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1. #716 – Painting for Peace in Ferguson by Carol Swartout Klein

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Painting for Peace in Ferguson
Written by Carol Swartout Klein
Treehouse Publishing Group      2/21/2015
978-0-9963901-0-1
52 pages       Age 6+

“Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the story of a community coming together, hundreds of artists and volunteers, black and white, young and old, to bring hope and healing to their community using the simplest of all tools—a paintbrush. Written in child-friendly verse, the actual artwork painted on hundreds of boarded up windows in Ferguson, South Grand and surrounding areas illustrates the story. The art ranges from simple, childlike drawings of love and peace to challenging and compelling calls for social change. The effect on the town’s landscape and its people was remarkable: turning fear into hope, frustration into inspiration, and destruction into creation. . . . when people reach out to each other across lines that divide us and work together, remarkable things happen. A single paintbrush can paint one picture but thousands working together can transform a community.” [back cover]

Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image8

Review
The paintbrush became a tool of hope in Ferguson. Artists young and old, amateur and professional, armed with a paintbrush came together to transform the boarded up windows of a community that had imploded upon itself in grief and anger. Painting for Peace in Ferguson captures those mostly now gone images inside a children’s book that is not, and should not be just for children.

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The images range from simple black and white messages of hope to murals compelling a need for social change. From single boarded up windows to complete storefronts, (and the broken windows and doors of City Hall), told the story of Ferguson, Missouri uniting behind strong ideals: loving one another and coexisting in peace.

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With over 140 artworks painted over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the images in Painting for Peace in Ferguson are powerful testaments to the human spirit and resiliency. Children likely find the events of Ferguson confusing. Painting for Peace in Ferguson possesses the wonderful ability to help foster understanding and discussion, not just with children but also with adults, many of whom are also struggling to comprehend the events that disrupted their lives and communities.

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300 artists and volunteers created paintings in the City of St. Louis’s communities of Ferguson, Dellwood and South Grand. Such a gargantuan effort showers inspirations of hope, peace, and love among those communities and all who read Painting for Peace in Ferguson.

Painting-for-Peace-Ferguson-website-RyanArcher

If there is any drawback to Painting for Peace in Ferguson it is the text, with inconsistent rhyme patterns and the occasional slanted rhyme. The attempt to rhyme may be based on a false belief that children’s books need to rhyme to attract and hold a child’s attention. The Ferguson story would have been better served in simple and straightforward prose. Still, the message of Ferguson is clear and not easily forgotten, nor should it be.

“In the small town of Ferguson
In 2014
Some people did things that
Were meaner than mean

“Some people were mad
Some people were sad
But everyone, everywhere
Felt pretty bad :(

“But when morning came
Folks took one look around
And said we don’t like
The looks of our town”

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Painting for Peace in Ferguson has the power to ignite many a discussion from those with elementary children to those between adults. The symbol of hope and peace is one children should learn and embrace, but it began with the hundreds of artists who descended upon Ferguson in a united belief that Ferguson—and the country as a whole—can heal and grow.

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In this regard, Painting for Peace in Ferguson is a picture book like no other and belongs on the collective landscape for years to come as a reminder that communities need not implode in anger and grief—though greatly justified—when there is a better, more productive and satisfying option of healing in hope and peace—as in South Carolina these past few weeks. Author Carol Swartout Klein is a native of Ferguson.

PAINTING FOR PEACE IN FERGUSON. Text copyright (C) 2015 by Carol Swartout Klein. Illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by Rachel Abbinanti, et al. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Treehouse Publishing Group, St. Louis, MO.

Purchase Painting for Peace in Ferguson at AmazonBook DepositoryBook’s Website.  (Available in paperback 8/04/2015) **Proceeds from the sale of Painting for Peace in Ferguson are donated to youth arts and small business recovery in North St. Louis County.

Learn more about Painting for Peace in Ferguson HERE.
Resources for Parents & Teachers can be found HERE and HERE.
Coloring Pages for Kids can be found HERE.

Meet the author, Carol Swartout Klein, with her biography HERE.
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Website:  http://www.paintingforpeacebook.com/
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/paintingforpeacebook
Find more picture books at the Treehouse Publishing Group website:  http://www.amphoraepublishing.com/treehouse-publishing-group/

Treehouse Publishing Group is an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group

AWARDS
2015 IPPY Outstanding Book of the Year—Peacemaker

ABOUT PAINT FOR PEACE ST. LOUIS
     The riots following the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case left storefronts along the main streets of Ferguson and the South Grand neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri with broken windows. When the businesses were boarded up the next day, they appeared closed and unsafe, furthering the economic hardship and community despair.
     Hundreds of local artists responded almost immediately by volunteering their time to help the businesses and beautify the affected blocks. Hundreds of gallons of paint were donated by individuals and businesses as far away as Massachusetts, and an online fund drive quickly raised nearly $1300.
     Tom Halaska, who grew up in North St. Louis and now owns the Art Bar at 2732 Cherokee Street on the Southside of St. Louis City, is the driving force behind the effort known as Paint for Peace StL. He maintains all the donated supplies in storage at the Art Bar and continues to be a matchmaker between boarded businesses anywhere in the region and volunteer artists. (© http://paintforpeacestl.org/)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, CAROL SWARTOUT KLEIN
     Painting for Peace - 2nd ed. - low res_page31_image202Carol Swartout Klein grew up in Ferguson, got her first set of jacks from the Ferguson Woolworths store (now the Ace Hardware store), got her first driver’s license at what was the Ferguson Department store (now BMI Fitness), graduated from McCluer High School and got married at Ferguson Presbyterian Church.
     She was so inspired by witnessing the spirit of hundreds of volunteers coming together to bring hope to a community in shock, she wanted to capture the story. Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the result. A journalist and marketing professional by training, she saw how healing the process of creating the artwork was for all those involved. As the community came together to help others, the artists, business owners and volunteers helped themselves, creating new connections she hopes will continue to create a positive environment of hope and peace. (©Peregrine Book Company)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Painting for Peace in Ferguson, by Carol Swartout Klien, and received from Treehouse Publishing Group, (an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: artists for peace, Carol Swartout Klien, communities transformed, Ferguson Missouri, Painting for Peace in Ferguson, peace initiatives, racial divides, racism, Treehouse Publishing Group

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2. #705 – Pool by JiHyeon Lee

cover

Pool

By JiHyeon Lee
Chronicle Books      5/01/2015
978-1-4521-4294-4
56 pages      Age 3—5

“What happens when two shy children meet at a very crowded pool? Dive in to find out! JiHyeon Lee’s masterful story of a chance encounter takes readers on a journey that reminds us that friendship and imagination have no bounds.” [book jacket]

Review
Pool arrives just in time for summer. Pool wordlessly tells the story of one young boy going to a public pool to find it is crowded. Actually, barely an inch exists between swimmers. He sits on the side of the pool, probably contemplating what to do. Then he dives in and goes below the legs of all those swimmers. Down into the depths of the pool, the young boy meets all sorts of curious water-living creatures. Crazy big-eyed fish, long L-shaped fish, and even a fish resembling a toucan exist down below those swimmers.

Most importantly, the young boy meets another swimmer his own age. The two explore all the life below the other swimmers. Schools of bluefish swarm the young boy, who looks uncertain. The brave outlook of the young girl must give him confidence, as they fearlessly swim among fish with many sharp teeth and come eye-to-eye with a huge whale. As the two swim up for air, the fish follow causing a riotous exit from the water by the other swimmers.

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I love Pool. Pool exemplifies the power of the imagination and the pull of kindred spirits into friendship. Pool shows the boy’s problem-solving skills as he decides to go below the swimming feet where there would be room to actually swim. Those above him crowd the water too tightly to even move, let alone swim. Below the surface, this resourceful boy meets another young swimmer and the two find ways to enjoy the water and themselves. Are those fish real? It’s anyone’s guess whether those crazy-looking fish are real or the figment of the young swimmers’ imaginations. Last out of the pool is an inner tube wearing young swimmer, who looks back upon the now quiet and still water. If you saw what this youngster saw, you just might believe.

Pool is perfect for any summer day, rain or shine. Lee used oil pastels and colored pencils to create the beautifully crafted spreads. As the young boy swims below the crowded surface, his trunks turn from a dull grey to a dark blue. The further he descends, the brighter the spreads. I think the message is that one must go beyond the ordinary, innertube crowd to see the wonders of the world and, when finding friendship, enjoy the time together in those wonders you share. Staying on the surface, with the crowd, is safe but often lonely. Pool is Lee’s first picture book. I hope she continues to publish. Her work is collector worthy.

Next time you go swimming, try going down to the depths of your imagination. You just might meet your kindred spirit.

Pool_Interior1.jpg

POOL. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by JiHyeon Lee. Copright © 2015 by Chronicle Books. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Pool at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Pool HERE.
Collect Wallpapers no.1 and no.2
Meet the artist, JiHyeon Lee at her pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/kooshles/ji-hyeon-lee-south-korean-illustrator/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

Originally published in South Korea in 2013 by Iyagikot Publishing.

top book of 2015 general
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 353

Pool

 


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, collector-worthy picture books, imaginative, JiHyeon Lee, Korean born children’s authors and illustrators, Pool, splendid, summer, swimming

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3. #688 – The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham & Pétur Antonsson

9780062271501 (1)X
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The Luck Uglies

Written by Paul Durham
Illustrated by Pétur Antonsson
HarperCollins Children’s Books      4/29/2014
978-0-06-227150-1
390 pages                    Age 8—13
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“Rye O’Chanter has seen a lot of strange things happen in Village Drowning: children are chased through the streets. Families are fined for breaking laws that don’t even exist. Girls aren’t allowed to read anymore, and certain books—books that hold secrets about Drowning’s past—have been outlawed altogether.

“Now a terrifying encounter has eleven-year-old Rye convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. Before the monsters disappeared, there was only one way to defeat them—the Luck Uglies. But the Luck Uglies have long since been exiled, and there’s nobody left who can protect the village.

“As Rye dives into Downing’s treacherous maze of streets, rules, and lies, she begins to question everything she’s been told about the village’s legend of outlaws and beasts . . . and what she’ll discover is that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.” [book jacket]

Review
The protagonist—in a story filled with creative, well-developed, essential characters—is eleven-year-old Rye O’Chanter. Rye and younger sister, Lottie, live with their mother, Abby, and Nightshade Fur Bottom O’Chanter (nickname: Shady), the family pet, on Mud Puddle Lane. Muddle Puddle Lane runs close to the salty Bog, which lies near Beyond the Shale (a forest few would dare enter). Rye’s best friend, Quinn Quartermast, and his widowed, blacksmith father, also live on Mud Puddle Lane.

PT2 7 MAP BASED ON AUTHORS CONCEPT WALL

At the opposite edge of town, again beyond the protective village walls, is the River Drowning and, on its coast, The Shambles, an area so lawless, corrupt, and dangerous that even the Earl, his soldiers, and his constable (Boil “the enforcer”), are afraid of its inhabitants and frequently inebriated guests. Rye’s other best friend, Folly Flood, lives here, in The Dead Fish Inn, with her parents and nine older brothers (the toughest men/boys in Village Drowning—toughest of the tough being the conjoined twins).

Now here’s an oxymoron to make this story exciting and relatable. These three kids are good kids.

They listen to their parents—except when they sneak out, use Abby O’Chanter’s (no longer) secret room, or travel by rooftop.

Each obeys the Laws of Longchance—except when running from soldiers, Quinn teaches Rye how to read, or, together, they read a precious (and stolen), banned book.

And, the kids stay put, when told not to stray—so many examples.

Rye O'Chanter

Rye O’Chanter

Last week I mentioned that there was one more middle grade novel that was a WOW! The Luck Uglies is that wow novel. The story cannot be put down. It’s as if the pages turn on their own, keeping you captive, though a willing captive. Rye, Folly, and Quinn are a terrific threesome. They are smart. They are heroes. They are flawed. Rye’s father, Harmless, plays a major role in the magical-action-adventure story, (he is High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies), but not without Rye close by. Rye has her friends, no matter the danger. The Luck Uglies is one of those rare books whose story and characters stick with you long after the back cover closes.

I love the names of people and places. Each—possibly only in my mind—is somehow appropriate. The Village Drowning is always drowning in the Laws of Longchance, fearful of a Bog Noblin or Luck Ugly return, or literally in the River Drowning.  Earl Longchance has a long chance in deed of ever coming out of this story smelling like a rose.

The O’Chanter family live by a code called House Rules.
003_Shady -- make sure they are credited to Pétur Antonson.

House Rule #2:
“He may run and he may hide, but Shady must never go outside.”

This refers to Shady, the family pet. It was imperative that Shady not go outside unless with someone. Why? You will love the answer.

This refers to Shady, the family pet. It was imperative that Shady not go outside unless with someone. Why?   You will love the answer. Another animal, a monkey named Shortstraw, is in the habit of reaching for what it wants. Shortstraw wants Mona Monster,  Lottie’s pink hobgoblin doll. Lottie and Mona are inseparable, so when Shortstick makes a move for Mona, Lottie is right there ready to save her.  Swearing occurs on occasion, especially from the smallest mouth in the house. Little Lottie breaks up the intense action with her comedic action words—nothing for parents to fret.
015_LottieTugofWar

The biggest problem in Village Drowning is Earl Morningwig Longchance. When his father was still alive and ruling, monsters called Bog Noblins were terrifying the village and the village soldiers could not defeat them. The father made a pact—in blood—with the only group capable of defeating the Bog Noblins. This group, a secret society many called criminals, villains, and outlaws (mainly because they were) defeated the Bog Noblins, but not before the father died, passing his authority on to his son, Morningwig. Not a single Bog Noblin has been seen or has terrorized Village Drowning since, yet Earl Morningwig Longchance promptly ignored the blood pact, branded the group outlaws, and banished them from Village Drowning. That group is the infamous Luck Uglies, now disbanded throughout the shale and beyond.

The narcissistic Earl also decreed the Laws of Longchance—keeping villagers poor and the Earl rich. He is an oppressive ruler (women and girls may not learn to read or write, among other things), and the father of one spoilt daughter and one blind, banished, son. Truth be told, Earl Longchance is nothing more than a bully who remains in the safety of Constable Boil’s shadow.

The gigantic, hairy monster Bog Noblins were said to eat inattentive villagers, especially the delicious children, and then make necklaces strung with the feet of their feast. The villagers, believe Bog Noblins are now extinct—are they?—and nothing more than a joke to the secure villagers.

“What has bad breath, one eye, and likes to eat children?
“A Bog Noblin with a stick in its eye.” 

Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pétur Antonsson.

Can you guess what happens next? Yep, a malnourished baby Bog Noblin (Leatherleaf), returns to the village. Rye encounters it first, but escapes unharmed. She also finally meets her father, Harmless, the High . . . the once High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies. Earl Longchance puts the entire village in extreme danger when he captures Leatherneck, to pretentiously show-off his ability to protect the people. When Leatherleaf’s family—three, larger than Leatherleaf, Bog Noblins, with attitudes—demand their kin be returned, Longchance refuses. What happens next is much too exciting to explain. My fingers could not type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

The Luck Uglies is about family and community working together. The line between right and wrong blurs, which might concern parents, but this mirrors real life. No one is all good or all bad. I loved all the intense action, the unexpected surprises, the exciting twists I didn’t see coming, and the end that never completely arrives.

Durham is an awesome writer who knows how to spin an intriguing tale with intelligent humor and characters so believable the reader will immediately relate to them. The world he has built is at once believable and fantastical. Is there anything to complain about The Luck Uglies? I have not found anything. Maybe in Book #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers, but I am not expecting anything to ruin this delicious, not-to-be missed trilogy.

I did mention that The Luck Uglies is a series? Thank your lucky stars. The Luck Uglies series is the one, and only series* that kids who enjoy action and adventure, monsters and mayhem, plus a little bit of magic, should devour this year and every year, until the trilogy unfortunately ends.

THE LUCK UGLIES. Text copyright © 2014 by Paul Durham. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pétur Antonsson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.

Purchase The Luck Uglies at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesHarperCollins C. B.

Learn more about The Luck Uglies HERE.
Meet the author, Paul Durham, at his website:  http://pauldurhambooks.tumblr.com/

Cybils Interview with author Paul Durham click HERE.

Meet the illustrator, Pétur Antonsson, at his website:  http://paacart.tumblr.com/
Author Paul Durham Interviews Pétur Antonsson click PART#1   PART#2    PART#3

Find more middle grade novels at te HarperCollins Children’s Books website:  http://www.harpercollins.com/

HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

*The Guardian Herd Series by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

AWARDS
Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth for 2014

BOOK #2

The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers

The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmers

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Review word count = 950 (Oops! Honest, I did cut . . . and cut . . .)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. 

ftc

 


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: action-adventure-fantasy, debut, HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins Publisher, humorous, magical, Paul Durham, Pétur Antonsson, The Luck Uglies, The Village Drowning, trilogy hard to beat. Forked-Tongued Charmers

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4. #691 – FRED by Kaila Eunhye Seo and TWO–2–GIVEAWAYS!

CBW-email-childrens_2015

 

Welcome to TGIF

Thank Goodness It’s FRED!
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FRED

Written by Kaila Eunhye Seotop book of 2015 general
Illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo
Peter Pauper Press          5/01/20`15
978-1-4413-1731-5
40 pages                Age 4—8
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“Fred’s world is filled with fantastical friends that make
his days so much fun he hardly notices that no one else can see them. But one day Fred goes off to school, and things start to change. As Fred grows up, his childhood friends slowly fade away and seem to disappear, taking some of life’s sparkle with them. But a chance meeting with a special young girl reminds Fred—and readers young and old alike—that magic and wonder never really disappear . . . they live forever in our hearts.” [book jacket]

Review
Fred’s imaginary friends have the people in his small town thinking he is different—a polite way of saying the boy is odd. Fred has the ability to see and hear things other people cannot. Fred also believes in things the other townsfolk either cannot, or simply will not, believe. Despite the townsfolk’s’ inability to see, hear, or care about Fred’s creatures, the creatures cared about the townsfolk.

“Sometimes they acted like the wind and moved branches out of the way for people.
And sometimes they acted like shade and kept people cool on hot summer days”

What is Fred seeing and hearing that make the others consider the young boy an oddity? Fred sees creatures . . . imaginary creatures . . . imaginary friends. He never cares about making other friends—he already has the best friends a young boy could hope to have.

PPP - Fredstreet

When the day arrives for Fred to begin school, he makes new friends . . . real, alive friends. His imaginary friends wait, no longer part of Fred’s day. One day becomes two, then three, and each school year blends into the next. One-by-one the creatures Fred adored disappear, losing their color, and fading into the background.  By the time he reaches adulthood, all the imaginary creatures are lost from Fred’s memory.

The real world takes too much of Fred’s attention and time. Fred’s days run together as he does the same things day after day. This monotony leaves Fred feeling empty, friendless, and all alone, even in the park where he played so joyfully with . . . with . . . he doesn’t remember with whom he played with, or even what his playmates look liked. Where did his childhood friends go?

looking in on school

FRED will have you wondering when your imaginary friends left you. When these old friends leave, they take with them a very precious commodity: your imagination. Can you imagine doing anything other than your daily routine? Not just a dream vacation, but something that will cheer you up, daily make you implausibly happy, and has the synapses on the right-side of your brain sizzling with ideas, as they jump from neuron to neuron. Neither can Fred, poor guy. Then he gets lucky. A small child comes to the park while Fred sits reading—always a delightful detail in a children’s book. The young girl, with a pocket full of lollipops, asks Fred if he and his friends would like a lollipop. His friends anxiously watch Fred, who says,

“Excuse me?”

Someone can see his friends. They are all still with him. A synapse POPS! Another SIZZLES! Fred’s heart no longer feels weighed down, and instead, he feels free. Fred’s imaginary friends—and his imagination—return. Adult Fred finally realizes he . . . wait, I cannot tell you what Fred realized. Fred would like to tell you himself. This is his story. FRED surprised me, in a very wonderful way. Imagination, and the magical journeys it can create, is not the sole domain of childhood, but we tell ourselves there is no time for such “silliness,” yet without retaining our child-like selves, we lose much of our creativity.

PPP- Fredpark

I love Ms. Seo’s direct lines in the pen and ink illustrations. Each spread overflows with artistic detail and the color remains only with the story and its characters. I think Ms. Seo’s attention to detail and using color to focus readers’ eyes on the story shows she cares about making a terrific sensory experience for children. The monsters are hilarious and kid-friendly. Not one creature will cause nightmares, as none is even a wee-bit scary. They walk among the unsuspecting—and unbelieving—in town without any commotion. I do wonder how the non-believers (who possess little to no imagination), would think if they saw what Fred could see. The story and all the eye-catching illustrations are a definite sign that this debut author/illustrator has not lost her childhood imagination, inspiration, or her imaginary friends.

FRED. Text copyright © 2015 by Kaila Eunhye Seo. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Kaila Eunhye Seo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peter Pauper Press, White Plains, NY.

Purchase FRED at AmazonBook DepositoryPeter Pauper Press.

Learn more about FRED HERE.

TEACHERS:  Common Core Teaching Guide for FRED.

Meet the author/illustrator, Kaila Eunhye Seo, at her website:  http://www.eunhyeseo.com/
Find more picture books at the Peter Pauper Press website:  http://www.peterpauper.com/

**NOTE: Through the month of May, 20% off at Peter Pauper Press. Use Code: MAY 20

Review Section: word count = 663

Huntington Press Best Picture Books 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

FRED  FTC   correct box

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MEGA FRED FRIDAY GIVEAWAY from May 1st – May 29th
Set of all TEN of our Critically Acclaimed Picture Books

For a Chance to WIN Click the Rafflecopter Link Below

PPP- FredCover

Fred by Kaila Eunhye Seo

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THE ZOO IS CLOSED TODAY!

The Zoo Is Closed Today! by Evelyn Beilenson

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Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! by Bruce Arant

HANK FINDS AN EGG

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Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: adult picture books, creativity, FRED, FRED by Kaila Eunhye Seo, friendship, imaginary friends, imagination, Kaila Eunhye Seo, loneliness, losing child-like qualities, Peter Pauper Press

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5. #699 – Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer & Holly Clifton-Brown

cover
Stella Brings the Family

Written by Miriam B. Schiffer
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle Books      3/05/2015
32 pages     Age 4—8

“Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day cerebration but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in the sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.” [book jacket]
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Review
Stella’s teacher at Elmwood Elementary School announces a celebration for Mother’s Day and each student can invite a “special guest.” Jonathan, Leon, and Carmen are inviting their mothers. Howie even has two mothers to invite! Stella does not have a mother. Her classmates wonder—without a mother—who reads to her at night, helps her with homework, and kisses her when she gets hurt. Stella has many people who do those things. She has her Papa and Daddy, Nonna, Aunt Gloria, Uncle Bruno, and Cousin Lucy. Jonathan suggests inviting them all, but Stella is not sure. On party day, Howie is there with his two mothers and Jonathan is with his grandmother (mom is away in the army). The party is a big hit and everyone has a great time.

kids table

Stella Brings the Family delves into what a family consists of today. No longer simply mom and dad plus kids, today’s configurations of families can be anything that consists of people loving and caring for each other. That can be mom and dad plus kids, or a mom and child, a grandmother and grandchild, even two dads and a daughter, like Stella’s family. Stella Brings the Family is not a book about homosexuality. It does not try to explain why Stella has two dads or anything about the two dads, except that they love Stella.

invite daddy papa stella

What Stella Brings the Family is, is a celebration of family and a celebration of acceptance. None of the kids—or special guests—care about the kind of family each child is a member of, but rather that each child has someone who reads to them at night, helps them with homework, and kisses them when they get hurt. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Stella Brings the Family. Debut author Schiffer keeps the story’s focus on Stella, who stands out thanks to her curly red hair.

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The watercolor illustrations beautifully render the multicultural and multigenerational family members. The kids’ invitations, with their drawings of family members, are terrific. The invites look like how someone Stella’s age (6—8) would write, though just a little better than most that age might draw. Clifton-Brown elicits the emotional story clearly through Stella’s expressions. At day’s end, the worn out teacher rests her head on her desk. Stella tells her things will not be as hectic for Father’s Day . . . she will just bring two dads, not the entire family. While not a huge twist or a big laugh, the ending is sweet, just like the story.

STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY. Text copyright © 2015 by Miriam B. Schiffer. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Holly Clifton-Brown. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase Stella Brings the Family at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Learn more about Stella Brings the Family HERE.
Meet the author, Miriam B. Schiffer, at her Young Children column:  http://bit.ly/ReadingChair
Meet the illustrator, Holly Clifton-Brown, at her website:  http://www.hollycliftonbrown.co.uk/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 384

stella brings the family


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: 2 dads, 2 moms, Chronicle Books, family composition, Holly Clifton-Brown, Miriam B. Schiffer, multicultural, multigenerational, Stella Brings the Family

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6. #704 – Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips

Today’s review is a bit different from the usual fare here on Kid Lit Reviews. I received a young adult book last year, which I do not review, because I firmly believe YA does not mix well with picture books and middle grade fare. I set it aside. Last night, needing a break from reading kid’s books and packing boxes, I picked up that book, simply titled Crazy. Crazy is Linda Vigen Phillips debut into children’s lit. Written in verse, the story is a fast read. The story shines a light on mental illness and, though set in the 1960s, is every bit as relevant today as it was then. Crazy moved me and I hope it moves you.

crazy coverCrazy

Written by Linda Vigen Phillips
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers     10/06/2014
978-0-8028-5437-7
314 pages         Age 12+
A Junior Library Guild Selection for 2014

“Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness. No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. Laura finds some solace in art, but when her mother, also an artist, suffers a breakdown, Laura fears that she will follow in her mother’s footsteps. Left without a refuge, can she find the courage to face what scares her most?” [book cover]

Review
15-year-old Laura’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder and the family suffers right along with her, as most often happens. The author took parts of her own life, apparently having a mother who also suffered from mental illness. In the sixties, where the story takes place, mental illness carried much stigma so families kept this very secret. A lot of effort went into hiding the ailment from others. Kids never brought friends home to play or for sleepovers. If the family member was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, the family’s secret keeping went into high alert.

Now this may sound crazy in itself, but people outside the family secret did treat kids and adults with a mentally ill family member differently—poorly, often as if the craziness could rub off the family and onto them. Many people did not consider mental illness a medical disorder. Instead, mental illness was a problem of attitude, disposition, and a weakness of the will. Thus, mentally ill people could cure themselves by changing their attitude and their disposition by just acting normal. “If they would just do this or do that, they would be fine in no time,” was the basic attitude of most people.

The mother was a brilliant artist when younger, but gave it up. Laura encourages her mother to paint again, thinking it might help her mother regain her sense of self and thus act more normal. Instead, her mother has a “nervous breakdown.” Now Laura blames herself because she encouraged her mother to paint and, in her mind, the act of painting again caused her mother to collapse. Being a gifted artist in her own right, Laura is terrified that she will tumble into the same black hole her mother has. At one point, Laura even believes she is on her way, and in great fear and despair, refuses to paint, despite a contest deadline looming near.

NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

“If you’ve ever been there
when a lightbulb gets real bright
just before it blows out,
then you know what it was like
around here when things got extremely crazy,
right before they shipped Mama off
to the nut house.

“It’s all my fault
for suggesting
she take up painting again.
That’s what she was doing
that day I came home
to such a mess.
She was trying to paint on canvas,
not ceramics,
and maybe,
well, maybe she just forgot
how to do it
and it frustrated her real bad.
I could see she was beside herself
with frustration.

“I never should have suggested it.

“Maybe that’s why she put her hand
on the hot stove last night
and didn’t even smell
the burning flesh.
Now on top of her craziness
she has a bandaged hand.”

The problem in the sixties, as it was in the fifties, and every decade past, was a lack of information. Even today, though much enlightened, some still attach a stigma to mental illness. Books like Crazy help change these views by looking to the next generation. Laura, having been kept in the dark by her family (Laura is not old enough to understand), knows little about her mother’s illness. She understands mom is crazy, as she lives with the craziness each day. Laura watches her mother sit in a chair all day, staring at nothing in particular and worrying about everything (JFK’s assassination occurs), then watches her mother in crazed action, with energy that overflows and keeps her moving for days.

Laura gives up her own artistic talent to maintain her sanity, but it does not work. Laura feels herself falling deeper into a hole she cannot comprehend. Despite asking what is specifically going on with her mother, no one will explain. Not understanding, Laura’s mind works herself into her own despair. Overloaded with a sick mother, keeping secrets, and normal teen angst Laura works herself into believing she is beginning the slow descent into craziness. Her father has closed himself off, in his own attempts to deal with an ill wife he dearly loves, so Laura does not get the support she needs from him. Her older sister is busy with her own family, having married young. Laura’s friends are in the dark, though would most likely be a great support system for her, if she was not so afraid to tell them.

