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.


Operation Christmas Spirit by Vicki Watson

A rascally pony, two run-down carts, and a pile of moldy harness seemed like a strange start to a journey full of ups and downs that led Rosie to the most meaningful Christmas of her life. But looking back, she knew it all began that fall day at the livestock auction.

When Billy King asks questions about the biblical Christmas story, his curiosity inspires Rosie and the other children to dive into Scripture for the answers. Together they come up with a secret plan for a unique Christmas celebration–Operation Christmas Spirit.

Operation Christmas Spirit is the eighth book in the Sonrise Stable series, heartwarming stories of an extended homeschooling family as they live, learn, and love together. Mixing adventure, life lessons, and realistic horse stories, the series is a must for readers who enjoy family values, Christian faith, and, of course, horses!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 1 – 6
Series: Sonrise Stable (Book 8)
Publisher: Sonrise Stable Books (September 20, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984724273
ISBN-13: 978-0984724277

Purchase here!

Blogging at Christian Children’s Authors – March 18



On Friday, I blogged about one of my favorite Easter time stories, Stubby’s Destiny by Dixie Phillips. You can read my review at


Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg


A fun, zany adventure with several learning lessons along the way is what readers will find with Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg.

Candy is a wealthy girl who has a father that showers her with gifts instead of spending time with her. She has a next door neighbor named Chucky who every time she gets a new gift, he gets a bigger and better version of what she has. But when Candy’s father buys her a Cankersaur, Chucky can’t seem to one up her. Instead, he decides to get even a different way with some interesting results.

I must start off by saying the humor in this story is great and the intention behind delivering a story with wonderful lessons is admirable. The artwork is superb and matches well with the zaniness of the story. The challenges with this story are related to craft.

The author seems to have bitten off a bit more than he can chew by delivering too many lessons at once: parents needing to spend quality time with their children, understanding why children sometimes mistreat each other, and how working together gets the job done. The story also occasionally drifts away from Candy’s point of view to give the reader a chance to get to know the father’s and Chucky’s internal thoughts. This isn’t something you would typically see in a children’s picture book. The lessons are also delivered in a fashion where they are told to the reader by the narrator more than delivered through the actions of the characters. These are all issues, however, that working with an experienced editor will fix.

In the end, I see a bright future for Sandberg in children’s book publishing. His artwork is amazing and his story ideas compelling. This book has also received numerous 4- and 5-star reviews, so it’s worth checking out this book and more of his work.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂

File Size: 8358 KB
Print Length: 34 pages
Publisher: Jason Sandberg eBooks (June 12, 2012)
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English

The author provided me with free digital copy of this book. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


Mokey’s New Friends by Connie Arnold


Who says friends have to be alike? When Mokey skips out an open door at the zoo, he wanders off to find some friends to play with. He doesn’t discover any monkeys, but he does find some new friends who are just as fun to play with, no matter how different they are.

Mokey’s New Friends by Connie Arnold is a wonderful story that celebrates diversity. Though sometimes we are drawn to people who are similar to us, we also find friendship with those who have different likes and abilities than we do. With this charming book, Arnold encourages kids to accept the differences and enjoy the time spent with friends.

Artist Marina Movshina lends her impressive talents to beautifully illustrate this story. From the minute the reader meets Mokey, they will be captivated by the pictures Movshina has painted to bring this story to life.

Kids will enjoy this delightful story over and over again.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Paperback: 20 pages
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc; large type edition edition (December 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616336846
ISBN-13: 978-1616336844

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


Pre-order Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper


Horace and Hattie are hedgehogs, and the very best of friends. Together, they make daisy chains, splash in puddles, and have tea parties. But there is one thing they can’t do—hug! They are just too spiky. Throughout the seasons, these two hedgehogs will try many different ways to hug. But will Horace and Hattie find a hug that feels just right? 

STEVE WILSON AND LUCY TAPPER are the husband-and-wife team behind hedgehogs Horace and Hattie and their debut picture book, Hedgehugs.

Age Range: 2 – 6 years
Hardcover: 30 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); Brdbk edition (December 15, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1627794131
ISBN-13: 978-1627794138

Pre-order here for a December release!


Guest Blogger: Kelly Preston, Author of Mister Spunky and His Friends


Mister Spunky and His Friends is the creation of award winning author, Kelly Preston. She has taken the story line from her book, Real Dogs Don’t Whisper, placing it in a picture book format for children to enjoy. Mister Spunky and His Friends is about the importance of love, friendship; and, helping those with special needs. Follow Mister Spunky along his journey to the beach, where he meets three new friends; teaching him important life lessons along the way. Parents, if you enjoyed Real Dogs Don’t Whisper, your children will enjoy this book for them. There are several pages at the end of the story for coloring activities. Ages: 5+

The Inspiration behind the Mister Spunky Book
by Kelly Preston

I would like to say thank you for this opportunity, sharing Mister Spunky and His Friends ( and the story behind it.

Prior to Mister Spunky and His Friends, I published an award winning book, Real Dogs Don’t Whisper (, which highlights my life journey caring for four special needs dogs and the life lessons they taught me along the way.  The overall message within Real Dogs Don’t Whisper is about giving those with special needs a second chance.  The book touches on integrity, unconditional love, leadership, trust, stopping abuse and opening your heart to receive and give both unconditional love and friendship.  To lighten the message, I developed a co-author, Mr. MaGoo; Mr. MaGoo is my Lhasa Apso and he is larger than life.  He adds humor within the book; sharing with the reader how life is so tough for him being the only male in the house and living with a crazy lady, me.kelly dog photo

Real Dogs has an audience from preteens to young adults to adults.  I realized that I was missing an opportunity to reach children about the importance of love, friendship and helping others.  I decided to take the story line and concept behind Real Dogs Don’t Whisper and place it in a picture book for children, even added coloring activities at the end of the story for children to color.  Mr. MaGoo in Real Dogs Don’t Whisper is Mister Spunky in this children’s book.  He enjoys life, has fun no matter what he is doing; and, helps others dogs he meets along the way to the beach.  At the end of the journey to the beach, Mister Spunky has developed three new friends, each helping each other. The book touches on anti-bullying, friendship, love and helping others especially those with special needs.  Mister Spunky and His Friends is ideal for children ages 5 to 10.

Mister Spunky and His Friends (ISBN: 978-1484966570) is available at the following channels:

kelly photo



Barnes and Noble



Kelly Preston is, first and foremost, an animal lover. Raised on a ten-acre property in a small town in Pennsylvania, she grew up with horses, rabbits, and – of course – dogs. When she left home after college, she acquired Gizmo, an irresistible Lhasa Apso that started her on a journey full of joys and sorrows, hopes and tribulations, frustrations, endless lessons in patience, and above all else, love. All of this has come at the hands (more precisely the paws) of Gizmo, Betty Boop, Buffy, Carla Mae, and the inimitable Mr. MaGoo.

Mr. MaGoo is a nine-year-old Lhasa Apso and the book’s co-creator and co-writer. He is, in his own words, “the alpha and omega of all dogs – in the cutest and sparkiest, most fun-loving package ever.” Ignoring Kelly’s persistent eye-rolling, Mr. MaGoo has forged ahead with this project in an attempt to, as he puts it, “present the facts from a dog’s perspective. In other words, the correct, most accurate, most interesting, only-one-that-matters perspective,” to which he adds, simply, “Woof!”