2020 Book Reviews: Mountain of Mysteries

illustration of girl reading in giant stack of books

Reviewed by Julie Simpson –

Looking for a way to bring some excitement to your life? Look no further than this collection of nail-biting, page-turning, can’t-put-it-down mysteries from Colorado authors. From the shores of Nantucket to the vineyards of Oregon, travel with these investigators, sleuths, and searchers as they uncover the clues and bring the bad guys to justice. Family secrets will be learned, victims will be avenged, and disaster will be averted. More importantly, through all these reads, you will be left guessing until the very last chapter.

In addition to mysteries, we also have a great selection of romance, thriller, young adult, and non-fiction titles for you to enjoy. Do you any of these books pique your interest? Enter our November contest for your chance of adding one – or more – of these great books to your library. Click here to enter. Happy reading!

First Tracks
By Catherine O’Connell

Ski patroller Greta Westerlind remembers the roar, the panic, and the crushing snow of the avalanche that put her in the hospital. What she can’t remember is why she was on that dangerous part of the mountain in the first place, or why her friend Warren was with her. He is dead and she is crippled by amnesia and guilt.

Maybe her confidence in her skiing skill spurred her to make a fatal choice. But when a suspicious furnace malfunction almost kills her again, then someone tries to set her cabin on fire, Greta realizes she and Warren may be the targets in a murder plot? But why? When another girl disappears, Greta’s faced with another devastating possibility: could her new love interest be capable of murder?

From the slopes of Aspen, to the famed ski resorts of the Alps, follow Greta through this harrowing mystery of false identities, love, and murder.

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Death on Tuckernuck
By Francine Mathews

A Category 3 hurricane is bearing down on Nantucket, throwing the usually sleepy off-season seaside community into chaos. As a part of their job as caretakers, Dionis Mather and her father must evacuate all residents off the private island of Tuckernuck, whether they want to go or not. When she returns one last time to the island, Dionis finds herself trapped, not just by the storm, but by a suspicious person who shouldn’t be there either.

Back on the mainland, Detective Meredith Folger is supposed to be getting married this weekend, but between the storm and a wrecked private yacht with two gunshot victims aboard, it looks like her party might be postponed. Despite her personal worries and the raging storm, Merry has to find the murderer wherever he’s holed up against the weather…before he kills again.

A well-written mystery set in unique circumstances, Death on Tuckernuck is the latest engaging Merry Folger thriller by Colorado author Francine Mathews.

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Her Perfect Life
By Rebecca Taylor

Author Clare Collins seemed to have the perfect life: fame, lots of money, and a loving husband. So, when she is found dead by her own hand, everyone is asking: why would someone with everything commit suicide?

No one is more confused than Clare’s sister, Eileen. She always envied the charmed life her sister led, a life that looked perfect compared to her own mess. Why would Clare throw it all away? Eileen travels to Clare’s house and starts to learn about the sister she never really knew. Clare’s last novel might hold the key to unlocking the secret burden she carried, the heavy truth that led her to put a bullet in her own heart.

With Her Perfect Life, Colorado author Rebecca Taylor has crafted a thoroughly entertaining page-turner that examines the destructive power of our own false narratives.

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Killing Godiva’s Horse
By J. M. Mitchell

New Mexico, Montana, Washington D.C. and Kenya. What do these places have in common? The clash among environmentalists, corporate business interests and politicians, and park ranger Jack Chastain in the middle of it all.

After a devastating loss in Montana, Jack finds himself once again trying to make peace in the middle of a war over public land. This time, he must attempt to negotiate between a deadbeat rancher, a two-faced politician, and the people trying to preserve the presence of wild horses in the national park. After he’s reprimanded for his efforts, Jack travels to Kenya to try to help a fellow ranger continue the research of a murdered scientist. What he learns about poaching in Kenya might just be the key he needs to solve the conflict in New Mexico. But will the tables be turned on him in a repeat of what happened in Montana?

This dense, well-researched environmental mystery thriller comes out of Colorado author J. M. Mitchell’s own experiences during a long career in the National Park Service.

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Virtues of Strangers
By Sharon McAnear

If you have any association with life in a small, rural town, then you’ll enjoy the Jemma Series by Colorado author Sharon McAnear.

In book six, Virtues of Strangers, Jemma is married to the love of her life and has two kids, with another one on the way. But when her handsome husband spends more time at work than with her and hires a gorgeous new assistant, will their picture-perfect life implode?

