quite sure: who the good boy is exactly.

10: The Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story by Eric Kimmel, art by Katya Krenina. The name says it all.

18: Where Lily Isn’t by Julie Paschkis, art by Margaret Chodos-Irvine: Grieving a lost pet

19: Mom’s Sweater, words and art by Jayde Perkin: Dealing with grief over a lost mother (originally published in Great Britain)

22: I Hate Borsch! words and art by Yevgenia Nayberg: Oh, how she hates, then comes to love a traditional soup of her ancestors.

23: Tashlich at Turtle Rock, Susan Schnur, et al, art by Alex Steele-Morgan: One family’s Rosh Hashanah tradition of tossing their sins in the water.

AUGUST (by date of posting)

4: Frank, Who Liked to Build, by Deborah Blumenthal, art by Maria Brzozowska: The life of Jewish-Canadian architect Frank Gehry

8: Together We Ride by Valerie Bolling, art by Kaylani Juanita: A father teaches his daughter how to ride a bike,

10: Bug on the Rug by Sophia Gholz, art by Susan Batori: Rhyming story of sharing and friendship

11: Bedtime for Maziks by Yael Levy, art by Nabila Adani: A day in the life of a mazik (Yiddish for imp) is described in rhyme

15: Too Many Pigs in the Pool by Wendy Hinote Lanier, art by Iris Amaya: A cautionary tale of swine and swimming

18: Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo by Eve Nadel Catarevas, art by Martina Peluso: The Jewish woman whose love and skill of Judo gets the sport in the Olympics for women.

25: Togo & Balto: The Dogs Who Saved a Town by Jodi Parachini, art by Keiron Ward and Jason Dewhirst: Tells the tale of the two famous sled dogs.

25: The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, art by Bonnie Christensen: A child makes borscht for her hospitalized grandmother with dubious help from her neighbors.

Who Makes the Rules

I generally don’t like to talk about politics. I am children’s book writer, damn it. But what is going on with Roe vs. Wade combined with an article I read about the creation of the U.S. Constitution got me thinking.

Let’s go back in time to what instigated the creation of our country: No Taxation Without Representation. So a group of old white men got together and wrote up a list of rules. And without so much as a nod to women, America was fathered.

This was a time when women had no voice, when women weren’t involved in the writing of these rules, when women were considered chattel signified by the changing of their last name to match their husband’s, when women couldn’t hold property and any money they earned belonged to their husbands. This was a bad time for women.

Fast forward to today. We live in a country governed by a Constitution that excluded women. Women didn’t even get the vote until 1920. 133 years later! Wow.

And that was only women over the age of 30! What, I wonder, made a 30-year-old woman more capable of making a decision than a 25 year old? Twenty-one-year-old men were able to vote. And don’t tell me a 21-year old man is any better at making decisions than a 21-year-old woman. That wasn’t the issue, though. The issue was fear. Men couldn’t allow all women over 18 to vote. That would be too many. They would lose control.

But in these modern times we are still allowing men to decide what we women are allowed and not allowed to do with our bodies. They still believe we are their property, don’t they? They still fear losing their dominant position. What ever happened to No Taxation Without Representation?

What gives these old white men the power to legislate over a woman’s body? Have they ever menstruated? Have they ever been molested by an older male family member? Have they ever been impregnated by a step-father? Have they ever been pregnant – at 12 or 14 years of age? Have they ever been raped? Have they ever been told that their baby’s and body’s health is imperiled by this pregnancy? Have they ever miscarried? Do they have three children already and live in poverty? Are they women of color? What gives these old white men the right? Obviously, they derive this right from the Constitution that was written in secret by 55 well-to-do mostly drunk or hungover white men who believed women were simply part of their livestock.

Where are the rules legislating what men can and can’t do with their conscience and bodies? I bet you all can think of a few. But they won’t be enacted because men still write the rules.

It occurs to me that everything that is wrong with American society derives from our male-oriented Constitution. It is time for a change.

I propose a new amendment to the Constitution: No ruling body shall have the right to make rules about what women can and can’t do with their conscience and body unless that ruling body has a 50% or more membership of women. And that 50% must include an equal representation of all colors.