Crazy does a great job describing mental illness fifty years ago and an even better job of describing a kid who must live with a mentally ill parent. The writing is easy to read and a fast read, since most of the verse deals with Laura and her thoughts, rather than visual descriptions. It works. I think an advanced middle grader could read Crazy and enjoy the story along with a new understanding of mental illness. Crazy was difficult to put down, even for an hour. I read the 314 pages in one evening. The story is that compelling and that interesting. I needed to know how Laura was going to deal with her mother’s illness. Would she ever return to painting? Could she ever tell her friends? Would Laura really descend into darkness, herself, as she imagines is happening? Will anyone ever speak truthfully and answer Laura’s questions? I just had to know.

Laura tries to protect herself from a mother she does not understand and friends who might abandon her if they knew her secret. I enjoyed this emotionally stirring story. Crazy drew me into the story immediately with the powerful writing. The author does a great job leading the reader down the path she wants them to walk. Laura is a credible character and one in which many kids will see themselves. Laura will have your empathy, but it will take time to understand the other characters’ motives. The story rolls out perfectly. I know this because I have a brother with bipolar disorder. In a group setting, Crazy can easily lead to a great discussion. I recommend Crazy for advanced readers age 12 and up, including adults.

You can purchase Crazy at AmazonEerdmans Books.

Discussion Guide is HERE.
Learn more about Crazy HERE.
Meet the author, Linda Vigen Phillips, at her website:  http://www.lindavigenphillips.com/
Find more picture books at the Eerdmans Books for YR website:  http://www.eerdmans.com/YoungReaders/

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co.

CRAZY. Text copyright © 2014 by Linda Vigen Phillips. Copyright © 2014 by publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, MI.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 864

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Filed under: 5stars, Book Excerpt, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: 1960s JFK assassination, bipolar disorder, Crazy, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, emotional, high school angst, Linda Vigen Phillips, mental illness, powerful

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7. #653 – Woodland LItter Critters ABC by Patience and Robert Mason

HAPPY GRANDPARENTS DAY!

wood;and llitter critters ABCx

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Woodland Litter Critters ABC

Written by Patience Mason
Illustrated by Robert Mason
Patience Press 6/01/2014
978-1-892220-10-3
Age 2 to 5 32 pages
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“The Litter Critters were all found hiding by Patience Mason. As they gather to watch the sunset at the shady river the Litter critters introduce young children to the alphabet.”

Opening

“Near the shady river at the end of the day, Andy Acorncap ambled along.”

The Story

Here is how it happens: Clarice the Caterpillar is long and sleek and singing a song as she watches the sun set. Greta the Giant Gnat buzzes as Luisa and Leif Liveoak, with their long legs and huge feet, dance and put on a show. I doubt anyone is looking at the Nut Family, the bunch of show-offs. Certainly not Rupert the Reindeer, he is too shy to look at anyone. Sarah Sweetgumball, who only wants to fly, keeps both her eyes upon one-eyed Tilly Thistlebottom instead of the setting sun. Tilly likes to bounce around the ground.

Wallie the Walking stick towers over the Volt Vines’ family, whose ties are a tangled mess. Blue, one-eyed Xat and his master Xerxes the Xenos are the only foreigners, having flow in from the stars or maybe even Mars. Finally, everyone gathers around Zippy the Zygodactyl to watch the sun make its final descent and disappear. And that is how it happens most every evening.

FG

Review

As the day slowly winds down, various woodland creatures—litter critters—watch the sun set. From Andy Acorncap to Zippy the Zygodactyl, various critters from A to Z teach young children their ABC’s and a little about creativity. The author created each of these critters from various pieces of the woods that fall upon the ground, hence “litter” critters. Each is remarkably lifelike in appearance.

These critters are cute with their twig arms and legs, acorn bodies, and various decorations. Most of us walk over these cast-off pieces, never thinking at all about the possibility these could be critters. Patience Mason doesn’t think this way. Instead of stepping on the twigs and nuts, leaves and scattered seeds, she sees hiding woodland critters waiting for her to pick them up and give them life once more. These critters look real. Patience has done a remarkable job putting each together with imagination and creativity. Any child could do the same, though not at her level of artistry. Yet, with a little help, kids could create all sorts of litter critters never before seen. There is no artificial coloring added to any critter. Critters like Mike Magnoliacone and Greta the Giant Gnat, get their color naturally—Mike from magnolia cone seeds; Greta from sparkleberry leaves.

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An unusual feature in Woodland Litter Critters ABC, aside from all the critters, is the ABC’s are not only in upper case, as in every other ABC book, but also in lower case. Children can walk into their first day of school knowing both and be ahead of the class.

I think kids will enjoy looking at each critter, trying to find them in subsequent pages, and possibly making their own. In fact, I cannot imagine any child who reads Woodland Litter Critters ABC not wanting to make its own critters. For families that have a creative day, this is an ideal book. The possibilities are endless. While this is not a craft book, there are certainly many ideas represented for kids to follow or mix up. Woodland Litter Critters ABC is the most imaginative and creative ABC book I have ever seen. The pages are not thick as in most ABC books, but torn pages are worth the risk to introduce your child to the likes of Ulysses Unicorn and Elvis Evergreen (with wife Elvira).

Z

WOODLAND LITTER CRITTERS ABC. Text copyright © 2014 by Patience Mason. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Mason. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Patience Press, High Springs, FL.

Purchase Woodland Litter Critters ABC at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPatience Press—your favorite bookstore.

See the individual creatures of Woodland Litter Critters ABC HERE
Meet the author, Patience Mason, at her website:   http://patiencepress.com/patience_press/Welcome.html
Meet the illustrator, Robert Mason, at his website:   http://www.robertcmason.com/
Find other books at the Patience Press website:   http://patiencepress.com/

Also by Patience Mason

Recovering from the War

Recovering from the War

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Robert Mason

Chickenhawk

Chickenhawk

Chickenhawk Back in the World

Chickenhawk Back in the World

Solo

Solo

Weapon

Weapon

 

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woodland litter critter ABC

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: ABC's, children's book reviews, creativity, outdoors, Patience Mason, Patience Press, picture book, Robert Mason, woods

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8. #658 – You Are (Not) Small by Anna King & Christopher Weyant

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You Are (Not) Small

Written by Anna Kangtop-10-use-eb-trans
Illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Two Lions             8/05/2014
978-1-47784772-5
Age 4 to 8           32 pages
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“Two fuzzy creatures can’t agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all! Size all depends on who’s standing next to you.”

Opening

“You are small.”

Review

Two funny, hairy purple and orange creatures square off and let the other know about their size:  big or small. The orange creature tells the purple creature that he is small. The purple creature responds that he is not small, but the orange creature is big. Orange denies being big, despite towering over the purple, who denies being small, despite barely coming up the orange creature’s waist. STOP! What is going on with these two? Don’t they see the obvious?

Nope, they sure do not. The big guy denies he is big, bringing in others just like him to prove his point.

You Are Not Small int spread 3

 “They are just like me.”

Huh? The little creature brings in others just like him and he, too makes the same point. This argument is not logical, but young kids will not care. Honestly, in my first read-through, which is always for fun, I didn’t give much to the faulty logic either. I doubt I even noticed it—laughing excessively, wiping tears from my sparkling eyes, and holding my laugh-cramped stomach. Then the interaction gets a tad intense. Voices get louder.

“You are all small!’
“You are all big!”
“Small!”
“Big!”

Each of the supporting groups has interesting reactions. At first, the purple creatures look on, one wide-eyed (love it), but the orange creature’s are less interested. One even rolls his eyes (love it, more). Ratchet up the tension and voices. Everyone is now involved. This plot, the characters, the twist at the end all make for a charming book no young child should be without.

Five colors and a white background make perfect illustrations for this story. The black outlining brings character and emotions to these hairy big and small creatures. Their rotund figures remind me of polar bears. I love the small dot eyes. The comical noses on these creatures are huge and terrific. Add in the mitten-like hands and these creatures are all thumbs and harmless. Oversized text compliments these terrific illustrations, which children and their parents will love—enough to read many successive times.

 “BOOM”

Whoa! What was that? Two huge feet— each foot half a page in width—and two legs, cut off before the knee, slam down in the middle of the lively argument. The green, hairy creature is humongous! Tiny pink creatures find their way down by way of yellow parachutes. Purple and orange creatures look up with varying interest; including a wide-eyed, purple creature and a glasses wearing orange creature with a content smile (love the small details). Many of the creatures on both sides are smiling. Combatant purple looks to his orange sparring partner, points to one pink creatures and says,

“See? I am not small.”

Misunderstood orange, wearing a big smile, points to the green creature that dropped in only moments before, and says,

“See? I am not big.”

Notice, there are no exclamation points in either statement. The two creatures have come to a conclusion. Both sides smile, one declares something, and off everyone goes, happy as if no argument ever occurred. Lesson: your size is relative to whom you are standing near. You can be both small and big!

You Are Not Small int spread 1

You Are (Not) Small has one of the funniest twists/lead-ins to a next book I have read in a while. Aside from the back matter telling us the author/illustrator team of Kang and Weyant are working on a sequel, the final spread gives it away. Kids will grab up the sequel as fast as the books hit the shelves. Pre-order the sequel now, well, if you could, but you cannot. What a shame.

Kids will howl at the twist, never having seen it coming until it hits. All readers, young and old, big and small, will adore this crazy book about size’s relative nature, be it of girth or problem. There is always going to be one bigger and smaller than yours.

Go get You Are (Not) Small right now. Read it every night—you will do this voluntarily. Read it to the kids, if you want. They will love it as much as you will. Laugh every day. Cry every day (from laughing). Then, when the new book is announced, pre-order as fast as your small, uh, big, uh . . . just do it. Wonderful debut from this husband / wife team.  Up next: That is (Not) Mine  2015

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL. Text copyright © 2014 by Anna Kang. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Christopher Weyant. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Two Lions, New York, NY.
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Buy You Are (Not) Small at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryTwo Lionsyour favorite bookstore.
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Learn more about You Are (Not) Small HERE.
Meet the author, Anna Kang, at her facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/YouAreNotSmall
Meet the illustrator, Christopher Weyant, at his website:   http://christopherweyant.com/
Find more picture books to laugh at the Two Lions’ website:   http://www.apub.com/imprints

Two Lions is an imprint of Amazon Children’s Publishing

An interview with Anna Kang 

Art: India ink and watercolor
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Also by Anna Kang & Christopher Weyant
That is (Not) Mine  2015
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you are not small
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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: Amazon Children's Publishing, Anna Kang, children's book reviews, Christopher Weyant, debut author, picture book, Two Lions

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9. #659 – Fat and Bones and other stories by Larissa Theule & Adam S. Doyle

coverx
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Fat & Bones: And Other Stories

Written by Larissa Theule
Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle
Carolrhoda Books            10/01/2014
978-1-4677-0825
Age 8 to 12           104 pages
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“Welcome to Bald’s Farm. Well, perhaps it’s not Bald’s Farm anymore. The old man has kicked the bucket, setting off a wave of conflict from the muddy pig pen to the tall wheat fields. In this darkly funny, slightly supernatural chain of tales, no creature is safe. Not Leonard Grey, a spider with sophisticated tastes. Not Esmeralda, a resentful one-footed pig. Not Tulip, a plant with a mean streak. And as for Bones, the old man’s son, and Fat, his winged rival? They’ll learn that danger lurks in the strangest of places . . .”

Opening

“Fat stood on the topmost branch of the tree, gazing in the direction of the farmhouse.”

The Story

Bones is the son of his father, the farm owner, who has most recently passed away. Fat is the former farmer’s fairy. They hate each other with a passion usually reserved for love. Now that Bone’s father has died, Bones will run the farm and his first priority: get rid of excess Fat.

In the span of one day, Bones tries to take out Fat, who tries to take out Bones. The pigs must move around on less and less feet to supply Bones with his favorite meal of pig foot stew. Pa may be dead, but Bones is still hungry. Ma, who is crying herself blind ventures out to the pigpen to grab a foot. Which one does she get?

Leonard’s family thinks he is the strangest spider that has ever spun a web. He cannot sneak and lives alone. He reads poetry while drinking herbal tea. Down below, Fat is making a new potion and needs the fresh blood of a spider. Leonard picks this moment to prove he can sneak. He cannot.

The Dead Man Song is for Priscilla Mae, the escaped spider for which Leonard has found love. She sees a group of animals honoring the dead farmer’s passing. Jimmy’s in Love pits mouse against mouse for the love of a mouse across the kitchen floor. Cat lurks on the floor, waiting for a wandering mouse. Sometimes he greets the mouse.

“Good afternoon, mousie-pie.”

Sometimes he pounces. Occasionally, that tricky cat does both. A mouse just never knows. Jimmy decides to take a chance but the floor is full of water—salty, tear stained water. Daisy and Tulip are the best of friends, sharing a puddle. All is well, until little sprouts move in and choke the water supply. Daisy and Tulip argue over how to get the sprouts to leave. The differences could mean the end of Tulip or Daisy.

Finally, Dog Alfred visits his Ma. Ma wants Alfred to go home. Alfred is sneezing. He has a cold. Alfred is upset, (and sets up Ma to speak a line of funny I love)

“Ma,” he said, [pleading voice] “I came all this way. I can’t go home now.”
“You live next door,” she said.

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories

Review

Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is a fast read with only 104 pages. On those 104 pages, every word counts thanks to wonderful writing and editing. Each story has something to teach kids. In Leonard Grey III, Leonard learns it is okay to be yourself and love is better than alone. Fat feels morally obligated to care for his neighbors, even when he is the one who injured said neighbor. Be nice to others; get to know your neighbors; be responsible for each other. Esmeralda must decide which is more important, her jealousy and “revenge” or the good of the group. Fat and Bones is philosophy 101 for the middle grades.

I am not a fan of the cover. The moon grinning as it does is eerie, but that is the intent. The illustrations use dark tones of green, grey, and black. The image is often part of the shadow or obscured by it. I am sorry to say, I am not a fan of these illustrations. I love the individual stories. I enjoyed the way one story depends on the other. What happens in one story—or does not happen—affects another story, which affects another, and so on, yet none may be the wiser. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories play this out for kids in a way they can understand.

Humor plays a big part, easing what are actually dark themes of death, jealousy, war, and dejection into an enjoyable, funny story, odd as that may sound. Some kids may not like the darker, philosophical themes, while others will love them. I think the older the child, the more they will enjoy Fat and Bones.

These Seven stories, all intertwined, are a great read. Each story has a unique mix of characters from the Bald Farm. Each has their own plot, conflict, and resolution, yet the stories build on each other, need each other to live. There are many things kids can learn from these stories while reading a funny, heart-felt whole divided into parts that seem to stand on their own—because they do. Older kids will enjoy this book. Adults will enjoy this book. Fat & Bones: And Other Stories is the author’s debut.

