Not Your Typical Bus Ride

The Bus Ride

•        Targeted Audience: Lower Elementary School (Ages 3-7)
•        Genre: Fiction, Picture Book
•        Author/Illustrator: Marian Dubuc
•        Publisher: Kids Can Press
•        Publication Date: March 1, 2015
•        Binding: Hard Cover
•        Dimensions: 11″ x  6.75″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $15.95
•        ISBN: 978-1771382090

Marianne Dubuc is the author/illustrator of the best picture book I’ve ever read, The Lion and the Bird (Enchanted Lion Books).

It’s All in the Details

The Bus Ride is so much more than a ride on a bus. It’s an adventure that unfolds illustration by illustration and page by page. This is the story of Clara, a little girl who takes her first solo bus ride to visit her grandmother. Naturally, Clara’s not the only one on that bus; there are other creatures too, like wolves, a bear, opossums, rats, a sloth and more.  The story of the bus ride is whatever you make it to be. Marianne is a master of details, and the stories within this story are written in the illustrations. There are clues about what’s going on, on the cover of the newspaper someone is reading, and with each stop there’s someone new on board or someone leaving, and with each exchange comes a new adventure. In the end, little Clara has quite a story of to tell her granny when she arrives at her destination.


Illustrations that Will Charm Your Socks Off

51Ay1Hrem4LMarianne uses watercolors and colored pencils to create her signature illustrations. Her artistic methods afford her the ability to create enchanting details that entice you to linger on every page. What’s more, the book’s unusual trim size – 11 x 6.75 makes the visual experience extra special. When the book is open, it’s the ideal format for depicting a bus.

Why You Should Buy This Book

The Bus Ride. gives young readers the chance to use their sharp eyes and clever brains to determine what’s going on in the story. I read the book myself a few times before I caught all the little happenings on that bus. Kids love mysteries and figuring stories out themselves; they have a way of spotting details we adults just might miss. The story teaches kids about independence and it will make them want to pay closer attention to the world around them, wherever they may be. If you’re like me, you’ll be hooked on Marianne’s outstanding books and you’ll want to collect every last one.

About the Author

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Marianne Dubuc received her degree in graphic design from the University of Quebec, Montreal. She has created many different kinds of books for readers of all ages. She is an internationally acclaimed illustrator whose work has been published by major publishers in fifteen countries.

Read my interview with Mariannne here.

Buy The Bus Ride here

Lola and Tattletale Zeke Book and Plush Lola Giveaway

I can’t keep this adorableness all to myself, so I’m giving away one copy of Lola and Tattletale Zeke, along with a plush Lola toy. See entry rules below.

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Lola and Tattletale Zeke

•        Targeted Audience: Lower Elementary School (Ages 3-8)
•        Genre: Non-Fiction
•        Author/Photographer: Marcia Goldman
•        Publisher: Creston Books
•        Publication Date: June 9, 2015
•        Binding: Hard Cover
•        Dimensions: 8.5″ x 6.5″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $16.95
•        ISBN: 978-1939547163

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Meet Lola, the Service Dog

Lola is a five-pound Yorkshire Terrier and a certified therapy dog. She and her owner, Marcia Goldman go to work together to help those in need, such as autistic children, struggling readers and the elderly in nursing homes. Lola is gentle and calm, loving and smart, and she touches the lives of all who are fortunate enough to meet her. Through her books, she teaches and inspires children everywhere.

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Lola’s in a Predicament with Her Tattling Little Brother, Zeke

In the first two books in the series, Lola goes to work helping others, but in Lola and Tattletale Zeke, Lola shares her personal real life challenges as a big sister to a younger – but physically larger – brother named, Zeke. The problem is that Zeke is a tattletale about everything. When Lola forgets to bring her toy bear in from outside, he tells on her. When Lola leaves muddy paw prints on the floor, he tattles. But when Zeke does something wrong, Lola doesn’t tattle because she knows it’s just an accident. When Isabel the black cat tells on Zeke for breaking his toy, Lola feels so bad for her distraught little brother she does all she can to make him feel better. Will Zeke repay the kindness the next time Lola has an accident?

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A Curriculum Guide with Activities

In the back of the book is a curriculum guide with vocabulary words and a list of questions to pose to readers, such as “What is the difference between telling about and telling on someone?” There are several suggested educational activities too, such as using puppets to playact different scenarios.

