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.”

Friday, July 31, 2009

Famous Figures of Ancient Times (Juvenile Non-Fiction)

Released April 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

My daughter loves craft projects, but the two younger girls staying with me during the day are not always quite as avid. FAMOUS FIGURES OF ANCIENT TIMES proved to be a huge success with all three. With coloring, cutting and assembling tasks in front of them, the girls spent hours creating their movable figures. This book is a must-have for any daycare owner, teacher or parent with craft-oriented kids.

FAMOUS FIGURES OF ANCIENT TIMES is a coloring book/paper doll type book rolled into one. Durable paper figures represent some of history's biggest figures, including Jesus, Moses, Nebuchadnezzar II, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Constantine. Each cut out figure comes on two pages, the first page is printed in bold colors, but the second page requires the child to color the figure. From here, you cut out the figures, use a hole punch to remove the holes and then assemble them with brass fasteners.

There are 20 figures in all and with two pages for each figure, there are 40 assembled movable figures when the children have completed each page. From here they can let their imagination run wild as they play with them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Toot Toot Zoom (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Poor Pierre is lonely. What the little fox needs is a friend, so he decides to jump in his red car and find one. Since he lives at the foot of a big mountain, Pierre will have to drive up and over the twisty road to see what he can find on the other side.

On his journey Pierre meets a friendly goat, bear and sheep that ask if they can hop in the car and join him. Of course he says, "Yes!" and soon the car is full of animals.

Unfortunately, on the way down the mountainside Pierre wrecks his car. He also discovers that no one lives on this side of the mountain. Poor Pierre. He still has no friends and he doesn't have a car either to get back home.

Then he suddenly realizes he does have some new friends - Bear, Sheep and Goat. And, even better, all three of his new friends offer to help Pierre build a new house and then live there with him. So it is mission accomplished but not exactly the way the little fox envisioned.

An excellent picture book for reading aloud, "Toot Toot Zoom!" will delight youngsters three years of age and older with its simple message about friendship and how to know if you have acquired a friend. Matthew Cordell's big, bold, colorful illustrations capture the rollicking journey
and show exactly how a friendship evolves.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Max Said Yes: The Woodstock Story (Picture Book)

Released May 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

It was a time when young people wanted to make peace not war. They wanted to sing, to dance and to “groove to the sounds of love.” They had the music, the bands, the hippies and the squares, but there was no place to have their festival of love. It was upstate New York, 1969 and the search was on. The bands were chosen, each “gig was signed and sealed,” but finding some land to hold their celebration of love and peace seemed to be getting harder by the day. One farmer didn’t want hippies in his hay. Another was turned off by “unwashed dirty girls and boys.” The next one said sure and when his neighbors yelled he reneged. No, no, no, no, NO! But wait . . . let’s ask that guy over there!

“One farmer did not think the same
And Max Yasgur was his name.
He raised cows, sold milk and cheese.
He liked kids with big ideas like these.”

The festival was on because “Max said Yes!” They came from all over. In cars and on foot they came onto the land. The tents went up all around the stage and the festival was on. The bands played and the hippies danced to their music. It was a time to make peace, not war and from August 15 to 17, 1969 “almost half-a-million people” made a little love, did a little dance and all got along!

I was enthralled with this rendition of the Woodstock story and read it several times. It was probably no mean feat to recreate this story in rhyme, but it was very well done. The vibrant, colorful artwork was very appealing. Together they captured the spirit of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (Woodstock) perfectly! In the back of the book there is more information on the festival and Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” lyrics. This is a wonderful nostalgic look at a celebration of peace and love in celebration of its 40-year anniversary. Peace!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pond Circle (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

It may look calm and serene in the moonlight, but the pond featured in this picture book for children between the ages of 4 and 8 is teeming with life. On the surface of the water live jade green algae which provide food for mayfly nymphs. Then there's the diving beetles that eat the nymphs and frogs that gobble up the beetles.

Along comes a garter snake that swallows a frog and, unfortunately, for the snake, a skunk lurking nearby grabs the reptile. Meanwhile, an owl overhead is contemplating swooping down on the skunk and, while the bird's away, a raccoon raids its nest and steal its eggs. Now the raccoon has a problem, for he is being stalked by a very hungry coyote.

Using a rhythmic, cumulative narrative reminiscent of "The House That Jack Built," this story shows there's plenty of drama unfolding in that placid pond. My only reservation about this book that illustrates how the food-chain functions is that for some children introducing them to Mother Nature's harsher side might be a tad scary.