No Legislation Without Representation: If you don’t have the members, you can’t make the rules.


Life is a Cabaret

Revisioned by Marilyn Wolpin

With apologies to John Kander and Fred Ebb

What good are stories unread in your files?

Go make an agent’s day.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

Put down the journal,

The phone and the broom,

It’s time to send WIPs away.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

Come on hit “send,”

And then again.

Throw fear away,

Start speculating.

Right this way,

Your “nos” are waiting.

What good is writing

A story or ten

That sit in a file at home?

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

I used to have a girl friend

Known as Glorie,

With whom I shared

A page or two of my kidlit stories.

She helped me make my words

Better for a while,

But then she went out

And published her own pile.

The day she won the writing prize

My nerves began to fluster –

So that’s what comes from

So much bravery and muster!

And when I saw her stand up

And take all the applause

I knew no matter what might come,

This was my new cause.

I think of Glorie to this day

I remember how she’d turn to me and say,

“What good are stories unread in your files?

Go send them out today.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.”

My Anger Rages

A five-stanza haiku to try to express how I’m feeling after another antisemitic attack in our country. #amwriting #amquering #kidlit

by Marilyn Wolpin

My anger rages –
Why are Jews the answer to
A crazy man’s plot?

My anger rages –
He is not the first nor last
Cold antisemite.

My anger rages –
We are less than two percent –
Why pick on the Jews?

My anger rages –
Why can’t we live safely where
All are welcome here?

My anger rages –
At ages of teaching hate.
Let us live in peace.


Being My Own Best Agent

by Marilyn Wolpin

I just spent a most disheartening hour researching agents. The agent I’d been stalking for almost two years sent me her latest “no thank you” yesterday and since that’s the third strike, I’ve decided it’s time to move on.

I have a database with 175 agent names. I love databases. They are orderly and have lots of information. But they are not static things. They are always in flux – agents leave the business, move to another agency, open their own agency, stop accepting submissions. So it’s a thing that must be maintained, managed, and manipulated. Databases don’t complain. I can massage them without a peep of resistance.

I researched twelve agents in my database today. Not one turned out to be someone I would or could reach out to. Here are my results: Four are closed, three don’t want picture books, two were illustrator only, and I rejected three for other reasons (cavalier attitude on MSWL, not enough information on what she’s looking for, and, let’s just say, other). Can I relate that to my work? If I have a dozen stories, is any one publisher or agent out there going to be interested in just one of them? Or conversely, if I send one story to twelve editors, will not even one editor fall in love with it?

I will wend my way through this maze of information and research more agents tomorrow and the next day until I find one who seems simpatico. But until then I will continue doing what I’ve been doing: Being my own best agent.

I am NOT an Aspiring Writer

by Marilyn Wolpin

I am NOT an aspiring writer. I AM a writer. I write stories for children, haikus, letters to the editor, blogs, and queries. I don’t aspire to write these. I just do it.

According to Webster’s to aspire is to hope to achieve something. Do you “aspiring” writers hope to achieve writing? I don’t think so.

I think the hope is that we become published writers. We believe this feat is validation that we are indeed writers. This victory must mean that our words have won over the gatekeepers: an agent, an editor, a team at the acquisition meeting. Oh, how our hopes have turned to reality. Now we are truly writers.

It also means that since I am published, I can remove “aspiring” from my Twitter or Facebook profile. No.

You are defeating yourself by saying you are an aspiring writer. You know the art and craft of writing. You use luscious language, you leave room for the illustrator, you use a combination of short and long sentences, you have a theme, an arc, all the elements. You go to your desk every morning or when you can. You type words into your computer. You revise. You revise some more. You think about your work in the shower, on your walks, in the grocery store, in your dreams.

Guess what that means? You are a writer. No “aspiring” necessary. You don’t need validation from the gatekeepers. You only need it from yourself.

Saying you are an aspiring writer is begging. It’s a psychological deterrent. A writer’s block. Does a musician call him or herself aspiring? When she practices a Bach two-part invention over and over, does she say I am an aspiring pianist? I hope she does not. Does an artist call herself aspiring before she has a show or sells her art? I think not.

