Book Review and Vintage Valentine Mood Board for LOVE by Matt De La Pena and Illustrated by Loren Long

Book Review and Vintage Valentine Mood Board for LOVE by Matt De La Pena and Illustrated by Loren LongLove by Matt de la Pena, Loren Long
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on January 9th 2018
Pages: 40

From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.
"In the beginning there is light and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed and the sound of their voices is love....A cab driver plays love softly on his radiowhile you bounce in back with the bumps of the city and everything smells new, and it smells like life."

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that's soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Welcome to the LOVE blog tour to celebrate the release of LOVE by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. Today is my turn to share my thoughts on this  beautifully crafted and magnificently illustrated book that captures the epitome and complexities of the sentiment.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by old fashioned Valentines, and I thought it would be a fun to put together mood board of some of my favorite cards in celebration of LOVE. I am also attaching at the bottom, one of my favorite songs by Sarah Bareilles (“Bottle it Up”) because I think it captures  some of the book’s ideas quite well too.


In Love we are reminded of the sentiment’s  many faces, and that it comes in many forms. Though there are times  we suffer pain, there are also times of joy and laughter. Love shows us that it can be found in the simplest of moments, or even in the darkest ones.

The diverse and vivid illustrations perfectly showcase and illuminate Matt’s words. Love leads the reader through a cascade of emotions from reliving childhood glee, the sensation of wonder, the grief of loss, the understanding that comes with growing up, and the enchantment of being loved. Matt de la Peña’s tender words will touch your heart and that is LOVE.


One of the most touching pages (to me at least), above, reads:

“And in time you learn to recognize a love overlooked. A love that wakes at dawn and rides to work on the bus. A slice of burned toast that tastes like love.”

This page brought tears to my eyes, as I started to think about all the times my aunt would get up at the crack of down to head to work, in order to provide for me and my cousin. Or all the sacrifices my grandmother made for my wellbeing. It truly touched me.

LOVE is a glorious celebration of “love” and will appeal to all ages. I absolutely LOVED reading it and hope it will find a place in your heart too.


Favorite Quote: “And it’s love in the rustling leaves of gnarled trees line behind the flower fields”





Matt de la Peña is the author of Last Stop on Market Street, which won the Newbery Medal and was chosen for a Caldecott Honor. He is also the author the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis and six critically acclaimed young adult novels. Matt teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country. Matt lives in Brooklyn,




Illustrator Bio: Loren Long is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Otis series. He’s also the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestseller Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama, as well as the re-illustrated, #1 New York Times bestseller The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. He lives near Cincinnati with his wife, two sons, and two Weimaraners.




Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy in return for an honest review.




January 8 – Margie’s Must Reads – Mood Board

January 9 – DoodleMom’s Homeschooling Life – Review and Review and Creative (lesson plan/unit study)

January 10 – The Keepers of the Books – What Love Means to different age groups

January 11 – The Children’s Book Reviews – Creative

January 12 – Books4yourkids – Creative




January 15 – Happily Ever Elephants – Review + Kids quotes on what love is to them.

January 16 – Crayon Freckles – Creative Learning Activity

January 17 – My Book Bloom – Review and Craft

January 18 – My Little Poppies – Activity

January 19 – All Done Monkey – Lesson plan or activity.




January 22 – Mundie Moms – Ask 7th graders what they think of the definition of “love”

January 23 – Wandering Bark Books – Spotlight

January 24 – Little Lit Book Series – Arts and Crafts Post

January 25 – Between the Reads – Review AND exploring what love means in today’s society and what it means to me

January 26 – The Plot Bunny – Old Valentine’s Mood Board




January 29 – Just Commonly – “Love is” Collage

January 30 – Inspiration Laboratories – Artwork demonstrating love




Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books on January 30th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Ever read something so delightfully dark, strange and magical that you couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty you loved it so much, even with all the bloody parts? Though I confess I didn’t feel one bit guilty about loving all the gritty bloody parts of The Hazel Wood. My little black heart relished in all its grisly glory.

It’s about time we finally have a fairy tale that isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. That doesn’t necessarily end in “happily ever after” or with anyone being “saved”.  A fairy tale that is reminiscent of the long forgotten Grimm tales. Before they were all “Disney-fied” with a whoosh of a wand by a benevolent fairy god mother. Well friends, The Hazel Wood is the book for you!

