„Hello World“ by Jonathan Litton

“Hello” might be just a little word. But it starts relationships. A friendly “Hello” opens doors. A “Hello” brings smiles. The book Hello World – A celebration of languages and curiosities” picks up the significance of this small word. The concept of this book is simple, but it’s message is complex: The world has over 7000 languages, all of them alive and changing every day. At the end of this century half of them will be lost. “Learn the small languages as well as the big ones, and keep these languages alive.” This message on the last page of “Hello World” was most impressive for me as a parent. Did you know that a language is lost every 14 days?

"Hello World" by Jonathan Litton

That’s why it’s so important to teach our children about language and culture. “Hello World” makes a beginning, the book shows preschool and elementary school aged children how much fun learning a new language can be. And there is a lot to learn with the over 140 languages shown in this book! Sturdy pages with colorful maps of each continent teach about the “Hello” in different languages and the numbers of speakers – including “Hello” in Native American Hand Talk and American Sign Language. Multiple flaps with pages of each continent invite to linger, browse and discover. Especially fascinating: Trivia about each continent, like the Incan civilization, the different languages in West Africa and the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Or maybe you want to try the unspoken Maori greeting gesture “hongi”? Finally, readers learn to say “Goodbye” in different languages.

"Hello World", published by 360 degrees

Hello World” introduces children to foreign cultures, celebrates diversity and makes learning global languages fun. Finja started exploring immediately and although she can’t read yet she had lots of fun asking about each continent or country and finding “America, far away from Germany”. According to the publisher “Hello World” is intended for children 8-12 years, but I found it fascinating for preschoolers, too.

Multiple flaps make learning fun!

This book was published by “360 degrees”, an imprint by Little Tiger Press. According to the publisher’s homepage “there is great value to be had in pausing for a fresh look at your surroundings. 360 Degrees illuminates a multitude of curiosities, from the inner workings of a spacesuit to the physiology of a penguin, and from the life-cycle of lemmings to the intricacies of Chinese characters. From the everyday to the extraordinary, our authors and illustrators have crafted interactive books to intrigue and delight.” This is definitely something we could see when exploring “Hello World”! We recently reviewed “Things that grow” from the same publisher.

"Hello World" by Jonathan Litton

„Hello World“
written by Jonathan Litton
illustrated by Cartographik L’Atelier
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN-13: 978-1944530006


„Glitter“ by Stella J. Jones

We recently had an unusual number of school closures due to snow. That is, unusual for the Pacific Northwest… Snow days always make Finja and me a little crazy. She misses her preschool friends. I don’t get work done, don’t get my workout in. That’s why I stocked up on craft kits at the beginning of the winter. Nothing like laying out some nice things to do for the little one and having a bit of peace. Peace for 12 minutes or so… Finja can be a real girl and she likes glitter. So, when we decided to build an indoor fairy garden she was all in – as long as we could put some glitter aka “fairy dust” on it. Said, done. Well, almost. Because you know what happens when a four-year-old gets a small tube with fine glitter in her hands, right? The glitter goes – everywhere…

Building a fairy garden - with glitter, please!

That’s why I really had to laugh when I held the hardcover edition of “Glitter” by Stella J. Jones, published by Tiger Tales, in my hands just a few days later. “Glitter” not only has glitter on every page, what makes it an absolute page-turner for preschool-aged girls. No, “Glitter” is just about this: Glitter getting everywhere, in every corner and cranny… But let’s start at the beginning.

Gloria is a little rhino and the heroine of this story. Gloria’s favorite color is glitter and “everything in her life has a little bit of razzle-dazzle”. While Gloria loves her glitter slippers she is convinced everyone in her neighborhood needs a little bit of glitter. Dashing away on her “glitterama-razzamatazz scooter” she leaves a little bit of glitter everywhere.

She glitters the banker, the barber, the baker, the chef and the cabinet-maker, the plumber, the drummers, the teachers… But instead of being gloriously happy, they find this glitterama rather awkward. Unfortunately scrubbing off glitter is not so easy – it goes everywhere… And it gets messy. Soon the whole town is dusted in a small cloud if Gloria’s glorious glitter. What will happen now? Unexpectedly, the whole town is “smiling, giggling, chuckling, and chortling”. “Just like the glitter that was spread all around, the happiness traveled right through the town.”

