#IMWAYR: Picture Book Pandemonium, Part 19 (plus a preview of the #LiveLikeABookChallenge!)

I'm back again, with my second consecutive post after Max's Great Hiatus of 2022!

First off the bat, I'm using this post as a chance to announce something exciting...the #LiveLikeABookChallenge! This is a challenge I'll be hosting in January that gives you the chance to bring a book you love to life...and if you're curious what that means, click the big, dramatic link below to skip to the end of the post and see the details!

Jump to the #LiveLikeABookChallenge below!

Now for reviews! This week, I'm reviewing one picture book (A Spoonful of Frogs) completely from memory, because it was due back to the library several months ago and I read it like 20 minutes before returning it. And then I'm reviewing three more picture books I've had checked out for an obscene amount of time—I've been renewing them, so they're not overdue, but still...they need to get out of my house so other people can enjoy them.

Oh, and these reviews will almost definitely be super-short, because time is precious and my energy is long gone—so let's dive in!

A Spoonful of Frogs

Written by Casey Lyall and illustrated by Vera Brosgol

Quick links:

The publisher says:

"A witch’s favorite treat is frog soup. Luckily, it’s healthy and easy to make. To give it that extra kick and a pop of color, the key ingredient is a spoonful of frogs. But how do you keep the frogs on the spoon? They hop, they leap, they hide . . . and they escape. What is a poor witch to do?

Casey Lyall is a master of comedic timing with her deceptively simple and energetic text, and Caldecott Honor winner Vera Brosgol’s vibrant, hilarious illustrations make the witch—and the frogs!—practically leap off the page. The solution to the witch’s dilemma will surprise and delight young readers and their parents alike.

Teeming with laugher and hijinks, A Spoonful of Frogs is pure fun from beginning to end. A must-have for young readers, parents, witches, frog-lovers, and aspiring chefs."

What stood out to me?

I love Casey Lyall's MG novel Howard Wallace, P.I., and Vera Brosgol's many delightful MG graphic novels and picture books (including the glorious Leave Me Alone!) have stuck with me for a while. That said, this picture book did not quite hit me with the all-ages appeal some others do, though I think kids will adore the hilarious story and Brosgol's ever-luminous illustrations!

And again, I suspect I missed a whole lot of subtext reading this book as fast as humanly possible before I had to turn it in, so there's that!

Let's Do Everything and Nothing

By Julia Kuo

Quick links:

– See who recommended it: Earl Dizon and Linda Baie!

The publisher says:

"Let's Do Everything and Nothing is a lush and lyrical picture book from Julia Kuo celebrating special moments―big and small―shared with a child.

Will you climb a hill with me? 
Dive into a lake with me? 
Reach the starry sky with me,
and watch the clouds parade?

Love can feel as vast as a sky full of breathtaking clouds or as gentle as a sparkling, starlit night. It can scale the tallest mountains and reach the deepest depths of the sea.

Standing side by side with someone you love, the unimaginable can seem achievable. 
But not every magical moment is extraordinary. Simply being together is the best journey of all."

What stood out to me?

Wow. I may need to buy a copy of this for myself, because it's incredible. Kuo uses stunning illustrations full of rich colors and just enough details to catch the eye, and she writes mostly-rhyming text that lends a steady forward motion to this story. It's the perfect combination for this depiction of a mother and daughter whose love is enough to take them to the top of a mountain or the bottom of the sea—and also enough to let them find the joy in everyday moments too, whether getting ready for bed or spending time together on the sofa. This story is so simple and yet so flawless and complex, and I am so glad to have finally read it.

A Rose Named Peace:

How Francis Meilland Created a Flower of Hope for a World at War

Written by Barbara Carroll Roberts and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Quick links:

– See who recommended it: Karen Yingling!

The publisher says:

"From a young man’s experiments in cross-pollination to the rose that became an international symbol of hope, this gentle picture book biography, beautifully illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, is a quiet epic of war and peace.

Francis Meilland was passionate about roses. He loved their rich perfume, their buds unfurling in the summer sun, and their petals, soft as lambs’ ears. Like his father and grandfather before him, Francis cultivated flowers on the family farm in France. In his teens, he set about grafting and experimenting, determined to create a rose no one had seen before, and as the world braced for World War II, he rushed cuttings to rose-growing friends around the globe. Six patient years later, word reached him: his rose had not only flourished; people were calling it the Peace Rose.

An ideal gift for science and history buffs and for gardeners of all ages, this life story of a special flower is also a love song to living a dream from beginning to end, through sun and through storm."

What stood out to me?

Goodness—another stunning picture book! This story clocks in at 48 pages, but that gives it the space it needs to explore the soothing yet gripping story of Francis Meilland, whose quiet dedication in cross-breeding roses on his family's farm ultimately resulted in a new breed of rose that symbolized peace for communities around the world ravaged by World War II. Barbara Carroll Roberts tells this story with sensitivity, grace, and attention to detail, bringing readers through Meilland's childhood, the process of cross-breeding, the war, and the ultimate flourishing of the Peace roses. And Bagram Ibatoulline, who I know as the illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, brings this story to life with jaw-dropping photorealistic watercolor illustrations—seriously, the faces in particular look like they could be from photographs. I've stumbled across so many wonderful nonfiction picture books recently, and this is yet another exemplar of the genre!


Written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Corinna Luyken

Quick links:

– See who recommended it: Earl Dizon and many others!

