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, September 29, 2009

News: Operation eBook Drop

PRLog (Press Release) – Sep 28, 2009 – Author LK Gardner-Griffie has made her young adult novel, "Misfit McCabe," available to deployed service members at no cost via Operation eBook Drop.

Operation eBook Drop is a grass roots effort started by author Edward C Patterson (The Jade Owl and many others) which was quickly joined by Smashwords founder Mark Coker. LK Gardner-Griffie first heard about the project to provide ebooks to deployed service members through notification from Mark Coker once Smashwords became involved (details of which can be found on the sites blog: ...). As a Smashwords author and wife of a former military member, Gardner-Griffie immediately wanted to participate, but wasn’t sure her young adult offering would be well received by the troops.

After giving it some thought Gardner-Griffie determined there were many reasons why she should participate in Operation eBook Drop. Young adult appeals to a broader scope of readers than teens, Misfit McCabe is a family saga which might give the deployed service members a taste of home, and might provide a way for the deployed service members to share a gift with their loved ones left behind. Her thinking was happily validated by having Misfit McCabe downloaded through Operation eBook Drop within 24 hours of participation in the program.

Readers who would like to know more about Gardner-Griffie’s novel may visit to preview and purchase the eBook, or

Monday, September 28, 2009

Farmer Donald's Pumpkin Patch (Picture Book)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Another inexpensive paperback in the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" series, this adventure finds Donald Duck determined to win first prize at the county fair's pumpkin growing contest.

Convinced it will be a snap to grow a huge pumpkin, Donald tells his friends, "I'm sure it's easy to do!" And, with that, he's off to start his pumpkin patch. With Mickey, Minnie and Daisy looking on, Farmer Donald
prepares the ground, plants the seeds and sits back waiting for his plants to grow into humongous pumpkins.

Unfortunately, Donald has placed the little garden too far away from a water source. Fortunately, Toodles the Elephant agrees to solve the problem of watering the garden. Then, Donald realizes sun isn't reaching his plot because a tree is blocking the sunlight. Minnie comes to the rescue, in this case with a mirror!

With a little (actually a whole lot!) of help from his friends, Farmer Donald actually does grow a big pumpkin and, sure enough, he wins the First Place trophy.

If you are looking for an autumn book to read aloud to your youngster, here's a timely tale with some very recognizable characters. Why not join Farmer Donald in the pumpkin patch and show your child exactly how the orange fall vegetable is grown?

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Lunch Box: 50 Recipes for Kids to Take to School (Non-Fiction/Cooking)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

As stated in past reviews, I'm a firm believer that children should be aiding parents in the kitchen from an early age. MY LUNCH BOX includes recipes suitable for children to take to school and easy enough that children can help with the preparation. When adult assistance is required, the recipe notes it at the bottom of the recipe.

The author, Hilary Karmilowicz, offers a neat collection of recipe cards in a fashionable lunch box shaped box. Because they are recipe cards, you can easily remove the recipe required and save counter space by tucking the box back into it's storage area until you're done.

Some of the recipes require special storage from the time the child leaves home to lunch period. In my children's schools, neither have access to a refrigerator. Lunches sit in their cubby or locker. Because both leave home at 7:00 a.m. and eat at 1:00 p.m., that's six hours where the food is not refrigerated with more than an ice pack. I've had them complain many times of melted ice packs, condensation creating soggy lunch totes and yogurt that is starting to warm up.

For this reason, there are some recipes I wouldn't use for school lunches, but would happily make at home for lunch and dinner. In addition, I've found the Thermos containers that are supposed to keep food hot do not keep food hot for the six hours. When I've sent hot meals before by the time lunch arrives, both children tell me the food is only lukewarm at best by lunch time so they won't eat it.

With that in mind, the dishes like Easiest Cheesiest Mac and Cheese are recipes I'd use at home. Others, like the Blueberry Flaxseed Upside Down Cakes, Chicken Chopstick Salad or Tex-Mex Salad I'd happily send with them.

Recipes are easy to make and come with very clear instructions making it easy for kids to help out. Parents will need to help with the baking or stovetop preparation, but mixing and assembling should be easy for the beginning cook.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Everyday Promise Bible (Religion/Children's)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Filled with bright, happy images, MY EVERYDAY PROMISE BIBLE takes 365 Biblical quotes and provides children with a topic to ponder every day of the year. The writing is suitable to the younger reader and colorful pictures enhances each daily devotional.

Topics included in the thought-provoking collection include forming a strong friendship with God, avoiding revenge, dealing with anger and more. For a child with a strong religious upbringing, it's a must have.

My daughter loves looking at books, and she brought something up that left me unable to answer her. While reading some of the pages, she came across the opening that lists the book was printed in India. Her question was why a book from an American publisher is being outsourced for printing to a country with much cheaper labor rates, especially when we personally know many people struggling to find work in the current economy. While this isn't going to enter the minds of younger readers, it did enter the mind of a middle schooler and I honestly didn't have an answer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When the World is Ready for Bed (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This bedtime storybook for preschoolers uses a lulling, gently rhymed text that sets the mood for "lights out" as readily as the story itself. You'll follow members of the Bunny family as the sun sets and they head indoors to share dinner with their mother and father. Then the three little rabbits must clean up their room, bathe, brush their teeth, and hop into bed.

Mother Bunny then reads her little ones a story before it's time for good-night hugs and kisses. Peeking out their bedroom window, the furry trio see a bright star that will guard them "in the dreaming night". The best part of going to bed, though, is knowing that "tomorrow brings another day" that is "always lovely, always new, tomorrow's waiting just for you".

Anna Currey's lovely illustrations have a warm, snuggly look that reinforces the story and will also help quiet your child as you read WHEN THE WORLD IS READY FOR BED aloud.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free Website for Kids

Free Website for Kids – Re-Launches With New Content and Design

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Sept. 21, 2009 – After months of research and development, Capstone Publishers, the leading publisher of children’s books in the U.S. education market, announces the re-launch of its free educational website for kids

The completely redesigned website incorporates fun facts and backgrounds on nearly 30 of the publishers’ original characters, including kid favorites Katie Woo, Zinc Alloy, Claudia Cristina Cortez, Max Axiom, and Isabel Soto. The site includes expanded learning activities, such as quizzes, matching games, and word search puzzles, along with weekly polls, jokes, and downloadable activities, coloring sheets, posters, stickers, and stationery.

“Kids love our characters, so we wanted to create a safe place for them to explore and interact with their favorites, and tie in opportunities to extend their learning in an engaging and fun way,” said Joan Berge, President of Capstone Publishers Fiction.

Capstone Publishers Fiction includes the two imprints Stone Arch Books and Picture Window Books, which offer safe graphic novels, chapter books, middle-grade novels, picture books, and readers. Capstone Publishers Nonfiction is also represented on the new site, with characters from its popular Max Axiom science books and Graphic Expeditions.

Hello, Cupcake (Cooking)

Released April 2008

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

One of the most responsible thing a parent can do is make sure their child can cook. I see too many kids pass through my house stating they can microwave popcorn or put a pizza in a toaster oven, but that's it. Sorry, but frozen pizzas are not quality meals. My kids started cooking with me as soon as they could understand simple instructions and now are equal to me in the kitchen. When it's time for them to go on their own way, I know they can create healthy meals.

Karen Tack and Alan Richardson's creative cookbook is geared for adults, but I am convinced many kids would get a kick out of it. I know my daughter saw it and fell in love and asked if it could become hers. She's taken it over and is working through the creative recipes one by one.

HELLO, CUPCAKE is a treasure trove of cupcake recipes, altered box mixes and homemade recipes, that are used to create artistic, unforgettable cupcakes. You do need a little knowledge with baking and spreading frosting, both things children can easily do, and maybe a bit of an artistic eye, though this isn't necessary if you can follow instructions. These are not your average cupcakes. These are amazing creations that range from a plate of spaghetti (and it really does look like spaghetti) to Van Gogh's Starry Night (the cupcake collection I feel would be the most challenging from the book.)

Take my favorite, the plate of spaghetti. You place a number of cupcakes onto a platter and then start decorating. Each cupcake is topped with thin strings of pale yellow frosting to resemble spaghetti. Onto this you place a Ferrero Rocher chocolate to serve as the meatball. Cover this with a layer of strawberry jelly and then cover with shavings of white chocolate to resemble the Parmesan cheese. They're simple to make and become quite a conversation piece at parties or school functions.

Each cupcake page does require some ingredients not always found in grocery stores, but craft stores like Michael's or Walmart's craft section sell them. The ingredients include melting chocolates and less common food colorings like black. Many cupcakes use common ingredients like Runts (candy), M & M's, licorice string, chocolate covered sunflower seeds (check organic grocers) and canned frosting.

While HELLO, CUPCAKE is not healthy food, cupcakes appeal to all ages. Any child will happy join mom or dad in the kitchen to make the creations found inside. You can start teaching how to adjust (double, triple, etc.) recipes by converting fractions.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate (Middle Reader)

Released October 29, 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The second juvenile novel in Michael Stradlin's Youngest Templar series picks up where the first book left off. Young Tristan is stranded at sea carrying the goal of keeping the Holy Grail safe until he reaches his destination in England. Meanwhile, Sir Hugh is hot on his trail and will do anything to get the Grail from Tristan.

Waking up on a beach in France, Tristan finds himself teaming up with a group of French Cathars who are being sought after by authorities who want the heretics jailed. Soon, Tristan and his friends Maryam and Robard Hode (Robin Hood) once again must use their keen senses to overcome evil.

TRAIL OF FATE is another intriguing novel that should appeal to advancing readers who like a lot of adventure. The ties to historical facts will help educate some readers to that era making it useful for school too.

There is plenty to talk about with this novel and it could make for exciting classroom discussions. I definitely recommend it!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Three Day Hiatus

I'm taking a three day hiatus to spend time with visiting family.

Regular posting will occur Monday the 21st.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prairie Winter (Middle Reader)

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Partially biographical, PRAIRIE WINTER delves into the story of the Johnson family. Rachel is a middle school student facing an unusually snowy winter in Cresbard, South Dakota. It's 1955 and repeated snow storms are posing problems for children attending school. When a bus becomes stuck trying to get children home safely, the school board decides to have all farm children move into town to be nearer the school.

Because Rachel adores school and hates farm chores, she eagerly awaits life in a hotel with her sisters. At home, they have no phone, must help with all chores and life is often interrupted by her baby brother's demands. However, as homesickness kicks in, she realizes her freedom may not be all she expected.

PRAIRIE WINTER offers an interesting look into life in the 1955s and is a pleasing coming of age story for young Rachel. The narrative moves swiftly through the winter months.

To me, the ending seemed a little rushed. I would have enjoyed an actual arrival of spring and more details on a surprise event that readers will have to discover. While they are touched upon, I would have preferred more than a few paragraphs in an epilogue. This is my preference though and I'd be interested to see what other readers think of the ending.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Winnie the Pooh (Story Book)

Released September 2009 (Reissue)

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In celebration of Winnie the Pooh's 80th birthday, the original collection of A.A. Milne's stories was released in 2006 in Great Britain. Dutton's Children's Books have caught up and made that reissued version available in the U.S. for the first time.

I will say this, while grabbing the image from Amazon, I saw they'd classified the book for ages 0 to 3 and also for ages 9 to 12. I have to disagree with recommending it for babies and toddlers. Winnie the Pooh stories were favorites of mine as I grew up, but the lack of pages of colorful pictures (there are some pictures, but some pages contain only words) and lengthy narrative make this more suitable for advancing readers in my mind. I loved the stories when I was in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade, so that's the age group I'd recommend for receiving a copy.

Stories within WINNIE THE POOH include his introduction, including his passion for honey. You'll also find the story where Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's burrow, the tale in which Eeyore loses his tail, Woozle hunting and the tale of the Heffalump. The key classic Winnie the Pooh stories are all included.

It's a fantastic reissue and one I'd highly recommend finds a place on your keeper shelf.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Visit to the Firehouse (Picture Book)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Blue, her brother Sprinkles and their friends are playing make-believe and although he has a shiny toy fire truck, Sprinkles isn't quite sure what a fireman is suppose to do. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity for a little field trip, Blue suggests the gang head down to the local firehouse to see what they can learn.

Everyone, especially Sprinkles, is delighted when Fireman Dave not only explains what a fireman does but also conducts a tour of the station. Sliding down the pole from the second floor of the building is almost as much fun as climbing on the big fire truck. But, for Sprinkles, receiving his very own fireman's helmet from Dave is the biggest treat of all.

Now when they play make believe, Sprinkles knows exactly what a fireman does and he can dress the part too!

This inexpensive addition to the Blue series of read aloud paperbacks will delight youngsters who enjoy the TV program "Blue's Clues" and, like Sprinkles, want to know more about what a firefighter's job involves.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Non-Fiction Graphic Novel Book Series

Capstone Press Publishes New Nonfiction Graphic Novel Series With Social Studies Focus

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Sept. 11, 2009 – Capstone Publishers imprint Capstone Press, publisher of accessible, innovative children’s nonfiction for beginning, struggling, and reluctant preK-8 readers, announces the release of Graphic Expeditions, a new graphic novel format series for elementary students with a social studies focus. Graphic Expeditions launches this fall with six titles and introduces readers to archaeologist Dr. Isabel “Izzy” Soto.

With Izzy as their guide, readers explore the world and its mysteries without the confines of time or distance. Readers will journey to historical places, eras, and cultures such as the sinking of the Titanic and the building of the Great Wall of China. As with past titles from Capstone Press, Graphic Expeditions features artwork from illustrators, inkers, and colorists whose credits include DC Comics and Marvel.

“Graphic Expeditions combines exciting adventure stories with solid content correlated to curriculum standards, all in a high-demand graphic novel format,” said Matt Keller, President of Capstone Publishers Nonfiction. “The series is engaging and informative, and a great social studies counterpart to our wildly popular and award-winning Graphic Science series. Max Axiom fans will love Izzy.”

Dr. Isabel Soto joins the publisher’s Graphic Library line, which includes the popular Graphic Science series, a recipient of the 2008 Teachers’ Choice Award from Learning magazine and the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers.

Graphic Expeditions includes standard nonfiction book features, such as a table of contents, glossary, index, sidebars, diagrams, primary sources, timelines, bibliography and a further information section. Order online at or by calling 800-747-4992.

Four additional titles will be published in the series in January 2010.

Graphic Expeditions

Series of 6 titles


32 pages


$19.99 (Library Binding)

Interest Level: Grades 3-9

Reading Level: Grades 3-4


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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miss Little's Gift (Picture Book)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Douglas had moved from Kentucky to Iowa and was having trouble fitting in. The other kids poked fun at him claiming he "talked funny." He didn't like the other kids, they didn't like him. He didn't like reading because he couldn't and he didn't like Miss little because he wouldn't. She made him stay after school so he would learn to read. The only thing he managed to learn out of those "line and blobs and squiggles that didn't mean anything" was that teachers sure knew how to torture kids. He DID NOT like that Miss Little . . . not even a tiny little bit. It was a discouraging thing to be stuck in after school every day. "I can't do this . . . "

"Oh, yes, you are Douglas. You're going to become a good reader." The playground spoke to him. Baseball, football . . . "Douglas." No, he couldn't do it. Lines and blobs and squiggles he couldn't decipher were sheer torture. Miss Little gave him a book about an island that interested him and brought back fond memories of Granddad and Lake Kabetogama. Miss Little was sooooo persistent, but now something started to click. "A juh-gen-tell--gentle! A gentle wind." There was something about this book. The kitten was going the island and some people were going to have a picnic. What was going to happen? Help, Miss Little . . . he needed to find out what secret things that kitten was going to find and he needed to know the secret of reading!

I loved this heartwarming tribute to Miss Little several times and each time I felt the elation one might feel at the end of a movie when the underdog succeeds. Many children would never have made if they didn't have a Miss Little in their lives. The greatest gift that Douglas probably ever had was the gift of his teacher's time, patience and love for a little boy with ADHD. She knew he had something special in him. In the back of the book the author talks about his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and his own personal battle with it. If you or anyone in your life has ADHD you are NOT going to like this book . . . you're going to LOVE it!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Menorah Under the Sea (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

David Ginsburg is a marine biologist who headed to Antarctica to study marine life at the bottom of the "frigid ocean." It was a long, grueling fourteen hour flight from Los Angeles to McMurdo Station, an American research center at the "bottom of the world." It's a very desolate, dangerous area that people reside in or visit for short periods of time. Cruise ships occasionally drop by for a look-see, but the primary residents of Antarctica are research scientists from more than forty countries who stay for only a few short months of the year.

