Mark Gabriele has completed the first in a series of books for children.   This particular selection, J.D.’s Scratch Match, is the story of a boy who can’t get rid of a noisy mouse. The boy, J.D., is named for a real boy who has written the dedication page. It is the author’s intention to use the name of a real child in each book in the series and make a donation on that child’s behalf to a charitable organization chosen with the child on the basis of their wishes as expressed on the dedication page.

The book works well on many levels.  First of all, it is accessible and functions as an easy-reader (without the controlled, canned vocabulary of many typical easy-readers) and a picture book with a delightful story line.  Secondly, the book is a perfect choice for modeling early literacy skills.  The plot allows room for the young reader to make predictions.  There is enough repetition in the text to enable non-readers and very early readers to “read” certain phrases and even passages independently.  Finally, the story itself is appealing and perhaps more importantly, humorous.

The illustrations by Mark Jones are lively and finely detailed. Each new reading reveals more depth in the pictures.  The artist clearly understands the story and has been able to add vibrancy to an already energized story.


It is clear that Mark Gabriele truly understands kids. This book is captivating and delightful and will warm the heart of every reader!

—Martha Gordon, Literacy Consultant


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As a child advocate, I found J.D.’s Scratch Match to be an excellent tool in teaching children about our diverse world, and how crucial communication and understanding is to create balance and harmony.

—Lauren Pitz, Child Advocate


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Mark Gabriele’s stories strike a chord because they are the voices of real children written straight from the heart.  The familiarity of the characters and adventures evoke emotions within the reader and the listener.

Gabriele’s books resonate with the pure joy and innocence of childhood.  These stories will inspire the early reader, and inspire children to become authors themselves.

—Nancy O’Connell, Early Childhood Educator


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J.D.’s Scratch Match is a wonderful children’s book that is both full of humor and a great lesson. The book provides fun illustrations and an engaging story line that children and adults alike will enjoy.  There is also a great lesson of listening to all points of view when addressing a problem.  The fact that the author has donated to a great charity on this child’s behalf is icing on the cake for this already sweet story.

—Meghan Schafer, Playspace Programs Director


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Mark Gabriele knows children!  Melissa & Alfonso’s First Farewell is a captivating book that children will read with their hearts.  They all know what it is like to leave behind a special toy who is a best “friend.”  The parallel vacations are adorable.  Young readers will want to read this book again and again!

—Judy McBride, 2nd Grade Teacher


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These books are wonderful!  The stories are unique, the illustrations charming, and the fact that they are about real children who want to help the planet is inspiring.

-Ann Foster, Youth Services Librarian


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What a fun book!  Second graders love the story line and can’t help but join in with funny voices.  Elena’s Big Cheese Squeeze is a great book for read aloud, read alone, or shared reading.  How refreshing for the author to donate to a charity based on the interests of a child.  The real Elena is a very lucky little girl!

—Judy McBride, 2nd Grade Teacher



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In Sofia’s Backwards Day, Mark Gabriele truly captures the imagination and creativity of childhood.  One day, Sofia decides to do everything backwards with sweet and funny results.  The entire time I read this book, I smiled remembering children I have known who have done the exact same thing!  The illustrations support the story well, and the story is clear and easy for children to follow, whether they are reading themselves or being read to.  This is a real ‘feel good’ story.

—Stephanie Mandella, Children’s Librarian


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Children are geniuses when it comes to play – making up stories, imagining themselves as other creatures, fooling around with language, and seeing both the beauty and absurdity of the world around us.  Most of us lose the ability to play this way as we grow older – become ‘adulterated’ as Penny Wilson writes.

Mark Gabriele has held onto it, though.  It shines through in each of his books, from J.D.’s noisy mouse to Elena’s big cheese.  Each story rings true because it comes from that childlike sense of infinite possibility.  “What we care about is an innate reflection of who we are,” he says.  These beautiful books shine with the care with which both their author and their illustrator have brought them to life.

—Edward Miller, Founding Partner, Alliance for Childhood



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Excerpt from JD's Scratch Match. Illustration by Mark Jones

Kids Reviews