FAT AND BONES AND OTHER STORIES. Test copyright © 2014 by Larissa Theule. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam S. Doyle. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.
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Purchase Fat and Bones at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryLerner Booksyour favorite bookstore.
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Learn more about Fat & Bones: And Other Stories HERE
Meet the author, Larissa Theule, at her twitter page:    https://twitter.com/larissatheule
Meet the illustrator, Adam S. Doyle, at his website:    http://adamsdoyle.com
Find other middle grade novels at the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://www.carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

fat and bones
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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: Adam S. Doyle, Charolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Debut Book, fairies, farm life, feuds, Larissa Theule, Lerner Publishing Group, middle grade novel, pig foot stew

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10. #656 – Gollywood Here I Come! by Terry John Barto & Mattia Cerato

cover

 

 

Gollywood Here I Come!
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written by Terry John Barto
illustrated by Mattia Cerato
Author House       8/14/2014
978-1-4969-3509-0
30 pages        Age 4 – 8
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“When Anamazie isn’t twirling a baton, taking an acting class, or attending singing and dance lessons, she fantasizes about being a movie star. One day, after leading the Wattle View School Band in the 4th of July parade, and a few hard knocks, her dream comes true.”
The Story

Anamazie, a talented young turkey, leads the school band in the local holiday parade, and then hops in her doting mother’s car. They are off to the Korn-A-Plenty Community Theater for the finals of the Gobbleville’s Got Talent show. Though she gave a rousing performance, Anamazie does not win the show.
Gollywood_8.5x11.pages
Mom Henrietta is waiting backstage along with a talent scout from Gollywood Studios. He wants Anamazie to screen for the studio’s next motion picture. Anamazie wins the part, but has trouble working with the leading man. Will Anamazie lose her first starring role, or will she become the star she has always dreamed she would become?

Review

Gollywood Here I Come opens with an expansive layout of Gobbleville. There are homes, restaurants, a bank, a taco restaurant with half arches, and—hurray—a bookstore. In the distance is the GOLLYWOOD sign (similar to the large Hollywood sign in Los Angeles). The illustrations are quite detailed and the turkeys—Gobbleville citizens —are expressive, colorful, and imaginative.

Gollywood_8.5x11.pages

I like the length of the story and the illustrations, which are on every page sans one. Mom Henrietta is a stereotypical doting stage mom. She follows her daughter’s career so closely, trying to help at every juncture, that studio security must escort her off the movie set. Anamazie does have some difficulties, but I was disappointed that we do not get to see how she overcame those. Because of a lack of character development, it is difficult for the reader to care about her, though mom Henrietta Pearl is a hoot. Children’s story protagonists must solve their conflicts (problems, difficulties). Instead, the story glosses over this by simply telling the reader,

“Six months later, the film debuted . . .”

Suited more to the older end of the suggested reader age of 5 to 8, Gollywood Here I Come is a cute mini-version to fame with a message of perseverance, hard work, and a positive attitude as the means to success. This is the author’s first picture book. His second, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon, released last December. (reviewed HERE (coming soon)).

GOLLYWOOD HERE I COME! Text copyright © 2014 by Terry John Barto. Illustrations copyright © by Mattia Cerato. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Author House LLC, Bloomington, IN.

Purchase Gollywood Here I Come at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryAuthor House.
Learn more about Gollywood Here I Come HERE.
Meet the author, Terry John Barto, at his website:  tjbkids.com
Meet the illustrator, Mattia Cerato, at his website:   http://www.mattiacerato.com/
Check out additional Author House books at its website:   http://www.authorhouse.com/
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Coming soon from Terry John Barton, Knickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon

nicherbacher

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Author House, Gollywood Here I Come!, Mattia Cerato, movie stardom, Terry John Barto

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11. #661 – Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds by Dale Kutzera

Wattpad Coverx

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Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds

Series: The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean
Written by Dale Kutzera
Illustrated by Joemel Requeza
Salmon Bay Books        10/6/2014
978-0-69202392-1
285 pages Age 8 to 12
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“Andy McBean is struggling to survive Middle School in the soggy hills of the Pacific Northwest. He’s messy, fearful of bullies, and hates the rain. And spending much of the last year in the hospital battling leukemia hasn’t helped. Then one night a meteor storm devastates the county, cutting off power and communications. One giant boulder skids to a halt right on Andy’s front lawn. The glowing meteor draws the attention of neighbors, the media, the army, and even the new girl from Andy’s art class. He is thrilled at the notoriety, but everything changes when the meteor cracks opens and a towering machine steps out. Separated from his family, Andy must fend for himself and rescue his friends. Join Andy on this thrilling adventure as he meets an alien, learns what they want on planet earth, and devises a bold plan to stop them.”

The Story

Andy wakes one morning to find an alien pod on his front lawn. Mom’s roses are ruined. The aliens are here to collect—using a Vaporizer—all the water found on Earth, including that of humans, who are more than 60% water. These creatures travel the universe harvesting water from planets without significant life. The “Big Heads,” who bark the orders, make a decision: humans are not significant. Large tripod machines crush homes and businesses with grabbers capable of sweeping up people and holding them in a cage, until it is time to vaporize them for their watery bodies.

Andy gets away and rescues Charlie from her ruined home and then his best friend Hector. They avoid the large, bulky “Thugs,” who bully the worker aliens until they obey the Big Heads’ commands, and the crushing arms of the grabbers. Andy befriends a worker alien by the name of Been’Tok. Been’Tok, Andy, Hector, Charlie, and Andy’s dad plan to shut down the vaporizer, free the hostages, and send the aliens back to where they came from. But can an eight-year-old boy, recently recovered from bouts of leukemia treatment, save his world?

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Review

Inspired by War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds actually brings the aliens to Earth. The action is fast. Andy and his friends are easy to like and fun to watch as they travel by foot. The story is believable, though Andy has several lucky escapes from the aliens (great fun!). Been’Tok is a cute, three-eyed monster with a heart and soul. He loves collecting the odd artifacts he finds while vaporizing various planets for the water his planet desperately needs. He disagrees with his commander, believing humans are significant, especially after Andy saves his life.

The cuteness of Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds reminded me of E. T., even though the two are different types of stories. Until the end, it is not clear whether Been’Tok wants to return home. He enjoys the company of Andy and his friends. The communication barriers make for some delightful scenes as Been’Tok tries to learn Andy’s language. World leaders and military might around the world meeting Been’Tok is funny. Unfortunately, there are several typos throughout the book, but I could actually ignore them—a first—thanks to the intense story that held my interest (though that does not excuse the sloppy editing). Black and white illustrations enhance the story.

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Middle grade kids, especially boys, will love the world Kutzera created.  The three-tiered aliens can be humorous and dangerous at the same time. Readers will find several surprises along the way and a happy conclusion. Andy is a terrific character from his loyalty to his best friend Hector, his desire to impress Charlie—the new girl at school—and his valiant attempts to move past his illness, despite his parents’ fears and coddling. Will Andy McBean have future adventures?* If he does, I hope Been’Tok finds a way to join him.am4
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ANDY MCBEAN AND THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Text copyright © 2014 by Dale Kutzera. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Joemel Requeza. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Salmon Bay Books, Seattle, WA.

*Series: The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean
. . . . .   .    . #2: Andy McBean 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea released 12/29/2014

Purchase Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds at AmazonB&NSmashwords.
Learn more about Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds HERE
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Meet the author, Dale Kutzera at his website: http://dalekutzera.com/
Meet the illustrator, Joemel Requeza, at his website:
Find Salmon Bay Books here:
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: aliens, Andy McBean and the War of the Worlds, Dale Kutzera, Joemel Requeza, relationships, Salmon Bay Books, saving the world, The Amazing Adventures of Andy McBean

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12. #667 – LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser

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Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age

. . . . .(How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species)
Written by David Zeltser
Illustrations by Jan Gerardi
Egmont USA          2014
978-1-60684-513-4
190 pages       Age 8 to 12
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“In Lug’s Stone Age clan, a caveboy becomes a caveman by catching a jungle llama and riding it against the rival Boar Rider clan in the Big Game. The thing is, Lug has a forbidden, secret art cave and would rather paint than smash skulls. Because Lug is different, his clan’s Big Man is out to get him, he’s got a pair of bullies on his case—oh, and the Ice Age is coming. When Lug is banished from the clan for failing to catch jungle llama, he’s forced to team up with Stony, a silent Neanderthal with a very expressive unibrow, and Echo (a Boar Rider girl!). In a world experiencing some serious global cooling, these misfits must protect their feuding clans from the impending freeze and a particularly unpleasant pride of migrating saber-toothed tigers.” [book jacket]
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About the Story
The clan has broken into two factions, the Macrauchenia Riders and the Boar Riders. Each clan believes the other are uncivilized—without laws, few table manners, and possibly cannibals—yet each clan is living exactly like the other clan lives. The two only get together for the Big Game, called Headstone, where, using stones, they bash in opponents’ heads. To become cavemen, caveboys must catch an animal to ride in the Big Game.

Lug, a smaller caveboy, is the outsider, the one the bullies and their cohorts pick on. He has no interest in Headstone. Lug AG4simply wants to draw, something not understood by others. He fails to catch a llama and is banished to the woods, along with Stone, who also failed. The hot and humid weather is getting colder, something Lug notices but others brush off. The Ice Age is on its way and no one will listen, except Crazy Crag—banished years ago—and Hamela (aka Echo), a Boar Rider girl. To make matters worse, a pride of hungry saber-toothed tigers is migrating south and heading for the clans—and a meal of cave-people-steak. The cave kids try to save their people with the help of Woolly, a baby woolly mammoth, lost from its family, who can communicate with Echo. Living alone in the woods, Crazy Crag has figured out a few things. Can Lug learn Crazy Crag’s secret in time to save the clans people, or will they become extinct?

Review
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LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age
has all the elements of a book: fast-paced action, suspense, and good characters the reader can relate to and enjoy. Written for middle grade kids, younger advanced readers will also enjoy LUG’s charm. I like the cover and the illustrations, which are black-and-white cave-like drawings, slanted enough to often be funny. The story itself has kid-funny action and characters. Reading it will make you laugh and sometimes groan at the word play, (Headstone; Smilus, the ruthless head saber-tooth tiger; Bonehead, the Big Man’s son).

I love the curly-haired Echo, who is an activist and a vegetarian, possibly the world’s first. I also loved the coming of the CG 4 EchoIce Age’s parallel to today’s climate crisis. LUG might make kids more aware of their own climate changing. Lug agrees, writing in a pre-story note,

“. . . You see, the world began to get colder—much colder. And my clan initially reacted by doing this:

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“That’s right, a whole lot of NOTHING . . . I hope this story will inspire you to pay attention to the big changes happening to your world. If you are extinct, sorry.”

There are no prehistoric dinosaurs, but the animals you will find have interesting qualities, including finding a way to talk to humans. More than anything, I like LUG because it is a good story. If cave kids could read, they would have enjoyed LUG

Lug returns for more prehistoric climate-change adventures this Fall (2015) in LUG: Blast from the North (working title). LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age is David Zeltser’s debut children’s series.  (20% of proceeds go to organizations that help children and families in need.)

LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE (HOW ONE SMALL BOY SAVED OUR BIG DUMB SPECIES). Text copyright © 2014 by David Zeltser. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jan Gerardi. Published in 2014 by Egmont USA, New York, NY.
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Purchase LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age at AmazoniTunesBook DepositoryEgmont USA.

Learn more about LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age HERE.
Meet the author, David Zeltser, at his website:  http://www.davidzeltser.com/
Meet the illustrator, Jan Gerardi, short bio:  http://bit.ly/19Z1Vh3
Find more Middle Grade Books at the Egmont USA website:  http://egmontusa.com/

Curriculum Guide can be found HERE.
Activity Guide can be found HERE.
fcc LUG DAWN OF THE ICE AGE 2014

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Fast Friday Read, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: cavemen, children's books, David Zeltser, Egmont USA, humor, Jan Gerardi, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, prehistoric era

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13. #672 – The Water and the Wild by K. E. Ormsbee

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The Water and the Wild

Written by K. E. Ormsbee
Illustrated by Elsa Mora
Chronicle Books       4/14/2015
978-1-4521-1386-9
440 pages           Age 10—14
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“For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.

And then a door opens in the apple tree.

Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.” [book jacket]

Review
The beginning of The Water and the Wild draws the reader in with the sharp writing and imaginative descriptions. We meet 12-year-old Lottie, an orphan, who lives in a New Kemble Island boardinghouse with a reluctant Mrs. Yates, whom the author describes as dour with a dislike of children.

“In her opinion, children belonged to a noxious class of furless, yippy house pets that did nothing but make noise at inconvenient times and crash into her potted gardenias.”

Lottie has only two things she cares about: the apple tree, where she hides her keepsakes in a copper box she found hidden in its roots, and her best friend Eliot. Each year, Lottie placed a wish in her keepsake copper box and returned it to the roots of the apple tree. Each year, on her birthday, an unknown writer sent Lottie her wish.

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Eliot is ill with an unknown incurable disease, and nearing the end of his young life. Lottie decides to ask for a cure for the incurable. Soon after, her life changes course when Adelaide, a sprite, urgently whisks Lottie to safety down the roots of the apple tree to Limn, a mysterious place that exists under New Kemble Island. Here, Lottie meets Mr. Wilfer, a sprite healer, Adelaide and Oliver’s father, and Lottie’s benefactor. Mr. Wilfer has been working on an “Otherwise Incurable” potion. Problem is, this is supposed to be for the king, not Eliot, and when it does not arrive as expected, the king arrests Mr. Wilfer. With the cure in hand, Adelaide, Oliver, Oliver’s half-sprite, half-wisp friend Fife, and Lottie take off for the castle to save Mr. Wilfer.

I enjoyed The Water and the Wild but the journey to the castle felt like it would never end, though there are many bright spots along the way that I loved and will intrigue readers. The three kids travel through strange lands filled with danger. Along the way, Lottie learns she is half human-half sprite—a Halfling—and the Heir of Fiske making her heir apparent to the throne and a target of the current, rather cruel, king. The worlds of both New Kemble Island and Limn are easy to visualize.

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Oliver speaks in the words of poets, all of which the author annotates after the story. This can make Oliver’s speech confusing at times for both Lottie and the reader, but is an unusual and imaginative way to introduce kids to classic poetry. Lottie, the odd-girl-out in both worlds, is an easy character to cheer on and kids in similar situations will easily identify with Lottie’s loneliness and the cruel, bullying students she encounters at home.