When David arrived he had other more pressing thoughts than research on his mind. It was the first day of Hanukkah and because it was summer it would be light twenty-four hours a day. How could he possibly light his menorah? He suited up with his diving buddy, Rob, and prepared to journey into the depths of the ocean and "with battery-operated flashlights and underwater cameras, they were ready to go." He spiraled slowly into the dark depths of the sea. The only light came from the diving hole and their flashlights. David began his work of gathering together starfish and sea urchins. Time was passing quickly and soon he would have to surface. He began to smile as a thought passed his mind and he decided to dive even deeper. Would David be able to bring Hanukkah to Antarctica?

This is a tale of a very unusual holiday celebration that everyone who reads it will marvel at the depth of David's dedication and love for Hanukkah. Religion and science mesh very nicely in this book, one that has a very touching, harmonious conclusion. The book is illustrated with many interesting photographs of David during his first day at McMurdo. In the back of the book are brief paragraphs about sea urchins and McMurdo Station. This is a very unique and charming book and would be perfect as a read and discuss book in a homeschool or classroom setting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thirsty Thursday (Picture Book)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Bonnie Bumble has a problem. It hasn't rained for days and all her plants are very, very thirsty and irritable. "The snapdragons snapped. The tiger lilies growled. The Johnny-jump-ups jumped up and down. And the black-eyed Susans were spoiling for a fight."

When a small cloud suddenly appeared above her farm Bonnie had an idea. She gathered some chicken feathers and stacked her animals, one on top of the other, to make a ladder that would reach the cloud. Then the little girl climbed up and tickled the cloud.

The cloud giggled and wriggled and jiggled to the point where she began to cry and those big tears made the plants below very, very happy. "The snapdragons beamed. The tiger lilies purred. The Johnny-jump-ups jumped for joy. And the black-eyed Susans winked."

But even better, once word got out about Bonnie Bumble's special "talent," other clouds floated by and wanted to be tickled too!

Plenty of word play and a simple message about interspecies cooperation (the animals had to agree to stand on each other to create Bonnie's ladder) make this colorful picture book one that should tickle your preschooler's fancy. Before you read a page aloud, point out the priceless expressions on the animal and plant faces and ask your child what he/she thinks is going on. Are they happy, angry or worried and why?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book News: Help Your School

Capstone Publishers Launches Customer Rewards Program

Customers to Earn Points Toward Free Books for their Schools and Libraries

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Sept. 8, 2009 – Capstone Publishers, the leading publisher of children’s books in the U.S. education market, announces the launch of Capstone Rewards, the publisher’s first customer rewards program. The new program allows points to be earned and redeemed across the publishers’ imprints Capstone Press, Compass Point Books, Picture Window Books, Stone Arch Books, and their classroom division, Red Brick Learning.

Customers will earn 500 points immediately by creating an account at and entering the code FALLCAP. Customers will earn points primarily through purchases, though there will also be opportunities to earn bonus points from various activities throughout the year.

“We want to thank our loyal customers for making us their number one publisher of choice,” said Tom Ahern, CEO of Capstone Publishers. “We pride ourselves on providing outstanding service and listening to our customers’ needs and are pleased to offer them this free, convenient, and extremely easy way to stretch their limited budget dollars even further. We’ve kept the program simple and meaningful to fulfill a real need for our customers – more books for their libraries and classrooms.”

Customers interested in enrolling in the free program should create an account at


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

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wizards and Witches (Non-Fiction)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

There are all kinds of witches and wizards as we all know by now. Since J. K. Rowling brought Harry Potter to life, young people know more about wizards than wizards themselves. Of course there are all kinds of witches and wizards. They range from young to old, harmless to harmful and comical. Many long years ago it was a well-known fact that "witches and wizards were real people who believed they had special power." They were able to control certain circumstances through their "special powers" and make things happen or not happen as they saw fit. They tapped into powers they could not easily be explained by scientific explanation and they could work with the "supernatural or paranormal world," one in which most of us have no ties to.

Witches and wizards can tap into special energies. In Asia the Shaman has a strong link to the mystical world and "shamanism, mysticism, and magic are also strong in African traditions." In this book you will learn about Wicca, European witches "known for their healing ability," Greek and Roman witches, harmful magic (the evil eye and malefice), amulets, the blood sucking witch named Erictho, why witchcraft was outlawed, witch hunts, the Salem tragedy, the fact that wizards "were not to `open the door' to demons and evil spirits," sorcerers, magicians, the Biblical origins of wizards, medieval wizards, wizards in literature, television and the movies and much more!

This book is one in the series of six "Fantasy Chronicles" I'm fast falling in love with. This book is fascinating, very well written and researched. The reader can either choose to read this book from cover to cover or simply pick and choose which section interests them the most. The visual layout of the book is stunning and has an unusual, appealing aura surrounding it. There are numerous photographs and illustrations scattered throughout the book. The illustrations are drawn from the likes of Arthur Rackham, John William Waterhouse, Johann Heinrich and others. In the back of the book is an index, a selected bibliography and additional recommended book resources. Remember the boy who lived with the Dursleys? He just happens to be in here too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year Kai-Lan (Picture Book)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Youngsters three and older are invited to celebrate Chinese New Year with Kai-lan and her friends in this story. The children are going to carry the dragon costume in the annual parade but there's a problem. Rintoo refuses to pitch in because he doesn't want to carry the middle of the long dragon.

Now it is up to Kai-lan to convince her friend that every job is important. To be part of the team Rintoo must cooperate and without him in the middle there will be no dragon dance.

There's quite a bit of text in this picture book which means this on the verge of almost being a chapter book. The message about the importance of teamwork is, of course, important but what I really liked about this book was the helpful final page of the story.

Here you'll find the nine Chinese words or expressions used in the text. There are not only the English translations but also a pronunciation key plus examples of how to write each of the words using Chinese characters. Now, how cool is that?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wiggle and Waggle (Picture Book)

Released February 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Wiggle and Waggle live in a garden and work all day long making loops around the plants. They decided to sing to make their work easier because making tunnels in the ground was very hard work. One day Wiggle was digging away and forgot, as usual, to look where he was going and BUMP! He crashed into a rock. With his friend Waggle's help they worked and worked and worked and got that rock out of the way. The two of them had many adventures together. There was the picnic under the bucket on a rainy day (including mud pie), swimming in the mud puddle (SPLASH!), slipping and sliding through the tunnel to write their names and promising to do it all again next year!

"We wiggle and waggle, squiggle and squirm.
Digging in dirt is the life of a worm.
We dig and we sing all day long,
Our wiggle, waggly, gardening song."

This is a fun book for the beginning, but confident reader and will keep him smiling and singing along with Wiggle and Waggle, enjoying their fun adventures right along with them. This book has five chapters and could be a read aloud book in a classroom or homeschool setting. In the back of the book is a short discussion on how "worms help plants grow" and some fun worm facts. Now one worm fact is that singing did make things easier for Wiggle and Waggle!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Released November 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Harlem was a bustling place to live. When the awnings went down in the morning, the city began to teem with activity. The trolley cars went up and down the street right along with the cars and people crowded the sidewalks. There was something else teeming on the streets of Harlem. Some were gray, some were black and some had mixed coloring, but one thing they all had in common was that they were not welcome. RATS, RATS, RATS! Ugh. "They crowded the subways, the restaurants, the office buildings, the stores and, worst of all, the homes of all Harlem citizens." Look at that, there are even a few dipping in a tub making like they were at the YMCA!

Everyone was outraged and upset. They tried trapping them, chasing them and calling exterminators all to no avail. Naturally the rats just loved the cheese the traps held. Yum! Something had to be done and everyone went to the mayor asking him what he was going to do about this nasty rat situation. Some time later a man appeared on the 125 ½ Street subway platform "holding a strange round red case." He was soon seen setting up his drum and heard playing a mesmerizing melody. It was a melody that set toes tapping and people dancing. Even the rats stood up and took notice. For a million dollars the mysterious Steel Pan Man would rid the city of rats. Do you think the mayor would agree to that crazy scheme? Pang ping pong pa ding! Would the melody really speak to the rats?

Oooh, I liked this story! Of course everyone has heard of the Pied Piper of Hamelin and this is a unique and charming spinoff of the tale. It is lively and almost sets the tone of a mystery. Will this strange Pan Man be able to figure out what melody will lure the rats away from Harlem and into the waters? The art work is very engaging and seems to bring the reader back into old time Harlem. This is an appealing tale that young and old alike will enjoy! Pa da ding ding ding dong!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Apple Countdown (Picture Book)

Released March 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Everyone has been looking forward to the field trip to Farmer Applebee's apple orchard. The days have been turning cooler and the apples have turned red and are ready to the children to pick and eat. On the bulletin board there is a sheet of apple facts, a picture of an apple blossom, but more importantly twenty bright red apples with everyone's name on them. "Twenty apples with our names," says James. Soon all the apple name tags are off the bulletin board tree and pinned to their clothing. The bus is ready and all kinds of little rascals are ready to scramble aboard for the apple countdown.

Elaine is sitting with James in the front having an animated conversation. Oh, oh ... maybe she likes him! Across the aisle Lee is wiggle, wiggling that tooth. The childrens' faces shine with excitement and call out things they might see at the farm after Mr. Yee tells them to "name seventeen things" they might see. Soon they arrive at the farm and are greeted warmly by Farmer Applebee. They quickly board the Fruit Loop train to circle around the farm and continue their countdown. "Fourteen cows. Moo! Moo!" says Sue. "That's twelve cows plus two." Naturally there are two Holsteins hiding behind a hedge. Wiggle, wiggle! "Crunch Crunch Crunch Crunch . . . " Do you think Lee is going to lose that tooth before the apple countdown is over?

No doubt about it, field trips are FUN trips and every parent who has accompanied a group of youngsters to an apple orchard can attest to that. I liked the way this book was set up in several different ways. The light rhyming scheme moved the book along nicely and counting down (backwards) from twenty to one gives children the basic skills needed for subtraction. In the end pages there are numerous "Apple Facts" to explore. For example, "An apple blossom has five petals." The art work is very vibrant and colorful and meshes nicely with the text. Any classroom teachers, especially those in apple country, who are planning a field trip will love having a copy of this one to read and discuss with their students. Why do apples float? If you don't know, you just might want to read this book!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant (Picture Book)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Poor Wiggens just can't mind his manners when he is out in public. His parents don't know what to do with the Chocolate Labrador puppy until they discover a place that teaches puppies all about refinement and how to behave. It seems to be an unlikely place to learn good etiquette but, nevertheless, the puppy is off to the famous Four Seasons Restaurant to master decorous behavior.

Along with some other "socially challenged" dogs, Wiggens is taken under the guiding paw of a St. Bernard who guides them through a no nonsense course on manners. They'll learn a number of helpful rules like "be quite and polite in a new place" and "listen patiently when someone is talking".

Quite honestly, although the idea behind this picture book for youngsters three and up is sound, I don't care for the "package." The art work is not very exciting and the pages are overly busy with too many different kinds of type. In fact putting the "rules" in cursive is a major mistake for young readers.

There is some humor worked into the text but although adults might get a chuckle or two most preschoolers will probably not understand the wordplay or joke.

I also really do understand why the Four Seasons Restaurant must be part of this contrived story. Granted, Alex von Bidder is a co-owner of the establishment but business must be pretty bad if management needs a book like this as a PR instrument!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail (Middle Reader)

Released September 2009 (Paperback)

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Now that school has started, I had time to curl up outside and enjoy the sun with a book in hand. Yesterday's pick was THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: KEEPER OF THE GRAIL. I become hooked very quickly and probably spent more time in the sun than I should have!

