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.”

Monday, November 30, 2009

Barbour Launches Contest with Camp Club Girls Series

Barbour Launches Contest with Camp Club Girls Series

Uhrichsville, OH— Girls ages 8 to 12 will enjoy the mystery, mayhem, and adventure found in the new Camp Club Girls series written specifically for them! Camp Club Girls & the Mystery at Discovery Lake and Sydney’s D.C. Discovery, the first two books in the 24-book series, officially release from Barbour Publishing in January 2010 but should be available in stores for the holiday shopping season. To kick off the new Camp Club Girls series, Barbour Publishing will be holding a fun readers’ contest.

Readers will be offered a chance to win the “Kate’s Gadget Girl” grand prize gift basket worth over $2,000. Named after one of the Camp Club Girls characters who loves gadgets, the grand prize includes a MacBook computer, Nintendo Wii, iPod Nano, Canon digital camera, video journal, and many more cool gadgets. Running from January to August 2010, the readers’ contest also offers twenty-five monthly winners a Camp Club Girls backpack full of goodies. To sign up, readers can fill out a form found inside the books or enter online at after the books release. The Camp Club Girls website goes live on December 1, 2009.

For more information about the Camp Club Girls series, visit

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Can Draw Wild Animals (Non-Fiction/Instructional)

Released November 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Part of the I Can Draw series of interactive books, this how-to book takes the child through the process of drawing a giraffe, elephant, zebra, crocodile and a monkey.

Each spread features four small grids that show exactly how to draw each creature. On the opposite side is a full page empty grid where the child can reproduce the animal. The instructions are broken into elements starting with the head, then the torso, appendages and, finally, the finishing details.

The book comes with a special black pen with erasable ink. The wipe-clean pages also make it easy to correct mistakes and start over again if necessary. A clever way to nurture a child's drawing skills, this series also offers similar volumes on household pets, farms and parks.

I'd suggest you start with the animals and then, if your budding artist enjoys creating his or her own pictures, move to the other, more detailed books. Once your child is fairly proficient drawing the animals, switch to regular art paper and encourage him/her to create a stand-alone piece that can be colored.

You child will not only have fun with this creative book, but this will also help develop hand-eye coordination, observation skills, and create a sense of accomplishment in the youngster. Also, remember that it will take a number of attempts to render a recognizable likeness of the animal, so DO NOT rush things. Let the child work at his/her own pace and enjoy the feeling of "doing it himself"!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Camp Club Girls and the Mystery at Discovery Lake (Middle Reader)

Released January 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

If you have a young girl who likes mysteries and needs a book that is geared towards 8 to 12 year olds, the Camp Club Girls series should be a hit. It is a Christian book, but I think any young girl will enjoy the story within.

Alex, Bailey, Elizabeth, Kate, McKenzie and Sydney become roommates at a summer Bible camp. The girls form a strong friendship. Their camp stay becomes a juggling act as they maintain the camp schedule, battle a snobby girl who is determined to best them at every turn and hide a stray dog from their counselors.

This is only the beginning, however. The girls stumble onto a real mystery after hearing strange noises from an abandoned miniature golf course. Determined to find out why one counselor is determined to keep them away, the girls team up to do some sleuthing in their free time.

As as adult, I didn't find the mystery all that perplexing, but I'm pretty sure it will keep younger readers on their toes. In addition, there are some great lessons to be learned from the girl's antics and misunderstandings. Plus, the book's price is perfect for family's on a budget. I'd recommend this book for that inquisitive child.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Roundtable Reviews wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Because I have a full house with both kids and my husband off, posts for the next week will be sporadic. We'll be cozying up for family time and getting some baking done for the start to the holiday season.

If you want a fun activity to do with the kids, I usually start a week before Thanksgiving and put together some homemade sourdough starter. It's simple to do and kids love to watch the progress from day to day.

4 cups water
2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
4 cups flour

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in lukewarm water for five minutes. Use a glass or ceramic bowl, metal and plastic generally create off tastes. Stir in the flour and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in an out of the way spot and let it sit for two days.

After two days, stir it up and smell it for the desired level of sourness. Once it has reached that point, jar it up and put it in the fridge. I tend to refrigerate mine when it smells like apple cider vinegar (three days in my house.)

You can use the starter in any bread recipe. I have a tried and true roll recipe that takes little time and requires no kneading. If interested, go ahead and drop me a quick email.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Love Christmas (Picture Book)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Ollie loves everything about Christmas. He loves the crinkly paper, tinsel and string. He loves making ornaments that glitter and helping his Nanna bake the Christmas cake.

