Mamá Graciela’s Secret by Mayra Calvani

Mamá Graciela’s Secret by Mayra Calvani is a delightful story about one woman’s determination to save her restaurant and the animals she loves.

Mamá Graciela’s bacalaítos fritos are so famous that people come from miles around to eat at her outdoor restaurant. The local stray cats love them too. When the local health inspector learns about all the stray cats, he threatens to shut the place down. But Mamá Graciela loves her cats and she must come up with a plan to save her restaurant and all her beloved cats too.

This story will tug at your heartstrings. It is a sweet tale of this woman’s creativity and genius in the face of tough odds. Award-winning author Mayra Calvani consistently develops wonderful stories for children and adults that you want to read over and over again. Young readers will connect well with Mamá Graciela’s love for family and cats. They will be inspired by her determination to protect her restaurant and all the cats she helps.

Illustrator Sheila Fein provided the artwork for Mamá Graciela’s Secret. The colors she uses, the tiny details–like the hearts floating around characters’ heads to show their love for the animals and each other, and the emotions she captures complement Calvani’s text perfectly. I hope they will work together again soon.

Mamá Graciela’s Secreis ideal for cat lovers and those who enjoy stories where characters triumph over obstacles.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 6
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing (October 10, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1365861538
ISBN-13: 978-1365861536

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

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First Chapter Review: The Luthier’s Apprentice by Mayra Calvani

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The first chapter of this young adult dark fantasy novel was sent to me by the author. You can read it online at http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/LuthiersApprentice_ch1.html

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BLURB: When a psychopathic violinist starts kidnapping other violinists around the world, 16-year old Emma must hunt her down before her own beloved violin teacher is killed.

COVER: This is a stunning cover. From the stormy sky to the rolling waters to the beautiful young woman to the contrast of the red on her lips and dress, every book cover should capture the eye as well as this one does.

FIRST CHAPTER: In present day Brussels, Emma gets off at the bus stop and is stunned by a newspaper headline at the news stand. Her violin teacher has disappeared. She races home to discover more bad news. Her world is quickly turned upside down by what she has learned in the past few minutes, but she has other news she hasn’t even shared with her mother that makes preparing for the upcoming violin competition ever harder.

KEEP READING: I’ve never been disappointed by one of Calvani’s books, so it’s no surprise that she opens The Luthier’s Apprentice with a strong first chapter that encourages the reader to continue. The author drops the reader into the action with an excellent hook and keeps the tension high throughout it all. We meet Emma and her mother, but also get information about other people in Emma’s life: her violin teacher and his wife, her grandfather, and her mother’s eccentric sister. I’m eager to see what happens next.

Author web site: http://www.MayraCalvani.com
Publisher: Twilight Times Books, http://twilighttimesbooks.com
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Series: Book 1
Distributors: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBookstore; BN.com Nook; Kobo Books; OmniLit, etc
Release date: May 15, 2014 ebook; August 15, 2014 print
Pages: 184
Purchase links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K93R3OO/

B and N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-luthiers-apprentice-mayra-calvani/1119467189

This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear by Mayra Calvani

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Ever have one of those days? You know, the one where every single thing you touched fell apart? That’s exactly what happens to Mama Bear in this silly story. She burns breakfast, breaks her favorite tea cup, and her car won’t start. And that’s just the beginning. Thankfully, Little Bear offers her his super, so good, so very special dolly to help make things better.

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani uses alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia in this great read aloud story for children ages 3 to 7. A funny story with a very sweet ending, A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear is a wonderful treasure to add to your child’s library. Beautiful artwork by K.C. Snider will have children turning page after page to see what happens to Mama Bear next.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc; large type edition edition (October 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616334355
ISBN-13: 978-1616334352

I received a free digital version of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

The Water Cycle: Water Play Series, Book 1 by Mayra Calvani

Youngsters learn about the water cycle from clouds to earth and back to clouds again in this enjoyable book by Mayra Calvani. With its bolded words and lyrical style, The Water Cycle: Water Play Series, Book 1 will captivate readers. Calvani’s flowing text combined with the whimsical artwork provided by Alexander Morris makes learning fun.

What is unique about this book is how it becomes interactive when the reader is asked how certain weather makes people feel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Also included are two fun activities to help readers remember what they learned.

Teachers and parents will want to pick up this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ages: 4 – 8

  • Paperback:20 pages
  • Publisher:Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (March 15, 2012)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1616332379
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616332372

I received a free ecopy of this book from the author’s representative in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

Top 10 Picture Books of 2011

This took longer than expected. As I mentioned in my last post, selections this year were hard. In addition, I discovered I needed to segregate picture books for little kids (babies, toddlers, preschoolers) from those for school-age children. While some books could overlap between the two age groups, there was no way for me to compile a fair list if I lumped them all into one group. For books where I couldn’t find an age listing, I put them where I felt they fit best. I’ll start off with my Top 10 for the youngest category and then list the Top 10 in the older category.

