Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. 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.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Release Date - April 2014

Ann Brashares
Delacorte Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There's been a lot of buzz about The Here and Now, the new novel by bestselling author Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).  This new one is a time travel romance, and it's one that does get you thinking. The key point to this book, no matter what happens, the chances for a happily ever after are definitely skewed.

Prenna James came to New York when she was twelve. Unlike most people who move to a new state or country, Prenna has additional rules to follow as she didn't move from another area, she moved from another time. An earth thousands of years in the future where a plague transmitted by mosquitoes is killing off the population. Among the many rules she and her fellow "travelers" must follow, two are proving tougher than others. These rules are simple, she cannot become intimate with anyone who is not a traveler, and she cannot use information she knows to change the future.

Ethan Jarves is fishing the day Prenna arrives. He's instantly drawn to her, but it isn't until high school that he spies her again. Five years have passed at that point, and the growing attraction between them is hard to ignore. Yet, Prenna's been taught that being intimate with someone from this time could lead to his death and changing the future could put her world at risk. She suddenly faces a difficult choice, defy the rules and put Ethan's life in danger, or follow her heart and risk changing the future

Clearly, no matter what Prenna decides someone is going to end up hurt. That's the aspect of this book that kept me hooked. I adored the growing relationship between Prenna and Ethan, but I was compelled to keep reading and find out how she would solve her dilemma.

The Here and Now isn't a long book. It's less than 200 pages, so it won't take readers too much time to reach the ending. This is a definite change of pace from the Sisterhood series, and I actually appreciated it. I now see why so many magazine book reviewers and bloggers have been talking about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's In Your Purse? by Abigail Samoun and Nathalie Dion

Release Date - March 2014

Abigail Samoun
Nathalie Dion
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 My daughter picked up What's in Your Purse? and immediately asked why I never bought her really cool books like that when she was little. I think that really says it all about Abigail Samoun's new lift-a-flap book. Suitable for boys or girls, not only is the book enjoyable with all the lift-a-flap images, but there is a game involved too.

Each page introduces the purse from a member of the family. Start with mom's purse and work you way through grandma's, auntie's, big sister's, and little sister's purses. The purse also has a page of text that asks simple questions like the color of mom's eyes, where auntie traveled to, and who has been reading big sister's diary.

With these questions, children look through the purse to find the answers. There's another aspect my daughter pointed out, it's a great memory game. As you read through the first time, you'll lift the flaps to find the answers, but after that, parents can see how much their children are able to recall. Memorization skills are easily built with this gem of a book. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Release Date - October 22, 2013

A.S. King
Little, Brown

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When he was five, Gerald Faust's family became a reality TV stars on a Nanny 911-type show. While Gerald was portrayed as the troublemaker on that show, the truth was his older sister, Tasha, tortured both Gerald and his other sister, Lisi, regularly, and Gerald's reactions were a result of the abuse suffered at the hands of Tasha. Though many years have passed, Gerald still deals with anger and is scorned by his peers for being the boy, "crapper," who regularly pooped in unexpected places. All he every wanted was a normal, happy childhood. Now that Lisi is old enough to have escaped their troubled household, Gerald feels alone and is desperate for change.

Though he is in anger management classes, true change comes with Gerald is befriended by another outcast at his school. Together, Gerald and Hannah concoct a plan that will change their lives forever.

While I know this is a work of fiction, Reality Boy had an awful lot of truth in it. I avoid reality TV as much as possible, but it's hard  to ignore the fact that some of the stars that you know are headed down a scary line as they grow up being ridiculed, laughed at, and scorned in a very public manner. The author catches the "what happens after..." incredibly well.

My heart bled for Gerald. The mother and even father were despicable humans. That the show kept filming and social services didn't step in bothered me. I only hope that teens who read this engaging novel will realize that being the star of the show is not as much fun as it seems!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Daniel Tiger's Neighbborhood: Thank You Day by Farrah McDoogle and Gord Garwood

Release Date - January 2014

Farrah McDoogle

Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Daniel Tiger and his friends are celebrating Thank You Day. To say thank you to everyone they love, they all write thank you notes and place them in the Thank You tree.

There are notes to Daniel’s grandfather, Katarina’s mommy, and Prince Wednesday’s little brother. Teacher Harriet helps attach the notes to the tree but then a big wind blows them all over the place.

Fortunately, Mr. McFeely, the postman, rescues them and makes sure they get to the person they are intended for. On the book’s final page Daniel asks, “Who will you say thank you to?”