"I love stars in the sky, and joyful angels dancing by. I love to sing about Santa - he's coming tonight! I love to watch the twinkly Christmas light," says Ollie as he gazes at the family's nicely decorated Christmas tree.

But, best of all, Ollie tells us he enjoys sitting on his bed with Fred, his spotted dog, listening for Santa's sleigh bells.

This simple holiday picture book featuring what appears to be a stuffed animal of some kind (Ollie is rather chunky and has horizontal. gray stripes all over his body) will appeal to preschoolers who will want to add their own ideas about what makes the holidays so special.

As you read this story aloud, be sure to ask your child what he or she loves about Christmas. If the youngster needs a little prodding, ask, "What kind of Christmas cookies do you like?" or "What are your favorite ornaments?" Once your little one gets into the "spirit of the story", you will have turned a passive experience into one that engages the child and gets him or her thinking.

By adding his or her "likes", the text is greatly expanded and this becomes a very enjoyable bedtime read.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free E-Book

New H1N1 Children’s Book Available as Free Download

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Nov. 17, 2009 – Educators, parents, and book lovers can get a free, exclusive look at a brand-new middle grade novel, Finn Reeder, Flu Fighter. Starting today, Stone Arch Books, a children's fiction publisher, has made the book available as a free download on its website The book will be released in hardcover as part of Stone Arch’s spring 2010 collection in January. Stone Arch Books is an imprint of Capstone Publishers.

In Finn Reeder, Flu Fighter, 13-year old Finn is assigned to keep a journal for his English class. Little does he know that his journal will turn into a record of a major flu pandemic. Somehow, he survives infection, and as his school population dwindles, Finn faces down the school bully, draws comics, catches the principal ordering pizza, endures a string of bizarre substitute teachers, and even manages to study once in a while. By the time the month is over, he’s made it through the epidemic, gotten vaccinated, played the world’s strangest game of solo dodge ball, and – if he plays his cards right -- might even have found himself a girlfriend.

“Kids are curious and have real questions about H1N1. Our realistic and humorous story talks about the pandemic in a fresh new way, explaining the virus on a level kids can relate to and understand. It gives them facts without adding to their fears,” said Joan Berge, President of Capstone Publishers Fiction.

The book’s backmatter includes a glossary, further discussion questions, tips for staying healthy, and author and illustrator information. The free download offer is available until January 1, 2010, at Customers downloading the book can also register to receive 10% off of the hardcover edition once it’s available in January.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mickey Saves Santa (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Mickey and his buddies are planning a sleepover at the clubhouse on Christmas Eve. Excited about Santa's visit, Goofy, Daisy, Pluto, Donald, Minnie and Mickey are in for a nasty surprise. Mrs. Claus arrives on the back of a reindeer with terrible news.

Santa's sleigh has been disabled and he's stuck on Mistletoe Mount. Mickey, Donald and Toodles take to the air in the Toon Plane to find Santa and help him fix his sleigh. Fortunately, it is Toodles, with his collection of handy tools that saves Christmas Eve and gets Santa back in the air again.

This inexpensive paperback also comes with 25 stickers which can be used to decorate the two punchout ornaments that can be found on the story's final page. Since the stickers are a potential choking hazard, be sure they do not go into the mouths of any youngsters!

Appropriate for children three years of age and older, this Mickey Mouse Clubhouse edition isn't great literature, but the Disney favorites still manage to delight little children with their silly antics. Mickey and the gang continue to be characters that one generation after another wants to read about.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dreamdark: Blackbringer (Young Adult)

Released May 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by saying that I do not mean the next line to be negative in any way. DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER is a fairy tale on steroids. Many aspects of the book remind me of a classic fairy tale, good versus evil, monsters lurking in unknown places waiting to pounce and a heroine, complete with flaws, doing everything she can to save those she loves and come to terms with a changing environment.

If you have a child that enjoys Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings movies, this might be a series worth purchasing. I have a feeling many kids who enjoy that style of fantasy will love this book.

The faerie Magpie Windwitch is unlike other faeries who hide out in the safety of the forest living peaceful lives. Magpie searches the world for dangerous snags, devils who've managed to escape their confinement and are wreaking havoc on man. Magpie travels by crow and fulfills her role happily, acting like her hero, another mighty hunter named Bellatrix who existed 25,000 years ago.

It's Magpie's latest hunt that has her a little shaky. Landing on a vacated boat, Magpie finds no signs of life. She soon learns that one of seven elementals, djinns that vanished 4,000 years ago, has been extinguished permanently. An evil force is on the hunt and it will take everything Magpie has to defeat her enemy and find the missing elementals before it's too late.