While Chillaton, Texas, gossips about Jemma and Chase, the small-town postmistress also investigates the odd affairs of her recently deceased husband. Was he a boring old fisherman, or a secret Mafia member? And what is his connection to the strange old woman who has recently moved to town?

A unique blend of mystery and love story, this novel about small town life draws on the memories of the author’s own grandmother.

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Denver City Justice
By J.v.L. Bell

Millie and Dom Drouillard are finally married and ready to settle into marital bliss in 1864 Colorado, tired of the drama that has seemed to follow them wherever they go. But when the infamous blackmailer Widow Ferris is found dead with an icicle through her heart, the people of Denver City start pointing fingers – at Dom.

Millie finds that being a wife enhances her penchant for sleuthing rather than dampening it as she seeks answers that will prove her husband is innocent of murder. But all men have secrets. If she digs deep enough, will the man she loves turn out to be a secret scoundrel?

Colorado author J.v.L. Bell has crafted another light classic historical whodunit that is rich with both mystery and humor.

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A Vintage Revenge
By Lee Mossel

Denver private investigator Cortland Scott hasn’t been back to his hometown in Oregon for decades. But when a former girlfriend begs him to investigate a murder under the guise of returning for a high school reunion, he feels obligated to say yes.

With divorces, marriages, new businesses and the rise of the wine and marijuana industries, the town and its people are hardly recognizable. Cort must navigate a changed landscape of motives and alliances as he seeks the truth…and avoids becoming the next victim.

While this whodunit by Colorado author Lee Mosel can read awkwardly at times, it still provides enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing at the identity of the murderer until the end.

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By Blake Crouch

What if there existed a way to capture a memory, turn it into a computer program and then send it back into the brain so a person could experience it, in real time, all over again? That’s the technology that Helena Smith wants to develop, motivated by her own mother’s slow decline into the oblivion of Alzheimer’s.

But Helena cannot anticipate the connection her invention makes between memory and the actual fabric of time, or the endlessly twisting, and inevitably destructive, complications that result. Neither can she untangle the webs that tie her in every timeline to Barry Sutton, an ordinary New York City cop, or the egomaniacal machinations of Marcus Slade. Maybe she can find a way to close the Pandora’s box she’s opened. Or maybe she should just live her life the best she can before the world ends.

In his craziest, most mind-bending story yet, Colorado author Blake Crouch has created yet another stunning science fiction thriller with Recursion.

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The Legend of Carl Draco
By Gary Reilly

Carl Draco knows two things for sure: that he has been pursued by supernatural assassins all his life, and that he possesses an incredible power to dispatch them. He doesn’t know why they’re trying to kill him or who is sending them. That is, until he crosses paths again with a professor who took an interest in him as a boy.

The information the professor imparts sends Carl back to his homeland: a town in the Appalachian Mountains unmarked on any map. He finds the past of a family he never knew, a place where the Draco name has become legend. And, he finds a man with powers strong enough to match his own, waiting for him to return.

This novel mixes contemporary magical realism with the rich tradition of American tall tales to create an entertaining, well-written, and utterly unique story that appeals to a variety of readers. This is the 13th posthumously published manuscript of the late author Gary Reilly, who grew up in Colorado.

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Stolen Heart
By K.L. McKee

The instant Abby Stewart agrees to pretend to be her boss’s fiancé for two weeks, she deeply regrets it. But the promise she made her dying mother to pay off her con-artist father’s debt continues to hang over her head, and the money her boss offers for the charade would really help. Besides, if his family is as horrible as he is, she shouldn’t feel too bad about lying to them…right?

But when Abby arrives in North Fork, Colorado, she finds that Kevin’s dairy farming family is the exact opposite of him, especially his handsome brother, Jake. Where Kevin is selfish and obsessed with appearances, Jake is gentle, kind, and down-to-earth. Abby finds her feelings for Jake growing, but if she doesn’t keep up the lie as Kevin’s fiancé, she might never pay off her father’s debt. And how would Jake feel about her, anyway, if he found out she is a liar?

The truth is bound to come out eventually. When it does, will Abby find a way to make a reality out of the dream life she’s found in North Fork?

A feel-good story about family and forgiveness by a western Colorado author, Stolen Heart takes place within the familiar landscape of the Rocky Mountains.

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Go Ask Fannie
By Elisabeth Hyde

The Blaire children all have their hang-ups. Lizzy is dating a much older man who clearly isn’t right for her. Ruth tries her hardest to create a picture-perfect life while struggling with her husband’s affair. George pours himself into work and running, too afraid to commit to love. Murray Blaire, their father, knows he’s asking for trouble by inviting them all to visit the farm on the same weekend.

Despite their differences, the Blaire family is bound together by one terrible event: the car accident that killed their mother and brother one snowy night. Their days spent together weave the past, their part in that tragedy, and everything that has followed into a tapestry of family life that has shaped who they are, for good or bad. Maybe, if they can find a way to tolerate each other, they might actually find a way to move forward instead of always looking back.

Colorado author and Boulder resident Elisabeth Hyde astutely captures the complexities of a family marked by trauma in this well-written novel.

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By Harper McDavid

Engineer Avery McAndrews is as fiery as her red hair, even when it comes to talking down a cartel member in the border town of Zapata, Texas. What she doesn’t know is that that this man is actually the crazed son, Javier, of the man at the head of the infamous Ramos cartel. In retribution for her insolence, Javier has her kidnapped and held for ransom at one of his brothels across the border.

Alejandro DeLeon holds the official title of the cartel’s attorney, but he’s also been assigned as Javier’s babysitter. Mostly he works to keep Javier’s bad decisions under wraps while he secretly collects evidence against the Ramos family to pass on to the FBI. But when he sees Avery held captive, beaten and destined for death or slavery, he decides that rescuing her is worth the risk of blowing his cover.

The undeniable attraction between the two grows as they crisscross Mexico only one step ahead of Javier. But will they, or their love, be able to survive the challenges they face?

Colorado author Harper McDavid utilizes her own experience as an engineer working along the U.S.-Mexico border into Avery McAndrews, the main character in this captivating book.

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By Alexa Martin

Brynn Sterling has made a great life for herself. She’s built a successful downtown Denver bar, has a close group of girlfriends (including the wives of many Mustangs football players), and enjoys a close relationship with her dad. She certainly doesn’t need a boyfriend to complicate things.

But when Maxwell Lewis walks into her bar, everything changes. Not only is he a gorgeous famous football star, but he’s also sweet, attentive, and humble. Despite her best efforts, Brynn falls head-over-heels for him. But is he hiding a secret that might tear them apart?

The book is a thoroughly entertaining romance written by an actual Colorado NFL wife.

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Final Option
By Clive Cussler

A nuclear attack submarine has been mysteriously sunk. The identities of American spies in Brazil have been leaked. A deadly weapon from World War I may have been discovered in the jungle. The one thing these events have in common: a daring plot to destroy the reputations and lives of Captain Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the super ship Oregon.

When it comes to speed, weaponry and stealth, the Oregon was thought to be unmatched. But a powerful enemy set on revenge has managed to make a twin ship in order to bring down Cabrillo. When the vessels inevitably fight head to head, the only difference between them will be their crews. Will the Oregon crew’s ingenuity and daring be enough to save the world again?

Final Option is the latest installment in the Oregon Files series by the late Clive Cussler, who was New York Times best-selling author and a former Colorado resident.

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Trapper’s Moon
By Gini Rifkin

In the rough and isolating wilderness of the frontier, mountain fur trapper Kade McCauley has become accustomed to a life without romantic love. But then, his trail brings him into the path of Blind Deer, a beautiful half-Native American woman with the fiercest spirit he has ever encountered.

But even if they can individually survive wild animals, the murderous agents of the Hudson Bay Company, starvation and hostile tribes, can their love manage to bridge the gap between their different worlds and bring their destinies into alignment?

Colorado author Gini Rifkin’s latest book is full of historically accurate details, which bring this short love story to life.

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The Return of the Scoundrel
By Amethyst Creek

Maggie and Garret Blackstone thought they were safe in their love and their new life in Weld County, Colorado. Then Bridger Crandall, the man they put in jail, escapes and threatens to destroy everything they’ve built since his conviction.

Meanwhile, the beautiful Libby Talbott visits her brother in Leadville on her way to becoming the newest school mistress for Weld County. There she meets a handsome man known in Leadville as Richard Rutledge. He seems particularly interested when she tells him she will be boarding at the Blackstone ranch.

The scoundrel, whether he is called Bridger or Richard, threatens to destroy multiple lives on his path of vengeance. Can the people of Weld County stop him before it’s too late?

While not as much of a romance novel as the cover may suggest, this book does include fascinating details of life in late-1800s Colorado.

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The Dead Girl in 2A
By Carter Wilson

This fast-moving thriller by an Erie author opens on a plane flight to Denver. Jake Buchannan feels that he knows the woman sitting next to him, but he can’t decide how he knows her. Clara Stowe feels she has nothing in common with the man sitting next to her, but she, too, feels a deep certainty that they’ve met before.