Top 10 Picture Books for Preschoolers and under

  • Ricky’s Christmas Tree by Guido van Genechten
  • A Cat’s Alphabet Book by Sally O. Lee
  • My Daddy by Guido van Genechten
  • Going to the Beach with Lily and Milo and Going to the Zoo with Lily and Milo by Pauline Oud (I reviewed these together, so I am counting them as one.)
  • One Little Blueberry by Tammi Salzano
  • Oops! by Leo Timmers
  • 1-2-3- Count with Me and A is for Apple by Georgie Burkett (Again, I reviewed these together and count them as one.)
  • Ricky is Brave by Guido van Genechten
  • Thankyouplease by Pierre Winters and Barbara Ortelli
  • Ian’s New Potty by Pauline Oud

There are repeat names on this list, but I felt these authors and publishers truly knew how to create books attractive to this market.

Top 10 Books of 2011 for Ages 3 and up

  • A Dog is A Dog by Stephen Shaskan
  • My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister
  • Will & Kate: A Love Story by Ink Robin
  • Sea Monster’s First Day by Kate Messner
  • The Butt Book by Artie Bennett
  • Not Fat Because I Wanna Be by LaNiyah Bailey
  • The Dancing Clock by Steve Metzger
  • Humbug, A Christmas Carol by Lee Baker
  • My Name is Not Alexander by Jennifer Fosberry
  • Fifo “50 States” by Hayley Rose

Honorable Mentions

  • A Christmas Secret by Candace Hall
  • Frederico, The Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani
  • The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger
  • Marta’s Gargantuan Wings by J. Aday Kennedy
  • Every-Day Dress-Up by Selina Alko
  • Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever by Julianne Moore
  • Limelight Larry by Leigh Hodgkinson
  • Don’t Worry Douglas! by David Melling
  • Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother by Dixie Phillips
  • Tumbleweed Christmas by Beverly Stowe McClure
  • Secret Service Saint by Janet Ann Collins
  • Seven Miles to Freedom by Janet Halfmann 

Frederico, The Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani

A moving story of dreams and giving is what you’ll find in Frederico, The Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani.

Frederico is a tiny mouse in the home of Antonio Stradivari. He watches as the violin maker creates his famous violins and each night he sneaks into the workshop to play. But those violins are too big. Unbeknownst to Frederico, Stradivari witnesses the little mouse playing one night. When the master begins carving a small device, Frederico’s curiosity almost gets the better of him.

Calvani weaves her love of music with a  beautiful story that is sure to enchant young readers. Whether your child plays musical instruments or not, he will enjoy reading of the little mouse with big dreams. This is such a unique and fun way to bring an appreciation of music to kids. I would love to see music classrooms in all our elementary schools carrying a copy of this one.

Bolded words throughout the story are found in a glossary at the back of the book. Also included is information about Antonio Stradivari, a word search, and a page where readers can match up words from the story to pictures of violin parts.

I was surprised to discover that K.C. Snider created the artwork for Frederico, The Mouse Violinist. Usually I can spot her artwork a mile away, but this time I honestly didn’t know. That’s okay, though, because the artwork for this one is outstanding. From Frederico turning the pins to adjust the pitch, to the veins in Stradivari’s hand as he clasped the tiny device he was carving for his mouse friend, the illustrations will enthrall your child.

I’ve loved Calvani’s work for years now. With Frederico, The Mouse Violinist, she proves once again that she is a children’s author everyone should keep an eye on.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
  • ISBN-10: 1616331143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616331146
  • SRP:  $10.95
  • Available in paperback, hardcover, and electronic formats.



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    Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster

    Discover the joys of reading and friendship with Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster by Mayra Calvani.

    Humberto doesn’t have time for friends. He’s too busy reading. His neighbors, the squirrel, the rabbit, the skunk, the hedgehog, and the beaver have all tried, but Humberto would rather read. Then one day disaster strikes, and Humberto must choose between saving his books and helping his neighbors.

    I can’t hide the fact that I am a fan of Mayra Calvani’s books. All of them are so different from each other, but they all have a special quality that makes my family treasure them. With Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster, Calvani is able to show children a great appreciation for reading and how it helps to foster the gift of imagination, while at the same time, sharing the importance of friendship.

    Humberto is faced with a difficult decision when he returns home to find that the river has overflowed and destroyed his beloved books. He can either try to salvage what is left or help his neighbors, many of who were either hurt or  had their homes destroyed. This encourages children to think of others, something that parents can appreciate.

    Humberto and the other adorable animals who live in the woods were illustrated by Kit Grady, an artist whose work I truly have come to admire and enjoy. She has the ability to capture human emotions on the faces of these creatures in such a beautiful way. I love the picture of Humberto whispering to the frightened rabbit after the river has overflowed.

    Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is a delightful read that your child will enjoy!

    Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Publisher:  Guardian Angel Publishing
    • Print ISBN:  13: 978-1-935137-92-4 & ISBN 10: 1-935137-92-1
    • eBook ISBN:  13: 978-1-935137-93-1  & ISBN 10: 1-935137-93-X
    • SRP:  $10.95 (print), $9.95 (eBook CD), $5.00 (PDF download)


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