Monster & Mouse Go Camping – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Monster & Mouse Go Camping

Written  by: Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by: Jared Champman

Publisher: HMH, June 2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: camping, friendship, adventure, monsters, mice, acceptance, resourcefulness. 


Monster was having a snack when Mouse burst through the front door.
“Let’s go camping,” she said.
What’s camping?” Monster asked.
“Camping is great!” Mouse said. “You walk in the woods. You sleep in a tent. You tell spooky stories.”


It takes a little convincing, but with the promise of food, Monster decides to join Mouse on a camping trip. Things quickly go awry when Mouse takes off to explore, because, well, Monster gets hungry. He starts with just a little snack—the lantern. And the sleeping bags are hard to resist. Then the tent . . .

Stranded in the wild with no supplies, what are a monster and a mouse to do?
Why I like this book:

Mouse, she is bold, and Monster is a somewhat less adventurous guy but willing to try anything pretty much as long as food is involved. This is a laugh-out-loud story with a sweet “aw” moment of reciprocity in the middle and a completely satisfying fun ending that will make you want to pack your bags for your next camping trip in the woods. 

It’s a great story about friendship, adventure, acceptance and resourcefulness with lovely bold illustrations, especially of nighttime in the woods. This is a great read-aloud to kick off summer.


Have students recount any camping adventures they have had, and maybe combine a list together of camping essentials for a trip!

Check out this interview I did with the author a couple of years ago.

The National Park Service has some great camping tips here.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.


Posted in Perfect Picture Book Friday, picture book | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Battle of Junk Mountain – Book Recommendation

Title: The Battle of Junk Mountain

Author: Lauren Abbey Greenberg

 Publisher: Running Press kids, 2018

Ages: 8-12

Themes: ageing, grandparents, hoarding, Maine, island life, summer friendships, loss & grief, growing up, coming-of-age



 I didn’t expect my summer sister to ditch me the first minute of vacation. She could’ve at least waited until I emptied my suitcase.


Twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker has always spent summers on the Maine coast, visiting her grandmother Bea and playing with her BFF Poppy. Both Shayne and Bea are collectors, in their own ways: Shayne revels in golden memories of searching for sea glass and weaving friendship bracelets with Poppy, while Bea scours flea markets for valuable finds, much of which she adds to a growing pile in her house that Shayne jokingly calls Junk Mountain. 

This summer, though, everything has changed. Poppy would rather talk about boys than bracelets, and Bea’s collecting mania has morphed into hoarding. Only Linc, the weird Civil War-obsessed kid next door, pays attention to her. Turns out Linc’s collected a secret of his own, one that could enrage the meanest lobster-man on the planet, his grandpa. What begins as the worst summer of Shayne’s life becomes the most meaningful, as she wages an all-out battle to save her friendships, rescue her grandmother, and protect the memories she loves the most. (GR)

Why I like this book:

This book has a sharp well-paced plot, well fleshed out characters with character and charm, and a terrific setting, which makes for a very satisfying middle grade read. This coming of age story feels fresh and original and has characters that readers will connect with especially those who have navigated changing friendships as they transition toward adulthood. While it has some lighthearted moments, it is a story that won’t leave you indifferent.

With its Maine setting and warmth of personalities, it reminded me of some Cynthia Lord’s middle grade novels in the best possible way. Having visited Maine islands myself, I could smell the sea air and taste the lobster rolls! 

The changing relationships among family and friends is beautifully handled, especially the frustrations and concerns of Shayne’s aging, hoarder-granny. It is a serious topic I haven’t seen addressed in other MG books and Greenberg approaches it with superb sensitivity and realism. Common adolescent concerns are matched with wonderful unusual character traits/interests bringing a vivid now feel to each scene. It is a great tween read and inpsiring debut novel.


The Battle of Junk Mountain now has a study guide, perfect for classroom or book club use! You can find it on the author’s website:

Posted in Book recommendation, children's books, Children's literature, Middle Grade novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Snail Mail – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Snail Mail

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Julia Patton

Publisher: Running Press Kids, 2018

Ages: 3-6

Themes: letters, handwritten mail, snails, cross country trip, snail mail


A long, long time ago, but really not THAT long,
before e-mail and texting, clicking and sending,
mail was delivered in a much different way.
A much slowwwwwwwwwwer way.
It was called Snail Mail.


Snail Mail joins four snails as they journey across the country to deliver a special letter by a Girl to a Boy. The snails trek across the country-through desert heat and dangerous blizzards, across mountains and plains, through cities and forests-and along the way, they find that taking time to slow down and look around makes the journey all the more beautiful. 

Why I like this book:

Snail Mail  reminds us of the value of both handwritten letters and slowing down. These letters can be creatively packaged. They might include a drawing. They might even contain a surprise inside! I still send birthday cards with a small chocolate bar inside the envelope to friends around the world. It also reminded me of when I lived in Malawi and was dating a Canadian who lived in The Netherlands. Love letters could take 3+ weeks, but how ecstatic I was to receive a letter!

I love the snail names – Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Colonel McHale Snail, and Umberto.

It’s a super fun and educational story that encourages kids to sometimes develop a slower approach to life, allowing for more wonder and a sprinkle of determination. The cross country trip is also a celebration of the beauty of the American landscape. And, as I am thinking about driving from the east to west coast this summer, I found it pretty inspirational. 

Julia Patton’s rich illustrations showcase America’s diverse terrain and national monuments from coast to coast and you’ll fall in love with all her snails. Make sure to give the children time to explore the cool details in the art work.


For older children, letters to be written AND posted to whomever the child would like to write longhand to! These can of course be dictated! Or the letter receivers could be randomly picked from the group and hand delivered! 🙂

The book has much to offer in the way of classroom activities beyond just letter writing:  studying snail habitats and patterns, geography and maps and even different types of travel. And it could also be used as a very simple introduction to the land of the United States of America. 

Teaching children to write letters.

Check out my interview this week with the illustrator, Julia Patton.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.


Posted in Book recommendation, Perfect Picture Book Friday, picture book | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments