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.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Summer Sanctuary - Laurie Gray (Juvenile)

Released May 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Summer Sanctuary shares the story of a preacher's kid, Matthew, who is the oldest of four boys.  His mother is pregnant again, so Matthew's starting to think he'll never have space for himself.

While spending time researching his homeschooling project, Matthew meets an unusual girl and learns she is temporarily homeless. He devises a plan to keep her sheltered until her mom returns. By doing this, he learns a little about himself and the world around him.

This is the perfect story for a child who is advancing into longer stories, but that still need easier language. There are a few challenging words, but the theme and language are both suitable for those around 9 to 12 years old.

With a strong message about generosity and faith, I think a lot of advancing readers will walk away having learned a little. Plus, the characters are all likable making it fun to keep reading.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Off Like the Wind - Michael Spradlin (Juvenile)


Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here's an excellent introduction to the Pony Express and what the eleven day journey from Missouri to California entailed. On April 3, 1860, Johnny Fry left St. Joseph, Missouri, on the first 80 mile leg of the nearly 2,000 mile ride that would send mail on the overland journey to California.

Not only does this day by day account of the hazardous trip show what
Pony Express riders had to face on the journey but it explains why such a service was important in the opening of the western frontier.

Foul weather, difficult terrain, hostile Indians, and obstacles like herds of buffalo and flash floods didn't deter the riders. Riding in both directions (east and west) and changing horses every ten to fifteen miles, these men were determined the mail would make it to its destination on time.

In the spring of 1861, the Pony Express set a record as its riders made the trip in just under eight days as they rushed copies of President Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Address to the West Coast.

Beautifully illustrated and featuring a time line of important events, a map and suggestions for further reading, this informative volume is the ideal way of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the famed Pony Express. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Finders Keepers - Marilyn Kaye (Juvenile)

Released April 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The fourth entry into Marilyn Kaye's Gifted series shares a view into Ken Preston's life. If you've missed any of the previous books, they do work as stand alone novels. However, I've been reading them from the start and can't imagine not wanting to get to know all of the students' powers.

Ken Preston is one of the Gifted. His ability to converse with the dead drives him crazy, but, at the same time, also intrigues him because he has the power to help those who have passed on resolve their unfinished business.

When he finds a mysterious invite to a seance, Ken is baffled as to who left it in his locker, but equally intrigued. He goes to the event not knowing that he may be putting himself in danger.

Meanwhile, his past is revealed, including how he gained his power. Because of his past, his former best friend's girlfriend is determined to make Ken her own and she'll do whatever it takes to get him to agree.

I really do like these books. They're perfect for the middle school and early high school reader who enjoys a dose of paranormal. The characters deal with some issues kids today face and, of course, a few extras because of their special powers.

The ending of Finders Keepers reveals a secret that surprised me and now I can't wait to see how that plays out in the next story!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Capstone Announces Early Learning Initiative for Preschool Market

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – April 19, 2010 – Capstone, the leading publisher of children’s books in the U.S. education market, announces Capstone Early Learning, a new initiative bringing together toddler and preschool resources for the early childhood market.

Launching with a new catalog and website, Capstone Early Learning spotlights appropriate fiction and nonfiction for children ages 2-7 from the Capstone imprints Capstone Press, Picture Window Books, and Stone Arch Books, as well as the award winning technology product PebbleGoTM. Titles in the collection are correlated to the National Association for the Education of Young Children standards and the Head Start Child Outcomes framework. 

Capstone will present at regional and national early childhood conferences, including the Early Childhood Education Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Stout on April 22-24. Capstone is working closely with an advisory board of early childhood experts, including board chair Judy Herr, Ed.D. Herr is a former Early Childhood Education Program Director at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, published author, national presenter, and recipient of numerous awards, including the Director’s Choice and the Distinguished Service awards from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The advisory board will consult with Capstone’s internal product planning, editorial, and sales teams and advise on additional marketing and development opportunities.

“We are so privileged to be able to work with such accomplished professionals who possess decades of experience in early childhood education,” said Tom Ahern, CEO of Capstone. “As early childhood initiatives continue to receive presidential focus, our board’s expertise and insight into this market will be an invaluable asset.”

