The Children's Bookshelf

The Children’s Bookshelf from WCMU Public Radio showcases new children’s book titles meant to engage young readers in the joy of story found in both the written word and illustrations. The target audience includes teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents as part of their role to foster the love of reading.  Each of the two minute reviews have accompanying study questions and activities and are available as podcasts.  

Children's Bookshelf host Dr. Sue Ann Martin.

The series host and reviewer is Dr. Sue Ann Martin, Professor Emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts in the College of Communication and Fine Arts, at Central Michigan University.

Our theme music for The Children’s Bookshelf is the polka from Denes Agay’s “Five Easy Dances”, performed by the Powers Woodwind Quintet, in residence at Central Michigan University’s School of Music. It is taken from the album GEMS, on the White Pine label.

The Children's Bookshelf only accepts for possible review titles that are sent from the children's book divisions of national publishers. 

GAME CHANGERS: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome is a fascinating picture book biography of two incredible athletes and sisters. The book traces how Venus, born in 1980, and Serena, born in 1981, were trained in the game of tennis by their parents each morning before the sun was up. They practiced at the East Compton Park public courts near their home. The girls stretched and did routines to build strength, speed and flexibility. The sisters hit hundreds of balls before each school day began!

Venus won all of her sixty-three junior tournaments by age ten. She played her first professional game when she was fourteen. Both girls quickly rose in the ranks, won Olympic Gold Medals and by 2002 ranked first and second in the world!

The vibrantly-colored illustrations, rendered in cut paper, pencil and acrylic paints, support the electric energy of the sisters themselves. Particularly vivid is the illustration of the sisters at the French Open in 2002 when Serena won two sets of 7-5 and 6-3 and moved out in front of Venus in the rankings. Venus ran off the court to get her camera to take a picture of her victorious sister saying, “Nothing can keep me from celebrating, when my best friend wins a match.”

GAME CHANGERS: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams written by Lesa Cline Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome is a striking picture book biography for ages 4-8 about family, hard work, determination and love between sisters (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018).


Amal Unbound written by Aisha Saeed and set in a small village in Pakistan is a captivating novel about one girl’s determination to be free, get an education and become a teacher. 

Twelve-year-old Amal loves school. When she must stay home to help her mother who is recovering from childbirth her teacher arranges for her to continue her lessons at home. One day at the market, however, Amal is threatened by a man who knocks her down with his car and then demands that she sell him the pomegranate she has just purchased. She is unaware that he is the ill-tempered son of the corrupt ruler who has taken over the village. She stands up against his demands causing a scene in the marketplace.

Several days later, the bully comes to collect on a loan that he gave to Amal’s father. Her father does not have the money. Consequently, Amal is taken as a servant to his estate to live and work until the loan is paid back. There she meets other girls in the same cruel situation. She also discovers there is no way to ever pay any loans back since the girls are charged each day for living there! Amal keeps her eyes open and looks for an opportunity to bring an end to the corruption and the practice of indentured servitude.

Amal tells her story in the first person. The narrative is very genuine and full of emotion. Her guiding philosophy is, “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.” Courageous Amal makes a difference.

Amal Unbound is beautifully-written by Aisha Saeed and will engage middle-grade readers 10-13 years of age (Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Reader’s Group).


The Doll Hospital written by Kallie George and illustrated by Sara Gillingham is a warm and reassuring story about a visit to a special hospital just for dolls. Dr. Pegs opens the doors of the hospital and predicts a slow and easy day. This proves not to be the case, however, when little patients begin to arrive one right after the other.

First, it’s a porcelain doll by the name of Portia with a broken arm, followed by Scoop, a stuffed doll with a stomach ache, then comes Baby, a talking doll with a broken pull string and finally Teddy, a stuffy, who has lost one of his eyes!

Alarmed at the number of emergencies, Dr. Pegs calls in a special group of Nesting Doll Nurses to lend a helping hand. Working together they gently glue Portia’s arm back together, untangle the talking Baby doll’s voice string, give Scoop new stuffing to alleviate his stomach ache and repair Teddy’s eye with just the right button!

The illustrations are as charming as the story. Young readers will want to hug each of the four small patients who look all cuddly and in need of help. The adorable pictures are fashioned in gum drop colors of lemon yellow, strawberry pink, minty green and lip-smacking orange.

The Doll Hospital written by Kallie George and illustrated by Sara Gillingham is a gentle story about going to the hospital for some tender loving care and repair. It is perfect for children 3-7 years of age. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018). 


BLOOM: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli with words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Julia Morstad is a uniquely-told and splendidly-illustrated picture book biography for children 6-9 years of age.

Schiaparelli, born in Rome in 1890, tells her own story in first person inviting the reader to be by her side as she realizes when she was born her parents really wanted a boy and they thought her appearance very plain when compared to her pretty older sister. Her dear Uncle Giovanni, however, encouraged her to bloom by calling her beautiful.

Throughout her childhood she tried to figure out what made things beautiful. She saw beauty everywhere and began improvising by putting two things together to create a new third thing of beauty. Later in her career as a fashion designer in Paris she would combine lace with leather and tree bark with velvet. She became known for bold colors, whimsical designs and her signature hot pink! “I say no to the expected. I say yes to my childhood dreams and the colors that once fed me: scarlet, mauve, periwinkle, green…and PINK!”

The illustrations in this book, rendered in liquid watercolor, gouache and pencil crayons, energetically capture the essence of what Schiaparelli created. The illustrations are eye-popping!

The back material includes notes from both the author and the illustrator plus more delightful pictures and a photo of the designer.

BLOOM: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli with words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Julie Morstad is a beautiful picture book biography about creativity and the imagination for children 6-9 years of age (Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2018).


BLOOM: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli with words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Julia Morstad is a uniquely-told and splendidly-illustrated picture book biography for children 6-9 years of age.

Schiaparelli, born in Rome in 1890, tells her own story in first person inviting the reader to be by her side as she realizes when she was born her parents really wanted a boy and they thought her appearance very plain when compared to her pretty older sister. Her dear Uncle Giovanni, however, encouraged her to bloom by calling her beautiful.

Throughout her childhood she tried to figure out what made things beautiful. She saw beauty everywhere and began improvising by putting two things together to create a new third thing of beauty. Later in her career as a fashion designer in Paris she would combine lace with leather and tree bark with velvet. She became known for bold colors, whimsical designs and her signature hot pink! “I say no to the expected. I say yes to my childhood dreams and the colors that once fed me: scarlet, mauve, periwinkle, green…and PINK!”

The illustrations in this book, rendered in liquid watercolor, gouache and pencil crayons, energetically capture the essence of what Schiaparelli created. The illustrations are eye-popping!

The back material includes notes from both the author and the illustrator plus more delightful pictures and a photo of the designer.

BLOOM: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli with words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Julie Morstad is a beautiful picture book biography about creativity and the imagination for children 6-9 years of age (Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2018).


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