Book Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

What is it about the dark that scares and intrigues children at the same time? How many times has your child come downstairs after you’ve tucked him in and said, “I’m afraid of the dark.” To be honest, aren’t we all still a little afraid? Shadows loom larger, sounds are louder, problems bigger.

Books that help kids explore their fear in a safe and encouraging way are great from preschool ages. They acknowledge the scariness of night but also open a world of possibilities.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate which means if you click on a picture or link and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)

Flashlight Night is a perfect book to read around a firepit in the summer or before a walk in the winter night sky before bedtime. Esenwine creates a magical world of stories that starts with a flashlight, a boy and the night sky.

The rhyming text builds phonological awareness and the sophisticated vocabulary will help your child learn new words. Afterall, when was the last time you used the words mizzenmast or craggy?

Reading comprehension and narrative skills are highlighted through the detailed illustrations that accompany the words. There are many things to explore on the page that aren’t in the text. The pictures can lead to further conversation about pirates and pyramids and castles. Have your child tell their own story either using the book as a jumping off point or create their own using a flashlight and shadow puppets.


Flashlight Night is a great example of how simple books can introduce complex ideas and topics while answering questions all children have about what happens in the dark.

More books to help with fear of dark

What other books have helped your child process fear of the dark? Share in comments.Happy Reading

Book Review: Belinda the Unbeatable by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts

Graphic novels and comics often get a bad rap from teachers and parents. They are seen as not as legitimate as “real books.” But they have been a game changer in our family. My son is an avid reader, but not in the traditional sense. Give him Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Garfield or any graphic novel and he will read for hours. Graphic novels have deep narratives, help kids derive context from the pictures which builds reading comprehension, teach how to follow a story through the panels, and are just plain old fun.

Graphic Novels are becoming more prevalent for young ages which is a great thing. Reluctant readers will pick up a book that is more picture drive, boys and girls alike will find something they like with the diversity of what is published now. I was even excited to see that there was a wordless graphic novel which isn’t only perfect for school age kids, but a great way to introduce the genre to preschoolers. It will give them a way to “read books” on their own. And it will strengthen reading comprehension and narrative skills through the story they create where they can practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of the printed word.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the images it takes you to Amazon, where if you make any purchases I receive a portion of the sale.

Belinda the Unbeatable is a great first graphic novel. It is about Belinda and her best friend Barbara. Belinda is outgoing and Barbara is shy. They join a musical chair game at the school and it becomes more than just the run-of-the-mill game. Will they work together to stay in the game?

This is a book you have to see for yourself. The pages will take you and your child on a journey of imagination.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Common Sense Media has a great article with suggestions on why graphic novels for kids. Read it here.

I Love Libraries has suggestions by age/grade here.

Three Reasons Graphic Novels Can Be Great for Young Readers by Scholastic.

Other Graphic Novels to Enjoy

Ages 6+

Ages 6+

Ages 7+

Ages 7+

Ages 6+

Have you and your family enjoyed graphic novels? Share what you’ve read in the comments.


Happy Reading

Book Review: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Smartphones, tablets, computers are a part of our lives and the lives of our families whether we embrace it or not. The American Academy of Pediatricsdeveloped guidelines to help parents make decisions about how and when to incorporate screen time into a child’s life. Under the age of 18 months, they do not recommend having screen time other than video chatting with family. Any age over that parents need to engage in a family media plan that will set boundaries on when, where and how media and screens will be consumed.

Although, technology is here to stay, it doesn’t mean we as parents have to give in to it. Our children still need time to play outside in mud puddles, be bored, and read.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, the links to the pictures take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, the author Beatrice Alemagna explores the complicated relationship parents, families and children have with screens. On a rainy day a mother and daughter go to a cabin in the woods while the father stays in the city. The mother works and the daughter mindlessly plays a videogame which irritates her mother. Who tells her, “Is this another day where you do nothing.” She takes the game and hides it, but the daughter finds it and goes outside. What she discovers is a world she couldn’t find in her video game.

smart phone and kids

Alemagna’s book reminds me of my youth spent exploring the woods and creek outside my front door. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day and at that age I wouldn’t want to. Boredom isn’t lethal, but sometimes as parents we act as it is. My kids are forever asking me to watch T.V. or play on the tablet or have “screen time” because they are bored. We set strict limits that works for our family but even with the limits it doesn’t stop the kids from asking to cure their boredom with so easy to digest media.

natural world

The book doesn’t just provide rich discussion about how to combat boredom it also has rich, lyrical vocabulary filled with imagery using metaphors and similes. The book uses a lot of directional/positional language which is great for young preschoolers beginning to understand the concept of over, under, top, bottom and etc. But the book can also be used with older preschoolers/kindergarten aged children with its sophisticated vocabulary.