Michael Spradlin's first book in The Youngest Templar series introduced Tristan, an orphan raised by monks. Tristan knows little of his past, but he's fifteen and doesn't plan to take vows, so he realizes he'll soon have to find his way in the world. The perfect opportunity arises when Sir Thomas Leux and the Knights of Templar come to their abbey. Tristan catches Sir Thomas' eye and he asks him to join them on their quest to the Holy Land. Tristan will serve Sir Thomas as his squire. One major hurdle presents itself, Sir Hugh Monfort, Marshal of the Regimento, takes an instant dislike to Tristan and is determined to see Tristan permanently removed.

Soon Tristan is on the adventure of his lifetime where he will begin to learn more of the world around him and meet some very interesting characters along the way. He also must stay on his toes because Sir Hugh is a most devious enemy who will stop at little to put Tristan out of commission.

KEEPER OF THE GRAIL introduces many fictional and real characters from a teenaged Robin Hood to Richard the Lionheart. I found the entire novel to be captivating, though the ending leaves the reader hanging and eagerly anticipating book two, which is due out late October.

Any child with an interest in adventure will simply love this series. I can't wait to start the second book and see what lies ahead for Tristan.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Finn Throws a Fit (Picture Book)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Peaches are really pretty good . . . most of the time. You can sit in your little green chair with a smile on your face, swing your little feet tucked into those oversized yellow boots and just feel that fuzzy peach in your hand. Life is good. BUT on some days you just want to sit in your little green chair, wrap yourself up in your blankie, snuggle it up under your nose and when Mommy offers you that fuzzy peach all sliced up . . . BOOM! That is when little boys named Finn are cranky and "anything could happen." Daddy tries to play ball with him, but even the Jack-in-the-box goes BOING when the thunder and lightning (crash, boom, bang!) erupt over Finn's head. Look out! The little tornado is on the run! Life is not good.

Things rock. They roll. Finn slams the door in his nursery shutting out Mommy and Daddy. The little yellow boots go flying when Daddy brings him into the kitchen. The lightning makes everyone grimace. Did you ever hear such noise coming out of such a little boy? He's rocking, rolling and tumbling from here to there. He cries so much that the house begins to flood and Mommy has to stand on a table to escape the rising water, but the puppy dog simply paddles his way through the horror. "He screams. Look out! Avalanche! He kicks. An earthquake shakes the world." Will the little house survive the terrifying ordeal it has to go through when "FINN THROWS A FIT?"

This is a hilarious little story that every parent can relate to. I laughed and giggled and recalled a few choice memories with each page. Tantruming toddlers are a fact of life and adorable little Finn with his little blankie and little yellow boots will charm your socks off, even when he's rocking and rolling through the entire house. The lively appealing art work adds just the right touch to this zany, but realistic story. I personally think every grandparent should buy a copy of this and give it to their children in thanks for all the (crash, boom, bang!) memories. Life is good!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

All in a Day (Picture Book)

Released March 2009

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

A little boy crouches down to tie his shoes while his pet chicken leans to pull one lace and help him out. A squirrel off to their right starts his day by cracking open a nut. After he climbs a birch tree to glance at the sun, it is time to tend to the work of the day. The garden needs hoeing and watering and the chicken is right there to help rid the garden of those little insect pests. His parents are busy hanging the wash on the line. There is even a tiny bee busy pollinating the pole beans. There’s a lot to be done each and every day.

“A day brings hope
and kindness, too . . .
A day is all its own.”

Oh, no . . . a dreadful thing has happened. The boy had dropped and broken the chicken’s egg. She looks down at it as he covers his eyes in sadness.

“You can make a wish,
and start again,
you can find your way back home.”

The boy cuddles up with his father on the hammock. Later they take a walk in the woods to listen to the birds and look for the animals in the forest. They snack on the apples they have in their basket. It’s time to go home. There’s more work to be done to finish the day.

This is a lovely book that imparts the message that every day is special and everyone counts. Some things that seem disastrous at the time can actually bring positive things in the future. The rhyming sequence is soft and has a nice lilt to it. The block print art work with assorted pastel backgrounds is very appealing. This would be a nice read and discuss book in any homeschool or classroom setting. “All in a Day” will be one of those memorable classics you’ll want to add to your shelves.