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.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream

Released February 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

They had all the right stuff but their timing was entirely wrong. This fascinating book looks at the lives of 13 women who challenged the system and tried to make their way into space as part of the Mercury program.

Known as the "Mercury 13,” these courageous individuals were stymied and not allowed to realize their dreams, but they did pave the way for other young women who, two decades later, would to be admitted to the NASA and astronaut program.

Although this is intended for young readers age ten and older, most adults will also find this a riveting story of bravery and determination that has been made even more interesting thanks to the generous use of color and black and white photographs.

The women featured here were not only brave pioneers of the space age but they defied the prejudices of the time. Some would say they lost, in a sense they did, but in so doing, they blazed a trail for generations of women who followed them. Their story will inspire girls of all ages to continue to reach for the stars!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Moon

Released June 2008

Reviewed by Tracy & Jess

This second book in the Twilight Series shares a few surprises. We don't want to give anything away, so we'll try to tread carefully.

Bella is recooping from the injuries she sustained in the previous book, but more so for the emotional toll of a break-up. Fearing for her safety after Bella is cut and Edward's family of vampires must stave off their hunger for blood, Edward opts to get out of her life for her safety. It takes Jacob to show Bella that she needs to go on. Yet, what she learns about Jacob is equally perplexing to Bella.

Meanwhile, danger is never too far away, so once again, Bella gets caught up in the adventure of a lifetime.

During NEW MOON, the focus is clearly on Bella and Jacob's relationship. Edward is absent. This creates a new spin and allows more insight into Jacob's character and friends.

While different, the story is still gripping and had both of us on the edge of our seat. As for other reviews that say there is adult content and sex, not really. We both give this a thumbs up and think it is an excellent series for both parents and their tween/teens to share.

A Curious Collection of Cats

Released April 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

In 34 visual poems, Betsy Franco captures the many moods of cats with wit and whimsy. Each short poem is melded into the vibrant, colorful, poster-like illustrations by Michael Wertz.

In "The Great Escape,” Sid the cat is sitting on his owner's head as a big Saint Bernard walks by. The lines of the poem begin on Sid's body, flow down onto his mistress, and conclude at the bottom of her dress. The graphic art makes each verse come alive and makes this a very unusual and clever collection of cat poems.

An excellent blending of verse and feline foibles, all the little cat lovers in your household will adore A CURIOUS COLLECTION OF CATS.

Jake The Ballet Dog

Released November 2008

Reviewed by Bob Walch

You might remember Jake from his last adventure with the philharmonic orchestra. Well, the feisty, little, black dog is back for an encore and this time he's taking the reader behind the scenes of the ballet. The rehearsals for "The Nutcracker" have just started and Jake has so much fun learning the basics of ballet that he's soon spinning and leaping just like the dancers.

Can Jake curb his enthusiasm? Of course not, which means this will be a rehearsal like no other and one the cast won't soon forget. You'll find a glossary of terms like "pas de deux" and "arabesque" that Jake learns as he explores the world of dance.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baron Thinks Dogs Are People Too

Released November 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

WOOF! WOOF! Baron just loved people, especially his Mom and Dad. He loved them dearly, but what he really wanted was a best friend. Life was still fun though. Sometimes Billy and Emma played with him and he could probably even say Dog School was fun even if it tuckered him out. He wasn't exactly the best boy dog in the world, but he tried.

Maybe one of the hardest parts was when Dad had to pack up his duffel bag and go away from the family. "My duty is with the Air Force until next July," he told them. Baron's real heart's desire was to have that best friend just for him. There had to be someone, but where were they?

Laurie Dean's first book, Baron Thinks Dogs Are People Too! is simply adorable. Kevin Collier's wide-eyed characters are very appealing. This book is just right for little hands to explore. Military families with a parent facing deployment might want to read this to their young children. An added bonus is a fantastic web page. I felt like a little squirt once again as I clicked on my mouse to turn the pages of an online book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Train Your Brain

How effective is your brain? Can you quickly recall important facts and memorize information easily? As we get older, it seems our brain slows down and memory loss becomes an issue. What if you could reverse this?

Dr. Kawashima's TRAIN YOUR BRAIN is an impressive workbook. The program takes a few weeks to complete, but the exercises are easy to do and suitable for just about any age. Once you've mastered your multiplication and division facts, you can handle this book!