As you read this book with your child you will notice that the narrative skills are developed strongly throughout the text. It focuses on imagination, discovery of the natural world, parent relationships, and yes screen time. This will help foster a conversation between you and your child and even family about how to handle the balance between t.v., games and quiet times without those screens. After reading the story talk about how you find quiet time in your day without screens. And if that isn’t something you do, maybe as a family you can learn to incorporate media free times together.

Kid painting Santa on a paper plate

Our kids need space to explore the world independently in a safe and unstructured way. They need time that isn’t scheduled with activities. They need time to be bored so they can create, develop and grow. Play is one of the most important times in our child’s day. It is where the most learning takes place. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will take the story of a boring, rainy, dreary day and encourage our children to go explore a fascinating and ever changing world.

After Reading the Book

Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible. Dress appropriately and go explore.

As you walk with your child, ask her what she notices? How is today different than other days? What is the same? And if it is age appropriate, go to the backyard or a park and allow them some free range time to look around and play on their own.

For Parents

A good picture book is one that not only makes kids think and learn, but parents as well. There is a lot in this book to make us think about how we spend our time. The work/family balance, our relationship with phones and screens, and how we include time for ourselves to explore, create and dream. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about how your family will handle screens. Each family is different, so do what works best for you. We have decided that screens are limited to weekends, but during the week we will watch movies or a T.V. show together. And during school breaks, the rules are relaxed. But if the kids have screen limits, it is only fair to see how grown ups should too.

Articles on Screen Time

Common Sense Media

Consumer Reports

What do we do all day

Becoming Minimalist

Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration

Do you have a favorite book about play, imagination or boredom? Share in the comments at the end of the post.

Happy Reading

Book Review: Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Publishing date: January 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books.

Available for preorder

Ages 8 and up

(I received an ARC of this book for a fair review. I was not paid for the review. However, I am an Amazon Affliliate and if you click on the link and make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)


Conversations about race at any age is difficult. It is a topic often avoided with kids because of the worry they aren’t old enough to handle the intricate topic. “Can I Touch Your Hair” provides a starting point for deeper conversations in our schools, our families and with our friends. The authors handle cultural differences and new friendships with sensitivity.

The writing and illustrating teams gave each character and picture its own distinct voice and style through free style poetry. This is the first picture book I have read using this technique, and I enjoyed its fresh approach to the picture book genre.

The book stayed away from stereotypes of each culture, and highlighted the fact they exist. Its universal theme of fitting in makes the book a relatable for everyone. Each of the characters struggles to find his or her place in the community they live in and find friendship in the last place they expected to.

Although the concepts are sophisticated, parents and teachers shouldn’t shy away from the book. Use the book  as a discussion starter about race and our similarities and cultural differences.

“Can I Touch Your Hair” shows no matter our perceptions we are all a part of the same community.

Try It At Home

reading together

Reading aloud should never stop. This book is a perfect read aloud book for older kids. Research shows that fluency improves when kids hear books being read aloud even if the child reads independently. The back and forth nature of Can I Touch Your Hair, makes it perfect for a read aloud. Your child can practice reading with emotion and pauses and learn from you as you read the same way.


Poetry aids self-expression and builds creative writing skills. Poetry isn’t only a great way to express emotions, it is a great way to build reading and writing skills. Free style poetry is a great way to introduce creative writing to kids because it doesn’t have the rules of other types. We often think of poetry as having to rhyme and this book is a perfect example of creativity at work. Write poems with your child about what is important in his or her life. Emotions she might have a hard time expressing or places where he feels insecure. Don’t stop there! Haiku’s are a great way to connect with nature and writing and are fun to produce. Poetry doesn’t have to be intimidating as the authors demonstrate.

letter writing

Rekindle the art of letter writing. Feeling different or out of place happens to all of us and as kids age they have a harder time telling us what they are feeling and what is happening in his or her life. A friend of mine when my kids were young suggested sharing a diary that the child can write in and the parent can respond to. It gives kids a chance to let out the emotions they have a hard time discussing and gives us as parents time to think through our response. Added benefits are increasing narrative skills through the letter writing or diary format and handwriting practice.

