Book Review: Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse

Marcy Campbell's first picture book is fun, touching, and energetic.

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Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is the picture-book-debut of dreams. Campbell's writing is artful, vivid, and poignant, and Corinna Luyken's illustrations capture the swirling tenderness of the story.  

Here is a description from the publisher:

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse--the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn't get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.
 

Right away, the title and premise were enough to intrigue me. But the most interesting (and my favorite) thing about Adrian Simcox is that it's a picture book told in the first person. And that person is NOT Adrian Simcox. 

Chloe, who is skeptical of Adrian's horse stories, is our narrator. Chloe herself is another highlight of this book. She is impatient with Adrian, and impulsive. She is a little harsher than she means to be when she feels the truth is at stake. This sort of imperfect protagonist, like Campbell's first-person narration, is unusually complex for a picture book, and even more impressive is that it works. Chloe's story teaches kids that it's okay to make mistakes, as long as you work to better understand those around you. 

This book would be great for reading aloud, not only because of the beautiful cadence, but because its humor manages to be both matter-of-fact and whimsical. Campbell's dialogue feels natural and rhythmic, and every character's lines practically pop off the page. The story contains a variety of emotions that would make for a lively and entertaining story time. 

Corinna Luyken's illustrations are stunning and organic with pops of color. Her wild lines and earthy tones provide an energetic and free-feeling setting for the story. She perfectly captures the world as it looks to us when we are children, imagining, learning, reacting, and trying to understand.  

So basically, I love this book, and I think you will, too. We have a small supply of signed copies available at The Story Shop, so come by and grab them before they're gone! 

As always, happy reading. 

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Picture Books That Belong Together

Even books need a best friend! Whether you’re shopping for a pair or just have a kid with specific taste, we’ve got you covered. Here are some picture books that were meant to be together.

 
 Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! But no matter what the grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are REAL. Somewhere there must be a smart, strong, wonderful, magical little girl waiting to be best friends. In fact, far away (but not too far away), a real little girl believes there is a unicorn waiting for her, too. This magical story of friendship reminds believers and nonbelievers alike that sometimes wishes really can come true.

Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! But no matter what the grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are REAL. Somewhere there must be a smart, strong, wonderful, magical little girl waiting to be best friends. In fact, far away (but not too far away), a real little girl believes there is a unicorn waiting for her, too. This magical story of friendship reminds believers and nonbelievers alike that sometimes wishes really can come true.

 Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.

Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.

Uni the Unicorn & Not Quite Narwhal

These two make legendary companions, and not just for obvious reasons. Both books share themes of yearning to belong and believing in yourself. The colorful, sleek illustrations do perfect justice to the magic within the pages. Also: unicorns. Duh!

 
 A little girl dreams of having her very own pet. But what kind of animal would make the best companion? A mouse is too small, a cat is too ordinary, and a fish is too . . . wet! As she plays with her toy dinosaur, inspiration strikes. What about a real, live dinosaur? She could ride it to school. It would need lots of food to eat, a swimming pool to drink from, and a dino flap so it could come and go!

A little girl dreams of having her very own pet. But what kind of animal would make the best companion? A mouse is too small, a cat is too ordinary, and a fish is too . . . wet! As she plays with her toy dinosaur, inspiration strikes. What about a real, live dinosaur? She could ride it to school. It would need lots of food to eat, a swimming pool to drink from, and a dino flap so it could come and go!

 Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but  strictly no elephants  are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

If I Had a Dinosaur & Strictly No Elephants

These two titles are perfect for kids who love outlandish pets. The stories show the roles that imagination and empathy play in bonding with those different from you, and the adorable illustrations celebrate uniqueness.

 
 A young astronaut is absolutely sure there is life to be found on Mars. He sets off on a solitary mission, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. But when he arrives, equipped with a package of cupcakes as a gift, he sees nothing but a nearly barren planet. Finally, he spies a single flower and packs it away to take back to Earth as proof that there is indeed life on Mars. But as he settles in for the journey home, he cracks open his cupcakes—only to discover that  someone  has eaten them all!