Anyone thinking faeries are girly little creatures will need to rethink things. Magpie is as tough as they come. The narrative, characters and dialogue lured me in and held me entranced until the final page. Best of all, this is only the beginning. More Dreamdark books are in the works, including Silksinger (released in September.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oscar and the Snail (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Oscar is one very curious kitten and he is filled with questions about all the things he sees outside in the garden. Luckily, Snail has the answers to Oscar's questions.

Whether it is what birds construct their nests from, why a feather floats on water and a rock sinks, or how glass for a greenhouse is made, Snail is able to handle each and every one of the curious kitty's queries.

Part of the Start with Science series of books, "Oscar and the Snail" has a reinforced binding that will stand up to the heavy wear youngsters four and older will give it. Preschoolers will discover why we select specific materials to do different jobs, where materials come from and what useful qualities they have.

This is an excellent series that introduces children to core science concepts through engaging stories, fresh illustrations and supplemental activities. More than just a read aloud book, the author also challenges the
child (and his or her parents) to find some special materials on their next outdoor outing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Capstone Press Books Rank #1 With Struggling Readers

Renaissance Learning Report Reveals Student Reading Habits

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Nov. 10, 2009 – Renaissance LearningTM has published the results of a national survey on the reading habits of more than 4.6 million students in grades 1-12. “What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools,” reports titles from Capstone Press, publisher of accessible, innovative children’s nonfiction for beginning, struggling, and reluctant preK-8 readers, are among the most read books by struggling readers.

Of the top 20 high/low books read by more than 20,000 students in grades 4-5, all 20 titles are published by Capstone Press. Titles on the list are from Capstone’s popular Horsepower and U.S. Armed Forces series, both part of its Blazers brand of books. Reviewers have praised Horsepower for “targeting those students struggling with reading and needing stimulating material,” and writing that “the text will challenge struggling readers, but the brightly colored action photographs will hold their interest and encourage them to continue,” (Library Media Connection).

“We’re excited to see that more than 20,000 struggling 4th and 5th graders are actively reading. The fact that all of the books on their top 20 list are published by Capstone Press is a tremendous bonus,” said Matt Keller, President of Capstone Publishers Nonfiction. “We have a long history in publishing cutting-edge high-interest, low-reading leveled nonfiction to motivate and excite struggling and reluctant readers. It’s where our company began, and continues to focus on, most recently with the launch of our newest brand Velocity for middle school reluctant readers.”

Seven Capstone Press titles from the Horsepower series also appeared on the top 20 high/low book list for grades 6-8, and Capstone’s Deer Hunting title, from its Great Outdoors series, was ranked as the 10th most popular nonfiction title overall among 8th grade boys.

Renaissance Learning captured the data for its survey during the 2008-09 school year from more than 15, 000 schools nationwide through its popular reading software Accelerated ReaderTM. The full report is available at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trucktown: Kat's Mystery Gift (Picture Book)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Another in the Trucktown series of ready-to-read books, this level one
story centers on a surprise awaiting Kat, the road grader. Kat finds a gaily wrapped box outside her garage. Gabby, Rosie, Pete and the rest of the gang wonder what could possibly be in the large box.

Perhaps it is a new horn or new tires. Pat the fire truck thinks it might be a siren or flashing red lights because that's what he'd love to have. All Kat replies is, "Could be!" With everyone urging her to open the box to see what is inside, Kat feels a lot of peer pressure.

Does she finally open it? Perhaps the box's content remains a mystery forever. Perhaps it doesn't. You'll have to read the story to find out.

Frankly, there isn't much to this little book other than the colorful illustrations of various vehicles. The beginning reader is offered the opportunity to exercise both his beginning reading skills and his imagination. Unfortunately, I have a feeling most children won't be too excited about the story's final outcome.

On the plus side, this book does feature the right sentence length and vocabulary for a child who wants to "do it himself" and begin reading simple stories aloud. The fact that the content is rather "lame" perhaps isn't a deal-breaker since this paperback retails for under $5 dollars. For the price of a good cup of coffee you can steer your little trucker down the road to literacy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book News: Laini Taylor

Some great news for Laini Taylor: Her short-story collection Lips Touch is a finalist for the National Book Award (winner to be announced November 18)—in addition to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and being named a PW Best Children’s Book of 2009.

Watch for upcoming reviews of Dreamdark: Blackbringer and Dreamdark: Silksinger.

Laini Taylor Books

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thumbelina (Picture Book)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Brian Alderson revisits Hans Christian Andersen's classic story as he retells the misadventures of a diminutive little girl who encounters some kind and not so kind creatures who make big plans for her future.