As they struggle to figure out how they might have crossed paths before, Clara admits she’s flying to Colorado to kill herself in the mountains. With that revelation, she is off the plane and lost in the crowded airport. Jake is left reeling.

And so the book begins. What follows after Jake and Clara get off the plane includes a shadowy, manipulative figure who is working in the background — their paranoia is well founded — and a psychological twist unlike anything else you’ve read.

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The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain
By Rick Crandall and Joseph Cosgriff

All pet owners love their dogs. But every once and awhile, a special pet comes along that not only makes a life better, but actually changes it forever. For Rick Crandall, that special dog was an Australian Terrier named Emme.

One would never look at a picture of Emme and think, “That’s a mountain climbing dog.” But that was Emme’s favorite thing to do, and she didn’t let her show dog status or short legs keep her from climbing Colorado’s 14ers during her lifetime. For Rick, hiking with Emme brought a newfound passion and better physical health in the aftermath of a divorce and financial loss. She may have been small, but Emme’s extraordinary life ended up having an enormous impact on Rick and many others who knew her.

A touching memoir, especially for those who have ever been lucky enough to be the human of an extraordinary dog, The Dog Who Took Me Up a Mountain is also a testament about the power of the mountains to heal a battered soul.

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Colorado’s Carlino Brothers: A Bootlegging Empire
By Sam Carlino

Think that all the brutal, moonshine running, bullets spraying Mafia action happened in New York and Chicago? Think again. Colorado had its own family of gangsters who controlled the alcohol black market during Prohibition: the Carlinos.

Written by the grandson of one of the infamous Carlino brothers, this record of a wild and dangerous time in Colorado history is a well-researched true story that reads like a novel. Sam Carlino traces his family all the way from Italy to their eventual hasty departure to California, where the descendants of the gangster Carlinos have sought to overcome and forget the bloody events of the past.

Enjoy this exciting, informative glimpse into Colorado history, complete with fascinating family photos.

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Death: Where is Thy Sting?
By Shari Howard McMinn

Subtitled “Recovery from the Loss of our Loved Ones and Preparation for Our Own Final Days,” this self-help book focuses on dealing with death and dying by providing a path to hope and a joyful future. Launched as a #1 new release on Amazon.com, the conversational book offers practical advice from the author, who experienced three tragic deaths in her immediate family over the last 20 years. Those losses included her husband, who left her a widow on a farm near Fort Morgan with five minor children.

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Formula for Failure in Vietnam
By William Hamilton

While many have a general idea of the Vietnam War as a failure that left many broken lives in its wake, few know much about the details of this conflict and why it progressed so poorly. Granby resident and decorated veteran William A. Hamilton writes an extremely detailed and researched evaluation of the Vietnam War in this dense and intelligent book perfect for readers interested in military strategy and history.

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By John A. Daly

What would a group of possible cult-followers want with a long-empty retired nuclear missile site on the eastern plains of Colorado? For Sean Coleman there has never been anything remotely threatening or dangerous about his solo existence as the caretaker of this rarely visited museum and records archive. He’s drifted through his days and filled his nights with booze.

But, once his solitude is interrupted by a mysterious group with guns and the members force their way into the missile site with vague references to a specific timeline, he realizes he’s got to find his own way out of their mad plan. What was once a slow day on the plains west of Greeley, becomes a fight for survival.

The missile silo setting for this fourth book in the Sean Coleman Thriller series by Greeley author John A. Daly, actually exists in rural Weld County.

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Tiny Goat, Big Cheese: A Farm-to-Table Hobby to Career Odyssey
By Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson, founder, owner and lead cheese making instructor at Briar Gate Farm in Longmont, recently added cookbook author to her resume. The cookbook, Tiny Goat, Big Cheese: A Farm-to-Table Hobby to Career Odyssey, can help you make delectable cheeses such as chèvre, ricotta, feta, cottage cheese and more from the comfort of your own kitchen. In the book she also offers handy tips for goat keeping and cheese making. Before COVID-19, the award-winning cheese maker offered on-site cheese making classes at the Farm where she raises her Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. She has since moved to a virtual platform.
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There’s Something About Sweetie (Young Adult)
By Sandhya Menon

Sweetie Nair is smart, sassy and a star athlete. But, according to her parents, she has one big problem that trumps all her good qualities: she’s fat. Sweetie tries to ignore the voices telling her that her size is all that matters, but sometimes even she begins to doubt herself.

