Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or print copy of the book. 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.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Uncles and Antlers by Lisa Wheeler and Brian Floca



Release Date - October 2014

Lisa Wheeler
Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s a humorous look at the holidays from the vantage point of a little reindeer who each Christmas is visited by her seven uncles. Each one is quite a character and the rhymed text explains what is unique about each relative.

For example, Uncle Quint is from Montreal and is a trick-shot basketball expert. He has five earrings, five tattoos and five new pairs of brand-name shoes. He does commercials in TV, too.

Uncle Sven, a literary gentleman, writes poetry, books and plays while Uncle Sy drives a race car.

I’ll let you read the book to see why the reindeer gather each year like this, but you probably won’t be too surprised by what they are really up to.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass



Release Date - August 2014 (Reissue)

Hester Bass
E.B. Lewis
Candlewick

Book Review by Jessica Maguire

Walter Anderson has aptly been called 'the most famous American artist you've never heard of.' Living on the coast of Mississippi, Walter preferred the solitude of Horn Island. On the island he risked life and limb to study nature and paint.
Why is Walter Anderson's work unknown to many people, you wonder? During his life he was a rather reclusive naturalist and kept most of work hidden from the world. He even had a room at home that was completely off limits to everyone, even his wife.
Despite being ill and escaping from hospitals, Walter continued to paint wonderful watercolors. Regardless of his health and people not liking a mural he did in town, Walter kept painting. Snakebites and hurricanes never kept him from doing what he loved.
It was in 1965, upon the death of Walter Anderson that the scale of his work was recognized. His wife finally went into the room Walter forbade everyone from and walked into a room that was covered in a mural of the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast. It was in this room that Walter's never before seen watercolors of Horn Island were discovered.
Sadly, Hurricane Katrina decimated a good portion of Anderson's work. However, some of his works survive in museums, some are being restored, and the rest are part of his family's private collection.
I enjoyed reading this chapter book for young readers and being introduced to the biography of an artist I was not familiar with. The color illustrations by E.B. Lewis are themselves works of art. I also enjoyed the examples of Anderson's work as well as the extensive author's note about the artist’s work.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin



Release Date - November 2014

Ryan Graudin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Walled City is a place where drug lords and brothel owners rule the land. It's a hopeless wasteland where young girls are sold into prostitution and young boys learn quickly to take work where you can, even if that means running drugs, and one where committing crimes is the norm and can also put you in jeopardy.

It's a land that Dai desperately wants to escape. One where Jin poses as a boy to avoid being forced into prostitution while searching for her sister, Mei Yee. And, one where Mei Yee is forced to work as a prostitute in a brothel after her father sold her to the brothel's owner.

Once you're introduced to the main characters, you'll begin to learn of Dai's plan to escape the city and start a new life outside the walls. After noticing Jin, he offers her job, one that puts her in easy reach of the brothel where she believes her abusive father sold her sister to. Meanwhile, Mei Yee meets Dai and also begins to dream of having a life outside the Walled City. Can this trio pull off the impossible and escape?

While The Walled City is gripping, it's also a book that I struggled with at first. The story is told from all three perspectives, and the change from one character to another often comes suddenly. If you're not paying attention, it can be difficult to figure out who is narrating. It took a number of chapters before I could settle in and immediately know who was talking. Once I had that down, I fell into a rhythm with this dark tale that is based on a district within Hong Kong.

As a note for parents who do try to monitor what their kids read, the scenes within the brothel are not overly graphic, so parents need not worry about graphic sex scenes. I actually thought they were tastefully done. You get Mei Yee's displeasure and desperation to escape without feeling uncomfortable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creative Sticker Fun: Pirates



Release Date - September 2014

B Small Publishing

Book Review by Bob Walch

This sticker dress-up activity book encourages the reader to use the provided stickers to complete the pages showing these animal pirates engaged in various activities. There are colorful hats for the various crew members and special beach wear for when they go ashore. 
 
The seventy stickers are to be used in one of the five special scenarios that are provided for the pirates. These include some undersea exploration, being caught in a storm and an Arctic adventure.