The publisher says:

"In profound, uplifting verse and sumptuous artwork, beloved creators Matt de la Peña and Corinna Luyken explore the endless possibilities each child contains: A young dancer may grow into a computer coder; a basketball player might become a poet; a class clown may one day serve as an inspiring teacher; and today’s quiet empath might be tomorrow’s great leader. Here's a profound and uplifting new classic with an empowering message for readers of all ages: Your story is still being written."

What stood out to me?

Corinna Luyken's beautiful, colorful illustrations bring to life this unique story, which examines several children and the winding, surprising, perfectly imperfect paths their lives take as they become who they were meant to be. I won't repeat all the examples in the publisher's description above, but the premise of the story is built on so much wisdom, and frankly, I found it reassuring for myself that as messy as one's path can become, it is already, inherently, something lovely and worthwhile. That said, I didn't quite jive with the writing style—the repetition and occasional rhyme tripped me up a little. Also, I was distracted by the first story, because it seemed to be an exploration of gender identity, but it was quite metaphorical and I couldn't tell in that was actually what it was about or not—I wonder if there might be a way to tell this story with the same light touch while still being more explicit about the core meaning. Still, I'm glad I took the time to read this book, yet another wise story by the author of Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña.


And that's all the reviews I have for the week! I hope you found a fun book or two to read!

My favorite book of the week:

Let's Do Everything and Nothing

And now...the #LiveLikeABookChallenge!

For a few years, I've thought about hosting a reading challenge like many other bloggers do, but I honestly felt like no one needs another reading challenge to tend to. But I still wanted to find a way to bring the blogging community together as part of a fun activity.

Then a few random pieces of inspiration came together (including this article I saw that is basically my challenge for Taylor Swift rather than a book)...and I devised the #LiveLikeABookChallenge!

What do I do for this challenge?

Glad you asked! Basically, you'll pick one book—a favorite book, a recent read, whatever tickles your fancy. Then you'll come up with several activities to do over the challenge weekend (I'd suggest 3 or more), with the goal of trying to live like 1 or more characters in the book!

One note: the books you choose are not required to be kidlit!

These activities can be as complex or as simple as you want. At the risk of spoiling some of my own plans, I'm going to do activities based on Goodbye Stranger, including wearing cat ears around, making cinnamon toast, and maybe even writing some letters and never sending them (like Sherm)! The key thing is that these aren't just activities related to the book—they are activities that, in some small way, allow you to live as if you were inside the book!

How will challenge participants stay in touch?

I'm planning a few different ways:
  • Using the hashtag #LiveLikeABookChallenge on Twitter and Instagram
    • I created Twitter and Instagram accounts just for the occasion, but I am too much of a neophyte to deal with Instagram Stories, so if you want me to see your activities, keep it to regular posts, please!
  • Using the Goodreads group I will open on January 7
  • Using the link roundup I will post on my blog on January 7

When is the challenge?

The challenge will officially be open on Saturday, January 14 and Sunday, January 15, 2023! You can participate on either or both days—whatever's easiest for you.

If you're totally not at all free on the days of the challenge, I don't want you to miss out, so you can participate on other days if you have to! But because part of the fun will be everyone doing their activities and sharing about them at the same time, I do ask that you try to participate on the scheduled days if at all possible.

Do you have any disclaimers for me?

As a matter of fact, I do!

I do not necessarily endorse any of the content that other people create as part of this challenge. I ask that participants choose books and activities that are aligned with values of appropriateness, inclusion, and tolerance for all. I reserve the right to delete the content shared by challenge participants in any spaces that I control (the link roundup, the Goodreads group, etc.) if I deem it necessary. I have no control over what people share using the challenge hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, so please keep that in mind as you use those platforms.

Can I help spread the word?

A thousand percent yes! If you know ahead of time that you'll be participating, I'd love if you could share about it online and include the challenge graphic (above). I imagine participating will require some prep in advance, so the earlier potential participants hear about the challenge, the more likely they will actually be able to participate during the scheduled dates!


That's everything I've got—I will be posting updates about the challenge as the date nears, and I hope to see you all as participants! I'm excited to see what activities people come up with!


  1. This sounds such a fun challenge, Max! I will have to do a lot of thinking about a book that I not only love but can live out in a way different to normal life...but I look forward to it!

  2. What a fun challenge. Think kids would enjoy this one too!

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed A Spoonful of Frogs! I've added Patchwork because it looks beautiful and because of the quilting connection!
    The challenge sounds.... interesting. I will be busy reading graphic novels in my role as a Cybils round two judge. I will hope to find inspiration from them. At least they are guaranteed to be brilliant reading.

  4. All those books look good and I love the sound of this challenge. I am going to have to think about what book I want to live in for a weekend.

  5. I'm sharing your challenge with by local critique group and a few teens. A fun endeavor to wind down from the holidays. Thanks for telling us about it on this week's MMGM.

  6. Interesting idea. I have so little extra time, I probably won't be joining you, but have fun!

  7. I always enjoy your picture book reviews, so I don't get a chance to see the newest ones anymore!

    Your challenge sounds like so much fun! What a great and original idea :) Now I need to think about this and see what I can come up with. My top books this year took place on the moon, in outer space, on a slave plantation. The only one that might work involves canoeing, nature, and campfires (usually all a win for me), but that won't work in January! Will give this some thought.

    Hope you're enjoying your reading this week (yes, I'm late again!) -

    Book By Book


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