All Critics Great & Small

Everyone has an opinion; from the youngest reader to the professional reviewer. Here’s what they have to say about the books and school visits:


Book Reviews:



A Grand Slam Birthday by Chrysa Smith is a wonderful, super fun, and entertaining book for children to encourage them to try new things and experiences that will surprise them and bring them a lot of joy, much fun and satisfaction. Can a baseball-playing tomboy really have fun at a dance party? When Dory Oslo gets invited to her cousin Izzy’s girly party, she finds out that baseball players can do more than “slide” on the field!

At the insistence of her mom, Dory Oslo trades in her regular baseball gear for a dress to wear to her cousin Izzy’s birthday party. When she gets there and finds out that it is a dance party, she gets a clever idea to turn the gift she bought for Izzy into a game of baseball. Izzy and everyone have a lot of fun playing ball, but Izzy convinces Dory that dancing is fun, too!

Chrysa Smith’s A Grand Slam Birthday is a creative way to show children that trying new things can be fun. It is full of fun double-page illustrations and has a great balance of words and pictures. One of the book’s key messages is that even someone like Dory, who is passionate about baseball, can find joy in something different, like dancing. This theme can be inspiring for children who might feel hesitant about trying new things. A Grand Slam Birthday also highlights the importance of creativity and resourcefulness, as Dory’s quick thinking transforms a potentially awkward situation into a fun-filled game.

A Grand Slam Birthday by Chrysa Smith is an enjoyable award worthy read that offers valuable lessons for children. It encourages children of various ages to step outside their comfort zones and embrace new experiences with openness and creativity. Don’t miss out—you’ll want to have your own Grand Slam Birthday after reading this fun book! A Grand Slam Birthday by Chrysa Smith comes highly recommended by Kids Lit Book Café. Book reviewed by Michaela for Kids Lit Book Café..

A Grand Slam Birthday:

Well, you did it again; another fabulous book! The kids love it so far. We are about halfway through reading it.

–Dione Soboleski, West Berwick Elementary, PA

In A Grand Slam Birthday, Cousin Izzy’s birthday party demands that attendee Dory wear a proper dress rather than her favored baseball pants. Still, Dory looks forward to celebrating, and has a cool gift that will enhance the party atmosphere.

The surprise comes when she meets a fellow baseball player who also eschews the dance party Izzy’s arranged. In fact, nobody wants to dance. 

Dory’s gift may provide the solution to the birthday party’s stalled enthusiasm, but it’s not a board game or puzzle. It offers an unusual activity none of the kids have seen, and it ultimately encourages all the participants to try their hands at something Dory has loved all her young life. 

Chrysa Smith offers a different birthday celebration theme that revolves around translating one’s passion into achievable, enjoyable fun everyone can pursue. Her depiction of how two unfamiliar pursuits eventually engage the entire party in trying something new makes for an appealing story that goes beyond the usual birthday themes to encourage kids to problem-solve in more cooperative ways. 

While A Grand Slam Birthday holds a baseball theme, its story is about much more than baseball. It will engage a wide range of picture book readers, whether they know or care about the sport or not.

The message about trying new things is really a lesson on positivity and creative pursuits. This approach will delight both picture book readers and their read-aloud parents with a taste of something different. –Midwest Book Review


The Upside-Down Gardener:

There is so much to like about this book. The illustrations are so captivating, I love the cover art a lot and think it would be great for kids to revisit and get lost in while the book is being read to them. I appreciated the creativity and originality of this book. There are a lot of stories about gardens and about personal growth, but I felt that this takes a fresh approach, and that the narrative is added to positively by the pictures. It would be a fun series to see these characters and illustrations again. The messaging of perspective, shifting your ideas and viewpoints is presented well without being didactic and I enjoyed the read.                                -Reader’s Digest Reviewer

“All in all, this imaginative, illustrated easy reader lends itself well to newly independent readers or kids ready to sit for a tale presented in a slightly different format to a picture book…would also make a great addition to a classroom collection for group reading time. This is a lovely springtime or baseball season read.”–The Children’s Book Review

‘A different kind of gardening story. The Upside-Down Gardener offers a standout from any other picture book about young gardeners. It is an exceptional read that links the effort to grow plants to a broader discussion of growing new ideas, objectives, and approaches to life. A top recommendation for elementary-level collections looking for a creative approach to problem-solving that uses gardening as a springboard for achievement and positive approaches to life itself.”  –D. Donovan Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“The Upside-Down Gardener is a fun and imaginative introduction into the world of gardening. It is engaging and keeps the reader’s interest…”  —Genya Hopf, Penn State Master Gardener, Bucks County, PA