The workbook begins with a simple assessment test. Time yourself counting to 120 aloud. Then proceed through each exercise that includes simple things like timed multiplication pages to word memorization and recall. I found the charts in the back to be most difficult. There you were instructed to name the colors out loud. You had to name the colors and not the words that were names of other colors. It looked a lot like this:

blue yellow red green

I haven't completed the book yet, but I do find myself recalling more words in the memorization tests than when I started. My middle schooler has called dibs on it next, and I do think it will be extremely beneficial to all ages.

Too Tall Alice

Released March 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

It's really awful to be different isn't it? It probably wouldn't matter much if it were something that wasn't particularly noticeable, (say like a crooked tooth in the back of your mouth) but if you are too tall Alice it could just make you cry. When the class picture was taken there she was, way in the back with the boys. Barbara Worton, tells us about all the woes of a miserable eight-year-old, four inches taller than everyone else Alice in TOO TALL ALICE.

If things weren't bad enough, poor Alice overheard her father talking to the neighbors. "She's going to be tall and thin, a string bean, a bean pole, a twig, a long drink of water, a toothpick." WAAAGH! They were all laughing, but it was no laughing matter to her. Poor pathetic Alice soon drifted off to sleep that night under the sheets in her "super-fluffy Ariel the mermaid bed." Was anything ever going to be all right in her life? WAAAGH!

I loved this little story and thought it was absolutely adorable. Little Alice is not the only child encountering self-esteem issues, but Worton weaves a lovely little tale with a charming resolution and an all's well that ends well theme. Alice has a "problem" that all children and adults can relate to. Dom Rodi's illustrations are very quaint and I enjoyed the very busy pages. The font style is embellished and may be difficult for the younger child to read. I think this book would be a great read and discuss book for classroom or homeschool use.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Legend of Honey Hollow

Released January 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Everyone in the entire world has a home, including bears like Grendel. She was a polar bear who lived in the arctic seas. It was a very nice home until some very insensitive and rude people destroyed her home by digging for gas and oil. Those selfsame people were creating global warming and the ice was melting. It was turning into a catastrophe and she just had to find a new home! Jeanne McNaney, author of The Legend of Honey Hollow, who knows all about endangered bears and Honey Hollow, tells us the story of Grendel's newly found home.

Honey Hollow, a legendary place where bears could seek sanctuary, was just the place she was looking for. Everything was clean and pure there, just like it used to be many years ago. Grendel floated all the way on a piece of ice from the Arctic Sea. She was greeted by Serenity, a little brown bear cub from North America and welcomed to the Hollow by her parents, Ursa Major and Aurora. Honey Hollow was a paradise where endangered bears were coming from around the world when their habitats were threatened. There was Mackenzie, an Appalachian black bear, Fernando, A spectacled bear from the Andes Mountains and Ming-Yi, a panda bear from China. All of a sudden the bears noticed that developers were coming in and cutting down all the trees! The Bear Council had to hurry up and have a meeting. Could Honey Hollow be saved? Would the endangered bears of future generations have a place to go?!

I was very thrilled with the quality of the writing and message this book had to impart to its young readership. Jeanne McNaney wove a touching tale and the wonderful illustrations by David Cochard were very complimentary. This is reality-based fiction and the author backs up her beliefs by donating a portion of the proceeds to "organizations that support wildlife conservation and endangered species preservation." In addition the book is printed on environmentally friendly paper. Any parent opting to add this one to their child's library can't go wrong.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Serpent's Spell

Released April 2006

Reviewed by Tracy

Since the date of the first Harry Potter release, the Harry Potter books have been a staple in our book collection. The popularity of books about wizards, wizard schools and the likes has virtually taken the country by storm with many new books following this theme. THE SERPENT'S SPELL is another book along these lines. It has a bit of mystery, basic information about snakes and even a lesson or two in Latin.

The story revolves around orphaned Wil Wychwood. When his grandmother dies in a mysterious fire, Wil is sent to live with his aunts in MiddleGate, a town hidden from much of the rest of the world. No thanks to the fire, Wil has little in the way of possessions. An unusual medallion and a gold ring were given to him, but he has no idea what they mean or where they came from.