Try these Books:

Tune in tomorrow when Building Future Readers interviews the authors Charles Waters and Irene Latham about the book!



What books do you read to begin a conversation about race and cultural differences and similarities?

Happy Reading

Book Reviews of 2016

The blog turns two in January. I have loved reviewing books and helping parents and children connect over reading. I hope this blog has encouraged your family to add a reading routine in your busy schedule.

In our family, books are always included in holiday gift-giving, birthdays and more. Finding quality and fun books can be a daunting task, so I’ve made it as easy as possible. I have created a section on my Building Future Readers Blog Board that will highlight the book reviews for each year.

Visit my pinterest page and follow to find the best books of the past two years on Building Future Readers.

First up is Picture Book Reviews from 2016


Did you have a favorite book from that year? Share in the comments below.

Happy Reading


Book Review: Big Hair, Don’t Care by Crystal Swain-Bates

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase, I receive a portion of the sale.)

Crystal Swain-Bates. Illustrated by Megan Bair. Goldest Karat Publishing, LLC, 2013.

What this Book is About

A girl with big hair, different from everyone else’s, finds all the reasons why she loves her hair!

What I like About this Book

The text has a strong cadence and full of rhyme. Rhymes help build phonological awareness, which children need in order to build reading skills. Rhymes break apart the different sounds in the words, strengthening the ability to sound out words.

Big Hair Million Dollar words
Find ways to use these new words with your child throughout the week.



The vocabulary the author uses is strong and unique. She describes different hair styles with accompanying pictures. She chooses descriptive words like view, unique, chic, flair, fluffy, crowd and so many more. Vocabulary is essential in building future readers. The more words a child knows and hears, the larger the “database” she has to pull from when learning to read.


Print Awareness

This is a great book to use to develop print awareness because the text is large and easy to follow. Print awareness helps kids learn how to follow along with the text. While you read, use your finger to follow the text. It will teach your young reader that we read books front to back, left to right. The illustrations follow the text of the story which builds strong reading comprehension.

Print Motivation and Narrative Skills

Kids always love to participate in a story. With the repetitive phrase: “I love my hair” it won’t take long for your reader to start repeating it with you. This develops narrative skills as well as print motivation. Both of these early literacy skills motivate kids to enjoy reading and understand what they read better.

Confidence and Self-Esteem

Books that focus on daily life and activities are always a crowd pleaser. The simple illustrations and following a girl through activities most kids are familiar with brings comfort and familiarity all the while teaching them new concepts and words. It still is hard to find books with protagonists of different cultures and backgrounds and I appreciate so much this is a confidence building and universal book that all children will relate to.

Take the Book Further

Build vocabulary while you have fun! Find new hairstyles on the internet or check out a book from the local library and play hair salon. Take turns being the client and beautician. Dig out aprons, hair curlers, brushes, bobby pins and more. Write out the names of the different tools and set the items on the paper.

Talk about what your child likes about herself. This book is all about being different and loving the differences. Start by telling him something you like about yourself. Write down his answer and the answers of the other people in your family and make a book. Another great way to increase vocabulary through conversation and narrative skills through descriptions.

Try Out These Other Confidence Boosting Books


What are your favorite books to read about self-esteem and confidence? Comment in the post to share book ideas!

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza

By Cynthia Leonor Garza. Illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez, 2017. New York: POW!

Ages 4-7.

( I am an amazon affiliate, if you click on the pictures or links it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

What this book is about

One day on the playground Lucía is teased by the boys that she can’t be a superhero. It makes her mad and that night her Abuela tells her about the luchadora’s. A luchador is more than an acrobatic wrestler. A luchadora is brave and spunky and fights for what is right. Lucía wears the luchador costume the next day on the playground and soon all the kids show up in masks and costumes. She has fun until the boys tease again that girls cannot be superheros. She takes off her mask to reveal her true identity and show the boys that girls are superheros.

What I like about this book

Print Motivation

It is hard to find picture books that feature diverse characters. This book not only features Mexican culture through the main character it is also a universal and empowering story for girls.

The pictures are vibrant and complement the text well and I love the influence from comic books and Mexican culture.


The vocabulary is rich in the book. Every page introduces unique words.

Lucia the luchadora

As you can see from the sample pages your child will learn the words masked, swift, slick, style, luchadora, agile.

