The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond by Victoria Foyt

2 stars! The writing is well-paced and energetic, but the plot is predictable. While the story is unique, and the mix of technology and spirituality dynamic and original, there are so many technical mistakes it is nearly impossible to suspend one’s disbelief at the ghosts in the machine concept.

National Geographic Our World, Updated Edition: A Child’s First Picture Atlas by National Geographic Kids

5 stars! This introduction to continents and countries begins with an orientation session to the concept of a globe, a map, and land characteristics, which is a transition for how to recognize boundaries and landforms on a map.

Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Craig & Isabella Hatkoff

5 stars! Owen is a baby hippo, Mzee is a ancient tortoise; they strike up a surprising bond when they become acquainted at an animal sanctuary after Owen is rescued following a tsunami.

Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids And Dragons by Jean E. Pendziwol, illus. by Martine Gourbault

2 stars! sing elements from familiar fairy tales, a boy’s dragon friend is transformed into the protagonist of several major fairy tales after they magically become lost in the woods after leaping from a playground swing.

Sing, Nightingale, Sing! by Francoise de Guilbert, illustrated by Chiaki Miyamoto, music by Daniel Goyone

4 stars! Perhaps better suited to European purchasers, the book does hold value to American audiences for the artwork, clever facts and companion CD, all for a bargain price of less that the cost of the average picture book.