Customers can request a free catalog by calling 800-747-4992. The new website,, will go live April 30.


About Capstone
Capstone is the leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services, offering everything from fiction, nonfiction, and picture books to interactive books, audio books, and literacy programs. Imprints include Capstone Press, Compass Point Books, Picture Window Books, Stone Arch Books, and Red Brick Learning. Capstone Digital is the newest division to this expanding publishing house. Visit us at

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This Is Our World: A Story About Taking Care of the Earth - Emily Sollinger (Picture Book)

Released March 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Planting trees, cleaning up beach litter, making birdhouses from recycled material and planting a community vegetable garden keep the children pictured in this board book busy. The message isn't very subtle but all of the books in this Little Green Books series underscore the same theme - reduce, reuse and recycle.

Made from 70% recycled material, the green theme is evident in how this picture book for children four and older was manufactured. You'll also find that each page incorporates a puzzle piece in the artwork. The nine double-sized pieces can be assembled into two puzzles. Do one side then break it apart, flip the pieces over and assemble the second picture.

Although the puzzles add and extra dimension to the book they also present a choking hazard. Please be sure this book doesn't end up within the reach of a child who still likes to put things in his or her mouth! If there is a potential problem with younger children in the family I'd suggest you remove all the puzzle pieces for the time being to avoid any problems.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stone Arch Books Announces Sports Star Contest Winner Voters Choose Winning Character to Appear in Sports Illustrated KIDS Graphic Novel

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – April 15, 2010 – Capstone imprint Stone Arch Books, children's fiction publisher, announces the winner of its Create Your Own Sports Star nationwide contest, inspired by the publisher’s partnership with Sports Illustrated KIDS. The winner was selected from more than 23,000 total votes cast from kids nationwide from March 20 through April 11.

Receiving more than 70% of the votes, Justin Cox, a 4th grade student from Timmerman Elementary School in Pflugerville, Texas, was selected as the first place winner. Justin’s fictional character, Dash the Flash, will be the featured character in a Sports Illustrated KIDS Graphic Novel available Jan. 1, 2011, in hardcover and paperback formats. Justin, along with his school, will be included in a page at the back of the book.

“We’re so proud of all of our finalists. They each created exciting characters that will thrill readers!” said Lori Benton, General Manager/Publisher of Capstone Fiction. “Kids came out in full force, casting their votes for their favorite characters and we now have a clear winner. We couldn’t be happier to start production on FULL COURT FLASH, a graphic novel starring Dash the Flash.” 

The Create Your Own Sports Star contest invited students in grades 3-6 to create their own fictional sports super star to be the featured character in an upcoming Sports Illustrated KIDS Graphic Novel. Five finalists were selected in March from the more than 840 entries. Descriptions of the finalists’ characters, as well as professionally-illustrated sketches were then posted online at Kids were encouraged to visit the site and vote for their favorite character.

Capstone partnered with Sports Illustrated KIDS in 2009 to create a new line of high-interest fiction and nonfiction sports stories for elementary and middle school grades, especially for struggling and reluctant readers. Sports Illustrated KIDS Graphic Novels, Greatest Sports Stars, and The Science of Sports debuted in January 2010 under the publishers’ imprints Stone Arch Books and Capstone Press. For more information on these series, visit or call 800-747-4992.


About Capstone
Capstone is the leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services, offering everything from nonfiction, fiction, and picture books to interactive books, audio books, and literacy programs. Imprints and divisions include Capstone Press, Compass Point Books, Picture Window Books, Stone Arch Books, Red Brick Learning, Capstone Digital, and Heinemann-Raintree. Visit us at

About SI Kids:Sports Illustrated Kids, the first sports magazine written for kids ages 8 and up, connects with its readers through their passion for sports.  The magazine offers kids the access to athletes and sports information that they want with in-depth reporting, action photography, first-person athlete accounts and other features.  The magazine, books and website, promote positive values, good sportsmanship and the fun of reading.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Double Life - Janette Rallison (Young Adult)

Released May 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Imagine closely resembling a Hollywood star. In fact, the resemblance is so close that you could easily act as that star's double. That's exactly what happens to Alexis Garcia. She looks so similar to musician Kari Kingsley that she's asked to take a job posing as Alexis for certain functions.

Alexis comes from a modest household where they've never had a lot of money, so being paid upwards of $20,000 per month is extremely tempting. When Alexis learns that her absentee father happens to be in California and that she could possibly meet him, she decides to go against her mother's advice and take the job.

My Double Life will thrill young adult readers. The writing is engaging and characters are likable, even the spoiled pop princess Kari who somehow manages to worm her way into this reader's heart. There's a touch of romance in a storyline involving another singing sensation and Alexis, only he thinks she is Kari.

Fans of Gossip Girl books will likely enjoy Janette Rallison's upcoming novel. It's due out in May and promises to be a book most girls will love, especially those who enjoy being swept up in romance.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summer of the Geek - Piper Banks (Young Adult)

Released May 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Miranda Bloom returns in another engaging teen romance. This time, Miranda has the boyfriend of her dreams, her step-sister is starting to become a good friend, she's chosen as a writer for the high school's newspaper. Plus, Miranda has the opportunity of a lifetime when her novelist mother asks her to move to London.

Miranda also has issues. Dex, her boyfriend, is starting to hide things from her. Her step-mother and father are fighting constantly and she knows it's because her step-mother dislikes her. Worse, she's not sure she really wants to move to London, but also knows it's an incredible opportunity. What's a girl to do?

I grew up entranced by a series of teen romances offered by Loveswept romance. While I"m excited to see Harlequin is tapping into the teen romance market finally, I'm always on the lookout for books that would appeal to my teen. Summer of the Geek definitely meets her tastes. Both my teens are "gifted" and I know my daughter will easily related to Miranda's issues and successes.

The writing is engaging, the characters all have their quirks making them equally likable, but my main draw to the story was seeing a gifted teen try to mentor a gifted child. It's not an easy thing to do and I love that Piper Banks didn't sugar coat challenges. Everything is laid out in a sensible way with realistic struggles and thoughtful solutions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bedtime for Mommy - Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Picture Book)


Released April 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The shoe is on the other foot in this amusing story as a little girl must get her mother ready for bedtime. And, of course, mom is not going to go gracefully. From begging for a few more minutes on her computer to asking for an extra story, mom manages to stretch out the whole nighttime ritual.

 With the roles reversed it is the little girl's job to fill the bathtub, check for brushed teeth, layout the next day's clothing, and turn back the covers. And, when mom wants a glass of water or the door left open a little wider, guess who has to handle the request?

Once her mom is safely tucked in the tired child places her hand on her forehead and exclaims, "PHEW!" Then she heads down stairs to start the process all over again with her dad.

This cute story puts a humorous spin on a family activity that most parents can certainly identify with. Whether this will make preparing for bed a little easier remains to be seen but Bedtime for Mommy will certainly elicit a few giggles.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Age 14 - Geert Spillbeen (Young Adult/History)

Released October 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Dreams of being a soldier plague young Patrick Condon. He can't give it up, so posing as his older brother, he enlists and is accepted into the Army. After a successful stint there, he again poses as his brother in hopes of being accepted into the Royal Irish Regiment.

Age 14 shares Patrick's journey as he trains with the Special Reserves and eventually fights in World War I. Suddenly, the role he's signed into as an adult is one this child is not truly prepared for.

There are aspects I love about Age 14. The historical detail drew me into the realities of war and Ireland's history. Certain things are hard to take, but this was the way of life back then, as sad as that may seem. This story is based on factual events, so it can seem like a non-fiction offering and that may be why my attention wandered from time to time.

I would caution parents about making sure they read this novel with their child, and even then, I'd make sure your child is in his/her teens and prepared for more adult subject matter. There are some mature topics in the story, including pedophilia, sex and the very harsh, bloody realities of war. They are dealt with respectfully, but it's easy to understand what's going on. I enjoyed the historical view into the war from the perspective of a young boy, but I did find my attention wandered a little too easily at times.

While it's good, it's not great. I wouldn't hesitate to borrow it from a library, but as someone who lives on a tight budget, it's not a book I'd run out and pay $16 for. If you borrow it or find it used, it's definitely worth reading, especially if you're a history buff.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's New, Cupcake? - Karen Tack and Alan Richardson (Cookbook)

Released April 2010

Blow your friends, family or acquaintances away the next time you're asked to bring dessert. Karen Tack and Alan Richardson's latest collection of "do-it-yourself" designer cupcakes is just as much fun as the previous book's. This time, I thought a little more care went into describing the techniques and equipment used before diving into the cupcakes.

If you're unfamiliar with their cupcakes, Tack and Richardson turn ordinary cupcakes into extraordinary pieces of art. In the previous book, they tackled my favorite artist Monet and created adorable spaghetti and meatball cookies. This time, there are some that truly mesmerized. Top on my list are the Busy Bee cupcakes. They do look like a honeycomb, complete with jelly bean bees. My neighbor keeps beehives, so I've seen the inside of a hive many times and this cupcake collection is extremely similar, right down to the glistening honey in each comb's cell.

Other favorites include the All Cracked Up cupcakes that come in a carton of eggs. Lemon curd forms the very realistic egg yolk. I also love the I'm Seeing a Pattern cupcakes that are simple to make, yet seem very intricate.

Step-by-step instructions follow each cupcake. You're treated to dozens of photographs detailing the steps needed and the final product. Many of the cupcakes have simple tasks that young children can help with making the creations a great family kitchen project! I highly recommend owning What's New, Cupcake? and its sister book Hello, Cupcake!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Noonie's Masterpiece - Lisa Railsback (Juvenile)

Released February 24, 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

It's often difficult to find books that challenge a developing reader while still appealing to their younger age. Noonie's Masterpiece does a great job balancing both ends of this spectrum. Noonie is a typical 10 year old, yet she sees herself as being anything but typical. Following her mother's death, Noonie's father decided to send her to live with her aunt. He loves her, but his job as an archaeologist has him traveling the globe.

Noonie's disheartened that she doesn't seem to fit in. The only thing she is truly passionate about is her artwork, and she happily uses it to try to lure her father back. When her school holds an art contest involving drawing a picture of your family, Noonie isn't sure how she'll pull it off. After all, Noonie believes family is the one thing she doesn't have.

At heart, the simple message that family does not have to be a mother and father is strong. This is why I feel the book is perfect for children whose parents are separated, frequently traveling or simply cannot be part of their child's life for whatever reason. Noonie is a believable character. She hurts, she's confused and she'll even lash out at those around her due to her insecurities. In a nutshell, she's the very essence of a child.

Throughout the book are discussions Noonie has about or even with famous artists. Blended with the illustrations done by Sarajo Frieden  the book's artistic flair shines through. I enjoyed the whimsical, often imaginative drawings that blend well with the narrative.

For the advancing reader, I'd say the story is perfect for those around 8, 9 and 10, Noonie's Masterpiece is a great choice. The language won't perplex kids, but the addition of illustrations will help kids who still like the involvement of images in their stories.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Boys - Jeff Newman (Picture Book)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This wordless picture book demands close inspection of the illustrations and allows the reader to create the actual story. The first page shows a young boy wearing a red baseball hat assembling his equipment for a game of baseball.

Turn the page and the you'll find the child under a tree watching a game from afar. What's the problem? With a dejected air, he hangs his head and walks away. Soon he's sitting on a park bench, head hung low, with four old men.

Let's assume the child is very, very shy. Over the next few days he returns to the park bench where he silently sits with the old men. What happens next you'll have to decipher for yourself, but the odd antics of the child's new friends eventually leads to the baseball diamond.

If you are willing to try something totally different at story time this book would be certainly worth a try. Using your imaginations, you and your child will have to create your own story and this could be a lot of fun.

This book offers plenty of opportunities for interpretation and discussion. That being said,  I think it will work better with older rather than younger children. Teachers might even find this could be a rather interesting classroom assignment where each child creates the text for the story.