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.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hello, Baby Beluga - Darrin Lunde

Released February 2011

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Large illustrations of the main character in this book, acute  baby Beluga whale, will captivate preschoolers as they learn more about this special creature.

For example, the reader will discover that the young whale is five feet long and dark gray. But, with age, the baby Beluga will turn white like its mother.

Living in the Arctic Ocean, the whale can chirp like a bird and moo like a cow. Its diet includes shrimp, squid, clams, crabs and small fish. The only natural predators the Beluga must fear besides man are orca whales and polar bears.

Filled with all sorts of interesting tidbits about this unusual creature, this nicely designed picture book will become a bedtime favorite with youngsters fascinated about the creatures of the deep.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Strange Creatures - Lita Judge

Released February 2011

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The remarkable true story of  the heir to a huge banking fortune who decided to devote his life to collecting exotic animals rather than increasing the family’s fortunes, Strange Creatures is a book readers five and older will find fascinating, as will their parents.

Walter Rothschild was a shy, retiring child who barely spoke. At the age of seven he saw his first circus parade and that event so excited the youngster that he told his parents he wanted to make collecting animals a career.

Soon a few kangaroos, a wallaby and a couple of kiwis were calling the Rothschild estate home.  Although he agreed to eventually go into the family banking business, Walter never lost his fascination with exotic animals.
He began funding expeditions to faraway places and started a museum of the specimens that came from all over the world.

As the collection grew, his family gave him land to construct a museum that became the largest zoological collection ever gathered by one individual.  Still in existence, the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, is visited by thousands of people each year.

A captivating story with excellent illustrations, this picture book is a testament to the courage and determination of a little boy who never lost sight of his dream, even in the face of his family’s initial opposition, and saw that dream become a reality.

Monday, February 21, 2011

One Hundred Candles - Mara Purnhagen

Released February 15, 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Charlotte Silver isn't always thrilled with the reactions of her peers when it comes to her family's career. Charlotte's parents investigate supernatural events trying to debunk them. Spending Christmas at a former insane asylum with a renowned demon hunter is somehow worse. When the demon hunter's assistant grabs Charlotte and states in an unworldly voice that "the curtain has been pushed back too far" and that Charlotte is responsible, she's definitely frightened.

The family returns home, where Charlotte's parents continue fighting, but life goes on. At a party while telling ghost stories, Charlotte hears the same message about pushing the curtain back too far. Her parents are still fighting though, so she's doesn't say anything. When strange occurrences plague her high school, Charlotte enables the help of her friends and new boyfriend to figure out what's going on. Is she really in danger or is someone just trying to scare her?

One Hundred Candles really grabbed me. I sat down planning to tend fire, enjoy a book and do chores in between. Instead, I sat down and couldn't move for the next couple of hours. I had a suspicion about one of the characters that proved true, yet that only drew me deeper into the story. I spent my time rooting for Charlotte and her friends, while also hoping her parents would get their act together. The divorce angle does play a part in this book with Charlotte caught in the middle. I think many teens will find it easy to relate to her on that aspect and her reactions to dating and relationships.

I missed the first book in this series and am really saddened that I overlooked such an awesome read. My daughter enjoys paranormal teen books, so I'm surprised Past Midnight never caught her eye. Given that, I jumped right into One Hundred Candles not knowing some of the backstory. One Hundred Candles makes sense, but I am intrigued and need to go back to the past. This is apparently not the end of Charlotte's story either, so I'm definitely looking forward to Mara Purnhagen's next novel.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Trouble with Chickens - Doreen Cronin

Released March 2011

Doreen Cronin's The Trouble with Chickens is the latest J.J. Tully Mystery for kids. I'm new to this series but fell right into step with J.J. the Search & Rescue dog's tale. He comes off as a Sam Spade for kids (maybe even more like the bumbling Inspector Clouseau). Very enjoyable for any kid who loves mysteries.

Millicent (Moosh because it's easier for J.J. to say) the Chicken has a problem. While two of Moosh's chicks are currently annoying J.J., two others are missing. She needs J.J. to find Poppy and Sweetie. With a storm threatening, J.J. sets off to find out what happened to the missing chicks. What he finds is a little more dastardly than anyone would have guessed.

This is a delightful story. The mystery isn't particularly simple, so children will have to pay close attention to the clues. Even if they don't solve it before J.J., the story is packed with humor. Vocabulary is perfect for the advancing reader with special emphasis on a few harder words. All in all, if you have a mystery reader or simply a child who likes a dash of adventure with plenty of laughs, The Trouble with Chickens is a must-read!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bears on Chairs - Shirley Parenteau

Released August 2009

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Certainly one of the hardest things to teach a young child is that sharing is not only a good idea but something we all must learn to do (although some of us never completely master this trait!).