Print Awareness/Letter Awareness

Print Awareness will be developed with each reading. As is typical in comic books, the onomatopoeias are set apart and larger than the rest of the text. This is a great way to use your finger to follow the sentences and also highlight the places where the words deviate from the typical sentence structure. Paragraphs are in different colors which also will help children differentiate the text.

This book provides many opportunities to stop and have the child trace the letters with her fingers and sound out words even if she aren’t reading on her own yet.

Phonological Awareness

Onomatopoeias are also a great way to help kids learn different letter sounds. They are short words, often one syllable. As you read these words, follow along with your finger and then stop and have them repeat the sound.

The text, while doesn’t rhyme, has a strong cadence which gives it a beat like a rhyming book. The flow, not only makes it enjoyable to read out loud, strengthens your child’s expressive reading when they become independent readers.

Narrative Skills

Feeling different is a normal part of growing up and this book will provide a jumping off point to discuss this in your own family. Often times societal norms tell us girls act one way and boys act another. Talk about what you did as a child and some of your favorite memories that might help dispel the stereotypes.

There are many places in the book to stop and ask further questions about what is happening on the page that might not be told in the sentences. Ask your child about the pictures and what is also going on in the story.

Why you should pick this book up today

This book is a great read aloud that girls and boys will enjoy together. It features a strong Hispanic girl, provides rich vocabulary and strong text that makes this a book you will come back to again and again.


Other great picture books with strong female characters

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Wet by Carey Sookocheff

Ages: Toddler-Early Preschool

Wet. Carey Sookocheff, Godwin Books: New York, 2017.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale)

About this Book

A book all about the different ways we can feel wet. Either a day at the pool, rain, our goldfish, mopping floors, this book is a child-like exploration of the world of water.


The text in this book is very simple but there are plenty of opportunities to build vocabulary through the pictures. The author deepened the text on the page through the contextual pictures. Take a picture tour of the book before you begin reading. Look at the pages and point out different objects and name them. For example on the first page the boy is at a pool. Talk about the pool deck, the bench, the tile on the walls and the life preserver etc. Talking about the pictures in the book is as helpful as reading the text when we teach our children new words.

Phonological Awareness

Although this isn’t a rhyming or lyrical book, there are ways to help play with the sounds of the words so a child can hear the different syllables. For example in the line:

Sometimes I get wet

Very Slowly

Try drawing out the syllables for Ve rrryy Sloowwlly. Not only do you demonstrate the meaning through how you say it, reading at different speeds helps liven up a book.

Also there are a lot of great songs that would be a great supplement to the story.

Letter Knowledge and Narrative Skills

On each page help your child match the main idea of the picture with the text. For example as the boy goes down the slide. Point out the word slide. Talk about the letters you see that make up the word and then point out the slide. This also helps build reading comprehension by connecting the words on the page with the pictures that take the story a little further.

Print Awareness

Take time to show the different parts of the book. Using your finger highlight the title. How many letters are in the title? Who do you think the boy on the cover is hiding from? Show the end pages and the title page and as you flip through the pages ask questions about what you see. Have your child make predictions about what the book is about and what might happen.

Print Motivation

Many picture books have a story question and answer but this book explores a topic that your child is naturally curious about. Rain, pools, fish, cleaning all of these are connected through water! Your child’s natural curiosity will drive the interest in the book and help them think about a topic, like water, differently.

Experience the Book

Make a list of all the different ways a person can get wet. Write down what your child says in a list. This will not only build letter knowledge but also sequencing.

Take a favorite action figure that can get wet and a glass of water. Submerge the figure different ways like the boy in the book. How do you put the toy in water quickly or slowly. Is there an in between speed? Have fun with water play either in a bath or filling up the kitchen sink with water and some dish soap and let your child explore water with measuring cups, spoons, bowls, cups, funnels and whatever else you can find!

More Books about Exploration

Is anyone more curious than Curious George?


Happy Reading!

Book Review: If my love were a fire truck by Luke Reynolds

Ages: 2-5

If my love were a fire truck: a daddy’s love song. Luke Reynolds. Illustrated by Jeff Mack. Doubleday Books for Young Readers: New York, 2017.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click a picture, it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale)

What the Book is About

A book celebrating the love between a father and son through bright pictures and a rhythmic text.