I wish I knew how the story ended. Maybe there is a sequel in the works, but as it is now, Lottie is somewhere in Limn doing something and, as the author writes,

“This is better.”

I do recommend The Water and the Wild to advanced middle grade readers and adults who enjoy a good story filled with suspense, unusual beings, adventure, and a little magic. The illustrations at the head of each chapter are made from cut paper. See Elsa Mora’s website for more examples of this incredible artform. The Water and the Wild is K. E. Ormsbee’s debut novel.

NOTE: There is a sequel planned for Fall 2016, as yet un-titled.

THE WATER AND THE WILD. Text copyright © 2015 by K. E. Ormsbee. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Elsa Mora. Reproduced by permission of the Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase The Water and the Wild at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

Read an excerpt HERE or HERE
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Learn more about The Water and the Wild HERE.
Meet the author, K. E. Ormsbee, at her website:  http://www.keormsbee.com/
Meet the illustrator, Elsa Mora, at her website:  http://www.artisaway.com/
Find more middle grade novels at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

© KLR — Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

water and the wild 2015


Filed under: 4stars, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: adventure, Chronicle Books, Elsa Mora, imagination, K. E. Ormsbee, magic, sprites, The Water and the Wild, wisps

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14. #686 – Dragon and Captain by P. R. Allabach & Lucas Turnbloom – Flashlight Press

I cannot recall so many 6-star reviews in such a short period of time (5 of 7 current titles). I didn’t hand-pick them, it was simply their turn. I hope you have a chance to read each of these books, and any other that might make the list this year. Today, another winner arrives today. Debut author Allabach and award-winning cartoonist Turnbloom blend the picture book with the graphic novel for a unique experience.
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Dragon and Captain

Written by P. R. Allabach
Illustrated by Lucas Turnbloomtop book of 2015 general
Flashlight Press            4/01/2015
978-1-9362613-3-8
32 pages               Age 5—7
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“What is Captain doing in Dragon’s sandbox? He’s moping over his lost ship. Dragon is a boy in a robe and pajamas. Captain is a boy with a three-sided hat. But when they set off on a backyard adventure to find the lost ship, they become . . . DRAGON AND CAPTAIN, FEARLESS EXPLORERS! Together they trek through a dark forest, climb down a cliff, and hike all the way to the sea to outsmart a band of evil pirates! Can dragon and Captain rescue the missing ship . . . before lunch?” [book jacket]

Review
Imagine a picture book partially written as a graphic novel. That image is Dragon and Captain, the story of two little boys who wake up one morning to confront a mystery—where is the Captain’s ship. Did the sea grab hold, dragging it far away, or did something more nefarious occur?

While enjoying his breakfast, a blue-hued Dragon spies a red-haired pirate trespassing in his sandbox. Rushing out, Dragon confronts the intruder,

“Hey, pirate. What are you doing in my sandbox?”
“I’m not a pirate, good sir. I’m the captain of a ship.”
“You look like a pirate.”

Thus begins the wonderfully witty and whimsical, fantasy-filled, backyard adventure. Turnbloom’s graphite, ink, and digitally painted illustrations alternate between the boys’ imagination—told as a comic strip—and their reality—seen in traditional picture book spreads. The process enhances the story with vivid action, and gives the reader direct access to the young boy’s right-brained imagination and creativity.

Bear

Captain and Dragon’s world is void of technology. A crayon drawing, a paper-towel tube, and a toy watch respectively become a map, a telescope, and a compass. What would your imagination do with green bushes, a water sprinkler, and a stone walkway? How would your creativity re-claim the Captain’s ship using only toy sandbox shovels, paper, and a bicycle? Why must the duo sneak past the one-eyed teddy bear? Captain, and his new friend Dragon, trek through a dangerously dark forest and scale a cliff to reach the sea, never leaving the backyard and finding all the above items valuable to their journey.

I love that Dragon and Captain could ignite a child’s innate imagination, sans technology. I love that after reading Dragon and Captain, kids might see their surroundings as an adventure; everyday objects as imaginatively malleable; and reading as exciting and essential. Parents will enjoy reading Dragon and Captain to their children, especially after hearing their cries of,

“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do around here.”

Yes, there is something to do and Dragon and Captain will show the way. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations by award-winning cartoonist Turnbloom, and the backyard fantasy-adventure, smartly written by debut author Allabach. Dragon and Captain is a terrific book for any “Books for Boys” list, yet girls will love it, too. Aye, matey, this girl adores both the Dragon and the Captain.

DRAGON AND CAPTAIN. Text copyright © 2015 by P. R. Allabach. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lucas Turnbloom. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Flashlight Press, Brooklyn, NY.

Purchase Dragon and Captain at AmazonBook DepositoryFlashlight Press.

Learn more about Dragon and Captain HERE.
Dragon and Captain Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/DragonandCaptain
Meet the author, P. R. Allabach, at his/her website:  http://prallabach.blogspot.com/
Meet the illustrator, Lucas Turnbloom, at his/her facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/lucas.turnbloom
Find more picture books at the Flashlight Press website:  http://www.flashlightpress.com/

AWARDS
2015 Literary Classics Seal of Approval

Review Section: word count = 389

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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dragon and captain allabach and turnbloom - flashlight press 2015


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Graphic Novel, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: backyard adventure, creativity, Dragon and Captain, dragons, fantasy-adventure, Flashlight Press, imagination, Lucas Turnbloom, P. R. Allabach, pirates

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15. #599-601 – Adventures at Walnut Grove: #1: A Lesson in Teasing – #2: I Double Dare You! – #3: I Can Do It by Dana Lehman & Judy Lehman

cover combosAdventures at Walnut Grove: #1: A Lesson in Teasing - #2: I Double Dare You! - #3: I Can Do It

by Dana Lehman & Judy Lehman, illustrator

Lehman Publishing   5/31/2010 – 4/24/2008 – 6/15/2007

978-0-9792686-9-4

Age 4 to 8       36 pages

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“Sammy enjoys visiting new places, so he decides to take his friends to an enchanted forest called Whispering Willows. Along the way and through Paradise Pond, Bucky realizes that with practice and confidence, he can swim! Join Sammy and his friends on a journey that will have them swimming for frogs, swinging through the forest and building a tree house. Magical things happen in Whispering Willows . . . if you believe.

Opening

#1:  “Sammy was a unique squirrel.”

#2:  “Walnut Grove was a wonderful place to spend summer  vacation.”

#3:  “It was time for another visit from Sammy’s cousins, Silly and Sassy.”

Review

Sammy is waiting for his cousins, Silly and Sassy to return to Walnut Grove, where Sammy lives. Sammy is a unique squirrel. He has raccoon eyes! Maybe it is his eyes or maybe because Sammy likes to lead that everyone follows him. Today the gang is going to Whispering Willows, a magical forest, where Sammy wants to build a treehouse. Who is this gang of animals? Sammy (squirrel, and apparent leader), Silly and Sassy (squirrels and Sammy’s cousins), Bucky (a beaver who is learning to swim), and Rocky (a raccoon, who trusts Sammy because of Sammy’s raccoon eyes).

This is the third adventure for this gang of friends. The first, entitled, Adventures at Walnut Pond: a Lesson in Teasing has the gang staying at the Walnut Grove Resort where they play with many new friends. In a game of walnut ball, a new kid (Bucky the beaver), tries to distract Sammy from hitting the walnut by teasing him. Later, Pokey (porcupine) teases Bucky about his lack of swimming skills. In the end, they all learn, teasing any animal is not nice and to treat others as you would like to be treated. Bucky and Pokey apologize and the kids have a great time for the rest of their visit to the Walnut Grove Resort.

TEASING LESSON

#1: A Lesson in Teasing

I Double Dare You again brings the cousins Silly and Sassy. By now, they have gotten the knack of causing trouble without meaning to. They just do not think. During a game of hide-and-seek, Silly and Sassy get distracted by some nice long sticks. Silly double dares Sassy to play swords. Though mom had told them no more playing swords, Sassy could not refuse a double dare. She accidently pokes Silly in the eye. Later, Silly and Bucky climb up onto Deep Water Bridge. Silly double dares Bucky to jump into the river. Silly jumps and swims to shore. Bucky feels pressure to follow, so he jumps. There’s one problem: Bucky is just learning to swim. He begins to drown. Both Sassy and Bucky blame Silly because he had double dared them, leaving them no choice. The kids learn it is important to take responsibility for your own actions and to apologize when they are wrong. Silly’s poked eye heals and Bucky survives the water. When Bucky was drowning, his dad rescued him. In kid’s books, children—in this instance, one of the gang—should do the rescuing. This empowers kids.

DARE

#2: I Double Dare You!

This brings us to the most current adventure for Sammy and company. Mothers of two-year-olds are well aware of this title: I Can Do It! The gang is in Whispering Willows, the magical forest where anything can happen. Bucky’s learned to swim and can swim out after a frog, now named Whopper because the frog is one whopper! Silly will not fare as well. Every time Silly tries to build something, he gets hurt. Silly has no desire to help make a treehouse. Encouraged, he tries—and smashes his paw with a hammer, losing all confidence in himself. Silly also physically loses himself, sans his eyes, which look to be floating. Now that is eerie.

The magical tree allowing the kids to build tells Silly he will be invisible until he believes in himself. Silly stops helping. Later, Bucky gives Silly Whopper, whom Bucky considers a lucky charm. Silly gives building one more shot. Soon, his confidence returns, as does Silly. Thank goodness, Bucky knew how to help Silly. Silly’s mom would probably prefer a poked eye to an invisible child. The message of this third volume of Adventures at Walnut Grove is to believe in yourself. Believe I Can Do It!

CAN DO IT

#3: I Can Do It

The Adventures at Walnut Grove all carry messages that are impossible to miss. I am not fond of message books, especially when the message hits you almost instantly. That is just what I do not like; or simply my own opinion. If you like such books, the three well-written volumes—with a fourth in the works—has wonderful characters, each unique in some way. I like that the characters return in each new story. When a character is lost, some kids will be sad and may give up on the series. A series needs consistency and Ms. Lehman made sure all her beloved characters returned, once introduced, and acted consistently from one story to the next. I’d be very surprised if the fourth story strays.

The illustrations are nice. The images are not digital, giving the books a down-home feel that will be comforting. There is one odd spread. In I Can Do It, spread 6, the illustrator used the exact same illustration on the left and right halves of the spread.This lack of creativity is not acceptable. On a happier note, the animals are realistic and consistently drawn. I think kids will enjoy the illustrations. As for the text, my only suggestion would be to edit for wordiness and to bring the text more in line with picture book word counts of 500 to 1000. A few pages are nearly half text. Young children “read” the illustrations and may become distracted waiting for the page to turn. Beyond this, I like each story. I like the situations used to bring the message to fruition. Ms. Lehman is someone I would consider to have an active imagination. Every writer should have such an imagination.

Each book ends with A Word from the Author. It starts off on a good note to parents, but then becomes patronizing. The author may still be talking to children with her encouraging note. My understanding of an author’s note is to clarify the content or add to it. In a picture book, I do not expect a note for the child, but this would explain the tone of the note.

I look forward to book four. I think parents will love the messages this series can help them teach their children. Kids will enjoy the story and the wonderfully fresh illustrations. The last two pages contain a mix of open and closed discussion questions and a short activity. There are more activities on the author’s website. Kindergarten and first grade teachers could easily find a use for this series. Schools libraries would do well to stock up on Sammy and his friends at Walnut Grove.

ADVENTURES AT WALNUT GROVE #1: A LESSON IN TEASING, #2: I DOUBLE DARE YOU, #3: I CAN DO IT. Text copyright © 2007, 2008, 2010 by Dana Lehman. Illustrations copyright © 2007, 2008, 2010 by Judy Lehman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Lehman Publishing, Allentown, MI.

Buy any of the Adventures at Walnut Grove books at AmazonB&NLehman Publishingat your local bookstore.

     

Learn more about the Adventures at Walnut Grove series HERE.

Meet the author, Dana Lehman, at her bio:  http://www.lehmanpublishing.com/author.php

Meet the illustrator, Judy Lehman, at her bio:  http://www.lehmanpublishing.com/author.php

.Find Lehman Publishing books at their website:   http://www.lehmanpublishing.com/

.AWARDS – 2009 Mom’s Choice Award (x2)

A Lesson about Teasing – Silver: Values and Life Lessons

I DOUBLE Dare You! – Silver: Developing Social Skills

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Filed under: 4stars, Awards, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: A Lesson in Teasing, beavers, Dana Lehman, I Can Do It!, I Double Dare You, Judy Lehman, Lehman Publishing, porcupine, racoons, squirrels, wild animals

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16. #606 – Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe & S. D. Schindler

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Brother Hugo and the Bear

Written by Katy Beebe

Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Eerdmans’s Books for Young Readers        4/01/2014

978-0-8028-5407-0

Age 5 to 9     34 pages

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“It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book. The Abbot was most displeased. ‘Our house now lacks the comforting letters of St. Augustine, Brother Hugo. How did this happen?’ The precious book, it turns out, has been devoured by a bear, and so Hugo must replace it. Letter by letter and line by line the hapless monk crafts a new book, all the while being trailed by a hungry new friend who thinks that the words of St. Augustine are truly far sweeter than honey. Based loosely on a note found in a twelfth-century manuscript—and largely on the creative imaginings of the author—this humorous tale will surely delight readers who have acquired their own taste for books.”

Opening

“It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book. ‘I shall have to inform the Abbot of this, Brother Hugo,’ said the librarian.”

Review

Poor Brother Hugo. A bear has eaten his library book, an important book for the monastery. To replace the book, Brother Hugo must first travel to a neighboring monastery and borrow their copy of St. Augustine. Throughout Lent, Brother Hugo must then copy this book, by hand, for his own monastery. Brother Hugo and the Bear is a beautiful book. The text looks similar to what one would find in an old religious tome, as do the illustrations. Each paragraph begins with a large letter entwined with grape vines and leaves. As for the bear, with those long claws it is no wonder Brother Hugo did nothing when the bear snatched St. Augustine from his hands.

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I like that all the monks help Brother Hugo prepare the things he needs to make the new book. It was not as easy as going to the stationary store, as it would be today.The monks had to make everything by hand. The illustrations show an offended goose walking away from the monks who now have a bird feather from which to fashion a pen. There is so much detail in Brother Hugo and the Bear one must take a second look after reading the story. I love illustrative detail and Brother Hugo and the Bear is loaded with details. I noticed a bear hiding behind the tree as Brother Hugo leaves the other monastery. Even the two dogs look in the direction of the tree and bark. Alas, that bear never follows Brother Hugo. (Maybe he is a scout for the book-eating bear.)