Author Stella J. Jones wrote an entertaining, humorous book that heightens the spirits and makes reading fun. “Glitter” was illustrated by Judi Abbot, who studied at art school in Milan. Her colorful graphics are not only glittery and pink, they teem with life and basically catapult you into Gloria’s town to dust you with some of Gloria’s glorious glitter. Perfect, as Gloria’s story about spreading kindness and joy is just about this: Not taking life too serious, having fun – and being cheerful. Just like glitter goes everyway, happiness spreads. So, don’t worry, be happy…


Needless to say: Finja loves “Glitter” and the razzle-dazzle on every page. We had a good laugh about our experience with the fairy-dust who still sticks between the floorboards. Although “Glitter” doesn’t seem to have a serious, deeper meaning other than being kind and sharing the joy it’s so nice to read a feel-good-book occasionally!

written by Stella J. Jones
illustrated by Judi Abbot
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN: 978-1680100396

„Things that grow“ by Libby Walden

The older Finja gets (or maybe, the older I get 😀 ) the more we enjoy exploring nonfiction-books. Finja is a curious child and there probably wasn’t a day without at least two-hundred-forty-five “whys” in months. She wants to know everything and sometimes comes up with really weird questions: How do the bones get into a body? Are stuffed animals born from other stuffed animals? Which part of an animal does meat come from? Why do plants need sunlight? When she’s not satisfied with my answer she’s searching for one herself, which sometimes can be a little confusing. Did you know that this little girl is convinced her favorite mac and cheese with a bunny on the package are made from bunny meat? Yes, I know…

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

Maybe you remember me mentioning the German “Wieso? Weshalb? Warum” book series from Ravensburger. By now Finja has almost every book out of this series and she still enjoys reading it again and again. Anyway, every book is made in a similar matter so I was searching for other science books for kids. There is not a lot of educational material for preschool age children on the market, especially when it comes to more abstract topics like genetics or the cycle of life. I still have some books from university at home, but there are hardly appropriate for a four-year-old…

My question was answered when we received a review copy of “Things that grow” from Libby Walden, published by 360 Degrees. 360 Degrees is a new imprint of Little Tiger Group. The description of 360 Degrees is more than promising: “360 Degrees illuminates a multitude of curiosities, from the inner workings of a spacesuit to the physiology of a penguin, and from the life-cycle of lemmings to the intricacies of Chinese characters.” So, exactly what we were searching for!

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

The format of “Things that grow” is unusual for a biology book for children. The rather small volume fits in the hand of preschoolers and elementary school children. The accurate, but still artistic illustrations by Becca Stadtlander made our daughter curious for more. That is, more information about basically everything in our world…

“Things that grow” describes the world around us from a seed to a tree, the development of the animal kingdom including the “missing link” and the evolution of man and finishes with a quick description of our universe, including the “big bang” and the ever-changing surface of our planet earth. The book offers a lot, from facts to little crafts like growing cress in an egg shell.

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

The language is not too bloomy, but matter-of-fact and accurately. Finja might not have been able to grasp the meaning of each chapter without additional explanations. For us this was not a problem at all, as we enjoyed the journey together – “Things that grow” had something for both of us. I still would recommend “Things that grow” more for elementary school children than preschoolers – the recommended age range according to the publisher is 7 to 10.

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

Author Libby Walden is an editor at Caterpillar Books. You can find more information about her on her blog “Through the wardrobe”, which is partly inspired by one of her favorite children’s books, “the supremely brilliant The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”.

More information:
“Things that grow”
written by Libby Walden
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Hardcover: 62 pages
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN: 978-1944530051

„The wolves return“ by Celia Godkin

When the first settlers set foot on American soil, they encountered wolves everywhere. But due to hunting and habitat changes there were hardly any wolves left by the middle of the 20th century… 1978, the wolves were listed as a threatened species in forty-eight states. In 1995 thirteen wolves from Canada were released on the Yellowstone National Park. The following year another ten wolves followed. The experiment was a success with now over hundred wolves living in Yellowstone. But, even more important: The wolves play an important role for the health of other species and the balance of the ecosystem.