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Why You Should Buy This Book (and Plush Toy)

Lola is so cute, I can hardly stand it. And she’s loving and kind and always does the right thing when it comes helping others. Lola is a true leader and the youngest readers can so relate to her predicament with her brother.  Every child with a sibling has experienced the dreaded tattling problem or has been a tattler himself. Lola lets children know that it’s normal to experience sibling rivalry, and she teaches them that acting out of kindness is the best way to go. Getting along with others is a life lesson rarely taught in schools, but Lola is here to teach it to your children. With all three titles in this series, plus the new plush puppy, your child will get to know, love and respect Lola the adorable and irresistible therapy dog.

About the Author

JMGoldmanFound_012_v2_smMarcia Goldman has her Masters Degree in Special Education and has spent the last 25 years focusing on providing therapeutic-based programs for children with autism and their families. Marcia and Lola live in California.

Watch a video of Lola:

Buy the book here:

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Buy the second book in the series:


Buy the first book in this series too:


Buy the Lola Plush Puppy here:

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Enter for a Chance to Win The Newest Lola Book and Plush Lola Puppy!

  1. Enter the giveaway by Liking our Facebook Page (if you haven’t already).
  2. Leave a valid comment on this post on this website.
  3. Optional: Receive 10 extra entries by sharing this giveaway from our Facebook Page. Go to the Facebook page and from there, click share on the link to this giveaway. If you share it from your own Facebook status and not from the Smart Book Facebook Page, I will not know about it, so it will not count.
  4. There will be one winner for this Lola Giveaway selected at random, residing in the USA. No books will be mailed outside the USA.
  5. This giveaway starts on Friday, March 27, 2015 and ends on Friday, April 3, 2015 at 4 pm.
  6. The winner will be notified via email on April 3, 2015.
  7. Follow us on our Facebook Page to learn about more giveaways and read reviews and interviews.

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Pipsie Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar One Day Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of this giveaway, Stephanie Jacobsen from Maine!

Spring has just arrived, and soon it will be time to discover butterflies in your garden just like Pipsie. Today I am giving away this new book by Two Lions Publishing to one lucky winner. Simply leave a comment on this post. If you share my Facebook post about this giveaway on your Facebook status, you’ll receive TEN extra entries. I will announce the winner at 5 pm today, March 24, 2015 on our Facebook Page. The winner must email his or her mailing address within 24 hours or a new winner will be selected. So check Facebook and/or your email at 5 pm!

Thank you to Two Lions – Amazon Publishing for making this giveaway possible!

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Cover image – Courtesy of Two Lions

Pipsie Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar

•    Targeted Audience: Lower Elementary (Ages 5-8)
•    Genre: Fiction, Picture Book
•    Author: Rick DeDenato
•    Illustrator: Tracy Bishop
•    Publisher: Two Lions
•    Publication Date: March 31, 2015
•    Binding: Hard Cover
•    Dimensions: 8.5″ x 11″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 38 Pages
•    Retail: $17.99
•    ISBN: 978-1477826300


© Copyright – Inside Spread Courtesy of Two Lions

A Metamorphosis Mystery

Pipsie is a curious little girl who loves animals and solving mysteries. One day Pipsie notices that Alfred, her turtle has some mysterious yellow and black stripes on his head. With her magnifying glass, she discovers that it’s a small caterpillar! She names her Frannie, and she sure is a hungry little insect. She eats non-stop and grows 1000 times bigger in just ten days! But one day, Frannie is nowhere to be found. Pipsie and Alfred look everywhere for their caterpillar friend but just can’t find her. Looking for answers, they go to the zoo to ask the bug expert about caterpillars, and he shows them what a chrysalis looks like and explains what is happening to Frannie. But can Pipsie and Alfred find Frannie’s chrysalis in their backyard? Or is Frannie gone forever?

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© Copyright – Inside Spread Courtesy of Two Lions

What This Book Teaches

What I love about Pipsie is that she shows readers that it’s wonderful to be smart and curious about the world. By asking questions and seeking answers, there are so many wonderful facts about plants and animals just waiting to be discovered. In addition to the charming story, there are facts about the life cycle of the monarch in the back of the book.

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© Copyright – Inside Spread Courtesy of Two Lions

Why You Should Buy This Book

Kids love a mystery, and along with Pipsie  readers can try to figure out what happened to the caterpillar, and all the while learn about the life cycle of the butterfly. Children will love admiring the colorful, lovely watercolor illustrations too. Pipsie Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar offers the perfect combination of entertainment and education to keep budding scientists interested in the story. This book encourages kids to get outside to explore the natural world around them, and isn’t that the best kind of book of all?

About the Author

A1zT6yc04pL._UX250_Rick DeDonato started writing and drawing storybooks for his two kids, Alexis and Matt, when they were little. They’re grown now, but Rick is still creating stories! When he’s not dreaming up adventures for Pipsie, he’s an award-winning creative director in advertising. Born in New Jersey, he now lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with Nancy McAleer; their two dogs, Tugger and Nacho; and their turtle, Alfred E. Turtle!