Before you start the book

Look at the front and back cover. Point out the title while you say it. Show your child the author and illustrator’s names. On the back cover make the onomatopoeia sounds. Ask your child what might make those sounds. (This will build Letter Knowledge and Print Awareness)

Look at the title page and ask what the child and Dad are doing and before you read, flip through the pages of the book and have the child think about what is happening. Is the child waking up or going to bed? Who drives a fire truck? Who do you think will win the race?

This encourages the child to engage with the book, building Print Motivation. Highlights unique vocabulary and demonstrates how books are read.

Phonological Awareness

This book has a strong rhythmic text which builds phonological awareness. The rhyming text helps kids hear the small parts of words which assists them as they become independent readers.

Take the last word on each page and make a list of rhyming words. Write them out in sidewalk chalk, dry erase board or a piece of paper so the child can connect the writing with the sounds. This will also strengthen letter awareness.

Pick a few words and clap out the syllables. Make a list of words that have one, two or three syllables. Can you find any with more than three? This is another way to highlight the sounds that make up each word, and the list making or sorting will aid Narrative Skills.

Narrative Skills

Make your own If my love were sentences. Think of activities both you and your child enjoy. Write them down and have your child illustrate.

Make a list of the different illustrations and whether they happen on land, in the sky or in the water. It not only helps your child orient the pictures, but it helps them think about the story in a different way which leads to strong reading comprehension.


Write down any words your child may not be as familiar with.

Or use this list:

  • rodeo
  • buck
  • bray
  • bound
  • shield
  • plain

Try to use these words throughout the day to help your child learn new words.

More stories about Dads

Book Review: Where Will I live? by Rosemary McCarney

Ages 4-7

Where Will I live? By Rosemary McCarney. Second Story Press: Toronto, 2017.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon where if you make a purchase, I receive a portion of the sales.)


What it is about

Children search for a place to call home because where they live isn’t safe anymore. Despite the hardships these children face, they still find joy and laughter and fun.

This book tackles a hard, sad, scary topic on a level kids can understand. You know your child best and not every child will be ready to hear this story. I still remember a fourth grade novel assignment, Bridge to Terabithia, I wasn’t ready for. I cried for an hour after finishing! I could comprehend the book but wasn’t ready for the content.

If your child is ready, I suggest this book. Many of our cities have resettled refugees. It is important to not only understand their difficult journeys to the US, but that even in the hard journeys, kids are kids. Every child longs for a home, family, friends and fun.

Letter Knowledge and Print Awareness

Trace the title with your finger while you read it to the child. Point out the author and say that the author wrote the words. Show on the last page all the photographers who shared their pictures for this book.

Ask the child what letters he sees in the title. Are any of the letters in his name?

As you read the book follow the text with your finger. It familiarizes the child, not only with the letters, but how a book is read.

Narrative Skills

This book talks about community, family, friendship and belonging. After reading the book, use the Cotton Balls Kind Words Sensory Lesson (retrieved from preschoolpowolpackets.) It teaches children the difference between kind words and hurtful words using sensory materials. This lesson not only will strengthen the impact of the book, but it also develops vocabulary and narrative skills through describing the cotton ball and sandpaper.

Talk about times your child felt scared. What helped her feel safe, calmer, loved?

There are different landscapes and climates shown in the book. Have your child find a photograph and describe what he sees. Prompt with the colors of clothes, the temperature they think it might be.

Print Motivation

This book is about a child’s home environment. With a camera or phone, have your child take pictures of your house, neighborhood, town or city, car, favorite toy, where she sleeps, and friends. Assemble the pictures into a book and have child narrate each picture while you write down her responses. This will reinforce narrative skills, vocabulary and letter knowledge.

Phonological Awareness

Find songs that celebrate differences/diversity and community. Find music from other cultures, especially research the countries listed in this book.


This book is rich with vocabulary. You can introduce new words by discussing the different climates in the pictures and introduce Geography through all of the countries portrayed in the photos.

  • Croatia
  • Hungary
  • Rwanda
  • Lebanon
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Slovenia
  • Greece
  • South Sudan
  • Kenya
  • Cameroon
  • Myanmar
  • Niger

This book uses a lot of positional language. Write out cards using the word list below. Illustrate and have your child act out the action on the card. What else would you add to this list? You can also use a favorite toy and a clear glass to act out the cards.

  • Down
  • Beyond
  • Past
  • Across
  • Under
  • Beneath
  • In

Check out these other books about Refugee experiences to help build empathy and understanding.

What activities worked or didn’t work for your family? List in the post comments.


Happy Reading!