Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. 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, August 31, 2009

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales (picture book)



Released August 2009

www.disneybooks.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Lucy Cousins puts her own unique spin on these classic fairy tales with the colorful, signature art work that has made her Maisy series of children's books so popular.

In this collection you'll find "Little Red Riding Hood", "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," "The Three Little Pigs" and "The Musicians of Bremen". There are also three less known but equally delightful tales: "The Enormous Turnip," "Henny Penny" and "The Little Red Chicken".

Although the heroes are courageous and clever while the villains are horrible and deliciously nasty, it is Cousins' vibrant art that is the main reason you'll want to purchase this collection of favorites. These stories can sometimes be rather scary for young readers but the humorous illustrations will defuse any potential angst and change frowns into bug smiles.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The World's Easiest Astronomy Book (Non-Fiction)



Released September 2009

www.onepeacebooks.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I can't state that I liked science in school. I excelled in English, foreign languages, some math and business courses, but science and history classes left me cold. Most of this dealt with the teachers I had, they were strict textbook-only types who gave plenty of homework and taught by the book rather than using visual displays or hands-on learning, both methods I find worked much better for me. With that, I can't admit to having learned a load about our planets beyond their placement in the universe.

With that, THE WORLD'S EASIEST ASTRONOMY BOOK was both fascinating and even a little scary. It brought up a lot of questions that weren't answered. Answered a few I'd always wondered about and led to a very lengthy conversation between my children and I.

Topics covered within the book include how "light years" work. It sounds silly, did to my kids, but I'd never realized the star I'm looking at in the night sky may have actually existed 100 years ago and no longer be around now. It's really hard for the mind to grasp that principle.

Nakagawa's book also delves into the first moon landing, space elevators, the possibility of traveling into the future, the lifespan of the sun and the Big Bang Theory. It's all portrayed with lighthearted narrative and in short form making it easy to retain. At just over 100 pages, the book is quickly read and definitely gets you thinking.

After I'd finished it, my high schooler, who loves science and math classes, immediately picked it up. He excels in science and admitted even he learned a few things after reading it.

This is an outstanding book and one that earns a place on our keeper shelf.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Luke and His Amazing Space Bed (Picture Book)



Released October 2009

www.camhousepress.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

It's always hard to critique a child's book, especially one written by a child. In this case, I read LUKE AND HIS AMAZING SPACE BED and then read the back cover blurb. It was in reading the synopsis on the back that I finally said, "Oh, that's what the book was about." Not a good sign by any means.

Thinking maybe I just "missed" the point, I then handed the book to both of my children. They again said they didn't get it. I had them then read the blurb and they had the same reaction as me. In a nut shell, the blurb on the back cover retells the entire story but without having to decipher the clues.

As a note, I did received an advanced reader's copy, so any grammatical errors may be corrected before it goes to print. In addition, the back cover information may well change.

For instance, the boys in the story, Luke and Arnold head into space on Luke's rocket bed and travel to the "furthest" (though that should be farthest for proper grammar: farthest for distance, furthest for ideas or metaphors) planet from the sun. My kids did know the farthest planet from the sun, I wasn't quite as quick to pick up on it. Either way, they did say their schools don't teach the planets until 5th grade and by that point, they'd be too old for this book anyway. Some schools, such as the author's, may teach them earlier.

The heart of the story involves whether Pluto is a moon or a planet. Again, this is something my kids said wasn't taught until middle school. With that, I handed the book to one of the neighborhood children, she's eight, to read. She really didn't get the storyline at all, mainly because she hasn't learned her planets yet. I told her a bit about the planets and the debate over Pluto and she reread the book with a little more understanding this time and said it was better, but still not a book she'd keep.

With that, I have a hard time deciding which age group should read this book. It's geared towards the younger crowd, but unless parents spend time teaching about the planets in advance, children might feel lost with the topic at hand. I think parents are best off showing a couple pages to their child before deciding to purchase.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baby Einstein: Let's Go (Baby/Toddler)



Released July 2009

www.disneybooks.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Part of the Baby Einstein collection of board books, "Let's Go" features color pictures of various modes of transportation.

Each section of the padded book features nine to 15 pictures and the names of the featured things that help us "go" in one fashion or another. Besides trains, planes, buses, trucks and boats, you'll also discover things we wear on our feet, equipment used on the farm and various items used outdoors during the winter.