"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press

“The wolves return” by Celia Godkin, biologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto as well as award-winning author and illustrator, explains the journey of reintroducing wild wolves to Yellowstone and the consecutive changes in the environments of the park in kid-friendly words.

Wolves had been extinct in Yellowstone for a long time and the return of the big carnivores has a huge effect on the local wildlife, which in return changes the environment and local wildlife: As wolves primarily prey on weak elks, they keep the herds smaller, but healthier. The elks move from the bottom of the valley to the higher areas with more trees for shelter, which gives the seedlings which were previously eaten by elks the chance to grow. Within years, the valley changes to a wooden area with tall trees. Beavers use this trees to build dams and beaver houses to raise families. Beaver ponds are a home for waterfowl and fish, which in return attract ospreys and otter. Berry bushes are growing back and provide food and shelter for birds, insects and bears. Fewer elk also let bison herds increase in size. But wolves not only control the number of elks. As huge predators, the coyotes leave Yellowstone. They prey now becomes food for hawks, weasels, badgers and foxes… After almost 20 years the return of a few wolves changed the face of Yellowstone National Park forever. Would you have guessed that a single species can have such a high impact?
"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press


Ecology is a complex topic, but Celia Godkin does a great job with explaining biological correlations to children from preschool to middle school age. Her texts are easy to understand, without complicated technical terms or terminology. What wakes the love for nature are her artwork: True-to-life pencil and watercolor illustrations capture the attention of children and adults from the first page on. It’s hard for an expert to explain scientific topics in easy words and almost impossible to find the right words suitable and plausible for children. Celia Godkin does an expert job! The appendix of the book gives a short overview of the history of wolves in the US and is a great add on for older children, teacher and parents.

Our daughter loved “The wolves return”. She is interested in nature in general and loves wolves – she wants to convince me that our local coyotes are “just baby wolves” each time we spot one… It was really enjoyable to teach her about one of her favorite animals and the development of an ecosystem within a short time span. I studied biology at university and am acquainted with the basics of ecology, although it never was my specialty. I didn’t even know of the return of the wolves to Yellowstone and had a great time researching the topic. We will follow on this topic tomorrow as I found some interesting videos and materials online… I can just guess what a great resource this book is for homeschooling parents or teachers! The publisher also provides a teaching guide, which was unfortunately not online yet at time of this review.

"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press

Long story short: “The wolves return” is a great non-fiction book with an environmental message for children every age. It’s a great way to raise children who love nature and are sensible to the ecological problems. “The wolves return” is another wonderful children’s book by Pajama Press, an independent publisher from Canada.

More information:

“The wolves return”
by Celia Godkin
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Pajama Press
ISBN-13: 978-1772780116

Inside the Reading Casle

Were you ever wondering how we choose the books we review? Well, some of them are from our own book shelf. Some of them we get directly from publishers. And most of the books we review are from book marketing agencies like the team at Myrick Marketing and Media. Every few months we get a huge package with wonderful children’s book from independent publishers to read and review. What a fun thing to do! We really appreciate the trust the publishers and agencies put in us!

The newest book delivery is here!

We just got another huge book delivery – Finja already selected “The lost kitten” from Gecko Press. And guess what – she found the kitten! We also looked at the Nature Wall Book, which is a perfect companion to the children books about evolution we just read. Finja loved “Grandmother fish” and had so many questions. That on the other hand gave me the opportunity to rediscover my passion for science – over 10 years after choosing journalism over a career in the biology lab. We definitely have lots of fun with our book project!

Learning about evolution: “Grandmother fish” is one of the books I just couldn’t resist

Now I just have to get started on writing some reviews! Due to my day job in marketing and public relations for a company in Germany (plus being a mom, runner and such 😉 ) I never actually succeed in review as many books as I would love to. But we are working hard on reading and publishing our reviews soon!

…now, let’s get started 🙂 We’ll keep you posted! Until then you find daily updates on Twitter. Just follow us @Readingcastle!