Also, the penetrating eyes on some of Stefano Vitale's creature illustrations (especially the owl, raccoon, and coyote) are a little "other worldly" and I'm not sure how preschoolers might react. They may not even notice at all or there may be some type of subtle, negative feelings generated about the animals. I think I might ask the child if there is anything he doesn't like about any of the illustrations and see what he says.

Overall, though, for the right child this is an interesting introduction to how one creature depends on another for its existence. A lot can be going on right in front of us and we don't see it or realize the complexity of how nature works.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Truth or Dare (Teen Fiction)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Eighth grade is off to a roaring start and Lindsay Martin and her best friends are ready to make the most of it. One of their goals is to be a little more adventurous. By this, they plan to have weekly sleepovers at one of the homes where they will engage in a game of Truth of Dare.

Lindsay's grown up in a household where religion is a big part of their lives. What will she do when the dares become more and more dangerous?

Nicole O'Dell's first Scenarios novel is perfect for ages 13 and up. There is a minor religious undertone, but it's not overpowering or preachy. I think any 13 year old will enjoy this unique series.

It is unique because the reader decides how the book will play out. Remember the Choose-Your-Own Adventures of the 1980s? TRUTH OR DARE is similar. You don't make every decision along the way, but the reader does choose between two options when the main dilemma occurs. And once you've read one ending, you can always go back and read the other.

Topics covered in the Scenarios series seem to be issues that most kids will face. Peer pressure being a main component in this novel.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Little Beauty (Picture Book)

Released September 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Once upon a time there was a gorilla who could have anything he wanted because he learned how to ask for things by signing to his keepers. He could even get a mug of coffee or cocoa to go with his burger if he felt like it. He would sit in his flowery chair, remote in hand, watching television, but something was missing and it wasn't relish on his hamburger. His lips were turned down and his eyes were sad. He knew exactly what he wanted and "he signed to his keepers, "I ... want ... a friend." Hmmmm, were they going to be able to help him?

One of them had an idea and soon a little kitten named "Beauty" was placed in his hands and he was told not to "eat her." He fed her, he cuddled her, he pampered her and they loved each other. "They did everything together" and when he piddled on his potty she piddled in her kitty litter box. One night they were watching King Kong dragging Fay Wray up the Empire State Building and he got so mad he smashed the television set. The keepers ran in and were going to take Beauty away. What would he do without her?

This is a heartwarming tale of friendship and love. The art work is beautiful and brings out the emotional aspects of the story. This story is obviously reminiscent of the famous Koko and her kitten and just as charming. This is a tale that will appeal both the children and adults alike!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk (Poetry)

Released March 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

With over 20 witty, woodsy poems in this collection, there's bound to be something here for everyone. The short, lighthearted
verses celebrate in humorous fashion the denizens of the woods as well as the four seasons.

Children ages 4 to 8 will meet an overachieving beaver, applaud the race-winning snail and chuckle at one critter's proposal for a squirrel spa. Welcome spring with a "zillion brand-new leaves" and lots of wrens, orioles and chickadees. Salamanders, opossums. badgers, and chipmunks are all celebrated in poems, as are tree frogs, toads and beetles.

In "Turtle Beach" the title character begins, "I'm just a simple turtle, / and this is all I ask: / a shallow stream for swimming, / a quiet place to bask…" But, three stanzas later, the turtle requests have expanded. "Oh, sure…I'd love a towel / or a sip of lemonade. But I'm a simple turtle. / That's not the way I'm made."

Joan Rankin's illustrations accompany these amusing poems that will not only introduce preschoolers to simple poetry but also bring a smile to their faces. Actually, mom and dad may chuckle a few times, as well, as they read these poems aloud.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Marilyn Kaye Interview

I've loved every book in the Gifted series, so I jumped at the chance to interview the author through emails. Twilight fans and others who love paranormal teen books should definitely look into Marilyn Kaye's Gifted novels. -- Jessica

Marilyn Kaye Books

1. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I've known this for as long as I can remember! Even before I knew how to write, I was always making up stories and telling them to anyone who would listen.

2. Where did the idea for the "Gifted" series come from?

I've always been fascinated by superheroes, and I wondered what it would be like if very ordinary people developed 'superhero' type powers.

3. Whose story will be coming next?

Emily's story comes next.

4. You live in France. What's your favorite thing to do when you are not writing?

I love sitting in cafes, and sometimes I bring my PC and write there.

5. If the "Gifted" series became a movie, who would you like to cast for the main roles?

I can't answer this one -- I can never remember actors' names! The girl who plays Blair in Gossip Girls would make an excellent Amanda, but she's too old.

6. Our teachers say that becoming an author is a great career, but a visiting author said that he makes very little even though he's a best-selling author. In general, what percentage of book sales go to the author?

This varies a lot, since it depends on the kind of contract that was negotiated between the publisher and the author or the author's agent. 10% is pretty normal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Reluctant Heiress (Young Adult)

Released May 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Although the cover was an enticing, I was rather reluctant to read this young adult novel. Usually I find the writing of this genre so mediocre and the subject matter so insipid I avoid it in favor of material aimed at a much younger audience. I find, on average, these picture books are more inspired if not downright clever and they are mercifully short.

Why would I want to read a 300-page novel about a 19-year-old little rich girl who is slumming by working "incognito" as a wardrobe mistress in a second-rate Viennese opera company?

The book sat for almost two months before I decided to give it a cursory glance. What happened next is somewhat inexplicable given what I have already written! After a few pages, Eva Ibbotson had me hooked (actually Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein was the culprit)! Not only did I NOT set the book aside but also I zipped right through it and then passed it on to my wife! Now, that's really the biggest compliment I can pay an author since I seldom tell her, "You've got to read this!"

Set in the 1920s, the novel's heroine, Tessa for short, has slipped away to the country's capital to pursue her love of the arts and her belief that "birth" doesn't and shouldn't provide one with special privileges.

The flip side of the coin is a fabulously wealthy, businessman named Guy Farne, who is in Austria to help the government seek the funds it needs to keep the country afloat. With very little in common it would seem these two would never meet nor be attracted to one another. But, the old cliché about opposites attracting was never truer than in this story.

The real impediment to the fleeting meeting developing into a serious relationship is that both individuals have "significant others" in their lives. In Guy's case, it is a beautiful but shallow woman who is only interested in his great wealth. Although she doesn't really love him, Tessa's ardent admirer is a prince she has known since childhood whom it has always been assumed she would one day marry.

The glue that barely keeps Guy and Tessa "connected" in a cursory manner is the fact the millionaire has purchased the Pfaffenstein family castle for his fiancée.

Without writing down to her intended audience, Eva Ibbotson has created an old fashion romance that is not only literate but also retains the best elements of the love story with a fairytale ending.

Well plotted with a cast of quirky secondary characters, this is a pleasant diversion from the type of pseudo-reality fare that is too often the norm in this genre today. The dialogue is not punctuated with expletives nor do the characters' raging hormones obligate them to "hook up" before we reach the midway point of the story.

Romance novels are at the bottom of my list of favorite reading material, but I'd definitely give Eva Ibbotson another go-around if I come across one of her other novels.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Simply Irresistible (Young Adult)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Gossip Girl fans will probably find the characters of SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE to be enjoyable. The story revolves around Madison Macallister, trendy Manhattan teen and popular girl who is currently spending her time starring in a reality television show De-Luxe, a show about New York's "real" Gossip Girls. Other problems in Madison's life include her decided lack of finding a guy with whom she can lose her virginity and the fact that Madison's mother snagged Madison's latest potential beau.

Casey McCloy moved to Manhattan from Illinois and also landed a spot on the show. Madison is definitely not happy with that. Casey's having her own problems fitting into a new school and her new Manhattan lifestyle. Not to mention the fact that her mother will be less than pleased when she learns Casey's going to be on television.

Other characters in the story include Sophie St. John, Casey's friend who has just learned her birth mother is a leading Hollywood actress that wants to suddenly be part of her life. Drew Van Allen, Casey's on-again, off-again beau, who found his father in the midst of a passionate encounter with another woman.

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE delves into the problems of this Manhattan teen set. It caters well to Gossip Girl fans without delving into any mysteries. It's straight forward fun that looks into the lives of these upper-class teens as they battle common issues like parents and dating.

This is the third book in the Elite Novel series. I haven't read the previous two novels, but didn't feel that I had missed much.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Smash, Crash (Preschool)

Released January 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Jack Truck and Dump Truck Dan are two best friends who like to create a bit of mischief now and then. They see a hole in the middle of the road with all kinds of cones and cautionary signs surrounding it. They asked each other what they should do, but the answer was easy. “SMASH! CRASH! SMASH-CRASH!” Everything went flying and an angry voice rang out at them, “HEY, YOU TWO . . . ” Jack and Dan weren’t going to hang around to deal with that one and they were soon off to find out if they could find something else to do.

They soon spotted Cement Mixer Melvin and wanted to know if he wanted to “smash.” He was busy and declined the invitation, but Jack and Dan couldn’t resist. “SMASH! CRASH! SMASH-CRASH!” They made quite a mess and cement was all over the place. Good-bye Melvin. Someone was yelling at them again and they had to “step on the gas.” They rolled up to Monster Truck Max (who was busy), Izzy the ice cream truck (“Do you want an ice cream?”) and Gabriella Garbage Truck along with Grader Kat. After a while there was this weird voice calling to them again. Maybe they were in big trouble because the voice was Wrecking Crane Rosie and she was saying “FOLLOW ME.” Were they in big trouble now?