Recommended for children nine months and older, this will help your child identify a variety of objects. It offers a simple way of bringing the real world into the nursery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Children of the Dawnland (Middle Reader)



Released July 2009

www.tor.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll admit to learning a little about history after reading CHILDREN OF THE DAWNLAND. Kathleen O'Neal Gear, a former historian and archaeologist for Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming, and W. Michael Gear, a professional archaelogist, share their knowledge regarding North American history. The story takes place about 13,000 years ago and covers the events of global warming and how it affects the Dawnland tribe.

Twelve-year-old Twig has powerful dreams, but her mother is not ready to admit that Twig might be the tribe's new Dreamer. Twig is concerned because her dreams predict a horrible event that will destroy their world. She seeks the last Dreamer, a woman named Cobia who left the tribe with hate in her heart when she learned the people of Dawnland stole her from her village as a toddler.

Meanwhile, the Dreamer from another tribe, the Thornbacks, is having the same dream and will destroy anyone that gets in his way as they struggle to find a safe place. He needs Cobia's guidance too. He dreams of Twig and her talents and knows that he must stop her from reaching Cobia and finding the safe land before he can.

CHILDREN OF DAWNLAND is gripping and avoids graphic violence making it a great choice for middle school readers. The characters are enjoyable, many readers will cheer Twig and her friend Grayhawk on their journey.

I'd recommend it to any pre-teen reader interested in historic events.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Chronicles of Narnia (Juvenile)



Released October 2005

www.harpercollins.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

This is a set that some people overlooked when it first came out. Rather than looking at the Chronicles of Narnia as a complete set, people settled for one or two books that were turned into the blockbuster movies. It's best to buy the set as a whole and work your way through them.

The series begins with The Magician's Nephew. You learn why the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is so cruel and how she arrived in Narnia.

Next up is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Most people know this story and have seen the movie. It deals with the White Witch and the spell that holds many captive. Readers also meet Aslan, the lion. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are introduced in this book and readers learn about the four children's roles in saving Narnia.

The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the series. Shasta was adopted by a fisherman and heads off on an adventure where he meets Bree, an enslaved war horse. The pair travel together and find themselves embroiled in war. There they learn about what will become of Narnia and learn a bit about their own fate too.

Prince Caspian is the fourth book. It's also the second movie in the Chronicles of Narnia movies. Prince Caspian loses the throne through treachery, but joins forces with Edmund, Susan, Lucy and Peter to regain what is rightfully his.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader
, coming out on film in 2010, features Lucy and Edmund. They reunite with Prince Caspian on his voyage to find the lost lords of Narnia.

The sixth book in the series, The Silver Chair, revolves around the lost Prince of Narnia, Prince Rillian. He encounters Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy's cousin, Eustace. Aslan sends Eustace and Eustace's schoolmate on a quest in Narnia where they encounter many dangers, including the Lady of the Green Kirtle, who per the book's character summary is the reincarnation of the White Witch. There are plans to make this the fourth movie in Disney's Narnia movies.

The final book in Chronicles of Narnia is The Last Battle. In this book, Narnia's time comes to an end and readers learn what happens to the characters from previous books when Aslan judges them determining their fate. Readers also learn how the children's experiences in Narnia carry over to their lives at home. This will be the final movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series but no release date is available yet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hug (Toddler)



Released August 2009

www.candlewick.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Everyone needs a hug from time to time and never was that more true than for the little monkey in this picture book. As Bobo walks through the jungle he sees a moma elephant hug her baby, two snakes in an entangled embrace and a mother lion snuggling her two cubs.

What's going on here? Even the little hippos and giraffes are receiving parental affection but not Bobo. "Hug, hug, hug!" says the monkey. When he's just about to give up, along comes Bobo's mother and now he gets the BIGGEST HUG of all!

There's really only one word in this book for preschoolers and I'm sure after looking at this book just once or twice, "HUG" will be part of your child's vocabulary.

Also, pay close attention to the expressions on the all the animal's faces for Jez Alborough's illustrations have captured the full range of emotions this picture book creates.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Biggest Busiest Storybook Ever (Picture Book)



Released September 2009

www.randomhouse.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Richard Scarry is another favored author from my childhood. BIGGEST BUSIEST STORYBOOK EVER is a hardcover release of three of his best books: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Best Word Book Ever and Busy Busy Town.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go pre-dated the Where's Waldo books and contained a cute little gold bug that children could search for on each page. He might be hidden on a bulldozer or riding as a passenger in a crowded car, but he's there to find. It's a great way to introduce children to hide and seek type books.