Welcome to The Hazel Wood, where nothing is what is seems. Alice is enthralled with her elusive grandmother Althea Proserpine, the writer of an infamous collection of dark fairy tales called Tales from the Hinterland. Ella (Alice’s mom) is determined to keep Alice away from her grandmother or stepping foot in The Hazel Wood, Althea’s enigamous estate. Yet this never deters Alice from collecting bits of news story on her grandmother whenever she can get her hands on it.

Ella keeps them on the run; drifting from place to place trying to avoid the “bad luck” she is so adamant is always following them.  Now that Alice is older, she can’t help but wonder if all this moving has anything to do with her grandmother and the fairy tale world she created.  Soon enough Alice gets her answers when a note appears stating that her grandmother is dead, and soon after Ella goes missing.


Alone for the first time, Alice turns to the only person she feels can help her, a school mate named Ellery Finch who happens to be an uber-fan of Althea’s book.

Together they set off to find Ella, who Alice is convinced (due to mysterious  and grim clues left for her), has been snatched away to The Hazel Wood by the characters of The Hinterland.  Little does Alice realize how treacherous and bloody their journey is about to become.

This is not an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I’ve heard a few readers mentioning this, and though I found some similarities, I allotted that to how my own mind works.

Although, while reading I did keep thinking about how Ellery Finch reminded me of the White Rabbit leading an unknowing Alice down the void of the rabbit hole and straight into the hands of a variety of fairy tale characters. While not all of them are “mad” or “bloodthirsty” the possibilities for peril are always there.

I thought Twice-Killed Katherine (one of my favorites) reminded me of The Queen of Hearts, but instead of chopping off heads she just sucks you dry of your vitality and life. Even the Spinner could be seen as a combination of the mischievous Cheshire cat and the wise yet confusing smoking Caterpillar.

Then there is the stepping through “portals” from the mundane “reality” into the wondrous and ravenous world of the Hinterland.  Which is a bit like stepping “through the looking glass” but I also found it very similar to Belle crossing the invisible barrier in the forest that allowed her to discover the Beast’s castle. Or even hiding in a wardrobe and pushing so far in that you end up in Narnia.

The moment Alice finally finds and enters The Hazel Wood/The Hinterland is one of my favorite scenes from the book. I love how the author captured this moment, and made it her own.

I really liked Alice, though I could see where her “icy-ness” could rub some readers the wrong way. However before judging her too harshly keep in mind Alice has been through a lot. She has no stable home or friendships. She’s a teenager with lots of unanswered questions. To me, the hidden rage just below her surface is expected and what made her “real”.  I liked her fierceness, intelligence and independent nature. I also love all her book and pop culture references through out the story.

Another favorite part of The Hazel Wood were the tidbits and peaks of the stories from Tales of the Hinterland. These strange, ominous and creepy tales NEED to be a actual book one day.  The “stories” /characters from the Hinterland were intriguing and I really hope we get to find out more about them.  (PRETTY PLEASE MELISSA!!!)

For readers who want a bit of a “trigger warning” this book does contain unsettling, macabre and graphic violence. When I said earlier that this story is dark, I was not joking. No rainbows, sparkles, sunshine or pretty ponies. Okay? Enter at your own risk (::whispers creepily:: Do it….the dark side has cookies…or at least some type of booze/food at the pub found deep in the Hinterland where the “stories” hangout….).

The Hazel Wood has kept me mesmerized for almost a year now. I found the author’s take on the ever changing genre of fairy tales to be refreshing and brilliant. Melissa Albert crafts a fascinating tale filled with complex stories within a story that is haunting, unique and unforgettable.

If you want to find yourself lost in a magical moon-lit forest filled with “stories” that can lure you to your bloody end or all sorts of other mayhem,  enter The Hazel Wood. You won’t regret it.  I highly recommend it, and rate it 5 stars+.

UPDATE: THERE WILL BE MORE BOOKS!!!! The Hazel Wood will have a  second book and Tales from the Hinterland will also be a book!!! Every part of my  soul was dancing with happiness when I heard this news.

I can’t wait to return to this bewitching world in 2019 and 2020 when Albert will be releasing book 2 and Tales from the Hinterland.

A very special THANK YOU to Flatiron Books (Thanks Sarah!!!) for providing me with an ARC of The Hazel Wood in return for an honest review. As well as Melissa Albert for writing this delightfully wicked debut.