If you’ve ever watched little ones play smash and crash with their cars and trucks, you can rest assured they’ll love this wildly popular book in the Trucktown series. The art work is very colorful, the wide-eyed trucks appealing and the crash smash scenes are a totally mixed up batch of fun. This is a wonderful experience for the emergent reader and there is no doubt you’ll be reading this book time and time again!

Book vs. Movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Movie Tie-in Reissued January 2009

DVD Released June 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC is a chick lit novel, but teen readers developed a strong interest in it when the movie came out. My daughter couldn't wait to read it having viewed the movie and loving it. The problem is the book and the movie are not alike. Hollywood tweaked the first book in the Shopaholic to fit their needs and, as a result, you'll find that the movie lacks the same wit the book contained.

In the book by Sophie Kinsella, Becky Bloomwood has a job writing the financial column for "Successful Saving." The problem is she is a notorious shopaholic and her income doesn't keep up with her spending habits. While trying to dodge bill collectors, she also tries to dodge Luke Brandon, owner of Brandon Communications.

Soon Becky has a plan to pay off her debt. She's going to cut back on her shopping and find a job with better pay or even take a second job to increase her income. Only her attempts at both do not go as easily as she'd hoped.

In the movie version, Becky needs a job and takes one with "Successful Saving" where she has to fudge her financial know-how. Luke is her boss. This is one of the biggest changes. The movie has her friend pushing her into Shopaholics Anonymous, that never happens in the book. The movie is set in New York, the book in London. There are so many differences, you really can't compare them.

If your teen wants to read the book, I'd say go for it. There is one sex scene, but nothing graphic. The author's wit comes through clearly and that is something the movie completely missed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Capstone Publishers and Sports Illustrated KIDS Team Up to Publish High-Concept Children’s Sports Books

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – July 8, 2009 – Capstone Publishers, the leading publisher of children’s books in the U.S. education market, has signed with Sports Illustrated KIDS, the award-winning sports magazine publisher, to create a new line of leveled chapter books. The project will last through spring 2012 and ultimately produce 82 new titles for young readers.

The new books will feature high-interest nonfiction and fiction sports stories in three separate formats: high-low informational, graphic novels, and illustrated chapter books. They will be created for the elementary and middle school grades, especially struggling and reluctant readers.

“This is an exciting opportunity for SI Kids and we are thrilled to be working with Capstone Publishers, the industry’s most respected publisher of children’s books,” said Bob Der, Sports Illustrated KIDS Managing Editor.

Published under Capstone Publishers’ well-known imprints Capstone Press and Stone Arch Books, the Sports Illustrated KIDS’ books will debut with three series in January 2010: Greatest Sports Stars, The Science of Sports, and Graphic Sports. Both nonfiction and fiction developers will have access to Sports Illustrated KIDS’ extensive collection of photographs, resulting in compelling books packed with exciting sports action photos.

“There’s no question that Sports Illustrated KIDS is the authority on kids and sports. We are thrilled to partner with them to create these exciting new sports titles,” said Matt Keller, President of Capstone Publishers Nonfiction. “Our goal is to reach kids where they are, to turn their interests and hobbies into springboards for reading. Sports is one of the biggest high-interest topics in the country.”

“We’re all passionate about this project,” said Joan Berge, President of Capstone Publishers Fiction. “Our collaboration will produce some of the coolest, high-interest, high-action titles kids won’t want to put down.”

This is the second licensing agreement in recent months for Capstone Publishers. They launched a successful partnership in 2008 with DC Comics to publish DC SUPER HEROES, an original book series based around DC Comics’ iconic characters BATMAN and SUPERMAN, under its Stone Arch Books imprint.

The Sports Illustrated Kids books will be available on Capstone Publishers’ e-commerce websites and by calling 800-747-4992.


About Capstone Publishers

Capstone Publishers is the leading publisher of children’s books. Its authors, artists, and designers create rich experiences – nonfiction, fiction and picture books to interactive books, audio books, and literacy programs – which ignites kids’ passion for reading. Imprints include Capstone Press, Compass Point Books, Picture Window Books, Stone Arch Books, Red Brick Learning, and Heinemann-Raintree. Visit us at

About Sports Illustrated for Kids

About SI Kids:
Sports Illustrated Kids, the first sports magazine written for kids ages 8 and up, connects with its readers through their passion for sports. The magazine offers kids the access to athletes and sports information that they want with in-depth reporting, action photography, first-person athlete accounts and other features. The magazine, books and website, promote positive values, good sportsmanship and the fun of reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Night's Nice (Picture Book)

Released November 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

The black cat is sitting on the window sill next to the potted plant looking out into the night sky at the “first star.” In another window where the teddy bear sits with one lonely roller skate the crescent moon and the big dipper are shining bright. Out in the darkened yard there are two cats overlooking the scene. There are fireflies, three owls in the evergreen trees and some bats overhead. Nights are good for holidays like the fourth of July and there’s nothing quite like Halloween. Boo!