The Best Word Book Ever boosts vocabulary using the familiar families found in Richard Scarry's books. From Busytown's bunny family to the bear family, children will learn new words and spend time with favorite characters.

Busy, Busy Town takes children to Busytown where they meet familiar characters, heighten their vocabulary and learn the concept of a town where everyone knows one another. The friendly neighborhood grocer and the town physician all have their important place in the community. Children will get a kick out of the colorful illustrations and memorable Busytown residents.

The BIGGEST BUSIEST STORYBOOK EVER is one families should add to their keeper shelf. You get three books for the price of one in a hardcover version that is built to last.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection (Picture Book)



Released September 2009 (Reissue)

www.randomhouse.com/kids

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Every home with children should have Dr. Seuss on hand. The simple rhyming patterns, easy vocabulary, whimsical pictures and wacky stories appeal to children and their parents. Most of us grew up learning how to read to Dr. Seuss books and they still prove to be the best books for learning to read.

The DR. SEUSS BEGINNER BOOK COLLECTION includes some of his most popular offerings, including:

1. The Cat in the Hat
2. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
3. Hop on Pop
4. Green Eggs and Ham
5. Fox in Socks

I think most parents will easily recite lines from all of these stories. From "Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them Sam I am" to "When tweetle beetles fight it's a tweetle beetle battle..." they're all here and ready to be read and reread by your young child.

If you don't still have your old copies of these favorite Dr. Seuss books, rush out and buy this set today!

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Vacation

Just a quick note, my husband has some time off and this past weekend and today we've been taking a break from everything and spending time with the kids before they head back to school.

Posting will start back up tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kid Contest Winner Stars With Superman in New DC SUPER HEROES Book

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Aug. 10, 2009 - Stone Arch Books, children's book publisher of fiction graphic novels and chapter books, announces the release of its highly anticipated new chapter book The Kid Who Saved Superman, which stars Hakeem Bennett, a 13-year-old student at P.S. 36K, The Nathanael Greene School in Brooklyn, New York.



Bennett won the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to star alongside SUPERMAN in the new book after receiving first place in the publisher's FIND A HERO! writing contest in March. The contest invited students nationwide to write about a real hero at their school. Bennett wrote about his visually-impaired teacher Mr. Brown, also featured in the book with his seeing eye-dog Stanley. In The Kid Who Saved Superman, Hakeem's character saves Superman after he's trapped by a large kryptonite rock.



"Working on this book has been a special project for us, given extra meaning because Hakeem is such a deserving kid. We're so excited to feature him in the story, and we think other kids will be able to relate to Hakeem and maybe even see themselves in this adventure with Superman," said Joan Berge, President of Capstone Publishers Fiction.



The Kid Who Saved Superman is one of 12 new titles in the DC SUPER HEROES series, based around DC Comics' iconic characters SUPERMAN and BATMAN. Reviews of DC SUPER HEROES have been overwhelmingly positive, calling them "colorful, action-packed chapter books with loads of appeal" (School Library Journal) and "an ideal launching pad into the vast world of Superman comics" (Booklist).



DC SUPER HEROES and all related characters and elements are trademarks of DC Comics copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.





The Kid Who Saved Superman

By Paul Kupperberg

978-1-4342-1936-7

56 pages

Ó2010

$18.99 (Library Binding)

$5.95 (Paperback)

Interest Level: Grades 3-6

Reading Level: Grades 2-3

###



About Stone Arch Books

Stone Arch Books publishes funny, scary, mysterious and adventurous novels and SAFE graphic novels that kids from elementary through junior high school find irresistible. Offering kids exciting choices that meet their interests, Stone Arch Books transforms reluctant readers into reading enthusiasts. Stone Arch Books is part of Capstone Publishers, a family-owned group of children's book publishers supporting the reading needs of preK to high school students through nonfiction, fiction, picture books, interactive and audiobooks, and literacy programs. For more information on Stone Arch Books, visit www.StoneArchBooks.com.