Obviously this book is only appropriate for a child who can keep the stickers in the book and not on other surfaces like walls and furniture. The stickers also pose a choking hazard, so make sure any child given the book will not be tempted to put the stickers in his/her mouth. Keep the book away from younger children as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Animals in Danger by Pierre de Hugo



Release Date - June 2014


Moonlight Publishing

Book Review by Bob Walch

There are quite a few endangered animals picture books available. What sets this book and series apart are the transparent pages that are included. It is an interesting touch that shows the creatures in similar but also slightly altered environments.

Overall the illustrations are quite good but there’s not a lot of narrative, although there is probably enough for a young child. The best audience for this book would be younger readers who are just being exposed to the topic of endangered species.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga



Release Date - April 2013

Barry Lyga
Little Brown

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I am so glad I stumbled onto this series. It's creepy and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. I Hunt Killers is the first in the Jasper Dent series, and I can't wait to read the others.

Jasper "Jazz" Dent spent much of his youth being trained to follow in his father's footsteps. His father's choice of career, however, wasn't one that would win friends. His father was a serial killer who has now been behind bars for many years.

When a woman is murdered in Jazz's town, he knows the townspeople will start suspecting him. The truth is that Jazz wants to be of use to the police. He knows how killers think, and he feels that makes him incredibly useful. He's convinced this murder is the work of a serial killer, but he's having a hard time convincing them.

Every word in I Hunt Killers had me mesmerized. Police have a hard time taking Jazz seriously, he is after all only 17, but his insight is pretty intriguing. His character also has a bit of a struggle as he tries to recall some of his earliest memories, but he's blocked them out and fears his long-missing mother may have been one of his father's victims.

 While the book is marketed as a young adult mystery/crime novel, I found it very enjoyable as an adult. I think this is a great book for any fan of serial killer/murder mystery stories. The writing is crisp, the plot moves quickly, and the story is creepy without being excessively gory. It's a thumbs up read in my opinion!




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia



Release Date - October 2013

Kami Garcia
Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Unbreakable reminded me of a cross between Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural. It's addicting!

Kennedy Waters and have mom have handled life just fine since Kennedy's father walked away from the family a number of years ago. Things take an odd and then downright tragic turn after Kennedy heads to a local graveyard to find her runaway cat. The cat begins acting odd after that, but things worsen when Kennedy's mother is found dead. Kennedy is now alone.

That's just the beginning of the weird changes in Kennedy's life. On her last night in her home, she awakens to find her cat sitting over her, possessed by a demon that wants her dead. If it wasn't for the intrusion of Lukas and Jared, twin brothers and demon hunters, Kennedy may not be alive. She soon learns she's the missing part of the Legion that Lukas, Jared, and two other teens have been trying to locate. These five teens need to find the missing disks to a device that is supposed to defeat evil. Each of the disks is guarded by a ghost who definitely does not want to give it up.

I quickly became addicted to Unbreakable. I happen to be a fan of the earlier years of Supernatural, and Jared and Lukas reminded me a bit of Sam and Dean. The quest to find the missing disks also reminded me a bit of Sleepy Hollow, another show I liked until the end of the season. Having the blend of those two shows was a nice treat for a rainy fall day. I read it in one sitting.

Having finished it, however, I am more than eager to read the next book in the series. I hate waiting to find out what happens next, which is why I prefer when an entire series is released in a boxed set or one large compilation. The next story has just come out though, so I'll be eager to get my hands on a copy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cool Cars by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker



Release Date - October 28, 2014

Tony Mitton
Ant Parker
Kingfisher Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

Learn all about cars and how we rely upon them in this little, inexpensive paperback . The rhymed text explains not only how a car works but also the ways it impacts our lives.

A variety of cute animals are featured driving the cars here and we see them behind the wheels of sports cars, taxis, race cars, and even the family station wagon.

Lively word play, vibrant art, and a glossary of car parts make learning about cars as much fun as taking a ride in one!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle



Release Date - September 30, 2014

Molly Idle
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Molly Idle was an artist with DreamWorks, but she left that career to become an illustrator for children's books. This is the second book of hers that I've reviewed, and this one also left me saying "wow."

Flora is ice skating when she meets her new friend, a lively little penguin. When feelings get hurt, how will the new friends make up?

Once again, this is a book with no words. Flora and the Penguin has flaps you lift to learn more about the story, but the actual storytelling is up to the parent or child. That's a good portion of the appeal. My kids always preferred telling their own stories at that age, so having just pictures is a huge plus.

The illustrations are gorgeous, the characters are memorable, and the story is charming. It's another win for Ms. Idle and any parent smart enough to buy a copy for their child.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

DreamWorks Dragons: How to Start a Dragon Academy



Release Date - August 26, 2014

Erica David
Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Hiccup’s dragon friends are creating some problems for the inhabitants of Berk. “The dragons scare fish out of the Vikings’ nets. They chase sheep out of their pens, and they steal food.”

Hiccup and Toothless are given the task of getting the misbehaving dragons under control or they will end up in cages. This is too big a job for one person , so Hiccup will have to enlist his friends to help. Together the Viking youth devise a clever plan to reeducate the dragons so they are not banished from the village.

This Level One reader will appeal to youngsters who follow the characters in this series and it will work well with those who may be reluctant to begin taking on some of the read aloud chores themselves.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier



Release Date - April 29, 2014

Tanuja Desai Hidier
Push

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dimple Lala has reached her 17th birthday, and her interests lie in more than typical teen drama. She's an avid photographer, but more than that, she is trying to find her place in a world where her parents' Indian culture differs from that of her peers in the United States.

Her boyfriend broke up with her. Her best friend has her own boyfriend and has little time for Dimple. To make matters worse, her parents have reunited with an old friend who happens to have a son around Dimple's age. They want nothing more for Dimple to fall for this boy who shares their culture, but Dimple wants to explore relationships on her own terms. When she meets Karsh, she's not thrilled, but soon she learns he has his own activities, those her parents would never find suitable, and that makes him all the more intriguing.

Born Confused grabs you from the start. I loved the balance of Dimple's parents cultural ideals with Dimple's own need to experience U.S. customs, even if they are not ideal. She does go out with her friends and get drunk using a fake ID. She does want to wear somewhat revealing clothing. It's all part of growing up and her parents just don't get it.

I enjoyed watching Dimple grow and mature, making wrong and right decisions along the way. This is the first book in a series, and one I'm glad I read.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet



Release Date - September 16, 2014

Herve Tullet
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Love, love, love this book! If you want a way to teach children about colors and art, Herve Tullet's Mix It Up is the perfect choice.

Herve Tullet's Mix It Up starts with primary colors and then shows what happens when you mix them. Not only do you watch the paint splotches change colors, but there are pages where the two paint splotches are pressed together so the texture of the paint blobs is apparent. Children are instructed to tip the book and the paint on the page appears to have run.

The heavy cardboard cover will take lots of use. Geared for children ages three to five, I think this is a must-have for parents who want to get their kids thinking about colors, how paint creates art, and how colors blend together.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Good Home for Max by Junzo Terada



Release Date - September 2014


Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Tabi the mouse spends his evenings cleaning and organizing the little shop where he lives. He is also concerned over a cute stuffed dog named Max who is overlooked and needs a home. One night, Tabi comes out to find Max is missing. Where could the little dog have gone?

A Good Home for Max features colorful, enjoyable illustrations that caught my eye. Paired with the story about Tabi and Max, it's a fun read for parents and one that beginning readers will easily handle.

One thing I did wonder about are the store signs. They are in French and having taken five years of French, I knew what they said. For those who don't know French, it will be harder. Some you can figure out from the pictures, but others, such as "jouet" (toy) or "beurre" (butter), may be tricky. A glossary for translations would be helpful for some.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Telephone by Mac Barnett



Release Date - September 9, 2014

Mac Barnett
Jen Corace
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Have you ever played telephone? It was a popular game in school. The teacher started at one side of the class quickly telling a student something and then each student had to quickly whisper it to the next student. By the time the final student was told the message, it rarely was the same.

Mac Barnett's book Telephone follows this theme. The message begins with one bird who is asked to tell Peter to go home for dinner. By the time the message reaches the end of the line, it's become a fantastic story. Find out what happens when you read Telephone.

Of all the kid's books I've read this year, Telephone was a gem. From the illustrations to the message, it's just a fun look at this popular game. I highly recommend this to a beginning reader and his or her parents or daycare provider.