Christmas Eve is beautiful at night too when you can see the lights and listen to the carolers. At the sea shore you can see many twinkling. “These lights are sea lights, blinking and pretty but wait till you see all the lights ... in the city.” Almost all creatures sleep at night. Lions, snails, turtle, gigantic whales, kings, kittens, birds ... and you!

This is a beautiful little bedtime book that children will find soothing. The art work is vibrant, but the tones are slightly darkened, keeping in line with the nighttime theme. The ending is a perfect invitation for your little one to pull up the covers and get a bit of sleep. “So hop into bed, turn over thrice and whisper this softly: Night’s nice, night’s nice, nights’s nice. Good Night.” This is a classic story that may have been read to you as a child, one that you may wish to read to your children or grandchildren!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Centauri Serenade (Juvenile)

Released January 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Unusual dreams plague fourteen-year-old Annie Wren. This is only the beginning of her troubles. Her mother and father are talking about shipping her off to a boarding school because of her poor grades. Worse, they've forbidden her from continuing in orchestra, the one place she feels relaxed while playing her violin. Stress mounts and Annie finds herself suffering from persistent stomachaches.

Annie needs to escape and for some weird reason, her grandparents' vacation home in Maine is drawing her. She's feared that cabin since childhood, but thinks the answers to her dreams and flashes of old memories will be found there. She has no idea of the trip that awaits her!

CENTAURI SERENADE is a science-fiction book, though much of the book is set in present day in locations that readers will recognize. Once Annie travels to a new galaxy, the science-fiction aspect kicks in, though it still seems very human to me.

The storyline is fast paced and keeps you reading. I can't say it was my favorite story, I had issues with Annie's parents being so ignorant to her needs, but I am looking at it from an adult point of view. At the same time, there are aspects when Annie comes across as completely selfish making me dislike her attitude too. Middle school readers may be less distracted by the parents and Annie's attitude and able to focus solely on Annie and her journey.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poodle and Hound (Picture Book)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The three stories in this book address the vagaries of friendship. While Hound is loyal and dependable, his good friend Poodle is creative and rather impulsive. Perhaps this would not seem like a good combination but like other famous picture book combos (Elephant and Piggy, Frog and Toad, George and Martha), we know that opposites do indeed attract.

In the first story, Poodle goes to the beauty salon for a complete makeover. With her fur trimmed into pom-poms with a stunning fur ball on the very top of her head, Poodle feels a little self-conscious when she heads for home. When she walks through in the door, Hound immediately says, "You look lovely."

Poodle is shocked by the comment because she was sure he would not even notice her new look. As the two sit down to enjoy some tea and cookies Hound tells Poodle, "Nothing is ever wasted on a friend."

In "Starry Night", the second story, Hound is up on the roof gazing at the stars through his telescope. Poodle comes up to see what he is doing and quickly becomes bored with his celestial mapping. Although he is becoming exasperated by her continual interruptions, Hound puts up with his friend's commentary.

The fun begins, though, when Poodle starts making up outlandish stories about the stars. The one about how Saturn got its rings is a beauty, but I'll let you discover that for yourself.

Saving the best for last, the final story is about the summer garden Poodle and Hound create. Hound makes an elaborate and detailed plan, but it is Poodle who figures out they will need some protection from insects that will destroy their plants. Along with the Hound's veggies, Poodle plants marigolds, sunflowers, daisies and yarrow to attract the good bugs that keep the bad bugs away. This green approach means the two friends will have plenty of healthy vegetables to enjoy plus a few colorful blossoms for their table as well.

These stories underscore the fact that different individuals can not only get along but they can also complement and help one another. The narrative and vocabulary is manageable for young readers who are ready for something with a more extended story line.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Always In Trouble (Picture Book)

Released January 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Toby was a bad news dog. If there was any trouble to be had, he could
find it. He would chomp on books hanging out of knapsacks, he’d get
into the garbage, run out into the road, he ate “bread that Emma’s dad
had just baked,” he’d bark “in the middle of the night,” he’d piddle
on the floor and he’d chew on buttons (of course the coat was new).
That dog had something rotten to do every day of the week. Of course
after he did something rotten, those big wide eyes just looked so
innocent. Sunday’s were for rest and he looked like an angel.

By Monday he was right back at it. Emma’s mom was fed up big time.
“Something has to be done about that dog!” Looked like he ate a
sneaker. Emma tried to pay a lot of attention to Toby so he’d behave,
but he was right back at it chomping crayons on Tuesday. For a couple
of days he was a good boy, but on Thursday he was right back at it.
“Something has to be done about that dog!” Looked like Toby was
headed to dog training school, but would he ever be the perfect pup or
would he still be up to his antics?

This is a hilarious book that every dog owner with a chewed up sneaker
or two can relate to. The illustrations of the Simpsonish looking
wide-eyed Toby (who only looks like an angel on Sundays) is adorable
and very appealing. This book will be one that is loved by both the
adult and the child. If you are a cat lover, you need not apply here!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Woodchuck Chuck (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

He's only nine, so Woodchuck Chuck cannot go out with his father and older brother to chuck wood. Frustrated by this long-time rule about needing to be ten, Woodchuck Chuck goes outside where he shows off his woodchucking talent to a number of animals. A duck, a chicken and even a big pig go flying. Then Woodchuck Chuck learns that his special talent may come in more useful than he ever could have imagined.

Written in simple text and with a great rhyming pattern, beginning readers will have no problem working their way through Chuck's coming of age story.

"What's wrong Chuck?" asked quick quack Duck.
"I'm mad 'cause my dad won't let me chuck.
I could chuck real good and you know I would,
if the Woodchuck Rulebook said I could."

The illustrations by Scott Wakefield are big and bold. Meanwhile, Richard McDermott's story will definitely keep little ones entertained. Plus, what parent wouldn't be amused reading the story that includes a few play on words from the classic tongue twister about woodchucks chucking wood.

If you have youngsters, I'd highly recommend Woodchuck Chuck.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crazy Beautiful (Young Adult)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Fifteen-year-old Lucius Wolfe lost both of his hands during a science experiment that goes awry. Due to the expense of prosthetic hands, he is left with scars over much of his body and hooks for hands. Many feel he is crazy and dangerous. As a result, his family has to move to a new town. At the new school, one of the popular kids dubs him “Hooks” and they all start deeming him as the crazy kid to avoid. Lucius finds friendship with the school security guard. What Lucius really wants is to get to know the new girl, Aurora, with whom he feels a strong and instant connection.

Fifteen-year-old Aurora Belle is new in town. Her mother’s terminal illness took a toll on her father, and he’s ready for a new start. Aurora instantly hits it off with the popular crowd, but she’s surprised by the strong attraction she has towards Lucius. The only problem is that he’s crazy and scorned by his peers.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s story covers common topics, such as bullying, peer pressure and romance. Much of the action occurs once Aurora, the popular crowd and Lucius find themselves working together on the high school production of Grease. This helps spur the climax of the story in a page-turner that’s hard to put down.

CRAZY BEAUTIFUL. It’s a powerful story with an even stronger message. I loved it and am pretty sure teens will put this on their keeper shelf.

Friday, July 10, 2009

It's Picture Day Today (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Frankly, this is one of those picture books I'm not sure exactly how to handle. My initial reaction after looking at it a couple of times is, "This is really stupid! What were the editors thinking? Who would possibly buy a book like this?"

Now, that being said, I realize there is no accounting for the taste of a preschooler. Although I don't "get" this book at all, I know it is possible a three year old might love it.

As the title suggests, it is picture day at school and everyone is excited. But when you begin paging through the book you realize that we are not dealing with 1st and 2nd graders but buttons, bits of string, cardboard, feathers, grommets and other items that might be used in a craft project.

The no-so-exciting text just identifies the objects - "Sequins, squiggles, glittering stars, fuzzy pom-poms, twisty yarns. Couldn't keep any of them away - Hey, it's Picture Day today."

When the glue finally shows up, everything is sort of stuck in place and all this "stuff" is displayed on two foldout pages after being transformed into cute little craft critters. Clever? Not really!

On the other hand, you may have a child who will really fall in love with this book. But I would field test it in a bookstore and let the child look at it at least twice before purchasing it. In fact, give the child a choice between two books and see which one he wants you to buy!

Katherine Tillotson's illustrations are bright, big and bold so they may appeal to little children who don't really demand a coherent story line but don't try to sneak this one past an older or more sophisticated child. Like me, he may complain and say, "Mom, I don't get this. It's dumb!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Elephants Cannot Dance (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Gerald and Piggy take center stage again in this picture book for new readers. Piggy is determined to teach Gerald the finer points of dance but the bespectacled elephant apprises her of a simple fact - Elephants cannot dance!

Determined to teach her friend to shake a leg, Piggie at least gets Gerald to "try" to learn a few simple moves. What happens next is the subject of this delightful picture book. Suffice it to say that eventually the elephant's volunteer dance teacher shouts, "ENOUGH!" Have the two decided to toss in the towel? Was Gerald right? Must Piggie submit to an ignominious defeat?

Well, sort of. It appears all is lost until two squirrels pop up with a very unexpected request that changes the entire outcome of this humorous story. Obviously I have no intention of ruining the ending, but be prepared for one of Mo Willems' deliciously offbeat surprises.

With the simple dialogue, large type and key word repetition, your beginning reader will be able to take over the reading aloud chores in no time at all. And that may be the biggest and nicest SURPRISE of all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Houdini's Gift (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

When Ben's pet hamster escapes, he asks for another pet, but his parents want reassurance that he's truly ready for the responsibility of owning a pet. Especially due to the escape of his hamster leading to a mouse getting into the house.

Ben has ADHD and keeping track of his daily chores is a struggle. Will a rewards chart help him overcome his struggle with responsibility?

Bright, colorful illustrations by Michael LaDuca complement the story offered by Jeanne Gehret. The story will appeal to parents and children with ADHD who may need reassurance that they are not alone with their disability. A list of discussion questions ends the story and a list of additional resources for information is given.

Children will relate well with young Ben. Owning a pet does take a lot of responsibility and not every child really gets it. HOUDINI'S GIFT should help.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Emma's Question (Picture Book)

Released January 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Emma was all excited because tomorrow Grandma, the “funniest guest reader in the whole kindergarten,” was coming to class. It would really be a great day, but she’d have to sneak out of bed to make sure her Mama put the book in her bag. When she reached the top of the stairs, she saw Mama crying on the phone. Something was very wrong. Daddy told her that Grandma was sick and would have to stay in the hospital for a while. Well, Emma had been sick a lot last year, including a bout with the chicken pox, but didn’t have to go to the hospital. This was really bad!

Emma was upset because on Wednesdays Grandma took her out to get bagels and made up “funny stories about the people at the next table.” If Mama took her, it would be NO fun. At school the next day she was very unsettled and even told Duncan to “Shut up.” Things only got worse. Emma was told she couldn’t visit Grandma at the hospital and when Mama was there visiting her things were not the same. She had a “question [that] would not go away.” Then finally she was going to be able to go to the hospital. She brought along her Chutes and Ladders game and her question. What on Earth did Emma want to ask her precious Grandma?

This is a wonderful story to read to the young child who is facing the illness and/or possible death of someone in their life. Young children often are left by the wayside with unanswered questions they desperately want answered. When a parent or caretaker reads this book with a child, it will give them the perfect opportunity to ask those difficult questions.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Don't Give Up Kid (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The reissue of Jeanne Gehret's storybook about a boy with dyslexia is certain to touch the heart of parents and their children.

Alex is an inventor. His current project involves finding a way to reach the cookie jar on the top of the fridge. He can't build it because he can't read. Soon his parents take him to a specialist who uncovers he has dyslexia. How will he overcome this learning disability?

THE DON'T GIVE UP KID is geared for 9 to 12 year olds, but I think younger kids will find it enjoyable too. The story includes bright, colorful drawings, easy to read narrative and a Q&A that parents can use to get their child talking. Also included in the back of the book is a list of resources parents can use to research more about their child's learning disability.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dog Day (Picture Book)

Released August 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Ben is all ready for school. He’s dressed up nicely, his hair is combed and his has his lunch box in his hand. When he goes into the classroom his friend Ellie, who is sitting on a colorful carpet, says hello. Oh, and there’s his “new teacher.” “Woof! Woof!” Wait a minute, that new teacher is a DOG! His name is Riff and all the children think they will like him. “Woof! Woof!” they all shout back. This is going to be some different kind of school year. They all get to work and wag, wag, wag their bottoms back at Riff.

“Riff scratches his ear.” Ellie and Ben and the rest of the class start to scratch like crazy. Next the shake, shake, shake and after that they doing a lot of sniffing. Riff is a fun teacher to imitate, but wait . . . what is that awful stink? “It smells like poo.” Oh, it’s just “Riff’s lunch.” Ben and Ellie eat their sandwiches and then the class goes out to P.E. That’s when everyone gets moving. They dig holes, they stick their tongues out, they pant, they play fetch and lift their legs against trees. Having a dog for a teacher sure is fun, but what will Mrs. Pink, the principal, think about their dog day?

This is the type of book young, imaginative children love. The text and illustrations are rich and lively and the possibility that you’ll have a youngster “playing dog” is fairly high after they read this fun book. There is a little bit of bathroom humor and that with the hilarious dog imitations will have children laughing out loud. This is a book that will be read (and imitated) time and time again!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Posy (Toddler)

Released December 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Posy is a little striped kitten who is playful and does lots of things. She wipes her face with her paws. She likes to roll around a crayon and be a “crayon swiper,” and, of course, there is nothing better than rolling around with a ball of yarn and being a “knitting tangler.” Trying to catch spider and tearing up the sofa are lots of fun too (especially sharpening those little claws on the sofa).

She loves sitting on a flowered pillow and will hiss and spit at any other kitten that goes by. A little “squabble stirrer” she is, but when she’s through she can be a “charming purrer.” She loves to look in a mirror (who is that in there?), lick the ice cream at the bottom of a bowl, check out what’s left of a sandwich and throw herself into the middle of a board game. There are so many, many things for a kitten to do during the day. What are a few things that you can think of that a kitten can do?

This is an adorable book to “read” with the younger children. It is listed as a “baby to preschool” book, but it is in the larger picture book format and not sturdy enough to be given to the youngest children. Posy is a busy little kitten and the lively art work compliments it perfectly. If you have a little one in your life who loves kittens, this would be the perfect book to buy and read with them!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Itty Bitty (Picture Book)

Released June 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

His name says it all. Itty Bitty is a very, very, very small dog. One day the tiny pooch discovers an exceedingly large bone. "This bone is big enough to be my home," thinks Itty Bitty to himself.

The resourceful dog gets to work and begins chewing until he has hallowed out the enormous bone and added a door and windows. But, unfortunately, the hallowed out bone doesn't seem like home. It lacks furnishings.

Itty Bitty heads to the nearest department store to find some items to make his new house more comfortable, but everything he sees is far TOO BIG. Then he notices a sign that says "Teeny-Weeny Stuff Sold Here!" Perfect! He purchases an itty-bitty table and rug plus also an itty-bitty sofa and chairs.

This humorous story about a teeny-tiny dog with a very big heart will appeal to children who can certainly sympathize with Itty Bitty's dilemma of living in a world where there's lots of big stuff. Don't forget to connect the story with the small furniture your child may have in his room or find at pre-school.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vacation We're Going to the Ocean (Poetry)

Released May 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

David Harrison's wacky, short poems capture this summer adventure from the time the featured family packs their car until they arrive for a stay at the shore.

Over 40 humorous verses capture various aspects of the vacation. Presented from a child's point of view, the poems range from "Are We There Yet?", "I Gotta Go!", and "The Motel Pool" to "Campground Showers", "Shark!" and "Our Sand Castle".

This isn't earth shaking verse but it will appeal to the intended age group (7 to 9 year olds) and even younger children will get a kick out of most of them.

Here are a few samples of Harrison's wit: "Swimsuits" - People don't care what you see. That suit would be too small on me. "Brother's Turn" - Maybe Sister had a hand in filling Brother's shorts with sand. All I know is, he can't stand.

Silly? Of course they are but younger kids will love them.

Standing alone these very short poems wouldn't be worth mentioning but when you add Rob Shepperson's pen and ink sketches you have something very special. His art captures the essence of each of the poems and will surely elicit quite a few chuckles.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed (Picture Book)

Released March 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Wink was very happy when he was “accepted to the Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas.” Master Zutsu would be teaching his young students many lessons they would need to know in order to be an effective Ninja. He told them that “Silence is the weapon of the ninja.” Of course that was the last thing that Wink would be able to do because he was loud and bold and always needed attention. “Look at me!” The Master was angry with him for his outburst.

Whenever they had something to practice like the roundhouse kick, disappear in the grass or be obedient on their trip to the zoo he just had to act out. Master Zutsu was always sending him home to his grandmother and Wink was always anxious to “try harder.” Try as he must, he was never very successful. He wanted to “show Master Zutsu he was a good ninja,” but how could he do that? He was a flop. One day he was going by a wall when he heard a loud CLANK! A boy had fallen off a skateboard. Wink decided to show him what to do. The more he showed off, the more attention he got. Would Wink finally find his niche in life and do something where he could get a LOT of attention?

This is a very humorous story of Wink, the boy ninja, who never could manage to stay out of trouble. It will be a very popular tale with youngsters who practice martial arts, but also will speak to the child who thinks he is not good at anything. It will tell children that everyone has something special about them and that there is something they can do better than others. The art work is action oriented and easily catches the humor of the story. Do you have a youngster that always wants to be noticed? WINK!