This pre-level one, ready-to-read book will help launch your youngster on the journey towards reading self-sufficiency. The simple words and familiar characters will make shared reading an enjoyable exercise.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here Comes Destroctosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds

Release Date - April 2014 Aaron Reynolds Jeremy Tankard Chronicle Books Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Destructosaurus is wreaking havoc on his town. He's in the throes of a tantrum that simply is not stopping. Is there anything that can stop his rampage? That's the simple premise for Here Comes Destructosaurus. Anyone with a two-year-old will find Destructosaurus shares similar behavior that many parents have seen from their toddler at one point or another. The story is told with gentle reminders to use words and not actions and to mind manners at all times. This makes it a great teaching tool for a younger child, too. With amusing prose and vivid illustrations, I think this is destined to be a favorite with both children and parents.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood by Becky Friedman

Release Date - January 2014

Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Daniel Tiger, King Friday, Prince Wednesday, and the rest of the folks in the neighborhood are expecting a visitor. No one knows who it will be but no matter; the welcome mat will be laid out.

Music man Stan will provide the music and Baker Aker plans to make some special dinosaur bread. The party will be held in the Clock Factory and everyone will be there.

I won’t ruin the surprise my telling you who the special visitor will be, but I’m sure you’ll be delighted when you discover who this special person is.

This is a fun read but there is rather a strong chemical (ink) odor when you open the book. You might want to air it out before you use it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kwirky: A Kid Detective With a Different Perspective by Russell Kane

Release Date - October 31, 2013


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Daniel Kwirk, a fifth grader at Duckworth Elementary and Middle School, is often teased for being different. Daniel has ADHD and that makes him a little more fidgety and also makes it harder for him to pay attention in class. It isn't long before Daniel does something else that catches people's attention. Daniel discovers that the rare Civil War coins on display at the local library are not the real thing, they're fake. When it looks like police won't solve the crime, Daniel, with the help of his sister, starts doing a little detective work of his own.

Kwirky: A Kid Detective With a Different Perspective sends a strong message that being different is not a bad thing. I think that's the bigger takeaway from this book. While Daniel does do some detective work of his own, I'm not as convinced that police wouldn't have figured it out eventually.

Overall, this was an enjoyable short mystery. From an adult perspective, it's not a perplexing mystery, but I found it to be on par with mysteries like the Boxcar Children or Encyclopedia Dan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Greedy Python by Richard Buckley and Eric Carle

Release Date - September 2013 (Reissue)

Richard Buckley
Eric Carle
Little Simon

Book Review by Bob Walch

Everyone knows that pythons are big snakes with voracious appetites. But, as you’ll discover when you read this picture book, the python here gets a little carried away. One day he began gobbling everything in sight. A mouse, frog, bird, bat and fish went into his long stomach. They were followed by a porcupine (quills and all), monkey, leopard and water buffalo. Seriously? Yup! This snake is really hungry!

But wait, he’s not done by a long shot! Next Mr. Python spies an elephant.

I’m far too big to eat!” says the elephant. Not really! And with that the snake swallows the elephant!

Now Mr. Python is finally full…really full…totally full…perhaps a little too full, in fact! With all those animals making a bit of a commotion inside the stuffed snake something is bound to happen…and it does! I’ll let you read this clever board book to see how Mr. Python’s story ends. Of course, there is a lesson to be learned here also about being too greedy for your own good.

A lovely, whimsical picture book with a clever story, you’ll want to remind your youngster from time to time to not be a “greedy, green python” when
eating pizza or something equally yummy and filling!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rocks and Minerals Sticker Book By Natural History Museum, London, England

Release Date - December 2013

Natural History Museum

Book Review by Bob Walch

This activity book features 100 stickers to showcase a wide array of rocks and minerals. The information here is rather basic and there’s not a lot of detail, but this is still a good, inexpensive book to get a youngster started on a study of this fascinating topic.

The young reader is encouraged to match the stickers up with the text that describes rocks and minerals as well as explains how they were formed. There are also a few games and puzzles that will engage the youngster in the topic.

Since the stickers are reusable, you can also think of some creative ways of using them other than just pasting them in the book. For example, make flash cards with the sticker on one side and the name on the other. Perhaps you can think up a board game using the stickers or use them to create your own original picture book.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How Dinosaurs Really Work! by Alan Snow

Release Date - August 2013


Book Review by Bob Walch

What to know what color dinosaurs were? How sharp their teeth were? Or, perhaps, how large a brontosaurus’ brain was? If the answer is “Yes!”, you have come to the right place. Using his delightful cartoons illustrations and sense of humor, Alan Snow answers these a host of other questions about dinosaurs.

The author/illustrator fills each page with his drawings and plenty of facts about each dinosaur he discusses. There’s so much going on and so many details that the you’ll want to take your time to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Many of the two page spreads feature large illustrations that offer a funny view of what’s going on inside a dinosaur. For example, the Rube Goldberg-like innards of the T-Rex are reminiscent of a pirate ship with tiny green dinos manning the “engine room” while others prepare for an attack in the “nerve center” (brain) of the aggressive creature.