While Brother Hugo toils at his writing task, outside a noise begins to disturb the entire monastery.

“Brother Hugo, Brother Hugo,” the other monks cried, “what can be the meaning of that noise? It is like the rumbling of a great stomach or the whooshing of a fierce wind.”

The monks had the answer. It is the bear, hungry for another masterpiece. Once more, Brother Hugo’s friends help ensure the safe return of the original St. Augustine to the other monastery. On his return trip, Brother Hugo takes along a sack from his friends along with the original book. The contents of that sack should keep the bear at bay while Brother Hugo travels. The author uses the word “snuffling” to describe the noise made by the bear. I looked this up and found that the bear has a cold and is trying to breathe through a blocked nose. Poor Bear. I really like this word and hope kids take the time to look up its meaning.

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I was surprised to learn the story is based on a true event. There was actually a bear who ate a book in the middle ages. How interesting. The backmatter goes into detail as to how the author, first-time children’s author Katy Beebe, came up with the story. The illustrator also has a page of notes in which he compares his process to the process used by the monks. It is all very interesting. The best part of the book is the twist at the end. Almost to the door of the other monastery, the bear has caught up to the monk and waits. Brother Hugo has run out of offerings. What he does next will momentarily shock the bear. And here lies the twist, which is funny on many levels.

Children will enjoy Brother Hugo’s story. I think they will love the watercolor and ink illustrations, which are gorgeous. The friendship and cooperation displayed by the other monks is a wonderful message for children. Curious children will love learning of the work involved in producing a book. While the monks do this all by hand, the ingredients are the same: one author, several pages of paper, lots of ink, a copier to make many books, and the cover and binding. Brother Hugo is the copier of his time. All the monks were copiers. They copied books to keep the words available, you know, in case a bear eats the original book.

BROTHER HUGO AND THE BEAR. Text copyright © 214 by Katy Beebe. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by S. D. Schindler. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Purchase Brother Hugo and the Bear at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryEerdmansyour local bookstore.

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Learn more about Brother Hugo and the Bear HERE.

Meet the author, Katy Beebe, at her website:   http://katybeebe.com/

Meet the illustrator, S. D. Schindler, at his website:   http://sdschindlerbooks.com/

Find more books at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers website:   http://www.eerdmans.com/youngreaders/

an Imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company     http://www.eerdmans.com/

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Also NEW in 2014 by S.D. Schindler

Tricking the Tallyman

Tricking the Tallyman

Ben Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention  

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention

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brother hugo and the bear


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Benedictine monks, children's book reviews, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Katy Beebe, La Grande Chartreuse, Middle Ages, parchment, picture book, S. D. Schindler, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

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17. #607 – Father’s Chinese Opera by Rich Lo

cover.

Father’s Chinese Opera

Written and illustrated by Rich Lo

Sky Pony Press         6/01/2014

978-1-62873-610-6

Age 4 to 8       36 pages

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“The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobats, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending the summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy yearns to be a part of the show. Rehearsing his acrobatic moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk. What will he do next? Will he give up on his dream, or will he persevere and work his way up in the show?”

Opening

“Father was the band leader and composer of the Chinese opera in Hong Kong. Sometimes I sat on top of the instrument cases and watched the actors onstage.”

The Story

A young boy admires his father and the Chinese opera. He wants to become a famous acrobat. He asks the best acrobat in the troupe to teach him some acrobatic moves. Gai Chui agrees. The two exercise and practice acrobatic moves, such as the praying mantis and the drunken monkey. The young boy is good and he knows it. At school, he brags that he will soon be an acrobat in the Chinese opera. The boy decides it is time to tell Gai Chui he is ready for a performance assignment. Gai Chui laughs and calls the young boy presumptuous. That evening, the young boy sulked. His father shows his son pictures of himself at the beginning his career. To be a band leader, the father explains, he had to learn every instrument so he could compose songs, which he also needed to learn to write. Does the young boy understand the message his father had imparted? Will he continue to dream of becoming an acrobat in the opera?

color

Review

The first thing I noticed about Father’s Chinese Opera was the beautiful illustrations. The watercolor scenes are bright kaleidoscopes of color. The back and fore grounds are washes of orange, blue, green, and reddish-purple. The Chinese opera comes alive on the pages. The young boy, immersed in the opera through his father’s work, wants to be on stage as an acrobat. The famous, and real, Gai Chui agrees to mentor the boy. The acrobatic moves fly around the pages as student and teacher strike identical poses. Father’s Chinese Opera is simply a gorgeous picture book.

The young boy knows he is good. He brags to school friends, and then tells Gai Chui he is ready for his acrobat assignment. Being told he is disrespectful, unqualified, and overconfident the boy sulks, proving Gai Chui correct. I love how the boy’s father, the leader of the Chinese opera, explains to his son why Gai Chui said what he did. The boy wants to start at the top, or near the top, rather than earning his way as others must do. I had no idea a composer, at least for the Chinese opera, must know how to play every instrument. That feat in itself is amazing (and screams picture book story).

training

The boy’s indomitable spirit brings him back to the stage, this time as a flag carrier. You can see the joy on his face as he weaves towards the edge of the page. Learning to work your way up to where you want to be is a difficult lesson for a young child. Children live in the here and now, wanting what they want now. Delayed gratification is not a message in the story, but it falls in line with waiting your turn, working your way up, persevering, and keeping a colorfully bright spirit as you work toward that dream.

Children will love Father’s Chinese Opera. It will be a treat for their young eyes. At first, many will think of a circus because of all the color and movement. Boys will connect with the acrobatic moves the young boy learns from Gai Chui, looking at it as karate. It will be up to the reader to explain to the children the story is about a Chinese opera. But those problems are not due to story or art, but rather American culture. Father’s Chinese Opera is a wonderful book for school and classroom libraries.Children need to read about other cultures and Father’s Chinese Opera is a good book to start their journey.

father

The author’s note explains more about the Chinese opera, his father’s journey, and their move to the U.S. The note is an interesting read and quite informative. Adults will enjoy the author’s life story, though abbreviated. If the author expounded on this note, he would have a captivating memoir.

FATHER’S CHINESE OPERA. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Rich Lo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sly Pony Press, New York, NY.

Purchase Father’s Chinese Opera at AmazonB&NBook DepositorySky Pony Pressyour local bookstore.

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Learn more about Father’s Chinese Opera HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Rich Lo, at his website:  http://greatsketch.com/

Find other multicultural books at the Sky Pony Press website:   http://www.skyponypress.com/

an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing Inc.   http://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/

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fathers chinese opera

copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: acrobats, actors, childrens book review, Chinese Opera, Father's Chinese Opera, flag carriers, picture book, Rich Lo, Sky Pony Press, Skyhorse Publishing Inc.

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18. #618 – Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog by Jackie Clark Mancuso

9780615545424-cover.

Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog

written & illustrated by Jackie Clark Mancuso

presenting Hudson

distributed by Small Press United         6/05//2013

978-0-615-54542-4

Age 4 to 8     36 pages

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“When Hudson, an adventurous Norwich Terrier, moves to Paris, he loves the new sights and smells. But when he tries to make friends, he is surprised to discover that the dogs only speak French. Little Hudson’s desire to make friends and thrive in his new environment is so strong that he learns a new language. Hudson becomes a Parisian, or Paris-Chien, (chien means dog in French).”

Opening

“Hi. My name is Hudson. My mom is a writer and we’ve come to live in Paris for a year.”

Review

Poor Hudson, the real-life dog who owns author/illustrator Mancuso, he now lives in a new culture, with a new language, and one he does not understand or speak. Hudson tries to make friends, but cannot understand anything the French pooches are saying. He wants to go back home. Mom said no, but did have an idea.

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I like the beginning of Paris-Chien. Hudson tells us about life as a dog in Paris. People take their beloved pooches everywhere.  One guy even takes his dog to work at a shoe store where he greets people. The dog also greets entering customers. How cool is that? Even restaurants accommodate dogs with a human; sometimes with the best table. Hudson also goes to all sorts of places, along with his mom. No matter how he tried, poor Hudson cannot communicate with any other dog.

The story flows nicely from point to point. When Hudson takes lessons in French—Mom’s brilliant idea, taught by a French Poodle (of course)—he begins to pick up the language and other dogs can now understand him. Hudson even found himself a girlfriend! She is a lovely looking French poodle. Did you expect any other breed? The illustrations are nice. Done in gouache, the bright areas are nearly flawless and the lighter areas give the illustrations texture. I love Hudson as he studied—with heavy black glasses perched on his snout.

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Children who like dogs will love Paris-Chien, as will adults. Anyone who has experienced the dog culture of Paris will recall memories of time spent there on each page. The animals are adorable, with many breeds represented. There is also a cat, and a squirrel (which is risky given how dogs take off after the rodents). Ex-pat Mancuso’s Parisian dogs are obedient and stay where the illustrator places them in the real Parisian locations. The funny and unexpected twist in the story is good.

Dog parks are finally starting to appear throughout the US, but with Paris dogs having nearly free reign (going to work, and in and out of restaurants. When Hudson cannot find a place to play, and the park he finally finds does not allow dogs—the only one in all of Paris—I loved the twist. Inside the back cover is a list of French words with their English counterpart. Maybe kids who read about Hudson will learn French right long with the smart ex-pat canine. Debut author / illustrator Jackie Clark Mancuso lived in Paris with her dog, Hudson. She based the locations on places she and Hudson frequent.  Now that he knows some French, Hudson is a happier dog, willing to somplete their tour of Paris.

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PARIS-CHIEN: ADVENTURES OF AN EX-PAT DOG. Text and illustrations copyright ()C 2012/2013 by Jackie Clark Mancuso.  Reproduced by permission of the author, Jackie Clark Mancuso, Los Angeles, CA.

Buy Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryiTunesauthor’s websiteat your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog HERE.

Meet the author / illustrator, Jackie Clark Mancuso, at her website:   http://jackiemancuso.com/

Find more books the Small Press United website:   http://www.smallpressunited.com/

French Press.

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paris chien adventures of an ex pat dog

 

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: chinldren's book reviews, dogs, Hudson, Jackie Clark Mancuso, making friends, Paris, Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog, picture book, Small Press United

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19. #619 – The Lonely Crow by Paul Stillabower & David Johnson

image001The Lonely Crow

written by Paul Stillabower

illustrations by David Johnson

Book Guild Publishing         5/29/2014

978-1-909716-18-6

Age 5 to 7      32 pages

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“It’s bedtime and Crow is searching high and low for the perfect place to sleep. He finds a comfy looking perch . . . But a scowling owl sends him on his way! He sees a cosy pile of hay . . . But a trumpeting elephant won’t let him stay! Will poor old Crow ever find somewhere to rest his weary head?

Opening

“The night was icy and the sky was dark

When Crow flew high

over Regent Park.

His wings were tired and his legs were old,

So he looked for a place

to get out of the cold.”

Review

Poor Crow, he was tired and cold. He flew the London sky looking for a comfortable and safe place to sleep. He tried a nice looking branch, but a mean owl threatened Crow as he told him to scat. That owl looks terrifying. I am surprised Crow even landed, yet he did land, and that grouchy old owl took a swing at Crow. Not a dumb bird, Crow left for safer accommodations. (Oddly, the next illustration has Crow back on a branch, from which he then flew off.)

Crow being a pretty smart bird, decided the London Zoo would be a safe place to find a spot to sleep. The London Zoo is nothing more than, according to Crow,

“A place for animals . . . a great, big farm!”

Zoos are fun and safe places, but maybe not for crows. Crow tried several warm, cozy spots, but each time another animal claimed the spot and Crow had to leave. In fact, two animals look like they might want Crow to stay, as long as he is their midnight snack. Ouch!

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The bright illustrations give Crow bold coat of blue feathers and a nice light yellow beak. As the story progresses, Crow’s eyes close with sleepiness, until they are almost shut. At last, Crow is so tired his wings barely hold him up. It is easy to empathize with Crow. It should not be that hard to find a place to sleep. The characters all look a tad cartoonish, except for their eyes, which carry a great deal of emotion. The baby elephant, a cute little guy, shows expresses himself with his huge, bright smile. Crow left, thinking the little guy’s trumpet was a warning. The baby elephant looks like he wants to play with Crow, not get rid of him.

Written in rhyme, the story is an easy read. The rhythm is not completely smooth, with some lines having extra beats. My tongue tangled a couple of times trying to maintain the rhythm. Overall, Stillabower did a pretty good job writing the story in rhyming poetry. Poetry is very difficult to write correctly. It involves much more than simply finding words that rhyme.

The nicely produced hardback contains a great looking credit page. Many non-traditionally produced books forget this page, so it is nice to find one that has nearly all the needed information—for librarians (and fussy reviewers). The illustrator’s name is missing.  Having both names on the cover is best, yet it is understandable why the author wants only their name after spending so much for the illustrations. Still, credit the illustrator else, it looks like the author was also the artist.

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Crow finally sees an empty nest high up in a tree. I don’t think Crow should land. It could be another owl ready to show him the fictitious door with a reality swing of his wing. Crow is very tired at this point and lies down in that empty nest. His eyes are barely open. Will Crow sleep the night away, or be shooed away once more?

The Lonely Crow tells a nice bedtime tale. Crow becomes more tired as he travels from place to place. All he wants to do is sleep. The same message parents try to tell their children. “Sleep, please go to sleep.” By the time Crow does find a place to sleep, the listening child should be ready to close their eyes as well. Young children will like Crow’s story. He is a likable character. The illustrations do a great job enhancing the lovely story. The Lonely Crow may well help many young children find sweet dreams.

THE LONELY CROW. Text copyright © 2014 by Paul Stillabower. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by David Johnson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Book Guild Publishing, Great Britain.

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Purchase a copy of The Lonely Crow at AmazonBook DepositoryBook Guild Publishingat your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Lonely Crow HERE.

Meet the author, Paul Stillabower, at his facebook page:

Meet the illustrator, David Johnson, at his website:

Produced by Book Guild Publishing:   http://www.bookguild.co.uk/

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the lonely crow

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Turns out The Lonely Crow is a popular title. Here are some others, all titled The Lonely Crow.