Once upon a Poodle:

“Once upon a Poodle will lend particularly well to parental read-aloud. Colorful illustrations capture the fun personalities and events as Woody experiences a wide range of potential brother candidates, and kids will relish the lively, positive story of a little dog who holds on to hope and never gives up.”  —D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

The Adventures of the Poodle Posse series:

‘This fun and sometimes very silly book will engage young readers with pet-friendly stories that are a delight to read. Audiences will enjoy the light-hearted humor as they learn about caring and sharing. Readers will also have fun at the end of the book where they are encouraged to talk about the stories, characters and what makes them laugh the most. For a wonderful book that will encourage young readers to develop a love for pets and their silly antics, The Adventures of the Poodle Posse is a great read.’––Reviewer’s Bookwatch, –The Book Review”

‘….This fun, rambunctious Halloween adventure with Daisy and her mischievous brothers, will thrill the young reader. Of course almost every youngster I know enjoys a good dog story, but add a bit of humor and stir in a bit of horror and you have the recipe for great adventure. I’d never read anything in this series before and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun the tale was. It was well written and is sure to hold the interest of the young reader. I loved dainty Daisy and her two brothers who enjoyed annoying the little princess. IN the back of the book are several activities that the young trick-or-treater will certainly enjoy. Best of all there are two dog-approved recipes for Pumpkin Treats and Jake’s Favorite Peanut Butter Bones. This is a series that is certainly going to be a bow-WOW hit with the young dog lover!––Deb Fowler (aka Dragonfly),Vermont;  An Amazon ‘Top 100 Reviewer’

‘Most of us who have dogs make them a part of the family. There is a fine line between the way we treat our canine members and the way we treat each other. As a matter of fact, I have noted throughout the years that those families, who do treat their pets as members of the family; kind, loving, understanding and interactive, seem to be much better adjusted that those who don’t.

The third in a series about a lovable trio of poodles and their human ‘mom’ brings home this point quite well. The author, Chrysa Smith has given each of the three dog’s distinct personalities and the kindness and love between all is quite on the mark…….

The author has put together a rather remarkable little book with this one. Not only do we have a delightful story, but Smith has added several pages of activities for children which include a nicely done maze, a dog quiz, excellent recipes for home-made dog treats (all healthy), a riddle game, doggie costume suggestions and a writing work outline to allow the child to write their own creepy tale.

The text is quite well done and is easy for the children to follow and is silly enough in just the right places to bring on plenty of giggles. The book has been very well illustrated by Pa Achilles with plenty of black and white drawings. While the story is of course, fantasy (you enter the world of these three dogs), it is filled with little truths about dogs and their personalities. Any child who has a pet dog or has ever had a pet dog will be able to instantly relate to this work.

Now those that read my reviews will know that I am a dog person. Our own ‘posse’ is not made up of Poodles, but rather Boston Terriers. I was able to relate to the antics of the dogs in the story quite well, especially when it came to the different personality traits of each of the dogs.

Chrysa Smith is a fine story teller and an excellent writer. I do hope that there will be more additions to the series coming down the road.

I did have a friend of mine, a second grade teacher, read this to her class. The kids in the class, jaded little literary critics all, gave this work two thumbs up!—–Don Blankenship, The Ozarks;    An Amazon ‘Top 100 Reviewer’

‘Kids will enjoy these stories about two dogs and their antics. Young listeners will be drawn to the cute images of the poodles.’––The Reading Tub (Book Reviews for Children)

This story is a great read for both children and parents. It’s cute and interesting enough to hold parental interest while very enjoyable for the children. It’s an excellent book for practicing reading aloud with elementary school aged children.
My son wants to read more of the series. It also shipped and arrived much more quickly than expected.