A young astronaut is absolutely sure there is life to be found on Mars. He sets off on a solitary mission, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. But when he arrives, equipped with a package of cupcakes as a gift, he sees nothing but a nearly barren planet. Finally, he spies a single flower and packs it away to take back to Earth as proof that there is indeed life on Mars. But as he settles in for the journey home, he cracks open his cupcakes—only to discover that someone has eaten them all!

 On August 6, 2012, the rover  Curiosity  touched down on the rocky surface of Mars — and now she’s ready to guide you through her journey firsthand. From idea to creation and beyond, this fact-filled, stylish book introduces readers to  Curiosity  and her mission: to discover more about the red planet and search for evidence of life. How did  Curiosity  get her name? What tools does she use to carry out her tasks? In her own voice, the popular NASA rover tells how and why she traveled more than 350,000,000 miles to explore a planet no human has ever visited . . . and what she’s been doing there.

On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity touched down on the rocky surface of Mars — and now she’s ready to guide you through her journey firsthand. From idea to creation and beyond, this fact-filled, stylish book introduces readers to Curiosity and her mission: to discover more about the red planet and search for evidence of life. How did Curiosity get her name? What tools does she use to carry out her tasks? In her own voice, the popular NASA rover tells how and why she traveled more than 350,000,000 miles to explore a planet no human has ever visited . . . and what she’s been doing there.

Life On Mars & Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover

For little space adventurers, these two books are the perfect pair. Together they provide both a mythical and scientific look at the Red Planet. Plus, whimsical depictions of both Martians and robots?! Count me in!

 
 A girl searches for fairies in her backyard and the woods beyond, following little clues and traces of magic. Fairies and other magical creatures can be found on every page, hidden among the flowers, trees and pebbles. But although readers can see them, the girl keeps searching, just one step behind... In the end, it is clear (both to the girl and readers) that there is magic all around, even when it's hidden in plain sight.

A girl searches for fairies in her backyard and the woods beyond, following little clues and traces of magic. Fairies and other magical creatures can be found on every page, hidden among the flowers, trees and pebbles. But although readers can see them, the girl keeps searching, just one step behind... In the end, it is clear (both to the girl and readers) that there is magic all around, even when it's hidden in plain sight.

 When Mae’s family moves to a new home, she wishes she could bring her garden with her. She’ll miss the apple trees, the daffodils, and chasing butterflies in the wavy grass. But there’s no room for a garden in the city. Or is there?  Mae’s story, gorgeously illustrated in watercolor, is a celebration of friendship, resilience in the face of change, and the magic of the natural world.

When Mae’s family moves to a new home, she wishes she could bring her garden with her. She’ll miss the apple trees, the daffodils, and chasing butterflies in the wavy grass. But there’s no room for a garden in the city. Or is there?

Mae’s story, gorgeously illustrated in watercolor, is a celebration of friendship, resilience in the face of change, and the magic of the natural world.

Backyard Fairies & Florette

Okay, so these two are a bit different. Backyard Fairies is about a lush backyard, while Florette is about the search for a garden. But aside from their visual elements, like their colorful paintings of the thriving world, these stories are similar in important ways. Both books teach the significance of finding wonder where you live, and both are about appreciating the magic in the easily-overlooked parts of life.

 
 Insightfully sweet, with a gentle humor and poignancy, here is Oliver Jeffers' user's guide to life on Earth. He created it specially for his son, yet with a universality that embraces all children and their parents. Be it a complex view of our planet's terrain (bumpy, sharp, wet), a deep look at our place in space (it’s big), or a guide to all of humanity (don’t be fooled, we are all people), Oliver's signature wit and humor combine with a value system of kindness and tolerance to create a must-have book for parents.