Once in MiddleGate, Wil and his cousin, Sophie Isidor, whose father disappeared and is suspected of murder, attend the Gruffud's Academy, a school for budding wizards. There they learn about an usual situation where hundreds of dead snakes are being discovered. When the pair stumble onto evidence that someone is harming the snakes and uncover a secret society that may know more about Wil's medallion, they only put themselves more in danger.

THE SERPENT'S SPELL isn't bad. In fact, I think younger Harry Potter fans will find it extremely enjoyable. Older readers, however, if they are anything like me, will find themselves catching similarities between this novel and the Harry Potter novels. Those likenesses became distracting.

The ghost at Gruffud's Academy, the mysterious teachers, Academy sports like ditchball and objects that come to life like the stone columns--they all seemed similar. The class on plants, including poisonous ones, and a letter Wil receives for breaking Gruffud rules, also seemed familiar. All of it would bring similar situations from Harry Potter to mind.

I couldn't get past the similarities, so I gave the book to my son without saying a word. He said the same thing. My daughter, however, who only saw the movies noticed similarities but said they really didn't bother her. For that reason, I think the books will appeal more to the younger reader or those who didn't read and reread the Harry Potter novels.


Released on August 2008

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This complete book of monstrous beasts is filled with information and illustrations of such fanciful creatures as the unicorn, baku, hippocamp, hippogriff, and manticore. Besides sharing his expertise on beasts of the earth, water and air, Dr. Drake delves into semi-human beasts, and how one finds these creatures and what spells and charms are derived from their various and sundry parts.

MONSTEROLOGY also contains a removable letter from the good doctor, multiple foldouts, flaps and pull-outs with highly exotic material you'll want to carefully investigate, such as the textured samples of such special items as a sea serpent's skin and a feather from a winged horse.

Anyone interested in the characteristics and lore surrounding legendary mythical beasts will definitely need to add this lavish resource and companion piece to "Dragonology" to his or her library.

The Moose with Loose Poops

Released January 2009

Reviewed by Tracy

I've raised a son. I know that potty humor usually appeals to boys and even a few girls. Granted my kids are older now, but while reading THE MOOSE WITH LOOSE POOPS even I struggled to keep a straight face while reading this one aloud! Once I hit the line where the very precocious four-year-old main character announces, "Papa, help! A waterfall's coming out of my bottom." I did cracked up and had to regain composure to finish reading.

The gist of the story is that young Miles Moose has picked up a stomach bug, or more professionally known as Gastroenteritis. The story chronicles the stages of this nasty illness. The worst part is that Miles was looking forward to the camping trip he and his father were going to take and now his illness has ruined things.

Some of the images surprised me. You do get illustrations of Miles throwing up all over the ground. Thankfully, the diarrhea sequences only show Miles on the toilet with paper over his lap and then when he's peering into the toilet, you see nothing but the white sides of the toilet bowl. Not sure I would have wanted to see more because even the vomit was a little much for around dinner time.

With that said, stomach viruses are never pretty. Realistically, the author and illustrator have done a great job capturing the details of this nasty in a very lighthearted manner. The story is geared to children who may want reassurance that they are okay. My own children have never been particularly bothered by the stomach flu. They get it, they feel nasty for a day or two and get better. They've never really worried about what's wrong with them as Miles does. Those who are a little more daunted by their illness may find the reassurance they need.

The book also contains a guide for parents on when to call your doctor and how to handle a stomach virus. For new parents, it might be a handy book to have around. You never know when Gastroenteritis might hit.

The Secret History of Giants

Released September 2008

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Once opened, the child curious about the lore of giants will find this fascinating volume impossible to set down. These hulking creatures are found in the Bible, ancient mythology and in literature that spans the centuries.

This engrossing chronicle with its numerous illustrations looks at giants and their role in forming the earth's terrain, creating natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, and their various means of employment (building Stonehenge and creating other monolithic statutes and edifices from Easter Island to Egypt.

An extensive map shows where they could be found and what these whimsical and often fearsome creatures can be found. Venture into the Hall of Giants to meet Gog and Magog and read about the life cycle of the creatures, and the mysteries of the giant's sack. Further reading will explain their clothing and ritual costumes the stone lore and charms associated with giants and their games and pastimes.

From start to finish, THE SECRET HISTORY OF GIANTS is a captivating little book that packs an enormous literary punch. There's much to learn about noble Great Folk and their secret lives and Professor Berk is more than willing to share his vast knowledge on this subject.