Book Review: Two new children’s books from Jungle Wagon Press

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

Jungle Wagon Press is releasing two new books that are worthy of special attention. One is a unique book about a difficult subject, helping children and loved ones deal with the loss of a loved one. The other is a funny, heartwarming book about how grandchildren can bring out the youth in their grandparents.


Heaven, by Angela Malavolti (ISBN: 978-0-9904271-1-7), illustrated by Angie Scordato, brings spiritual comfort to those who are grieving, as told from the viewpoint of the departed loved one without being maudlin. Malavolti wrote this book after losing her sister-in-law to cystic fibrosis in 2010, leaving two 18-month-old twin daughters. Her hope is that the book “ministers to every person whose heart longs for the arms of a departed loved one.” While the story is spiritual in nature, she says, “My intention is not to claim prophetic wisdom or analyze biblical truths but only to suggest the most delightful possibilities that Heaven just may hold for us.”

The pastel-type illustrations of Angie Scordato complement the comforting words of the text. The loved one in Heaven says, “I say a prayer for you/With every single breath you take./I lay here with you through the night/Till morning when you wake.” The loved one is depicted as a bright, white, angelic-type figure so that the readers can fill in the details as they see fit.

The simple story is presented from a Christian perspective without mentioning any particular denomination. The author says, “We must always look first to God’s Word, the Holy Bible, to learn about the Kingdom of Heaven!” The last two pages list some appropriate Scripture verses about the joys of Heaven. I would highly recommend this book to both children and adults who are missing a departed loved one.

"Shake Things Up,  Grandma"
“Shake Things Up, Grandma”

Shake Things Up, Grandma!, written and illustrated by Donna Sawtelle (ISBN: 978-0-9904271-4-8), she says, “is based on advice I was given by my granddaughter, Sarah, when she was 8 years old. We sat together chatting in the car on the way to a church activity. For 20 minutes, she advised me on how I could be more modern and youthful. As she talked, I quickly jotted her words down … I thought it was so hilarious it should be shared with others.”

As Sawtelle freely admits, she had to edit the advice for the purposes of the book, but as she says, “the voice of a sweet, candid little girl shines through the story and into the hearts of grandmas everywhere!”

Some of the comments are as follows: “Grandmas are boring. … They don’t wear cool clothes. They wear old people style clothes like pants that go practically up to their chins! … They don’t wear shirts with pictures of puppies or kitties on them … they could at least put sequins on their clothes … if you wear sparkly clothes, you’ll look happy and you’ll feel happy.” The little girl also suggests that grandmas wear bright-colored socks, let their hair grow out a little, color gray hair and strut when they walk, even if they have a cane. (Presumably, the grandmas she has in mind don’t suffer from rheumatism or arthritis.) She tells them, “Shake things up a little, so you can enjoy your life every day!”

Sarah also suggests that grandmas could wear glitzy sneakers, be careful putting on lipstick to avoid looking like a clown, and buy vitamins at the pharmacy “to keep the bounce in your step.”

Sawtelle’s delightful illustrations accompany each page of the story. Bright and cheerful, they suggest a joyful childhood filled with adventure (although for some reason I can’t fathom, the houses look about as substantial as a dish of Jell-O). Sawtelle is a self-taught artist who grew up in the country and notices details of nature that she includes in her artwork. She favors acrylic paint for the bright colors and sharp edges.

Both of these books are available from in Rockford.

From the Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015, issue

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