About the Illustrator

a2e0e18bc0d27fd5-96-1Tracy Bishop won an art contest in kindergarten, and she’s been creating art ever since. A graduate of San Jose State University, she is also the illustrator of Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth. She lives in San Jose, California, where she is inspired on a daily basis by her son, husband, and a hairy dog named Harry.

Further Learning

  1. Check out this amazing book about bugs called Bugs: A Stunning Pop-Up Look at Insects, Spiders, and Other Creepy Crawlers.
  2. Learn how to attract butterflies to your garden.
  3. Learn about the life cycle of the butterfly.

Hudson in Provence: A New Adventure for a Super Talented Pooch


Cover image – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

Hudson in Provence: A Paris Chien Adventure

•   Targeted Audience: Preschool, Lower Elementary (Ages 3-7)
•    Genre: Fiction, Picture Book
•    Author/Illustrator: Jackie Clark Mancuso
•    Publisher: La Librairie Parisienne (Distributed by IPG)
•    Publication Date: May 15, 2015
•    Binding: Hardcover
•    Dimensions: 8″ x 10″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length:40 Pages
•    Retail: $17.95
•    ISBN: 978-0988605848

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© Copyright  Inside Spread – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

A Mutt Who Finds His True Calling

Hudson in Provence is the delightful sequel to Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog. Hudson takes the speed train from Paris to Provence with his human owner, where they stay in a quaint old stone house. Hudson reads his guide book about the area and decides he does not not wish to be a tourist there; rather he wants to do exactly what the working dogs do there – he wants to be a “Provencal Dog.”

Everywhere he goes, Hudson meets other dogs. His first friend shows him how to herd sheep, but that doesn’t work out very well for Hudson. Next he tries to learn how to hunt truffles, but all he can seem to do is dig up grass and find nothing there. When he sees the cyclists in the Tour de France, he hops on a bike and tries to keep up, but simply can’t. After his owner buys him some paints, Hudson starts enjoying himself, and before long his new canine friends are all asking him to paint their portraits. Could painting make him the true “Provencal Dog he wishes to be?”


© Copyright  Inside Spread – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

Illustrations Worthy of Provence

Jackie Clark Mancuso’s gouache illustrations are vibrantly beautiful and are ideal for a picture book about France. Cezanne, Monet, Renoir and other famous French painters of the Impressionist era would approve of these charming depictions of Provence. Jackie paints in a way that is playful, yet avant-garde, and children will be enchanted by the colors and all the different types of dogs illustrated throughout the story.


© Copyright  Inside Spread – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

What This Book Teaches

Hudson teaches readers that we lose ourselves when we try to be like others. We each have a unique talent, and that’s what we must nurture to find our purpose in life and true happiness. It’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to discover we simply can’t be good at everything. He also shows us that we must take risks and try new things in order have the fullest lives. In addition to these very important life lessons, Hudson teaches young readers about geography, traveling and even a little bit about speaking French with a one page French vocab list in the back of the book.


© Copyright  Inside Spread – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

Why You Should Read This Book

IMG_0252Well, for one thing, there are lots of dogs in this story and even a standard poodle. (I LOVE standard poodles, because I have one the size of a small horse myself.) The book is written for a young audience, with a lot of dialog and of course, with the beautiful illustrations, children as young as three will be happy to sit through the story to find out what happens next. The life lesson that Hudson learns offers a wonderful message to children. Plus readers will be introduced to the beauty of France and traveling in general. The ending of the book is heartwarming and clever and proves to readers that if they do what they love most, there will be great reward in it down the road. Hudson in Provence is simply a lovely little picture book that you’ll enjoy reading with your child. And rest assured, you’ll want to take a trip to France after you’ve finished the book.

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – My XXL standard poodle, Darwin Charles


© Copyright  Inside Spread – Courtesy of La Librairie  Parisienne

P1000771-1-Retouched-web_800About the Author/Illustrator

Jackie Clark Mancuso is a graphic designer and illustrator. She is the former Art Director at Parenting and Baby Talk magazines and has designed books for Weldon Owen/Pottery Barn, Sunset Books, and Nolo Press. She is the author of Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog. She lives in Los Angeles.