Lisa Forbeson


School Visit Reviews:



The children and teachers absolutely enjoyed your visit to York Haven Elementary.  The two sessions were geared perfectly to our audience, K/1 and 2/3.  Meeting a “real” author was something our students haven’t done before and you made a great first experience for them. Again, your visit was fabulous!   —Marcella Kehler – School Librarian – York Haven, PA

We wanted to reach out and say thank you for such a wonderful presentation you gave to our students in grades K-3. The students loved hearing your written words come to life. The question and answer portion was also so memorable for them. It is not everyday they meet a real life author! We hope to have you visit us again!–Mrs. Guzzi & The Bradley Beach Kids, NJ

I have to say, they were so excited to tell me all about it.  I can’t thank you enough for making your books available to our students.  What a wonderful way for them to end Catholic Schools Week.-Mary Smith, Director, Holy Family School, NJ

Thank you very much Chrysa for the fabulous visit to West Berwick Elementary yesterday! The children thoroughly enjoyed both stories. They will have their signed books to cherish for years to come. Maybe they will even read them to their children and grandchildren some day! I love that you are such a natural because everything presented was directly at their level. Thank you for helping them plant their Marigolds too. It correlated well with The Upside-Down Gardener. Please let Pat Achilles know how much the children enjoyed her illustrations. Laurel Garver did a fine job editing the books also. Beautiful job Chrysa!

—Dione Sololski, First Grade, West Berwick Elementary, PA

I wanted to reach out and give a big thank you on behalf of our third grade team. After the visit, so many of the kids and teachers talked about how wonderful your visit was. The kids were especially excited to feel like they personally know a real life author now! We always love having you visit, and I’m happy we were still about to keep this tradition for the kids, even in the midst of a pandemic–Ashley Minniti, Samuel Mickle Elementary, NJ

Thank you!  The children loved you.  They are good kids who love having stories read to them.  I so appreciate your very wonderful reading of the story; they enjoyed it and they loved asking you questions! It was so nice having a different from the librarian’s!  Looking forward to having you on Friday with 2nd and 3rd graders.–Alexis Guerrier, DeChantal School, MD

Thank you for the amazing author visit. The kids really ‘leaned into learning.; You captivated them! —Barbara Ryba, First Grade Teacher, Mary of Nazareth, MD

Thank you so much for coming to our class today!! I know the students really loved it. Your book is wonderful! Very engaging.–Catherine Gallerizzo, Mary of Nazareth, Kindergarten, MD

Thank you SO MUCH for a FANTASTIC visit last week!  Many of our teachers agreed that you kept our students engaged and interested during your presentations.  We thought our 4th grade students were especially motivated to continue with their “story starters” after leaving your session and hope you would agree that our younger students had many inquisitive questions for you!  —Jacqueline Murray, Reading Specialist, Hilltop Elementary

The kids loved the story. You were very engaging and they did enjoy meeting your dog. In Kindergarten, we have been learning about authors and illustrators. Some of them stated they could not wait to order your book(s). –Jessica Himmelstein, Kindergarten, St. Eugene, Yonkers, NY

Thank you. The kids loved it! —Dr. Jacqueline Garcia, 3rd Grade Teacher, Davis Elementary, Warminster, PA

Thank you very much for setting up the Skype session today. The children loved it and so did the teachers. It was a wonderful experience for all! –-Rebecca Schmidt, Our Lady of Trust, Brooklyn, NY

Thanks so much for your presentation this morning.  It was a wonderful way to gain insight into the books you have written.  I always love when authors draw from real life situations. —Lynn Brandon, Asst. Principal, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bellmore, NY

Thank you Chrysa for an Awesome Visit! —Catherine School, Library Media Specialist, Sacred Heart Academy, Bryn Mawr, PA

Thank you so much for coming into our class yesterday. I know the students really enjoyed it. I even got an email from one parent saying their son now wants to become a writer! —Molly Godfrey, 1st Grade Teacher, Mt. Mary of Nazareth, MD

Thank you, Chrysa for the very entertaining and informative presentations. I know the children were engaged and enjoyed  learning about your books and the writing process. Thank you for coming. Teresa Pelusi, Librarian, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, PA

Thank you for everything Chrysa! The kids are still talking about the visit today! Anne McKernana, Library Assistant, Hillcrest Elementary, PA

Thank you, Chrysa!   It was great seeing you again, and the students loved your presentations. —Noreen Moore, Librarian, Hillcrest Elementary, PA

Thanks for today! You were great! —Kathleen O’Neill, Kindergarten Teacher, OLC, Philadelphia

Your presentation was amazing! It was well prepared and very age appropriate.  The students were engaged and loved hearing about your poodles! They thoroughly enjoyed the stories you shared.  We are truly grateful for your parent presentation in the evening as well. Our students and families will enjoy your books for years to come.  Thank you for a job well done! It tied in perfectly to our Read Across America initiative!–Janice Cirone and Karen Zlatkin, Reading Specialists, Oakview Elementary, NJ