About DC Comics

DC Comics, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, is the largest English-language publisher of comics in the world and home to such iconic characters as SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, and the SANDMAN. These DC super heroes and others have starred in comic books, movies, television series (both animated and live-action) and cyberspace, thrilling audiences of all ages for generations. Visit DC Comics' website at www.DCComics.com for more information.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Elmo Loves You (Picture Book)



Released August 2009 (Reissue)

www.candlewick.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This oversized picture book is so big you'll have to place it on a table or on the floor to turn the pages, but when it comes to Elmo, one of the popular characters from Sesame Street, that's quite alright.

Everyone loves something. In this book you'll discover what Elmo and his buddies from Sesame Street love. For example, Bert loves pigeons, Zoe and Grover love the library, and Ernie loves to play with his drum.

When you reach the end of the book Elmo poses an important question for the young reader - "What are some of the things you love?" he asks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Rotten Life: Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie (Middle Reader)



Released August 2009

www.tor-forge.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After idolizing one of his classmates for years, Nathan Abercrombie experiences the pain of a love scorned after she treats him cruelly in front of many. Hoping to "stop feeling" he agrees to let a friend's uncle try a new potion on him. Things go horribly awry and Nathan starts turning into a zombie.

On the one hand, Nathan certainly doesn't feel anything. However, he also can't eat, can't sleep and his body is falling apart. Is there a cure?

MY ROTTEN LIFE is packed with humor and situations most children will understand. Bullying, the horrors of gym class and tedious school days all have their place in this book. I snickered some while reading the book in one sitting.

Light and enjoyable, it's a great choice for the advancing reader.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mortimer's First Garden (Picture Book)



Released February 2009

www.karmawilson.com
www.simonsaysbooks.com

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Mortimer Mouse sat on the window sill looking out at the dreary, ugly landscape of early springtime. It wasn’t much to look at and he “longed to see something green.” He decided to nibble on one of his sunflower seeds he’d saved for a treat when all of a sudden a mother, trailed by a boy and gir,l came into the room. They were yelling something about a garden and he had no idea what they were talking about. “Do you have all your seeds?” asked the mother. Any mouse with any sense about him would be interested in seeds. He began to listen.

The mother began to tell the children all about how to grow them and said something about “a springtime miracle.” Mmmmm . . . throwing good seeds into the dirt was crazy when they could eat them instead. Mortimer began to think about this garden and decided to plant his sunflower seed. He found the “perfect spot,” planted and watered his seed. The next morning when he looked there was nothing. The day after that . . . nothing! Mortimer decided that a little prayer wouldn’t hurt. “I will wait, God. But please make my seed grow.” Do you think that God would listen to a little tiny mouse?

This was an adorable story in which the text and the whimsical artwork both seemed to contribute equally to the overall appeal of the tale of Mortimer Mouse and his wish for a miracle. This tale subtly tells the young child that they need to be patient and things don’t happen overnight. This book, a packet of seeds and a few garden tools would be a perfect gift for a young child. Don’t forget to buy a few sunflower seeds for Mortimer!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sleep Song (Baby-Preschool)



Released December 2008

www.simonsays.com
www.georgeellalyon.com

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

All creatures, including little girls, need to quiet down and get ready to nestle in their beds. A little girl is building a puzzle with her daddy, but when mommy enters the room she knows the time is fast approaching for her to get ready for bed. Not time, not time . . . little girls don’t give up easily. Her daddy, on hands and knees chases her, but she hides in a make believe cave on her bed. “Everything’s warm ~ Shh shh ~ Safe from harm ~ Shh shh Bear in a cave ~ Mole underground.” She jumps up and down on the bed while mommy makes sure she doesn’t fall off and then she is cuddled and hugged. Almost time, almost time!

A bubble bath is soothing and a cap of bubbles on a little girl’s head and a few bubbles on the nose is sheer fun. All wrapped up in a towel she begins to yawn. Story time with daddy and mommy is fun, but she “escapes” and hides behind the door. “Everything nests ~ Shh ~ Everything rests.” Her daddy calls to her and she is tucked into the bed with the reassurance that her parents are nearby. Shh, shh . . . those little eyes are heavy. It’s time . . .