Danielle Wortman @ saarchiart.com

Photograph by Danielle Wortman @ saarchiart.com

by Pikoia @ pikoia.deviantart.com

Illustration by Pikoia @ pikoia.deviantart.com

The Lonely Crow a poem © Joshua McCaw

The Lonely Crow a poem © Joshua McCaw

a story (not yet available) by Mike Miles

a story (not yet available) by Mike Miles

The Lonely Crow Game by Tapp.com

The Lonely Crow Game by Tapp.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: bedtime story, Book Guild Publishing, children's book reviews, crows, David Johnson, London Zoo, Paul Stillabower, picture books, sleepy, The Lonely Crow, UK

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20. #621 – Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be by Jacqueline Boyle and Susan Lupone Stonis

cover1Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be

by Jacqueline Boyle and Susan Lupone Stonis

Preliteracy Partners / Belly-Books          3/01/2014

978-0-9860511-0-4

14 page, 8 x 8 Board Book

Age:  last trimester to 3+

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“Exciting results rom recent studies show the powerful effects of reading to babies in utero: a rhythmic, repetitive story read regularly during the last trimester will soothe your baby after he or she is born. It’s also been sown that sharing storied with pretern aies familiarizes them with the voices of their parents and other family members, and that babies can even absorb elements of language while in the womb. Such discoveries inspire the Belly Book Collection.”

Opening

“Hello in there, baby! I’m thinking of you

As you’re curled up inside me so small

Every joy we share

All my loving care

And I can’t wait to show you it all!”

Review

Can’t Wait to Show You consists of one poem of 10 5-line stanzas. The poem begins with one stanza on the first spread, two stanzas on the second spread, and alternates from there until the final one stanza spread. The rhyming scheme notation is a-b-c-c-b. If not for the first line standing alone, the 5-line stanzas are close to the limerick form.

The authors base their book on the idea that in the last trimester, the child can hear the voices outside of the womb and can remember those voices. This familiarity helps the child relax, find a happy mood, and may help the child at birth. Singing the poem will intensify this, as newborns can recognize repeated songs, which also has a calming effect. The process of reading to their yet-to-be-born child also helps the parents’ transition into parenthood and enjoy the nine-month gestation period.

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The poem is event centered. Parents anxious to meet their child is the on-going theme consistently stated in the fifth line.

“Oh, I can’t wait to show you the . . . “

In the second stanza, they cannot wait to show their child the light of the sun through rainbows, suncatchers, and sunbeams. In the final stanza, the parents cannot wait to show the child their love. The poem is easy to find a nice consistent rhythm by which to sing the verses or simply read them aloud with ease. The meter is consistently perfect.

One of the most interesting features of Can’t Wait to Show You is the book’s shape. The edges and corners curve making the rounded book smooth and perfect for a baby-belly. The book is designed to comfortably sit atop the pregnant woman’s belly and, later, the child, as she or he sit in mom or dad’s lap listening to the now familiar poem.

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The illustrations are beautiful. Each new spread advances the age of the child from third-trimester to toddler and then flows full-circle back to a newborn on the final spread. The babies and toddlers are happy bundles of baby fat and smiles; images that will be irresistible to most. The pages are thick, perfect for children’s grips. The weight of the book as a whole should help it stay in the given belly position.

I love the poem Can’t Wait to Show You. Here is my favorite spread; the fourth spread:

“If you try some bananas and peaches

Lick the spoon so they don’t go to waste

For your birthday I’ll make

Chocolate angelfood cake

Oh, I can’t wait to show you the taste!

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“Your blanky is warm, soft and snuggly

The splashy bath suds make you squeal

A kitten will purr

When you snuggle her fur

Oh, I can’t wait to show you the feel!”

The love of reading is acquired best when started early. Reading to your child in the womb is the best start, as long as reading to your child continues through the years. The beauty of the words and illustrations make Can’t Wait to Show You the perfect baby shower gift. It would also be a unique gift as unique as the poem inside the pages.

useCan’t Wait to Show You is not a novelty book. Nor is it just for mothers. Fathers can and should read to their baby; getting to know the one person who will wrap him around their finger for a lifetime. Can’t Wait to Show You is destined to become a family favorite that lasts many years, and then becomes a cherished heirloom passed down to succeeding generations.

CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW YOU:  A CELEBRATION FOR MOTHERS-TO-BE. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Jacqueline Boyle and Susan Lupone Stonis. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Preliteracy Partners / Belly-Books.

Purchase Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be at AmazonBelly-Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be and Belly-Button Bookss HERE.

Meet author Jacquelilne Boyle at her website:    http://jacquelineboyle.wordpress.com/

Meet author, Susan Lupone Stonis, at her website:   https://thereadingwomb.wordpress.com/

Find Belly-Books at the website:   http://belly-books.com/

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Also by Jacqueline Boyle

Dead Drop

Dead Drop

 

 

 

cant wait to show you


Filed under: 5stars, Board Books, Book Excerpt, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Poetry Tagged: baby books, baby shower gifts, board book, children's book reviews, in utero book, Jacqueline Boyle, poetry, read to baby in utero, Susan Lupone Stonis

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21. #622 – Eddie and Dog by Alison Brown

9781623701147.

Eddie and Dog

written and illustrated by Alison Brown

Capstone Young Readers      2/01/2014

978-1-62370-114-7

Age 4 ro 8      32 pages

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“Eddie is looking for a friend—a friend who likes adventure. Then Eddie meets Dog. And the fun begins. This wonderful story, with stunning artwork celebrates the excitement of a beautiful relationship.”

Opening

“Eddie dreamed of adventure.

“He imagined flying off to far-off places and doing amazing things. Then one day . . . “

Review

Eddie found Dog. No, wait, Dog found Eddie.

Eddie is at the airport, dreaming of adventures, when he sees Dog in a pet carrier, which Dog opens with his paw. (Dogs can get out of anything.) Dog wants a life of adventure and must see the same in Eddie. Dog asks Eddie if he would like to play. This is the beginning of a unique friendship and a lovely picture book. Eddie and Dog is one of my favorite picture books this year.

What fun the two enjoy together. Their adventures are loaded with suspense, intrigue, and some silliness for good measure. The two hunt crocodiles, sail the seven seas—I’m thinking in alphabetical order—build a grand fort, and traipse through lush jungles. That was day one.

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When Eddie introduced his new best friend to his mother, she said Dog could not stay—the yard is too small.  Poor Dog. Poor Eddie. Eddie keeps thinking about Dog and it is a good bet that Dog thinks a lot about Eddie. The next day, Dog returns to Eddie. Mom stands her ground. Dog needs a bigger yard and a better home. Mom’s imagination and creativity has taken back seat t her larger practical side. She can’t see the blossoming relationship between Eddie and Dog or how important it is to the new friends. Instead of working with the yard, she instantly says it is too small.

Dog is trying as hard as he can to keep his friendship with Eddie alive. Good friendships should never die—they are too hard to cultivate. But Eddie’s mom is consistently saying no to a dog. Do dogs make her nose sneeze and her eyes cry? Maybe mom really is concerned with Dog’s happiness. Hm, I wonder what will happen next.

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I love Eddie and Dog. They must belong together else, Dog would not make such grand gestures, would he? Dogs do love unconditionally. And Dog is a dog. You cannot beat logic. Eddie and Dog belong together. I bet Dog keeps trying until Eddie’s mom runs out of excuses and places for Dog to go.

The story is well-paced and the illustrations hit the mark on each and every page.The final spread is my favorite illustration. Eddie sits behind Dog as Dog flies his shiny red propeller plane to their next awesome adventure.. Dog is a cute, cuddly canine. He is the perfect size for Eddie. Dog loves adventures, just as Eddie wanted! The ending has an unexpected twist that I love. Dog can accomplish many fantabulous things in a short amount of time.

sea

Children will love Eddie and Dog. They will be sad when Eddie is sent away, but after the first return—a wonderful twist—kids will keep smiling even when mom sends Eddie off several more times. Sometimes knowing the punch line can be fun. Kids will love Eddie and Dog, even to the point of wanting their own Dog (sorry Eddie). Parents can take heart. Eddie and Dog is an easy and fun read with moments needing sound effects only a parent can provide. Will Eddie and Dog become your child’s favorite book? Quit possibly so, at least until the next edition of an Eddie and Dog adventure hit bookstores. Enjoy!

EDDIE AND DOG. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Alison Brown. Reproduced by permission of the US publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN.

Purchase Eddie and Dog at AmazonB&NCapstone Young Readersyour favorite bookstore.

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Learn more about Eddie and Dog HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Alison Brown, at her website:    http://www.littletiger.co.uk/authors/alison-brown

Find more good books at the Capstone Young Readers website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Reader is an imprint of Capstone:   http://www.capstonepub.com/

Eddie and Dog was originally published in Great Britain by Little Tiger Press in 12/18/2013.

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Also by Alison Brown

I Love You Night and Day

I Love You Night and Day

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo

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eddie and dog

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Alison Brown, Capstone, Capstone Young Readers, chidren's book reviews, creativity, determination, Eddie and Dog, friendhip, imagination, Little Tiger Press, persistance, pets, relationships

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22. #628 – Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption by Mark Myers

virgil creech 1.

Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption

written by Mark Myers

published by Mark Myers                  12/19/2013

978-0-61587615-3

Age 8 to 13     222 pages

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“Welcome to the sleepy little town of Portsong, Georgia where there is a struggle a foot. Unbeknownst to the current owner, Virgil Creech has his selfish eyes set on taking back a dog he considers his. To be fair, as the youngest of nine bickering and bustling brothers, Virgil has always had to fight for the few things he could call his own. In this case, the property in question ran away from Virgil several months prior and now wants nothing to do with the boy, for he has found a happy home with the kindly Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle. Undetered, Virgil teams up with  reluctant friend, Henry Lee, to retrieve the dog.”

Opening

“That was a mark!” yelled Henry as he disappeared behind the row of elm trees to round up the ball.”

The Story

Four friends, Virgil, Henry, Willy, and Joe are playing in the town green (like a park) when Virgil kicks the ball hard and too high hitting Colonel Birdwhistle in the back of the head, knocking him out onto the pavement. The boys cautiously check to see if he is alive and Virgil accidentally causes Birdwhistle to hit his head again, knocking him cold. Later, at the hospital, Willy and Joe check on Birdwhistle and leave believing the boys have caused Birdwhistle to become blind. Willy, Joe, and Henry decide to find a dog, train it as a Seeing Eye dog, and give him to the Colonel.

At the city dump, the boys find a dirty, matted, and awful smelling mongrel. Henry gives the dog a half-hour session in leading the blind, and then takes the dog to the hospital, leaving it in Birdwhistle’s room. The Colonel takes the mutt home, cleans him up, and decides to keep him. The dog, now named Oscar, is now a happy dog.

Virgil realizes Oscar his is dog and is mad that Birdwhistle stole the dog from him. According to Virgil, Birdwhistle came right into his house and took Bertie (same dog, different name). Virgil is determined to get his dog back and enlists the help of his one friend, Henry Lee. Henry is determined to keep Virgil sway from Oscar. To complicate matters, a nationwide contest for a trip to Africa gets the town, including Virgil, up in a tizzy. Virgil knows he is the winner and must just wait for the day his name is called. When he returns from Africa, he will then get his dog back. But Colonel Birdwhistle has been entered hundreds of times by townsfolk who appreciate and admire him. Birdwhistle wins, causing Virgil to believe the Colonel has now stolen two things from him. He is madder than two Creech boys fighting over a chicken drumstick are. How will Henry contain Virgil and keep Oscar safe and with Birdwhistle. Can he do it?

Review

Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption tells the story of two boys, Virgil, Henry, a British transplant, and the man’s dog, Oscar. Virgil is a mean boy, the last of nine boys. Not a day goes by that he is not beat or taken advantage by one of his brothers. In turn, Virgil always has a chip on his shoulder, beats up kids at school, must always get his way, and has no friends. Virgil’s temper is as short as a temper can possibly be. Henry is a kind, well-mannered boy from a fine family. After Virgil kicks a ball that knocks-out Colonel Birdwhistle, the boys, especially Henry and Virgil, are thrown together for survival.

The well-planned and well-written story will keep you turning the pages. The author understands the psyche of the twelve-year-old boy and offers explanations and comments throughout the book. At first, I thought these annoying, but as more and more pages turned, the narrative became more natural, the comments regarding boys in general became interesting, and the story became a smooth ride, except for the Virgil bumps along the way. Packed with humor, tender moments, and upheaval only two young boys can cause, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption will please adults as well as kids.

I enjoyed the story, which focused more on Henry and his life than on the main character, Virgil. As one reviewer has already pointed out, Henry should be the protagonist. Virgil is a perfect antagonist and causes most of Henry’s stress. Once Henry understands how Virgil treated his dog and how the dog ended up living in the city dump, he vows to keep Oscar with the Colonel. Even Oscar stays away from Virgil, refusing to go anywhere he can smell the boy—which is not hard for anyone to do. At one point, the author states that Virgil is the only Creech that did a selfless act. Not so, the two brothers who rescued Bertie (Oscar in a former life), and cared for the dog, albeit in a dump, thought only of the dog, not themselves. Seems any Creech could have a heart deep within his chest.

There are no illustrations in the story. Oscar is a small dog, one that Henry can easily pick up. The dog on the cover is not small. I do like the angry hate-the-world scowl on Virgil’s face. This accurately portrays the boy’s disposition. While reading the story, Colonel Birdwhistle looked very near the image on the cover. The houses seem out of place for an area of town filled with green grass. Maybe on the other side they would be correct. Having saidall that, for someone who has not read the story, the cover is inviting and makes you want to know what the scamp on the cover has done.

I am not overly fond of the trick Birdwhistle and George, Henry’s father, plays on the town when Birdwhistle decides not to accept the trip he won, without entering himself. I like the first part, but what is the difference, as Henry asks, between leaving for three months and hiding out, without your dog, for three months. The Colonel does not want to leave the town, where he feels accepted and a member of nearly every family, yet he is still gone from the children and the story hour Birdwhistle did not want to miss. It would have made more sense for the Colonel to feign an illness. The author wanted a twist that would delight the reader but I think this failed to hit the mark.

Kids who love adventure or family-spun stories will enjoy Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption. For his first book, Myers offered readers a well-crafted story, less the twist. There is a second Virgil Creech story to be released this Fall. I cannot wait to find out what bothers Virgil enough to make his face “glow red.” It is entitled, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper. There is no preview, so make of this title as you will. Just the idea of Virgil singing scares me.

For a middle grade boy’s perspective of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption  click HERE.

VIRGIL CREECH TAKES A SWIPE AT REDEMPTION. Text copyright © 2013 by Mark Myers.

To purchase your copy of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption go to AmazonB&NBook DepositoryAuthor’s Websiteyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption  HERE.

