Melvin and the Boy

Melvin and the Boy

By: Lauren Castillo


To say that I am not completely sure how to review a picture book would be an understatement.  I read a lot of picture books, but when it comes to book reviews I usually stick to novels, but after reading Melvin and the Boy I just  cannot help myself.  What I do know is that kids of all ages will love this book.  My 2 and 4 year old had me read it a slew of times last night, and I imagine my fourth graders will eat this story up as well.

Melvin and the Boy is the story of a young boy’s dream to own a pet.  Everywhere he looks he sees children and adults with pets.  After getting regected when he asks for a pet: dog, monkey, and bird the boy’s parents finally agree to let him take home a turtle that he finds in a park.

When he gets home the young boy realizes that Melvin isn’t in love with being a “pet”.  Kids will love finding out what the boy does with his very special pet.

Melvin and the Boy is Lauren Castillo’s first time writing and illustrating a book.  In her previous work she only did the illustrations.  In my opinion she hit a home-run with Melvin and the Boy.  The illustrations do a beautiful job of walking with the text though the story.  Nothing about this book is flashy.  It has the look and feel of a classic.

If you would like to learn more and the work of Lauren Castillo check out her website at It is one of the nicest author websites that I have ever seen.


When Life Gives You O.J.-Erica S. Perl

A few weeks ago I saw the book trailer for the book “When Life Gives You O.J.” and I thought sweet, this looks like a cute little funny book that my dog loving fourth graders will eat up.  I didn’t take the book too seriously thinking it would be more funny then meaningful.  I ordered the book and placed in in my “To Be Read” pile.

Fast forward two weeks:

I loved the book!

“When Life Gives you OJ” is the story Zelly and her quest to get a real life dog.  Being in a new home in a new town, her parents don’t think that Zelly and the family are ready for the commitment that comes with getting a new dog. Zelly’s grandfather has a plan of his own.  He feels that if Zelly can convince her parents that she is in fact ready to take care of a dog, then she will get that prized “pup” she so desires.  Unfortunately, Ace, her grandfather, believes that taking care of a fake dog made from an empty OJ  container is the way to do the convincing.  Can you imagine the horror of being a new kid in town and having to walk, and clean up after a bottle of OJ?

Woowzah!  This book really surprised me.  Yes, it was funny.  Yes, my fourth graders will eat this up.  Cute little funny book: No way.  I was pleasantly surprised with the depth to “When Life Gives You OJ”.  This just a book about a girl trying to get a dog.  This was a book about: being the new kid, not fitting in, religious differences, losing a loved one, and friendship.

Being a friend and know what makes a good friend is not easy for 10ish year-olds, and this book does a wonderful job of showing how the best friends in life are not always the ones that we expect.  This book has staying power.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory-Rereading old Titles

At Goodwill a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl.  With the Johnny Depp movie most kids in my class won’t read this timeless classic.  Stupid movie.  I on the other hand have no problem rereading this book, and I don’t like rereading books.

There is something about reading a book that was read to you as a child.  Mrs. Collins, my fourth grade teacher at Parma Elementary, read our class this book. I can still remember sitting in my seat picking at my name tag and imagining poor Charlie huddled around his family opening his one candy bar for the year.  When he realized he hadn’t won the “Golden Ticket” I was crushed.  The world of Willie Wonka seemed like the most magical place to me as a 9 year old, and revisiting that place as a 30 year old was amazing.  It was like visiting an old friend. I give each one of my fourth graders a “Golden Ticket” each month to use as a homework pass.

As I read the part about Augustus being sucked into the pipes out of the chocolate river I could remember looking over at my best friend Cory and smiling as we both tried to picture what they would have felt like. The book took me back to my elementary library when our librarian helped me find “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda”.

It is amazing what sticks with you when you read books that touched your life.  What can you remember from being read aloud to as a kid?