Ashish Patel’s girlfriend dumps him, and despite his handsome face, he can’t seem to get his confidence back when it comes to girls. In a weak moment, he agrees to let his parents set him up with a nice Indian girl: Sweetie Nair. The two have a mutual agreement to go on the traditional dates Ashish’s parents have laid out for them, never anticipating the chemistry that starts to form between them. But can they overcome the voices telling them what they should be in order to love each other as they are? An uplifting story about love and loving yourself, this book by a Colorado author is an enjoyable read for anyone teenaged to old age.

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Fake (Young Adult)
By Donna Cooner

The pranks, the laughs, the stares, the jokes. Maisie Fernandez is tired of her weight being the center of attention wherever she goes, especially at Fort Collins High School. She’s an artist, a daughter, a friend, a sister, and she thinks, a decent person. Why can’t anyone, including herself, see beyond her size?

Then she’s assigned one of the most popular boys in school as a lab partner, a boy who bullied her in the past. She gets an awesome, horrible idea: she’ll create a profile pretending to be a pretty, skinny, popular girl, get him to fall for her and then break his heart.

But all the lying gets complicated and Maisie starts to see that these people she hates, the people she thought hated her, are just kids like her, with insecurities, secret pains and a desire to be seen for who they really are. Can Maisie overcome the ugly parts of herself, forgive the people who hurt her and find a way to love herself before it’s too late?

While written primarily for the young adult fiction crowd, this novel by Colorado author Donna Cooner is an inspiring read for adults as well.

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Nessie Quest (Middle Grade)
By Melissa Savage

Adelaide Ru Fitzhugh thinks Scotland bites. She had thought her parents were finally going to announce a family vacation to Disney World this summer, but instead her dad accepts a teaching job near Loch Ness, Scotland, for the entire summer. That means she has to live in a creepy old monastery for three whole months.

But things start to look up when she makes new friends and hears about the legend of Nessie, the famed monster of the lake. Ada Ru finds herself pulled into the world of monster chasing and encounters danger and excitement, both real and imagined. So maybe Scotland isn’t so bad after all. That is, if she and her friends can find real evidence of Nessie before anyone else.

An exciting, funny and thoughtful story for all ages, Nessie Quest is especially perfect for middle school-aged girls. Colorado author Melissa Savage applies her background as a child psychologist to add emotional depth and good parental conversations to an otherwise lighthearted story.

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The Free Horse (Chapter Book) 
By Susan Carpenter Noble

Perfect for middle-grade readers who love horses, this book is a follow-up to this Cortez author’s first book Cowgirls Don’t Quit.

In both books, 11-year-old Meghan Callahan’s passion for horses lead to adventures and hard lessons. In the first book, Ol’ Ben, who has taught her to ride, invites Meghan alone on a real life cattle drive. But will her parents, who don’t share Meghan’s love of horses, allow her to go? Will it be safe and will they get the job done?

There are more bruises and hard lessons in the second book as Meghan determines to win the title of Rodeo Princess. Friends turn against her and deal with their own crises. But events bring Meghan to a decision: is she willing to give up her own dreams for the happiness of someone else?

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God Gave Us the Bible (Young Book Lovers)
By Lisa Tawn Bergren

This Colorado author shares 45 easy-to-understand Bible stories just for young ones. They are written in a heartwarming and conversational tone, providing a resource for parents and grandparents wanting to introduce Bible stories to young children.
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The Colorado Curveball (Chapter Book)
By David A. Kelly

It’s the home opener for the Colorado Rockies but a freak snowstorm has covered the field in snow. With a little luck, the snow melts in time for the game, but now before someone threatens to tamper with the scoreboard. In this Ballpark Mysteries chapter book, cousins Mike and Kate have to find the mischief-makers before it is too late.

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What’s This Tail Saying? (Picture Book)
By Carolyn Combs, Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Kids can find out what animal tails are saying when they swish, shake and splash in this colorful picture book, illustrated by a Colorado artist. The picture book also comes with an appendix of fun information on all of the animals mentioned in the book, as well as suggestions for STEAM activities that can be used with the book to broaden the learning from its colorful, well-illustrated pages.

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The Tiny Giant (Picture Book)
By Barbara Ciletti, Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

On the pages of this colorful picture book, children can see, through playful illustrations by a Colorado artist, how a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak. Thanks to an informational appendix, they can also learn about different kinds of acorns and about Arbor Day’s history and purpose.

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Up, Down & All Around (Picture Book)
By Rocki Mitchell, Illustrated by Laura Watson

A simple picture book of rhymes reminds kids busy growing to keep smiling, eat fresh, healthy foods and get enough sleep in this short, whimsical book by a Pagosa Springs writer.

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