Meet the author, Mark Myers, at his website:    https://portsong.wordpress.com/

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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evil fairies love hairm

Don’t forget! Evil Fairies Love Hair releases AUGUST 5th. As a reminder, the review is HERE.

Get it at Amazon   B&N    Book Depository    Clarion 


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: 1920's, boy's book, bullies, children's book reviews, family relationships, friends, Mark Myers, middle grade novel, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption

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23. #642 – Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt & Vin Vogel

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Maddi’s Fridge

Written by Lois Brandt
Illustrations by Vin Vogel
Flash Light Press              9/01/2014
978-1-9361612-9-1
Age 4 to 8          32 pages
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“Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, play in the same park, and go to the same school. But while Sofia[s fridge is full, Maddi’s fridge is empty—white empty—just a small container of milk.

“Why doesn’t your mom go to the store?” Sofia asks

“We don’t have enough money”

“But what if you get hungry?”

“We have some bread,” says Maddi. “Please don’t tell anyone.”

“Sofia promises Maddi she won’t tell, but is determined to help her best friend. She sneaks food for Maddi in her bag and discovers that, while fish and eggs are good for kids, they aren’t very good for backpacks. Despite Sofia’s very best efforts, Maddi’s fridge is still empty. Sofia promised not to tell. Now what does she do?”

Opening

“When Sofia and Maddi played at the park, they stretched their toes to the sky.”

Review

Best friends Sofia and Maddi play in the park every day. Sofia runs faster than Maddi, but Maddi climbs the rock wall quicker than Sofia does. Somehow, that evens things out for the two friends. Their food situation is far from even. Sofia discovers Maddi has only milk in her fridge—less than full. Sofia’s fridge is loaded with food—good food. Maddi has a lot of energy for a girl barely eating, but then, hunger knows how to mask itself, usually through embarrassment and shame. Embarrassed, Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell anyone. Sofia goes home to eat. (Why didn’t she invite Maddi?)

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Sofia keeps her promise not to tell; still she must help her best friend. That night, Sofia’s mom makes fish and rice for dinner. There is enough food that even Pepito, the dog, had some fish and rice mixed into his dog food. Sofia got a great idea. She asks her mom if fish is good for kids and mom says it iss perfect. That night, Sofia put some fish in a baggie and dropped it into her backpack. The following day, Sofia’s backpack stunk of inedible fish.

“Yuck,” said Maddi

“Double Yuck,” said Sofia.

The following night, Sofia’s mom makes frittatas for dinner. Again, even Pepito has frittata mixed into his bowl. Sofia asks if eggs are good for kids . . . see where this is going. Yeah, Sofia tries to help her friend and keep her promise at the same time, but backpacks filled the night before, and sit outside the fridge waiting for the morning to arrive, do not make good transportation when sneaking food for a friend.

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Sofia knows she needs help. Can she break her promise to Maddi? Kids will understand this story; laugh at the funny moments, and leave wanting to help others, as kids are prone to do. In Maddi’s Fridge, Sofia’s brother offers his favorite food and Pepito offers his bowl and a can of dog food (what a happy dog—I thought it was a cat).

The illustrations add humor with the comic-like characters and a neighborhood setting that could be your neighborhood. Randomly open the book and odds are good you will see a positive spread and probably humor. Only three pages express Maddi’s situation and her embarrassment. The author kept Maddi’s Fridge a story kids will enjoy and understand.

In the end, the two girls must work out what it means to break a promise. Will Maddi be upset with Sofia? What is more important: promises or people? (Or best-friend people?) Maddi’s Fridge could easily have been a message story or had the lack of food a constant talking point. Instead, Maddi’s Fridge is a sweet story about two best friends taking care of each other.

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Oh, there is another side story where Maddi helps Sofia, but I can’t fit it all in. Sorry, you will need to read Maddi’s Fridge. The story is perfect for story time, teachers of grades K to 2, and homeschoolers. Maddi’s Fridge is a sweet story that remains positive, refusing to become sad or gloomy, though the subject of hunger can certainly be both.

MADDI’S FRIDGE. Text copyright © 2014 by Lois Brandt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Vin Vogel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Flash Light Press, Brooklyn, NY.

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Buy Maddi’s Fridge at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryFlash Light Pressyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Maddi’s Fridge HERE.

Meet the author, Lois Brandt, at her website:    http://www.loisbrandt.com/

Meet the illustrator, Vin Vogel, at his website:    http://www.vinvogel.com/

Find more picture books at the Flash Light Press website:    http://www.flashlightpress.com/

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Also by Vin Vogel

The Thing About Yetis! (Fall, 2015)

Music Class Today! (Fall 2015)

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maddis fridge

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: childhood hunger, children's book reviews, Flash Light Press, hunger, Lois Brandt, picture book, social issues, Vin Vogel

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24. #647 – The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

guardian herd 1 starfire

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The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

Written by Jennifer Lynn Alvareztop-10-use-eb-trans
Harper/HarperCollins Children’s Books      9/23/2014
978-0-06-228606-2
Age 8 to 12              272 pages
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“Once every hundred years, a black foal is born, prophesied to either unite or destroy the five herds of flying horses that live in the land of Anok. He is fated to become the most powerful Pegasus in all of Anok. Star is this black foal. Even though Star has malformed wings that make him unable to fly, the leaders of each herd will take no risks and want to execute Star before his first birthday. With the help of his friends, Star must escape the clutches of the powerful leaders. His epic journey of self-discovery turns into a battle between good and evil that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.”

Opening

“Star trotted through the dense pine forest, alone.”

The Story

The Pegasi of Anok (mythical winged horses), consists of five herds each with their own leader—the over-stallions—and their own land. None crosses the borders without permission. Wars have been raging between these herds for hundreds of years. Star is a black foal born into the Sun Herd, led by Thunderwing. When Star’s mother died birthing Star, Thunderwing’s mate adopted him, much against her mate’s wishes.

Star, a black foal, was born under the Hundred Year Star. If he can remain alive until his first birthday, he will receive the star’s power, and then become either a destroyer or a healer. No one knows which he will become, not even Star, and this terrifies the over-stallions of each herd. The last black foal born under this star all thought would be a healer. He was a good weanling, but when he received the power, he became a destroyer and wrecked havoc in all the land of Anok. It is up to the over-stallion of the guardian herd—Thunderwing—to kill the black foal before his first birthday, or to let him live and receive his ultimate power. Thunderwing is as scared as the others are and plans to execute Star before his first birthday.

Only Star’s three friends and his adopted mother believe Star will be a healer and seek to keep Star alive so he can receive the power of the Hundred Year Star. The other weanlings (those under one-year of age) bully Star and his three friends, mainly because he cannot fly. He does not fit into his wings, and must walk every like a common horse—a terrible insult to a Pegasus.

One particular weanling has it in for Star and tries to kill him. But in doing so, he crosses into another herd’s land, starting a war. Between this new war and the majority of pegasi wanting him executed, Star knows he must be on his own. Can Star survive without his friends, tend to his own food and water, and remain hidden from all other pegasi? Whether or not Star can survive on his own will greatly determine his future. With five herds looking for him, Star’s odds of survival are slim.

Review

The Guardian Herd has every element a kid wants in an adventure. The author has created an imaginative, highly stylized world kids will appreciate. There are great characters that are easy to understand and like, even the terrifying bully Brackentail. This adventure has tons of action, some with violence. The violence is not bad until the final battle, making this book more appropriate for middle graders on the older end of their age-range.

There are many characters is The Guardian Herd. So many that the author starts with five pages of descriptions so kids know the herds and the pegasi in each herd. I found this section a tad overwhelming and skipped it altogether. I had no trouble remembering who was who and where they belonged. The only thing this list does, in my opinion, is make the story seem cumbersome and it might scare off a reader or two. I would drop it or place it at the end of the story.

Star is a wonderful character. Despite his worthless wings and inability to fly, Star has a warm personality, respects and honors his friends and adopted mare, and is braver than one would think given his situation and fate. Star is a character whose side you will quickly take up. When off on his own, Star’s humor—or the author’s humorous writing—had me in stitches. I loved his friend Crabwing and the things they did in and around the bay.

Granted, there is a huge war near the end of the story and the violence can be just shy of young adult territory, but I do not think it will give any kid nightmares, especially when the scenes that follow these battles are as strong and easy to envision. Once these scenes begin, the war becomes a distant memory. I think these final scenes will override any violent scenes a kid may linger on. The ending is extremely well written and strong. It was nothing as I imagined it might be. I cannot explain any further without spoilers, so this will have to do: the ending is fantastic. If the author does not hurry up and finish the next book, I may start stalking her blog.

The Guardian Herd may not be a New York Bestseller, yet, but it will entertain, and possibly teach your child a few things about friendship, respect, and loyalty. If not, they will still be completely engrossed for a few hours with an imaginative world that actually resembles our own world in many ways. I highly recommend this series for kids age 10 and up. Adults who love fantasy adventures will also enjoy The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire. This is Jennifer’s debut novel with HarperCollins—her first traditionally published book!

THE GUARDIAN HERD #1: STARFIRE. Text copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Advanced Readers Copy received from the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, NY.

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Get your copy of The Guardian Herd: Starfire at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryHarperCollinsyour favorite book store.

Learn more about The Guardian Herd: Starfire HERE

**Also Available in Audio

Meet the author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at her website:    http://www.jenniferlynnalvarez.com/

Find more exciting stories at the HarperCollins website:    http://www.harpercollins.com/

HarperCollins Children’s Books is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Here is a twelve-year-old kid’s view of The Guardian Herd #1:  Starfire. Read Erik’s review HERE

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Also by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

The Pet Washer

The Pet Washer

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Reviewed HERE

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guardian herd starfire

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: children's book reviews, Guardian Herd, HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins Publishers, Hundred Year Star, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Land of Anok, middle grade novel, Pegasus, Starfire

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25. #650 – The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey by Gregory E. Bray & Holly J. Bray-Cook

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The “Tail” of a Boy Named Harvey

Written by Gregory E. Bray
Illustrated by Holly J. Bray-Cook
Published by Gregory E. Bray         6/01/2013
978-1-488271465-4
Age 4 to 8              32 pages
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“Harvey is always playing with his pets, but his pets don’t like the way he plays with them. When the tables have turned, will he enjoy the way he’s played with?”

Opening

“Harvey was an energetic boy. He loved playing sports.”

The Story

Harvey is a typical five-year-old. He is rambunctious, energetic, imaginative, and self-centered. Harvey loves playing with his pets: a dog and a cat (names not given). Being a young boy, he does not think of either pet’s feelings or consider how they might like to play. The pets are like large dolls that breathe. Harvey puts clothes on them, uses the cat as a basketball, and dresses both up in military garb when he wants to play army—sending the cat up into the air so it may return in a parachute. To say Harvey plays rough with his companions is a mild way of describing his actions. Harvey plays like a little boy plays, with energy and enthusiasm.

The poor dog and cat are not happy and try to avoid Harvey at all costs. His parents cannot figure out why the pets react so adversely to their son, until the day mom catches Harvey ready to catch his parachuting kitty.

“She sent him to his room after dinner and he was only allowed to come out for school and meals.”

Harvey’s response to his punishment further shows he has no idea what he did to get into so much trouble.

“Stupid pets!”  [Harvey said, while lying in bed.]

Review

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I really like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Subconsciously, Harvey understood what he did was wrong. In his dream, he is the “pet” and the pets “own” him. The pets play with Harvey exactly as he played with them—thrown up in the air, dressed up, and abruptly awakened. Harvey hates this “playing.” The army games the pets play with Harvey terrify him enough to jolt him awake. Mom tells him it is only a dream, but Harvey has other thoughts on his mind,

“I’m sorry guys. I didn’t know how bad I treated you. I promise to play nice with you for now on!”

I like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey because animal abuse starts with that first inappropriate action. While most kids do not continue on abusing animals—and later extend the abuse to humans—the sooner they learn to respect their pets, the faster they will learn to respect other people and themselves. Harvey’s self-centeredness, typical for his age, opened up a notch with his revelation. I love that Harvey came to this realization mainly by himself, though he would have gotten there much slower had mom not punished him. This is a perfect example of how kids learn. The author’s inspiration for the book came in part from his son Liam and their cat Harvey. The author got it right.

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Now, what I do not like about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. I am not a fan of the 8 x 8 format mainly because little hands need the stronger pages of a traditional picture book format. A couple of pages came loose from the binding in my copy. The main problem with the story is the lack of action. The narrator tells us 90 percent or more of what is happening instead of letting the characters do this. The story would be more engaging had this happened. The reader would also be able to add to the story by adopting character voices and further charm their child. Please remember the key maxim: Show not Tell.

The illustrations are good, not traditional looking picture book illustrations, but nicely done. The pets are great at showing their dislike through facial expressions, though my cat would have simply hissed or bit, then run away. When the pets do run away, their fast retreat is nicely illustrated. The illustrator made sure we understood Harvey’s point of view drastically changes when he becomes the pet. The dog and cat (wish they had names) are adorable. Nice job with the little details I love so much.

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I think kids will like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Young kids will appreciate the story and laugh at Harvey’s predicament. Those with pets will quickly learn from Harvey and that is a great thing to happen. Classrooms with a pet would do well to read this story, as would any child soon to get their first pet. The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey is the author’s, and the illustrator’s, first children’s book. They both did a nice job bringing the story of Harvey (the cat or the boy, I am no longer sure which) to life.

THE TAIL OF A BOY NAMED HARVEY. Text copyright © 2013 by Gregory E. Bray. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Holly J. Bray-Cook. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gregory E. Bray, Sacramento, CA.

For a young lad’s critique, click HERE

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Purchase The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey at Amazon—B&N—CreateSpace—Gregory Bray—your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey HERE

Meet the author, Gregory E. Bray, at his blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Meet the illustrator, Holly J. Bray-Cook, at her website:

Gregory E. Bray published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

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tail of a boy named harvey

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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A Little about Gregory E. Bray

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“Gregory E Bray (1967-present) was born and raised in Sacramento, CA where he still resides He was a film major in college who now works in the IT industry. He has written scripts for corporate videos and shorts and uses humor in everything he writes. He uses his humor in this, his first children’s book, to help get the books message out to children. His inspiration for writing this children’s book comes from his wife Lita, their son Liam and their cat Harvey.”

How to Find Gregory E. Bray

Website:

Blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/gregoryebray

Goodreads Author Page:   https://www.goodreads.com/geb1967

Amazon Author’s Page:    amazon.com/author/gregorybray


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: be kind to pets, cats, children's book reviews, dogs, Gregory E. Bray, Holly J. Bray-Cook, imagination, pets, picture books, relationships, respect

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