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What a delight! It is very well written with a warm and engaging story, driven by a central question of what would a village of snowmen would do for fun on Halloween? As revealed in the charming illustrations, filled with wonderful scenarios, is they’d make an ideal small town society living Its-A-Wonderful-Life-levels of nostalgic bliss. I love the painted illustrations, which are filled with delightful details — from the colorful shadows, to the clever Halloween costumes, to the wondrous expressions on each snowman’s face. An instant classic, this may be my favorite illustrated children’s book of the year!

Professionally, I’ve always been amazed at how strange it is that people with modest differences, who are “in the same boat” through life, can still decide that the other represents their polar opposite, even while they work, love, and live side-by-side. Until I saw my two daughters do exactly the same thing. They both love Peppa Pig, they both live together, yet they can so often be at odds with one another, even while they share so much in common.

So, I found this to be such a delightful book — especially for any other young sisters out there who may (or may not) get along, while they each find their own unique path in a great big world. Here, one sister loves to stage tea parties as a pretty princess, and the other, pretending to be a deadly ninja ready to spring into action, say, by raiding a nearby tea party. The illustrations are a delight, especially all the humorous toys’ expressions as they “watch” the goings-on. The book offers top-notch printing and binding as well, with full-color illustrations throughout. It’s all great fun with a wonderful lesson, too. This would be ideal for any home, school, or public library.

This fast-moving chapter book, for middle readers and up, jumps right into the action. So your young readers may want to read the first book in the series beforehand (titled “Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans”) where children are bequeathed some great gifts — including a map to a secret transit system that takes them to little-known landmarks around the world. On their journeys to find their missing benefactor, they encounter numerous clues — and secret evil organizations — along the way. Can they solve the puzzles and mysteries along the way? It’s all good, fast-paced fun, with clever integration of breezy dialog, silly and real life moments, and clues and hints, that may mystify and/or empower young readers as they know something the characters don’t.

They’ll be helped by the explanatory sections on the geography and monuments the children encounter, all of which exist in real life, and which run from roadside attractions to ancient temples in the Far East and Africa. Each location offers clues and entry and exit points to their worldwide travel network (be aware if the use of real religious monuments might offend you for cultural or religious reasons). There is a welcome answer key at the end of the book to many of the puzzles along the way. The book itself is well-bound on quality paper and is easy to read, with nice illustrations here and there throughout. I really admire the author’s writing style which neither condescends or belabors pointless details while reveling in delightful fun throughout its super-brief chapters. It’s a fast 400 pages of a true page-turner that kids will be surprised at how many pages they’ll read time they revisit this exciting story!

Confronting loss, separation, and tragedy may be difficult for anyone to manage and even more so for those who are non-verbal or autistic. This compelling book bravely confronts these challenges from the point of view of one such girl who becomes separated from her older sister, who knows “Nova” isn’t mentally handicapped, as those around her often suppose. They plan to meet together again when the next space shuttle takes off — Challenger.

This is an intriguing and warm book from a child whose mind is alive with memories and insights even though she cannot express them verbally. It is well-written in an engaging and polished style that seems truly expert, yet from a first-time author. The book itself is lovely with fine binding and occasional visual borders, aligning with the events of the story. Particularly if you know children who have met with loss, have been in foster care, or who interact with the autistic, this would a wonderful book to share with them.