Further Learning:

  1. Find France on a map and specifically Paris and Provence. How many miles is Paris from your home and how long would it take to fly there?
  2.  Learn more about famous French painters.
  3. Watch the Book Trailer:

Buy the book here:


Be sure to buy the first Hudson book too:



Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue: A Glorious Sight to See


Cover Image – Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue

•        Targeted Audience: Lower Elementary School (Ages 4-6)
•        Genre: Nonfiction
•        Author: Robert Burleigh
•        Illustrator: Wendell Minor
•        Publisher: Charlesbridge
•        Publication Date: April 15, 2015
•        Binding: Hard Cover
•        Dimensions: 10″ x 10″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $17.95
•        ISBN: 978-1580895583

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Note: All images on this post are © copyrighted material and are not to be used in any way without permission from Charlesbridge Publishing.

A True Story of a Whale and a Fishing Net

trapped1Trapped! tells the true story of a humpback whale that got entangled in a fishing net long the Pacific coast near San Francisco in 2005. The poor sea mammal struggles for air as she flips and flops, trying to break free. Then divers come to the rescue, risking their own lives in the frigid water to do their best to swiftly cut the net away from the whale. They must hurry before it’s too late!

A Valuable Lesson in Conservation for the Youngest Environmentalists

Through carefully selected, rhythmic text with playful, descriptive vocabulary words, readers discover the habits of a trapped2humpback whale, the largest mammal on earth, and her plight as a victim of human error. A discarded fishing net becomes a weapon for the whale, and it’s up to humans to rescue her. She seems to understand they are there to help her and cooperates with the divers, who are at risk of being injured or even killed accidentally by any sudden movements by the gargantuan whale. Once free, she even swims past the divers, gently touching them, as if to thank them for saving her life.

In the back of the book are two excellent pages of information with facts about the true story of the trapped whale highlighted in the book, more details about what it takes to rescue a whale and fascinating facts about the habitats and behaviors of these sea mammals. Plus there’s a page of resources for further learning.

The Finest Illustrations Tell a True Tale

trapped4For any children’s book author or publisher, having artist Wendell Minor illustrate their story is like having a winning lottery ticket. His personal love and respect for nature shines through in all his artwork, with impeccable detail. He doesn’t just paint – rather he researches his subject and “lives in it” for a while first. His paintings here are absolutely stunning and depict the action of the whale in as poetic of a manner as Bob Burleigh writes his story. Together the words and pictures marry beautifully to make this a truly exceptional non-fiction story. Wendell’s likeness of splashing water alone kept me mesmerized for quite some time, and I almost felt as though I were one of the divers in the ocean helping to free the trapped animal. We as readers are treated to what a whale looks like from beneath the surface too – a rare and glorious sight indeed.


Why You Must Buy This Book

We must teach children from a very young age about conservation and ecology in order to preserve our precious earth. Children love to learn about animals, and whales are among the earth’s most intriguing and mysterious creatures to explore. Since Trapped!  is based on a true story, children are reminded of the importance of human responsibility when it comes to protecting our natural wonders. The story along with the resources in the back of the book lead readers down a path of further learning, as there is so much more to discover about whales and other sea mammals. In addition to all there is to learn on these pages, the superbly written story is ideal for reading aloud, and the illustrations – or rather, paintings – are beyond spectacular. I expect to see Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue win a number of book awards; it’s that outstanding.

Buy Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue here


About the Author

bobBurleighRobert Burleigh earned his undergraduate degree from DePauw University and his Master’s in Humanities from the University of Chicago. He has written more than 40 picture books on many different subjects, including several illustrated by Wendell Minor – Abraham Lincoln Comes Home, If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond and most recently, Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue. In addition to writing, Robert paints under the name of Burleigh Kronquist. He splits his time between Grand Haven, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois.

About the Illustrator

Wendell Minor is the illustrator of over fifty children’s books including The Last Train, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaylight Starlight Wildlife, Sequoia, How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow and most recently, Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue. He works in oil, acrylic, gouache and watercolors in his beautiful studio in rural Connecticut. His interest in nature and the environment has taken him and his wife, Florence from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere in between. Wendell’s outstanding artwork has been exhibited in universities and museums and has been acquired by private collectors. An exhibition of 25 years of his children’s book art, entitled, “Wendell Minor’s America,” was on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum from November 2013 through May, 2014.

Read my in-depth interview with Wendell Minor
Read my
review of Sequoia

Read  my review of Edward Hopper Paints His World (also by Bob Burleigh and Wendell Minor)


Further Learning

    1. Check out the publisher’s Discussion and Activity Guide for this title.
    2. Learn more about humpbacks on National Geographic.
    3. Join the Wildlife Conservation Society.
    4. Watch this excerpt from a BBC Documentary about Humpbacks:

If you like this topic, for older readers also check out this excellent title by author Pamela S. Turner: