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, February 26, 2010

Dogs - Emily Gravett (Picture Book)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Award winning children's author and illustrator Emily Gravett uses dogs to showcase the concept of opposites. As you page through this picture book you'll find big and small dogs as well as slow and fast pooches and some that are good and some that are bad.

Since each section begins with "I love….", obviously there is someone providing the narrative. You'll lose sight of that fact until you reach the final page when the author actually shows you who has been providing the
monologue. I think you'll be surprised, so I won't spoil the fun.

The appeal of this book centers not so much on teaching some basic opposites as the dogs themselves. A number of breeds are represented here but Gravett's fanciful pencil and watercolor illustrations are the drawing card. The animal's facial expressions are priceless, as are the scenarios the canines are placed in.

Picture books are all about the illustrations and Emily Gravett gets high marks for Dogs.  Her other titles, which are certainly much fun also, include Monkey and Me, The Odd Egg and Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Humblebee Hunter - Deborah Hopkinson (Picture Book)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

You'll meet Charles Darwin in this story narrated by his daughter Henrietta. She describes how her father takes all her brothers and sisters out for a walk near their home in the countryside of Kent, England. On this particular excursion, Darwin wants to see how many flowers a bumblebee will visit in a minute.

Enlisting the aid of the children, the curious scientist gives them the task of doing the actual counting while he keeps time. Dusting the bees with flour so they are easy to see and follow, Darwin gives each child a captured bee. Then, when he gives the signal, the children release the insects  and chase after them to see where they land and how many flowers they visit. Henrietta's bee darts around the garden and soon her tally is up to 21 stops as the insect probes various flowers.

As you read this picture book you'll discover that not only did Charles Darwin have an insatiable curiosity about nature but he was a loving father as well. Offering a different view of the famous figure, The Humblebee Hunter is an excellent way of introducing a young reader to not only a well known biologist but also the simple wonders of nature. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who Loves the Little Lamb - Lezlie Evans (Picture Book)

Released January 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here's a delightful picture book about a collection of animal youngsters whose behavior around the house has been less than perfect! The little lamb has been fussy, the puppy has made a mess in his room, the calf has pouted all afternoon, the little bird's been very noisy, and the young boar's been naughty and broken the cookie jar (which he shouldn't have been in anyhow!).

All of the critters wonder if anyone will still love them after they have done something wrong. The answer, of course, is no matter what they say or do, their mothers will always love them.

Children need reassurance, especially when they have been less than perfect, that their parents still love them. This cute story with its vibrant watercolor illustrations makes it amply clear that love is unconditional and the child will always be loved no matter what happens.

Monday, February 15, 2010

McKenzie's Montana Mystery - Shari Barr (Juvenile)

Released March 2010

The third book in the Camp Club Girls series heads to Montana where friends McKenzie and Bailey spend some time on a horse ranch. There, the girls get drawn into another mystery when the camp owner's prized horse vanishes without a trace.

Other strange occurrences have them baffled. Mysterious sounds coming from a ghost town and the appearance of a ghost rider keep the girls on their toes. With the help of the rest of the Camp Club Girls, the pair get permission to do some sleuthing and find out what happened to the missing horse and whether or not the ghost town is actually haunted.

McKenzie's Montana Mystery returns readers to the lives of the Camp Club Girls, friends that met in a summer camp and who live in different areas of the United States. If you've missed the previous mystery books, you won't feel out of place reading Shari Barr's McKenzie's Montana Mystery, but your interest will probably be piqued so that you go find the previous two.

These are Christian novels, but they are not preachy, so I think any younger reader will enjoy them. I didn't find the mystery overly baffling, but them I'm an adult with years reading mysteries. Children will probably have more fun unraveling the clues and trying to decide who is guilty. It's a great series for your 8 to 12 year old girl.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

So Many Days - Alison McGhee (Picture Book)

Released January 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Life is full of surprises and this little picture book reminds the reader to be prepared for whatever opportunities life offers. The book's refrain - "So many doors in all your days, so much to wonder about. Who will you be and where will you go? And how will you know?" - underscores of the unlimited possibilities that await one.

As the child pictured in the book samples some of life's offerings he realizes he is stronger, wilder, and braver than he ever imagined. But, above all, he grasps a very simple fact - "You are loved more than you know."   

This is a book that will appeal to both young people and adults. Designed as a "gift" book it would work for occasions as varied as graduations, weddings, new babies, and even difficult "transitions" in life. And, yes, it will also appeal to children about five years of age and up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Treasury of Princess Stories - Amy Ehrlich (Picture Book)

Released September 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

For generations the stories of these iconic heroines have fascinated young children. Now Amy Ehrlich retells these classic tales making them even more accessible for the youngsters of today.

This collection of six, short, all time favorites includes "The Frog Prince", "The Princess and the Pea", "The Wild Swans", "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" and "Snow White".

Along with Gary Blythe's full page, color illustrations, each story also begins with an enchanting pop-up scene from the story.  You'll find Snow White greeting the wicked queen at the door of the dwarfs' home and the princess Elise being carried aloft by nine swans.

This quintessential collection of princess stories will quickly become a bedtime favorite and a book the entire family can enjoy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ocean Soup - Stephen Swinburne (Poetry)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Take your child tide-pooling with this picture book that features a series of humorous poems about the denizens of the coastal shoreline. Clinging to the rocks and hidden in watery crevices you'll find barnacles, sea slugs, sea urchins, sculpins, mussels, starfish, plankton, hermit crabs, anemones, and lobsters.

All of these critters have a story to tell. Along with their rhymed verses with funny titles like "I Love My Spines" (sea urchin) and ""Room With a View" (anemone), you'll also discover some factual material about each tide-pool poet. There's also a starfish's interview with an octopus and a short glossary.

Touching on conservation, environmental awareness and marine biology, this colorful picture book is the idea way of preparing your child for a day at the beach. Introduce him or her to these wonderful creatures during story time before you get down-and-wet at the seashore. And, above all, remember that what you find in a tide-pool, STAYS in the tide-pool! No souvenirs!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jack: Secret Circles - F. Paul Wilson (Juvenile Fiction)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

F. Paul Wilson, author of numerous adult suspense/horror novels involving Repairman Jack, releases the second in his juvenile horror/suspense series involving a young Repairman Jack. I missed the first, but am going to get a copy because the series is creepy and engaging at the same time.

In Jack: Secret Circles, Jack is still reeling from past events when a young boy in his neighborhood vanishes. Jack feels ultimately responsible because he was possibly the last person to speak to Cody. Instead of taking Cody back home, he'd told Cody to go home before going on his way. Cody didn't head home and now he's missing.

Meanwhile, Jack and his friends encounter a man who runs from the woods stating he was chased by something evil in the woods. No one knows what it is, but Cody has his suspicions that the pyramid he and he friends discovered in the woods might have something to do with it.

Jack: Secret Circles put chills up my spine at times, but it's geared for kids and adds just enough creepiness to keep you hooked. The blend of mystery and suspense blends well with the horror aspect and I found it very hard to put down. Characters are endearing, especially Jack who is forced to make a few adult decisions in the course of this book. The plot moves steadily never slowing down.

The key to getting kids to read lies in making sure they are entertained. I have a feeling that kids introduced to Jack and his friends will soon be reading up a storm.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Voting is Coming Up

In a few weeks, votes for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Awards will be counted. If you haven't read any of the nominees, now's your chance to find copies at your local library or favorite bookseller. I know my eye is on Keeper of the Grail by Michael Spradlin. It was an excellent adventure/history novel.

For a complete list: