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, October 30, 2009

Louise the Big Cheese: Divine Diva (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Louise is a little girl with some very big ideas. Louise loves to be in the limelight. She enjoys people making a fuss over her and, most of all, she aspires to be a "big cheese"!

When her school was selecting the cast for "Cinderella", Louise and her best friend, Fern, tried out. "Dream Big! That's my motto," Louise told her friend. Convinced she would get the lead role, Louise was crushed when Fern was named Cinderella.

Quite unhappy with being cast as a lowly mouse, Louise stopped talking to her friend. But on the night of the performance guess who saves the play when Fern gets stage fright and forgets her closing lines? Yup, the little girl in the itchy gray mouse suit saves the show!

Elisa Primavera also includes a fun "Do You Have What It Takes to Make It on Broadway?" questionnaire at the end of the story. Like Louise, your youngster may not have "the right stuff" for a stage career, but no matter. As Louise discovers, there are more important things in life like friendship and perhaps other ways of reaching "Big Cheese" status.

Children four and older should enjoy this picture book and if they do, there will be a sequel out early in 2010 entitled"Louise the Big Cheese and the La-di-da Shoes". I have a feeling Louise's misadventures will be the subject of quite a few picture books in the years to come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Freebies from Capstone Books

10 Free Books in Spring 2010!


Purchase $750 from any Capstone Publishers imprint (Capstone Press, Compass Point Books, Picture Window Books, or Stone Arch Books) and receive 10 Spring 2010 titles absolutely free!


Be the first in line for the hottest Spring 2010 titles from Capstone Publishers and stretch your budget at the same time!

Place your order for $750 or more and reference code 09WBSPRG. Capstone Publishers will automatically send you a fantastic selection of 10 brand new titles from their upcoming Spring 2010 collection (including student favorites from the You Choose Books and Claudia Cristina Cortez series) —absolutely free!—as soon as they are available. That’s 10 free books plus free shipping and processing!


Applies to orders placed by mail, fax, phone, e-mail, or through the websites.


Now! Offer expires December 31, 2009.


For more information on this promotion, and to see the selection of 10 free Spring 2010 titles, visit:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

First published in 1968, this wonderful classic is back in print just in time for the holidays. A whimsical story of an unexpected visitor who turns an afternoon tea into a very memorable event, this humorous tale begins with a knock on the door.

Sophie and her mother have just sat down at the table when a tiger, of all things, asks if he might join them since he's very hungry. Just how famished is their guest? Well, he devours virtually everything in the house!
In fact, when the little girl's father arrives home, there is nothing left for dinner.

Although he might be a tad skeptical about the events of the afternoon and why there's nothing to eat in the house, Sophie's father takes the family out to a restaurant for a lovely dinner. On the way home, they also stop at the grocery store to replenish their supply of food.

Sophie's mother also buys a very big tin of Tiger Food, just in case their polite but voracious guest ever returns for tea. But, surprisingly he never does!

With over two million copies in print, this Judith Kerr picture book has thrilled and delighted generations of youngsters ages three and older. If you haven't introduced your child or grandchild to Sophie and her very memorable guest, this might be a good time to do so. I guarantee this will become a family favorite for years to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cats (Non-Fiction)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I adore cats. As I sit typing the review, I have Maine Coon brothers who haven't realized just how big they've gotten trying to sit on my shoulders but missing the mark because they're just about 2 1/2 feet long when stretched out and each weigh 20 pounds.

I grew up with a Siamese who shared my birthday and have owned a cat ever since. I can't stand being in a house without a cat looking for attention, love or simply running around like a crazed lunatic chasing reflections, toys or even flies. Cats amuse me and my interest certainly passed on to my children.

Some children love animals and those are the kids who will love the reissue of Alice Buckland's CATS. The reference book gives a detailed view into the history and origins of cats and the different breeds. Full color photographs of many breeds including American Shorthair, Burmese, Devon Rex, Maine Coon, Russian Blue and Siamese.

The book is set up so that any age will appreciate the photographs. Plus, for children opting to do a report on cats for science, the book serves as a suitable reference manual to the breeds, birthing process and more. Each breed has its own chapter filled with breed traits, coloring, behavior and personality.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ripley's Believe It Or Not (Non-Fiction)

Released October 2005

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Saturday's weather proved to be miserable, so my children pulled out a book we'd gotten a number of years ago for review for my former site and asked me to redo it. It's a book they love, even as they grow older, and still love to flip through from time to time.

RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! PLANET ECCENTRIC is full of the weird, unusual and downright hilarious. I think the hilarious stories of things people have done and probably should have thought twice about always crack me up. This includes the bank robber who gets away with his crime and then realizes he left his hold-up note with the teller and returns to the scene of the crime to retrieve it. Another funny story involves a group of Mexican criminals who dig a tunnel to flee captivity, but eventually come out in the middle of a courtroom where there is a current trial underway.

Also in the book are loads of photographs involving some pretty unusual things such as a daring man who does handstands in some pretty extreme locations, a wedding cake made completely from yarn, a man who eats metal instead of food or the man who can squirt milk from his tear ducts.

Those with weak stomachs or sensitivities to creepy crawlies may need to flip by pages. I have issues with the world's largest spider, shown in its actual size, and flip by that page in a rush. But the rest of the book is entertaining and even informative.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Powers (Young Adult)

Released December 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In POWERS, a Gypsy named Mari is left alone in the world when her grandfather and close friend are killed by mysterious shadow people referred to as Mulo. For whatever reason, the evil Mulo want all members of the "Standing" dead. Mari's grandfather tells her to seek out another "Standing" member, a prophet named Jaazaniah, who calls himself Jazz. To find him, Mari must leave the shelter of the bayou woods she's grown up in. She's never left this wooded area and the city and outside world is extremely frightening to her.

Once she meets up with Jazz, she finds he barely believes her. He's lived for so long in the normal world that he has no sense of who he really is.

I have a feeling I missed a lot by not having read the first novel in this series, Shade, first. While I did find POWERS filled with action and intrigue, I never quite "got" who exactly the "Standing" were, the importance of them being buried standing up or why the authorities really wanted them dead. What I got from the novel is that the police and government were corrupt and the "Standing" were on the run from them.

Reviews on the back of the book state the book would suit fans of Harry Potter, Lost and Cloverfield. POWERS might be an adult book, but I think teens will find pleasure from the action and suspense. Given that it is a Christian novel, there is little violence and no sexual content.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas Ideas for Children

As you prepare your Holiday Gift Guide, check out top picks from Chronicle Books 2009 Children’s Books.

Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance

By Annie Barrows

$14.99 – Hardcover

Ages 6 to 10

The eagerly-anticipated 6th book in the hit series by Annie Barrows. Ivy and Bean beg their mothers for ballet lessons, but soon discover they HATE ballet class. Can they figure out a way to get out of it, or are they Doomed to Dance?

Duck! Rabbit!

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Tom Litchenheld

$15.95 – Hardcover
Ages 3 and up

This New York Times Best-Seller will have readers young and old asking, is it a duck, or a rabbit?

The Little Books Boxed Set

Little Pea – Little Hoot – Little Oink

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Jen Corace

$19.99 – Boxed Boardbooks

Ages 3 and up

Three adorable characters in three adorable board books. These clever twists on dinnertime, bedtime and clean-up time will delight the little mess-makers.

Creature ABC

By Andrew Zuckerman

$19.99 – Hardcover

All ages

This deluxe alphabet book features 120 pages of renowned Andrew Zuckerman's breathtaking wildlife photography. From alligator to zebra,book-info/store,kids/products_id,8225/title,Creature-ABC/


Dinosaurs by Dennis Schatz

Vehicles by Ben Grossblatt

Wild Animals by Linda Falken

$29.99 each – Hardcover

Ages 4 and up

Stereobooks feature built-in stereo speakers, so readers feel surrounded by sound as they listen to the 15 action-packed scenes in each book.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lost Worlds (Fantasy/Art)

Released November 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Some may recognize the name John Howe, the concept artist for all three The Lord of the Rings movies. In LOST WORLDS, Howe matches his mesmerizing artwork with legendary worlds that may or may not have truly existed.

The book opens with a foreword by Sir Ian McKellen, Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Then the author introduces what I think is important for children to know: "History is not necessarily what happened but more often what someone said happened." If you asked two people to explain a historic event, you would get the same underlying story, but with different twists. I wish more history teachers looked at it this way instead of pushing their beliefs on their students.

LOST WORLDS includes 24 legendary locations, such as: Atlantis, Avalon, Babylon, Camelot, the Garden of Eden, Mount Olympus, Pompeii, Rapa Nui, Timbuktu, Thebes and Troy. Each location is detailed with sketches and colored drawings, as well as gripping narrative that middle readers will enjoy. They may need help pronouncing some of the location names, but the reading level should be on par with nine to twelve year olds.

I really enjoyed LOST WORLDS. If your child loves the the "Ologies" series (Wizardology, Dragonology, etc.), they will love John Howe's offering.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Warrior vs. Warrior (Non-fiction/Military)

Released November 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Many children will be delighted to find WARRIOR VS. WARRIOR under the Christmas tree. The unique hardcover book has a split front cover that creates an arena like setting for the battles to be waged within. The book is a stunning non-fictional mix of military/war history and bright colorful photography that catches your eye.

In WARRIOR VS. WARRIOR, the authors and historians pit history's famous warriors against one another leading to who would have likely been the victor in each match. Information provided includes what the warrior wore, the weapons he/she used, foods eaten before a battle and a bit of history regarding the era they lived in. Warriors include:

1. Viking vs. Aztec
2. Samurai vs. Gladiator
3. Knight vs. Zulu
4. Ninja vs. Gladiatrix
5. Spartan vs. Mongol

The book ends with a glossary of terms and a final thought-provoking question: If you mixed up the matches, who do you think would win and why?

Any child with an interest in battle shows like Pokemon will love this book. Plus, they are going to learn about world history without even realizing it. Making it a great addition to a child who dislikes history lessons. To me, WARRIOR VS. WARRIOR is a keeper!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pigs Make Me Sneeze (Picture Book)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The saga of Gerald, the elephant, and his good friend Piggie continues in this amusing series of picture books for children four years of age and older.

The bespectacled pachyderm is sneezing up a storm and he's convinced he is allergic to pigs. Since Gerald realizes if he wants to stop sneezing he can't be around his buddy, what's going to happen to their relationship?

Distraught by the ended friendship, Gerald tells Doctor Cat what the problem is. While the cat is diagnosing the situation, Gerald again starts sneezing. "Great. Now cats make me sneeze, too," he says.

Hold on a minute That's not really what is happening here! Doctor Cat's diagnosis is quite simple. It isn't an allergy to cats or pigs that is the problem. No! Gerald has a common, old fashioned cold!

When he rushes back to tell Piggie the good news that he only has a cold and they can still be friends, Piggie is less than thrilled. Guess who is sitting with a box of Kleenex blowing his nose because someone gave him a cold?

You have to love this award winning series. With his illustrations and brief text Mo Willems somehow manages to squeeze every bit of humor out of each situation these two friends find themselves in.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gigi God's Little Princess: Gigi and the Royal Circus (DVD)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Sheila Walsh's popular book character, Gigi, appears on several children's DVDs. The latest offering contains two cartoons: The Royal Pink Circus and The Princess Hair Do. The two cartoons take about 40 minutes, but the remainder of the DVD includes trivia, a read-along story, drawing tutorials and a singalong. There is also a DVD-ROM section that children can access on their home computer.

In The Royal Pink Circus, Gigi and her best friend Frances learn there is a circus coming to town. The girls are excited to go, but something happens and Gigi must decide what true friendship means.

The second cartoon, The Princess Hair Do, finds Gigi becoming infatuated with a real-life princess's short hair cut. When Gigi decides short hair would make her the prettiest princess ever, she grabs the scissors. Gigi quickly learns that a hair cut is not the key to true beauty.

The Gigi videos are girly with bright and muted tones of pink (Gigi's favorite color) being clearly apparent throughout the DVD. The stories are great and provide a strong message for the younger crowd.

There were two points that hit me as being items some Christian families would disagree with. I loves cats and have raised my children to be respectful of both people and animals. I found myself concerned that Gigi's poor cat kept getting hit in the head with tennis balls and juggling balls and no one apologized for the accidental head bonks or even took the time to make sure he was okay. Minor point, but in my house if a cat is accidentally stepped on, hit or whatever, my kids know that they should apologize and comfort the cats.

My other concern, again somewhat minor, is one scene Gigi is imagining tigers at a beauty salon getting their fur dyed pink. Everyone in that salon was gossiping. I know many families where gossiping is considered a hurtful act that children should not take part in.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Young Adult)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The third installment of Marilyn Kaye's Gifted Series features Emily. Emily is another student in the mysterious Gifted class where teens learn how to use and control their "gifts." Emily's gift involves seeing into the future.

Emily awakens one morning and has a vision that one of the students in her Gifted class will not show up for school. When he doesn't show, Emily and her friends become concerned. As more classmates disappear, Emily realizes she must learn to control her visions if she is to uncover the truth about their disappearances.

If you've been following the series, you'll enjoy this latest edition. Readers discover a tidbit more about Carter and Charles and Martin play more prominent roles in this latest too.

Readers new to the series will not feel out of place. The past stories are quickly recapped to prevent confusion, but once you've learned about the teens and their abilities, you'll want to keep reading. I recommend getting all three novels and catching up.

Ken's story is next. He's one of the characters I've been eager to read more about, so I can't wait for spring of 2010!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stagecoach Sal (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This story features a young, feisty frontier girl named Sal who enjoys being outdoors, making music and riding horses. But, most of all, Sal loves driving her father's mail stagecoach. One day the young girl's father is unable to make his usual Northern California run and Sal begs to take the coach in his place.

"Don't you worry, Pa," she says. "I'll get the mail from Ukiah to Willits on time." With some reservations her father agrees and Sal is off on her wonderful adventure. Along the route, though, Sal encounters Poetic Pete, a well know but polite stagecoach robber.

The wily young girl not only tricks Pete into riding "shotgun" with her for part of the journey but when the crook falls asleep she handcuffs him. The hero (or heroine) of the hour, Sal takes the rhyming robber right to the jail when she reaches her destination and becomes a local celebrity.

Based on the life of Delia Haskett Rawson, reputedly the only woman to carry the U.S. mail by stagecoach in California in the 1800s, this picture book is passable but the one-dimension illustrations with their washed out color won't excite too many readers.

The text is augmented by the lyrics from various western ballads since Sal likes to sing when she is out on the road. Although the musical stage driver is able to sing Poetic Pete to sleep don't count on the same results with your little ones.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hermie and Friends: The Flo Show Creates a Buzz

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I grew up in a household where The Carol Burnett Show was a weekly fixture. Knowing this, I've always appreciated Max Lucado's popular children's DVD series, Hermie & Friends, because Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence provide the voices for two main characters. They bring life to Hermie and Flo making them enjoyable, quirky characters.

In THE FLO SHOW CREATES A BUZZ, Flo lands her own television show, but things don't go as easily as planned. She responsible for choosing her guests, her outfits and her question list, but never takes time to consider how the other people will feel. As a result, Flo winds up insulting all of her guests.

Now that she has hurt their feelings, she must apologize and that isn't much easier.

THE FLO SHOW CREATES A BUZZ is a delightful DVD with a strong Christian message about asking for forgiveness and being forgiven. Children will learn a lot from this new Hermie & Friends DVD.

Amazon is not listing the DVD for sale yet, they only have the book and even then it says unavailable. You can, however, purchase the DVD at Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

City of Fire (Middle Reader)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Twelve-year-old Scirye is excited about an upcoming event at a museum in San Francisco. She should be, her sister, Nishke, must guard the treasures on exhibit. When dragons attack, Nishke is killed and Scirye vows to get revenge and retrieve the stolen artifact.

Mr. Roland and the Dragon Badik are on a quest to retrieve the Five Lost Treasures of Emporor Yu to gain tremendous power. Scirye, along with her lap griffin, Bayang the Dragon, a mysterious boy named Leech and Leech's friend Koko team up to conquer the evil Mr. Roland and Badik.

CITY OF FIRE introduces a slew of characters in story where fact and fiction weave seamlessly together. 1941 San Francisco is the setting and it's a world filled with magic and enchantment. This is the first in a trilogy.

I struggled, at first, to keep each character straight and figure out their scheme in things. I ended up having to keep a “who's who” list to get through the opening chapters. Once the main storyline hit a few chapters in, I found the story much more enjoyable and actually started having fun getting caught up in the Laurence Yep's novel.

Any child who loves fantasy will want to give this a shot. There is a pronunciation guide in the opening to help you with the characters' names. I ended up skipping it simply because I was flipping back and forth too often and still forgetting exactly how to pronounce them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Black Hand (Non-Fiction/Teen)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Truthfully, THE BLACK HAND is a non-fiction book aimed at adults, however I do feel it has tremendous benefit to many older teens. I live in a quiet family neighborhood, but I've become concerned in past years with teens around here glorifying gang life, saying how cool it would be to have that much power. Those teens, I think, would benefit from reading this book. Unlike the papers that most of those kids avoid, I know many would read this because the story comes from one of the Mexican Mafia's biggest players.

Chris Blatchford offers the biography of Rene "Boxer" Enriquez, a man who will spend his life in prison for murders and various other crimes committed while he was a member of the Mexican Mafia (La Eme.) It is because I've heard kids say how cool it would be that I think many teen readers might want to learn the cold, hard truth regarding gang life.

With this said, I wouldn't let teens read it without also having mom or dad read it. The book has rather graphic photographs, part of why I started reading it. One of the pictures involves the crime scene where a young mother and her two children, five and six months, lie dead. It's hard to make out the baby and you really don't see the other child, but just knowing they were killed in that room horrified me. What kind of monster kills a six month old child all because "dad" did wrong.