So don’t ASPIRE to be a writer. Just DO it. The joy is in the doing. Stop hoping that you are a writer and start believing that you are a writer. I promise it will give you strength.

Libraries Are a Gift

by Marilyn Wolpin

I am lucky to live within a five-mile radius of three libraries – each in a different town. I use my computer to find the books I’m looking for and usually locate most of them in one of the three. Once a week I visit at least two of these libraries to pick up the children’s books I’ve ordered and drop off the ones I’ve read. This past week something happened at one of those libraries that shook my world.

A tall, dark man walked in carrying a small ginger-haired child. An older woman came as well. I assumed the man was the father and the woman the grandmother to this not more than three-year-old girl. The man went up to the librarian and without much of a discernable accent asked the librarian how to use the library.

Just drink that in for a moment. A person in our world who does not know how to use a library. Where in this world had he lived without one?

The librarian stepped away from her plexiglass enclosure and showed the family around. “These are the new books,” she said, indicating a row of child-level bins. “These are the board books,” she said, pointing out the room with a table and chairs.

“What are board books?” the man inquired.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you what they are. But again, drink that in. This family had lived in a world where there were no board books.

As the librarian finished her tour, the man spoke to his mother in a language I did not recognize (and I recognize a lot of languages). So I knew where they weren’t from: Europe, Japan, China, Israel, Russia, South America.

As I left with the ton of books I checked out (see previous TBR post), I noted the family seated in the board book room, child on daddy’s lap drinking in the wonders that are children’s books. What must this family think? There are places in America where you can just sit at your leisure and look at books? Impossible! Places you can go, show a tiny card and freely pick out books and take them home? Unbelievable! This has been possible all my life. I cannot imagine a world where it is not.

But where this family came from, it was not possible. Drink that in. No libraries all their lives. No place of delight and magic for child or adult.

I will no longer take libraries for granted. We are lucky. We are blessed.

Cherish and support your local library.

All Are Welcome Here

by Marilyn Wolpin (for #FallWritingFrenzy2021)

As summer exhaled into fall, a new family moved in:

Two cats and a dog, mom and dad and three kids.

They brought challah and kugel,

Brisket, babka, and wine.

China adorned a table of white linen.

Flames flickered in silver candlesticks.

Recite the prayer. Welcome the New Year.

But where could they daven and sway?

Up on the hill, a lonely church sat,

cushioned in crisp fallen leaves.

She prayed for her pews to be packed.

But only on Sundays were her prayers answered

when townsfolk came to sing the Lord’s praises.

On Monday, Tuesday, or any other day,

the little church sat empty.

Could we? Should we? Would it be allowed?

They looked to the skies for a sign.

As the sun slowly set, a rainbow arched over them.

The family made ready to go.

In Sabbath-best clothes, in polished shoes and smart hats,

they crunched up the leafy hill.

The lonely church watched. The lonely church waited.

She puffed dust off the unused pews.

Someone was coming to pray.

As the family drew near, she opened her doors.

She rejoiced! Hallelujah! she cried.

All are welcome here.

For The First Time in 426 Days

It’s 1:00 PM on Mother’s Day 2021 and this mother doesn’t know what to do.

My husband, son, sister, and I celebrated with my mother in New Jersey

For the first time in 426 days


212 miles in one day.

That’s more driving than I’ve done in 426 days but it was worth it.

My husband, son, and I celebrated by eating out

For the first time in 426 days

Last Sunday.

(We mistakenly thought last Sunday was Mother’s Day

and kept the reservation anyway once we discovered our error.)

When my son was younger, even younger still, I used Mother’s Day

To escape motherhood. Sit quietly in the dark at the movies.

Go to the ice rink and concentrate on not falling on cold, hard ice.

Be alone. Do what I wanted.

But for the last 426 days I’ve been doing whatever I wanted.

So it’s 1:00 PM Mother’s Day 2021.

I could turn on the ballgame. Oh, how I missed baseball.

I have edits in mind for a picture book in progress.

Maybe tomorrow.

I need to update my website.

And now that I’ve written this blog

I have to go to my website!

After that for the first time in 426 days

I’m not exactly sure what to do next.

Maybe I’ll just take a nap.