Insightfully sweet, with a gentle humor and poignancy, here is Oliver Jeffers' user's guide to life on Earth. He created it specially for his son, yet with a universality that embraces all children and their parents. Be it a complex view of our planet's terrain (bumpy, sharp, wet), a deep look at our place in space (it’s big), or a guide to all of humanity (don’t be fooled, we are all people), Oliver's signature wit and humor combine with a value system of kindness and tolerance to create a must-have book for parents.

 Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he's a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem--at night, Chris doesn't feel so brave. He's afraid of the dark.  But when he watches the groundbreaking moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is--and the dark is beautiful and exciting, especially when you have big dreams to keep you company.

Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he's a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem--at night, Chris doesn't feel so brave. He's afraid of the dark.

But when he watches the groundbreaking moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is--and the dark is beautiful and exciting, especially when you have big dreams to keep you company.

Here We Are & The Darkest Dark

These two are the perfect team for your little ones who are full of big wonder. Both books help to calm the very human fear of the unknown, and instead celebrate mystery and curiosity - on Earth and beyond. And kids will want to jump inside the beautiful, cosmic illustrations.

 
 From the best ways to serve breakfast  -- an elegant feast! --  to the ideal sleeping spot --  a majestic blanket fort, of course!  -- Lola is inspired all day long.  Her dear companion Bear sometimes says she is just  too much , but Lola is rich with imagination and originality, which even Bear will agree is AMAZING.The unstoppable Lola Dutch is about to show you how to make every day grand and full of fun. You'll love her  so   much ! 

From the best ways to serve breakfast -- an elegant feast! -- to the ideal sleeping spot -- a majestic blanket fort, of course! -- Lola is inspired all day long.

Her dear companion Bear sometimes says she is just too much, but Lola is rich with imagination and originality, which even Bear will agree is AMAZING.The unstoppable Lola Dutch is about to show you how to make every day grand and full of fun. You'll love her so much

  Princesses Wear Pants  follows the unflappable Princess Penelope Pineapple, who knows how to get the job done while staying true to herself. Princess Penelope lives in a beautiful palace with a closet full of beautiful dresses. But being a princess is much, much more than beauty. In fact, every morning Princess Penelope runs right past her frilly dresses to choose from her beloved collection of pants!   What she wears each day depends on which job she has to do. Will she command the royal air force sporting her sequined flight suit? Will she find her zen in her yoga pants and favorite tee? Or, will she work in the kingdom’s vegetable garden with pocketed overalls for all of her tools?

Princesses Wear Pants follows the unflappable Princess Penelope Pineapple, who knows how to get the job done while staying true to herself. Princess Penelope lives in a beautiful palace with a closet full of beautiful dresses. But being a princess is much, much more than beauty. In fact, every morning Princess Penelope runs right past her frilly dresses to choose from her beloved collection of pants!
 
What she wears each day depends on which job she has to do. Will she command the royal air force sporting her sequined flight suit? Will she find her zen in her yoga pants and favorite tee? Or, will she work in the kingdom’s vegetable garden with pocketed overalls for all of her tools?

Lola Dutch & Princesses Wear Pants

These two books go together like pink and sequins! They are full of heart and imagination, and the sweet stories celebrate the parts of girlhood that often garner eye rolls. Know a pink-lover with lots of personality? This pair is the perfect mix for them.

Anne Bogel

Meet writer, blogger, & podcast host
Anne Bogel!

Join us at The Story Shop! Anne will work her literary matchmaking magic, answer reader's questions, talk about her fantastic new book I'd Rather Be Reading, & more!

September 11 at 6:30pm

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On top of being present for Anne's presentation, Q&A, & book signing, attendees will receive:

  • A glass of wine*
  • Refreshments
  • A copy of Anne's new book, I'd Rather Be Reading
  • 10% discount on any titles Anne recommends that evening

Tickets are $25 per person. Registration deadline is August 31.