First, Mrs. Toad tries to kidnap Thumbelina so she can wed the girl to her precious son Toadikins, but the girl escapes with the help of some friendly fish. Then, she is captured by a maybug but the insect eventually sets Thumbelina free.

When Mrs. Fieldmouse enters the child's life it seems to be an improvement. But initial appearances can be deceiving, as we discover when
it becomes clear Mrs. Fieldmouse wants to marry off Thumbelina to a pompous, old mole.

Fortunately, a swallow intervenes on her wedding day and whisks the blond haired girl away and takes her to be with her "own kind" - a band of Crystal Fairies.

Combined with some beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline, this new version of the Andersen story will introduce a whole new generation of youngsters to the famous tale of a girl no bigger than your thumb.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ruined (Young Adult)

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In RUINED, Paula Morris uses the sultry setting of New Orleans to create a dynamic ghost story/mystery. Fifteen-year-old Rebecca Brown is sent to live with her Aunt Claudia while her father attends a business trip in Asia.

Being uprooted is never fun, but Rebecca's life is made harder by her aunt's strict rules, particularly one banning her from a local cemetery where many local teens hang out. Disobeying her aunt's orders, Rebecca sneaks out one night and finds herself face to face with a mysterious young woman, Lisette, the ghost of a teen who bonds quickly with Rebecca.

What Rebecca doesn't know is that her ties with the ghost are going to lead her to discover answers about why Lisette still roams the earn and things about herself she never would have realized.

While the reader has a tad more information going into the story than Rebecca does, I think most teens will be swept up in the resolution to the mystery. I had part of it figured out early on, but I also read dozens of mysteries every year. Some might pick up on subtle hints, but the outcome is still mesmerizing, even if you do have it figured out.

RUINED has a steady pace and keeps the reader hooked. The ended was a little overdramatic for my liking, but teens may get more from it than I did. Otherwise, I'd highly recommend this book.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Delays to Postings

It's a shortened school week here due to Parent/Teacher conferences. With that, I'm not home alone and that usually messes my schedule up.

Plus, we received a new gadget for our TV and given the cold, snowy/rainy weather, it's been harder to get outside. Instead, we've been cozying up and watching old movies.

If you haven't heard of the Roku player, it's something to watch for. To cut our budget, we dropped down to only local channels on Satellite. We live in an area where TV reception is horrible, even with an antenna, so to get local news/tv stations, satellite or cable is a must. After we dropped down to the bare minimum, we'd watch our favorite shows through Netflix's instant watch.

The Roku player is a device that hooks to your TV, links to your Internet and then taps into your Netflix account allowing you to watch any of their Watch It Now movies and shows on your TV.

It's not cheap, but those with a PS3, Xbox 360 or who want to pay the $100 to get the Roku box and already have a Netflix account are all set. We've all become hooked to a British TV show, The IT Crowd and have been catching up on all the episodes.

With Christmas around the corner, the Roku Box might be worth watching for.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

National Panel of Classroom Teachers Recognizes Capstone Publishers’ Products With Three Awards

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Nov. 2, 2009 – Three Capstone Publishers’ products have been selected by a national panel of teachers as top choices for use in the classroom. Products from the company’s Capstone Press imprint and Capstone Digital division are winners of Learning magazine’s 2010 Teachers’ Choice Awards, one of the most recognized and prestigious awards in the education market.

“We’re thrilled to receive this recognition for our innovative resources for student learning from teachers who evaluated our products in actual classroom environments. To receive three awards from this coveted panel is truly an honor,” said Matt Keller, President of Capstone Publishers Nonfiction.

Included among the Teachers’ Choice Awards for Children’s Books winners are Capstone Press’ Kids’ Translations and Sanitation Investigation series. Kids’ Translations translates important historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, into simple language kids can understand. The series recently received a top Editors Choice Award from Library Media Connection magazine, and the 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers.

Sanitation Investigation introduces readers to the world of waste, from the history of the toilets to the mystery of tap water, and has been praised for its obvious kid appeal: “Kids will enjoy reading the truths of water and garbage in words they use every day,” (Library Media Connection) and “That’s so gross! children will be exclaiming when they investigate our sanitation system,” (Science & Children). The series was also a finalist for the 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers.

PebbleGoTM was selected as a winner of the Teachers’ Choice Awards for the Classroom. The animal database for students in grades K-2 integrates content curriculum with early literacy and information literacy skills. Since its launch in early 2009, PebbleGo has received enthusiastic reviews, “deserves an A+ for breaking new ground,” (School Library Journal) and “delightful, well-designed, and well-thought-out resource for elementary education,” (MultiMedia & Internet @ Schools). PebbleGo was also named by Booklist as a Top 20 Best Bet for Student Researchers, and received a Highly Recommended starred review from Library Media Connection.

Teacher teams from across the United States judged the entries in classrooms, evaluating them on “quality, instructional value, ease of use, and innovation.” The Teachers’ Choice Awards is sponsored by Learning magazine, a publication of The Education Center, Inc.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bad Girls Don't Die (Teen)

Released April 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by saying I'm psyched Katie Alender is making a series from this book. I'd only read a few pages before I was hopelessly hooked. After pushing aside any thoughts of Sunday housework, laundry and the likes, I sat down and let Alexis's story sweep me away.

Alexis does her best to fit in at high school, but it's hard with few friends. After the cheerleaders share a campaign on healthy living using pictures of various students in the school with captions detailing their bad eating habits, Alexis's best friend, a target of the cruelty, becomes humiliated and moves away. Now Alexis is completely alone, but all that will soon change.

Alexis's younger sister, Kasey, begins acting strangely. Soon Kasey's blue eyes turn green and she's not acting like herself. Alexis isn't sure what's going on, but soon must team up with the enemy, a head cheerleader who is convinced Kasey is possessed.

Toss in a bit of a blossoming romance between Alexis and one of the school's most popular guys. Alexis definitely has her hands full, especially if she's to keep her new friends safe.

BAD GIRL'S DON'T DIE is gripping. The haunting is spooky without being too scary for younger teens. Enjoyable characters, realistic high school problems and a charming setting help boost this book from being good to being a keeper.

Teens who like spooky stories will love this one. With a splash of romance to lighten the mood at key points, the author doesn't back down from the main story of ghosts and possessions.

I highly recommend Katie Alender's young adult novel and can't wait to read more!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Maisy's Street (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

You are invited to spend some time in Maisy's neighborhood as you open this clever fold -out, accordion book that features many of the vivacious little, white mouse's best friends.

Every section of the sturdy board book also features a flip-open flap. For example, to find Cyril you'll have to open the front door of his blue house and inside the Candy Shop you'll discover a brown cat purchasing two lollipops.

The reader has two options for enjoying this novel picture book. He can either stretch all the pages out on the floor or a table or turn them as he would the individual pages of a regular book. With all the pages extended the book's length extends five feet!

Appropriate for youngsters two years of age and older, there's plenty to see on both sides of these colorful pages. You can visit the monkeys at the fire station, check out Dotty buying a birthday cake or see Doctor Duck working late at his office.

The Maisy books just keep on coming because preschoolers seem to not be able to get enough of the cute mouse and her zany adventures.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crank (Teen Fiction)

Released June 2004

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

You know how you
stand and stand and stand
in line for the most
gigantic incredible roller
you've ever dared attempt.

Anticipation swelling,
minute by minute by minute,
you choose to wait even
longer, to ride in the front
and finally, it's your turn.

They buckle you in, lock the
safety bar with a jolting clunk!
Hook engaged, the chain jerks
you forward. You start to

Cresting the top, time
moves into overtime
as you wait for that scant
hesitation, just before you
knowing you can't turn back.

You know how you feel
at that instant? Well, that's
exactly how it feels when you
shake hands with the

CRANK uses poetry to tell the story of Kristina Snow. When her long-absent father wins a court appointed visit, Kristina travels from Reno to Albuquerque to spend weeks with a man she hasn't seen in eight years. Her mother, step-father, older sister and young brother see her off not knowing the visit will change their lives.

Kristina's father works when he wants to for a bowling alley where drugs are easy to come by, and he lives in a run down apartment complex teeming with the wrong types of people. After meeting an attractive young man, Kristina becomes bold, calling herself Bree, and enters into her first real relationship. One that introduces her to crystal meth. Her world spirals out of control from this point. Once back home, her addiction leads her to theft, the wrong crowd, date rape and an unwanted pregnancy.

The book is fictional but based on the author's personal experiences when her own daughter become a meth addict.

CRANK is told through poems that adeptly capture the life of an addict. My daughter and her friends raved over and I picked it up to see what the fuss was about. I was horrified and also delighted to hear my thirteen year old say the book scared her tremendously. That's the effect I'd hope it would have.

As a parent, I had a hard time believing the school never called to report Kristina's frequent ditching of classes, slip from being an straight A student to mostly Ds and such, but that might simply be the area. In our small town, the teachers are quick to email or call parents if the child's behavior changes drastically.

If you do choose to have your teen read CRANK, read it with them. Be aware of the signs of drug use and do whatever it takes to step in and get them help. This book may well help you recognize some of the signs.