„A friend like you“ by Andrea Schomburg and Barbara Röttgen

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s day! We never celebrated Valentines, not before Finja and not now. Our celebration mostly consists of crafting some Valentines for Finja to bring to school the next day… Yesterday my husband surprised me though – for the second time in 14 years I got roses and, much more important, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream! I’m not the kind of women who needs roses or sparkly things, but you are my hero when you bring ice cream… The remaining evening my husband worked on his latest drone footage and I finally had some time to read a book. But isn’t that what love is about? To know what the other wants, what he needs, to share fun time – and give him room when he needs it?

"A friend like you" by Barbara Röttgen and Andrea Schomburg

A book I read with Finja for Valentine’s day is just about this: Giving each other room and still coming back to each other. “A friend like you” by German author Andrea Schomburg tells the story of an unlikely friendship: Squirrel just finished collecting nuts for the winter when he meets an exhausted bird. The friendly squirrel offers one of his nuts – and although bird usually doesn’t eat nuts he gives it a try. Bird likes to fly and squirrel likes to climb, but they find a way to enjoy a wonderful time together: Squirrel darting to the highest treetops and turning somersaults while bird flies with him. Squirrel even hums along when bird sings. Both are happy together: “When you sing, it gives me happy goosebumps all over the back”, says squirrel. And bird agrees: “I never thought I would meet a friend like you.”

But as the day comes to an end, they must decide: Will bird stay with squirrel, who buried nuts enough for two – or will he fly away, as he likes to?

“A friend like you” is a wonderful story not only for Valentine’s day. Bird and squirrel are different, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good friends. They can try something new, have a wonderful time – and find a way to be together while both have room for what they like and what makes them “bird” and “squirrel”. A real friends respects you and supports you in being yourself. And, after all, the message of “just trying something new” is great for toddlers who often love routine too much… The wonderful illustrations by Sean Julian are the perfect addition to the perfectly written story.

It doesn’t happen often that I find translation of German books in the US. “A friend like you” is the first book of author Barbara Röttgen, who is a therapist and mother of two kids. Author Andrea Schomburg was born in Kairo, grew up in the region around the river Rhine and now lives in Hamburg and Berlin. She writes for children and adults. The original German version of “A friend like you” was published by Brunnen Verlag is called “Eichhorn und Vogel probieren es mal” – “Squirrel and Bird give it a try”. I have to be honest, I like the English title “A friend like you” much better. 🙂


A wonderful book about friendship – not only for Valentine’s day!

„A friend like you“
written by Andrea Schomburg and Barbara Röttgen
illustrated by Sean Julian
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100310

„If I was a banana“ by Alexandra Tylee

Every child loves to play “What if” – and so do adults. Alexandra Tylee made a book out of this simple game, accompanying a little boy through his worlds of “What ifs”.

"If I was a banana"

“If I was a banana” is about a little boys full of wonder. Seeing a banana in a store display he asks himself how it would be to be a yellow, fat banana. When opening an encyclopedia, his imagination takes off, he fantasizes about being a mountain, “the one with the snow and the clouds and the rumbling volcano that never blows it’s top”. The imaginary journey continues with a bird with “huge wings and a long neck”. Drinking milk reminds him how it would be to be a cow who “feels like there is nothing more important than being a black cow standing on green grass.” Or, how would it be to be a spoon? The boy clearly enjoys his imaginary experiment – but after all he is most happy being himself:

“If I was a little boy
or a big one, which I am
Well, not really big but not really little either –
I think of all the boys I could be,
I am most comfortable being

The last page is the happiest and most dynamic in this book, showing our protagonist and his friends racing with the clouds.

"If I was a banana", published by Gecko Press

“If I was a banana” by Alexandra Tylee celebrates imagination and sparks curiosity and creativity. How would it be to be someone else? The book convinces with its simplicity and fascinates with poetic texts and timeless illustrations by Kieran Rynhart. It invites young readers of any age to daydream, being someone else – and, in the long run, promotes empathy for other beings while being content with being yourself.

A wonderful, quiet book for lazy afternoons!

“If I was a banana” was published by “Gecko Press”, an independent publisher from New Zeeland. According to Gecko Press, the publishers aims to encourage children to love to read, because “one good book can spark a lifetime of reading”. Books like „That’s not a Hippopotamus“ definitely make it easy for kids to find their love for literature!

„If I was a banana“
written by Alexandra Tylee
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570331