Get your tickets here!

*Hot tea available for those who abstain from alcohol

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Learn More About the Author

Anne Bogel is the creator of the popular blog Modern Mrs Darcy and the podcast What Should I Read Next? Her book lists and reading guides have established Bogel as a tastemaker among readers, authors, and publishers. The author of Reading People, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky. 

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Shelli R. Johannes

Meet the author Shelli R. Johannes!

Shelli will be at The Story Shop on August 25 from 1-3 p.m. to talk about her phenomenal picture book Cece Loves Science

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

By day, I am a copywriter (with a masters in marketing).

 

By night, I am a writer, animal lover, kid wrangler and homemaker.

I am not a cook. ☺

 

What do you do when you are not writing?

 

Think about writing. Brainstorm about writing. Talk about writing.

Oh, I love to see movies and watch TV, but that’s because I love to analyze the story and writing.

I do hot yoga and hang with my family.

Yeah I am a geek.

 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

 

I’ve always loved telling stories to make people laugh. But I didn’t start officially writing until I was pregnant with my daughter. I always say she sat on something inside me.

 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

 

I like to eat jelly beans? Does that count?

 

Do you have an upcoming book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

 

Cece Loves Science is Ada Twist, Scientist meets Fancy Nancy! This STEM-themed picture book, the first in a series, follows inquisitive Cece as she poses one of life’s most pressing questions—do dogs eat vegetables? With her best friend, Isaac, Cece uses science to uncover the answer. This entertaining and educational book is perfect for kids who love Andrea Beaty’s Ada Twist, Scientist. 

 

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

 

Back in 2014, Kimberly and I first decided to team up to write CECE LOVES SCIENCE after Shelli's daughter no longer wanted to attend science camp because she was the "only girl." Kim shared Shelli’s deep concern because Kim’s younger daughter grew up thinking math and science were "boys-only" subjects. We’re both writers so of course we headed to the library and bookstore for help. But we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted to share with our own girls.

 


Who is an author that you look up to today?

 

 

James Patterson – just because

 

Cliché to say JK Rowling but she’s got such a special imagination and she’s an amazing storyteller

 

What is your favorite genre of book to read?

 

YA Thrillers

 

What is your favorite book?

 

Pippi Longstocking

 

Who is an author that has inspired you or influenced you growing up?

 

Judy Blume

Beverly Cleary

 

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

 

Be persistent. Never give up.  A “yes” is always right around the corner.

 

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?

 

Thank you for giving CECE a chance. Since day one, Cece has been a passion project for Kim and me. Our dream is that CECE LOVES SCIENCE encourages not just girls, but kids of all ages to love science. As the mothers of strong-willed daughters, we wholeheartedly believe that girls should rule the field of science...and maybe even the world!

Staff Picks: Lily & McCartney

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to the wide world of children’s literature, we’ve got your back! Reading staff picks a great way to find a variety of books curated by devoted bookworms. This week, booksellers Lily and McCartney share some of their favorites!

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Lily's Favorites

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Peter and the starcatchers

Ever wonder how Peter Pan came to be? This origin story of the Boy Who Never Grows Up was my favorite as a young reader. It's a fantastic adventure filled with pirates, mermaids, magic, and beloved childhood characters! 

 
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Franklin's Flying Bookshop

I can't decide what is more beautiful, the cover or the story itself. This book has the power to rekindle a love for reading with sweet, inspiring characters and reminds us that books connect us to the world, but stories can bind us together. A must read! 

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McCartney's Favorites

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The Land of Stories

This book is a fun read for those with a wild imagination! I am a fantasy enthusiast, myself, and loved the way the story incorporated familiar tales and gave them a new twist! 
 

 
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Gaston

An adorable book with lovely illustrations. It teaches the importance of individuality and acceptance! 

For more favorites and recommendations from our wonderful staff, keep an eye on our blog. 

As always, happy reading!