Along with hard facts (a T-Rex could weigh up to six tons) the author shares what he dubs “Dino Jokes”.

“What do you call a Tyrannosaurus Rex when he is wearing a cowboy hat and boots?

Tyrannosaurus TEX!”

Perfect for younger readers who might be a little put off or made uneasy by the more realistic portrayals of dinosaurs, this picture book is not only non-threatening but also a lot of fun. There’s a nice blend of silly humor with solid information which means mom and dad won’t have to worry about nightmares after story time is over!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska

Release Date - December 2013

Nina Laden
Renata Liwska
Little, Brown

Book Review by Bob Walch

Renata Liwska’s marvelous illustrations make this picture book about memories come alive. Featuring a small child and a collection of little animals, the central question raised here is, “What do we remember?”

Does a feather remember it once was a bird? Does a book remember it once was a word?’

Although the text is minimal the illustrations expand each question and provide more meaning. (A picture is worth a thousand words certainly applies here!) For example, on one page you’ll see the little boy raking leaves.

Does work remember it once was play?’

The adjacent page shows three cute raccoons having fun and frolicking in a pile of leaves.

The final page of the book encourages the reader to list a few of the “favorite things” he or she remembers. In a classroom situation or story time at the public library, this question could really engage the audience and be a fun activity.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Peanut: A Nutty Tale About Sharing by Simon Rickerty

Release Date - October 2013

Simon Rickerty
Simon & Schuster

Book Review by Bob Walch

Simon Rickerty’s minimalist approach works beautifully in this cautionary tale about learning to share. The central characters are two red and blue spider-like blobs and a peanut.

When they spy the peanut (on the opposite page in the corner), the two blobs cry out in unison, ‘It’s mine!’ Actually they aren’t sure what the peanut is, but no matter. They both want it!

Is it a chair, hat, telephone, rattle, drum, boat, or skateboard? The blobs can’t decide but the ‘It’s mine!’ struggle continues. Then suddenly a much, much larger black blob appears and seizes the peanut. In the ensuing struggle, the peanut bounces away and something really funny happens.

I won’t spoil the ending of this clever picture book by telling you what happens, but let’s just say the red and blue blobs work out their difference of opinion and learn to share.

Children three years of age and older will love these bright, bouncy illustrations, although it might take a slightly older youngster to fully understand the book’s underlying message about sharing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Me Since You by Laura Wiess

Release Date - February 18, 2014

Laura Wiess
MTV Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 At 16, Rowan Areno feels a little too sheltered by her parents. Her father is a police officer and lets Rowan get away with nothing. When her father's fellow officer catches her skipping school, she expects the worst, but she never expects her entire life to change so drastically from one simple mistake. As the world around her crashes down, Rowan learns more about life than she should have to.

If you're rating Me Since You based on the number of Kleenex it took to get through it, the answer is five. Rowan is a personable young woman, and the situations she faces are not easy. I can see rebelling and not thinking your actions through. I think anyone who has been a teenager has rebelled at some point. I sympathized with her, but as the real story took off, from the moment the stranger enters the scene, I couldn't stop reading.

Laura Wiess's story isn't an easy read. It's incredibly emotional, definitely keeps you on your toes, and certain evokes plenty of "what ifs" as you read each chapter as they lead to the story's end. There is a discussion guide at the end that would be perfect for book clubs and classroom discussions. I think this is an excellent book to bring into a classroom and see how different teens react. It's an interesting look at how social media can change a girl's life and also how the actions of a stranger can impact an entire town.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Olivia and the Perfect Valentine by Natalie Shaw

Release Date - December 2013

Natalie Shaw
Shane Johnson
Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Olivia is determined to make this Valentine’s Day really special. The little, white pig is going to make perfect, personalized cards for everyone on her list. Of course, Olivia also likes Valentine’s Day because red is her favorite color and she can use it to her heart’s delight.

Amassing a pile of red paper, white paper doilies and her crayons, Olivia is ready to begin producing her special Valentine’s Day cards. Each card she makes has a special picture that relates to something the person who will receive it likes. For example, Firefighter Fred’s card has a fire dog and hose on it while her brother Ian’s card features a soccer ball with hearts on it. 
There were so many cards to make because Olivia didn’t want to forget anyone but, alas, she did. Olivia forgot her pet dog and cat. Fortunately, Olivia’s mother came up with the perfect solution to this dilemma. 
Was this the best Valentine’s day ever for Olivia? Of course it was!
Not only is this a fun story but children who are honing their reading skills can practice by reading this book aloud to their parents or younger brothers or sisters.