The book is powerful, gripping and definitely lets you in on a life that no person should live. I wouldn't recommend it for the younger crowd, but age 16 and up, I definitely think they could learn the stark truth about gang life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fun with Animals Friendship Box (Picture Book)

Released July 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This activity pack for children a year and up comes with three board books plus a small, green, stuffed animal which is either a frog, a dinosaur or some fanciful critter of unknown origin. (Your child will decide what it is suppose to be!)

The books include World Animals, Farm Animals, and Neighborhood Animals. Paging through World Animals you'll find color photos of a gorilla, hippopotamus, zebra, giant panda, koala, penguin and seal. Opposite each full page picture are a few sentences that identify the creature and give a little information about it. For example, you'll discover that "Gorillas often live together in families of thirty or more. These groups are called troops."

Farm Animals blends a photo of each animal with barnyard cartoon caricatures. The format here uses questions to introduce the animal. "Who do you see in the farm? I see a cow." Once identified. we then learn what sound the critter makes. " 'Moo, moo', says the cow. 'How are you today?' "

Neighborhood Animals also uses a series of questions to draw the child into the text, "Is that a dog in the park?" After the question you'll discover some facts about the animal - "A dog may greet you by wagging its tail and licking your hand."

Arranged in a sturdy green box with a convenient carrying handle, the Friendship Box would make the perfect travel gift for your child or grandchild. There's enough here to amuse the child whether in the family car or squeezed into an airplane seat.

Grandparent tip: Purchase Fun with Animals for your young grandchild and give it to him or her as a heading home gift after a Thanksgiving or Christmas visit. Mom and dad will be eternally grateful!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking a Short Hiatus

In a nutshell, I'm giving myself the rest of the week off. There's been a lot of stuff going on that started back in May when my five-year-old gas stove developed a gas leak. After $300 in new parts, we still lacked a working stove top and oven. Every time one part was replaced, another would start leaking.

I'd had enough and thanks to the generosity of my parents, we purchased an electric stove. With that came the rewiring of my kitchen. That took a few days of planning, purchasing parts and arranging with a friend/electrician to do the time on his schedule. Finally, it's done and I'm baking up a storm! But between my normal writing work, baking and then family life, I simply haven't been reading books at the pace I usually do.

In the end, I figure I can take a week off, get back on track and then start back up with the reviews.

This weekend, look for reviews to kick back up. You'll get reviews for the latest Marilyn Kaye, Laurence Yep and Mercedes Lackey.

Happy Reading

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun at the Junkyard (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This coloring book with two sheets of stickers will keep your little truckers busy for hours. Jack Truck and his four-wheel pals are helping Garbage Truck Gabriella move items from the junkyard to Sanitation Central. It is a big job, but that doesn't mean they can't have a good time.

Besides being a coloring book, Fun at the Junnkyard! is loaded with all sorts of activities. For example, there's a maze you can help Dan, Pete, Jack and Gabriella wind their way through, a Monster Truck Puzzle to cut out and piece back together, some connect the dots exercises, and a sun word search.

For youngsters who can't get enough of Jon Scieszka's Trucktown series of books, this high-octane adventure is just what the family "mechanic" ordered. If you are traveling and need a diversion for your child,some colored pencils or crayons and this book are the answer to your prayers!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

News Release: Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance

I thought you’d like to see the new “sneak peak” video trailer for the latest title in the hit series: Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance

More than 100 bookstores and libraries will host Ivy & Bean Day Events on November 7th – excitement is building!

About Ivy & Bean:

With over 700,000 copies sold, the Ivy and Bean series is a huge hit with kids, teachers, parents and librarians. The adventures of the irrepressible duo continue in the latest installment IVY AND BEAN DOOMED TO DANCE. Ivy and Bean beg their parents for ballet lessons and swear they won’t quit. Finally, they get what they want…well, not exactly. The girls thought ballet would be leaping and kicking and scaring the heck out of the Prince. It’s not. They have no interest in learning how to dance gracefully and must figure out a way to get out of their dance recital without breaking their promise.

About the Author:

Annie Barrows is the co-author of the New York Times Best-Selling The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society but Ivy and Bean was her first book for kids. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters. One daughter is like Ivy and the other is like Bean.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Picture Book/Read-along CD)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

"Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me."

This starts one of the most popular children's book in the past couple decades. The simple rhyming pattern and repetitive text quickly have children reciting lines, helping them learn word recognition, the first step to reading.

Written by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), the book delights young children and has become a staple in many homes and classrooms.

The latest version contains an audio CD allowing children to read along with Gwyneth Paltrow. The actress enunciates clearly and alters her voice to represent each of the different animals. The story ends with Paltrow and children reading the list of animals together.