This is a beautiful, realistic book about a young child’s bedtime. Some children are more active than others and getting them to bed can be a chore and each family has their individual rituals to coax and ease them into a comfortable, relaxed frame of mind so they can sleep. The art work is amazing. On the bottom half of each page are baby animals, who also need to sleep, who are yawning, curling up and going to sleep. The last two pages have them all, including the little girl, curled up fast asleep in a dream-like swirl. In the back of the book are the music and words to “Sleepsong,” the actual text of the book. You can hear this lullaby on the author’s website.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Termite Tales (Picture Book)



Released August 2009

www.candlewick.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here's an excellent set of four very short booklets for beginning readers. For each mini-story the adult should read the brief introduction aloud and then look through the booklet with the child.

Next, go back and read the sentence on the first page, placing your finger on each word. Then let your child try the sentence. If he gets stuck, have him check out the accompanying illustration to see if that helps.

The four little stories are simple enough that in no time your child will be reading them to you. Each one features Termite and some of them also include his friend Ostrich. You'll have fun reading them since they all have humorous endings.

I like the idea of four separate stories so the child will have a sense of accomplishment when he completes a story. Also, eventually he can select the story he likes the most and read it aloud. Kudos to Candlewick for coming up with a clever and simple approach to starting new readers out on the right track!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thanksgiving at the Inn (Young Adult)



Released October 2009

www.thanksgivingattheinn.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In THANKSGIVING AT THE INN, Heath Wellington III deals with the hardships in life. He's been wrongfully suspended from school, his alcoholic father is determined to punish him for cheating, there are bills to pay and not enough money to cover them and then Heath's grandfather dies. In the will, Heath and his father learn that they will not gain any of the elder Wellington's wealth unless they live and work at Heath's grandfather's bed and breakfast.

Heath is torn between guilt for not remembering his grandfather and anger at his father's attitude towards everything around them. Heath begins to make the most of their new situation, befriending the inn's variety of residents and learning the chores needed to keep the inn running. Meanwhile, his father seems to drift farther and farther away.

In essence, Tim Whitney offers a coming of age story. The reader watches Heath develop a backbone and realize that he has the power to change his situation. Meanwhile, the reader wonders if Heath's father, Junior, will ever get it.

The characters within the book range from Winstead, also called Preacher, a kindly Jamaican man with lots to teach to the elderly Mrs. Farrel who learned her husband was a cheat and swindler and is determined to make sure those he hurt receives a "gift" before her time is up.

When reviewing, I've always stopped to consider if I would willingly pay the suggested retail price for the book. At $16, I'm not convinced I would buy a hardcover copy of this book. It's good, but I didn't find myself mesmerized. Winstead's dialect became annoying to read with all the "dem" and "dat" instead of "them" or "that." I realize that Winstead was from Jamaica, but reading his dialect became a distraction.

Monday, August 3, 2009

All That Glitters (Young Adult)



Released August 2009

www.barbourbooks.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I really enjoy Nicole O'Dell's Scenario's series. This second offering delves into popularity and dating. Twins Drew and Dani Daniels are often mistaken for one another, but Drew has a plan to end that. For the start of high school, she gets a new haircut and new clothes that are nothing like her sister would dream of wearing. She also tries out for cheerleading.

Now one of the most popular girls in school, Drew has it all, a boyfriend, popularity, loads of friends. But, she loses sight of her principles along the way and may end up in a lot of trouble if she's not careful.

The Scenarios series allows the reader to make the leading character's choice. The story is written with two endings letting readers see the consequences of irresponsibility.

Nicole O'Dell's series is Christian in tone, but I think secular readers will find them equally enjoyable. There are some great messages to be found within.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Wonder Why: Pets (Lift-a-Flap Book)



Released March 2009

www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/kingfisher/

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The "I Wonder Why" series is designed to pique a child's interest about animals while, at the same time, introducing him or her to the first step in scientific learning - asking questions.

Preschoolers' most frequently asked questions are answered in an appealing flip-the-flap format that places the question on one side and the answer on the other.

This picture book's focus is on cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, ponies and small rodents. The accompanying art work provides clues to the answers of such questions as "Why do cats like toys that move?", "When does a dog need a bath?" and "What do rabbits eat?"

The child will also learn where a hamster stores its food, how a cat keeps itself clean and why parakeets snuggle together.

Although this is pretty basic information, this is a nice way of introducing a child to proper pet care. If you are considering getting a family pet, you might use this book as a way of introducing your child to the various options and also some of the responsibilities that accompany pet ownership.

This interactive book will not only educate your child about animals in general, but it will also help develop some basic language skills. Selling for under $9, it's also a bargain as well.