Thank you again for your presentations. Our first and second graders enjoyed you so much. Seeing your dog was definitely a highlight! We are hoping to do this again!  –Maria Truglio, Saint Katherine School, Philadelphia, PA

Thank you so much for your virtual visit.  I was not able to stay the entire time but my second grader loved it! —Davena Williams, Christ the Teacher, Newark, DE


Thank you! My 1st Graders love your books!!  —Stacey Desmond, Saint Katherine Drexel, PA

Chrysa Smith’s down-to-earth style is one that teacher’s just love.  The way she writes about her own experiences is a great lesson for young writers!  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the crazy puppy stories! —Paula Etgen, Literacy Specialist/Humanities Teacher, Wrightstown Elementary, PA

Thank you so much for the four wonderful presentations and corresponding workshops.You are so approachable, and the kids really took to you. I enjoyed seeing them engaged, even if it was sometimes silly. They had great fun. We’re so glad that you could be part of our school.  —Colleen Pavlovec, Principal, Leola Elementary, PA

Thank you so much for coming today. It means so much to the girls to hear a real author speak. We love your books and enjoy hearing all the stories of the ‘poodle posse.’  —Catherine Scholl & the girls of Sacred Heart, Malvern

Again, just want to say thanks for the wonderful presentations that you gave at Asa Packer on Monday. It was great; the kids and teachers loved it!  —Stacie Nevitt, PTO President, Asa Packer Elementary, PA

I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. We thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. The kids were abuzz today in library talking about it. Thanks for a great morning.  —Judy Hedtke, Librarian, Notre Dame de Lourdes, PA

Chrysa is a talented author who shares her love of the writing process very successfully with our elementary through 8th grade students. She tailors her presentations beautifully for all levels. Her lessons are highly interactive and spirited. The Poodle Posse series is very popular at our school. —Annie Reynolds, Librarian, St. Genevieve’s, PA


“The illustrations were so colorful. I like poodles too because they are so fluffy” – Fiachra

“I like how the illustrator put a drawing of your mom in the picture.” – Carter

“My favorite part of the story was when the colorful and gorgeous flowers grew upside down in the subway.” – Sahaana

“I liked how part of the story was a dream.” – Chloe

“I like poodles too because they look like fun pets. I like how you write stories about your own life.” – Martino

“I like that you named the book The Upside Down Gardner because the character put the flowers upside down.” – Cecilia

“I like that you write books about your pets.” – Annabelle

“I like how the flowers grew upside down in the dream.” – Isa


‘The staff and students were so impressed with your writing background and knowledge. You made writing come alive. Your stories were funny and lighthearted and captured all age levels of students.’

Michelle McMahon, Librarian, Holly Heights Elementary, NJ

‘It was our great pleasure to have you visit us at Delair. Your enthusiasm and energy for the writing process, as well as your engaging presentation on your own books, was the highlight of the students’ day. You have inspired many of our students to tap into their own creativity and write stories of their own. (I think you inspired some teachers to do the same).  Thank you again for sharing your love of writing with us!’  –Marge Walsh-Sanky, Media Specialist, Delair Elementary, Pennsauken, NJ

Once again, thank you for all that you did today. You went above and beyond. Thank you!

Lisa Giorgianni, East Greenwich School District

Ms. Chrysa was well organized and read her story to a large group of students. The powerpoint nature of the presentation allowed for all students to interact and engage in the story. Following the story, the comprehension questions and Q&A kept the students attention. The message of using your interest in writing and the editing process rang through Ms. Chrysa’s assembly.

Tod Monos, Principal, Valley View Elementary, PA

Our literacy night was a success and very well attended.  The feedback I received from teachers and students regarding your visit was positive.  The students were excited to spend time reading the books you gave to the school.  –

Danielle Moats, Reading Specialist, Grayson Elementary, PA

-Your presentation was the best! —Jen Hudak, Holy Family, Nazareth

-Best of luck with your book promotion. The program was wonderful. Please keep in touch. Hope to see you again in the Garden!–Althea Llewelyn, Environmental Educator, Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ

Chrysa Smith visited Holy Trinity School today. We had 2 sessions for grades K thru 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. The children loved both books. Chrysa is amazing and does an awesome job presenting  her books. We had a Q/A after her story. The children were excited to answer her questions. Definitely, would have her back again. Her new book has a surprising ending,–read it! Hope there are more!  –

Rita Raudenbush, Librarian, Holy Trinity, Morrisville, PA