This board book approaches the problem of sharing in a humorous and positive manner as we find five bears faced with the dilemma that there are only four chairs available for them to place their furry little bottoms on.

Four of the bears are quite small, so each one quickly appropriates a chair to sit upon.  Then Big Brown Bear arrives and now there’s a serious problem. Although the little bears are willing to share “part” of their chair with the new arrival, Big Bear is so bulky he really needs the entire seat.

What to do? The little bears put their heads together to try various ways of solving this dilemma and eventually they come up with the perfect solution. Of course, I won’t spoil the story by telling you what it is, but the message here (besides sharing is a good thing!) is collaboration will help you figure out something where one or two individuals, by themselves, may not see “the light”!

With its cute little bears and rhyming text, this book goes way beyond most board books with its message, but the story is so cleverly done that it doesn’t hammer home the central ideas.

Although your youngster may outgrow his or her other board books, this one has “staying power” and will be a favorite for a long time to come. In fact, this may well be a “keeper” into adulthood with the idea of passing it along to the next generation of little bears!

Monday, February 7, 2011

We Are in a Book - Mo Willems

Released September 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

With over a dozen titles in this series featuring Elephant and Piggie, the odd couple of children’s literature, Mo Willems creative talent hasn’t yet
been exhausted, although you might think so in this latest picture book.

The book opens with Elephant telling Piggie, “I think someone is looking at us.” Piggie glares out at the reader and then shouts “A reader! A reader is reading us! We are in a book!”

Wow! “THAT IS SO COOL!” Elephant exclaims. “We are being read!” Once they know who is “looking at them” the duo (actually it is Piggie’s idea) decides to make the reader say the word “Banana!”

That sends Elephant into hysterical laughter, but the mirthful moment ends quickly when he realizes that the book will soon end. “This book is going too fast!” shouts Elephant. “I have more to give! More words, More jokes!”

Oh dear, what a dilemma. But then Piggie, as usual, has a good idea. Of course, I’m not going to share the solution that the resourceful and quick witted pig comes up with. You’ll have to read the book to see what it is!

An excellent early reader for the younger set, this latest Elephant & Piggie book will not only let them help with the reading chores, but it will also allow the children to interact with the two characters in a very clever way. In fact, everyone in the family will enjoy this new picture book and its wonderful characters.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

There's Going to be a Baby - John Burningham

Released September 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

When he hears that there’s going to be a new baby in the household, the child in this picture book has all sorts of questions. When is the new baby coming? What will we call him or her? What will he or she do? We don’t really need a baby do we?

With sensitivity and humor, this picture book for children two years of age and older addresses the swirl of questions this little boy asks his mother. Excitement, curiosity and even a little trepidation are some of the feelings the child feels when he considers how the new baby will change the family.

The best part of the situation, though, is wondering what the baby will do in the future. Will he be a chef, a zoo keeper, tend plants or even work in a bank? The humorous illustrations show the new arrival in each of these positions and should elicit a few chuckles.

Most importantly, when you read this book to a child who is about to become a brother or sister, be sure to ask about some of the questions the youngster may be harboring about the new member of the family. What the child needs at this point is a lot of reassurance that although there will be changes, mom and dad will still love him/her just as much as they always have.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plan B - Charnan Simon

Released March 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In Plan B, Lucy and Luke are in the last year or two of high school. Luke's a senior; Lucy's a junior. Luke's up for a full scholarship for baseball and Lucy's hoping he gets it. Their plans are to marry. Luke will become a high school coach and Lucy will teach Spanish. Everything's going peachy until they have sex for the first time. Lucy ends up pregnant and they suddenly have to start thinking about a "Plan B."

I've seen far too much teen pregnancy in the past few years for my liking. Both of my neighbor's teens had children at the ages of 15 and 18 and then went on to become pregnant again a year later. Then the popularity of shows like Secret Life of an American Teenager or the reality shows about teen mom's have taken over the airwaves. I really was hoping for an honest picture regarding teen pregnancy with Plan B. In the end, the book is too short to really delve into the risks of pregnancy and the effect it has on your body.

Lucy's mother was a teen mother. I would have expected Lucy to know that skipping protection the first time you have sex most certainly can lead to pregnancy. For the life of me, I can't understand why teens still believe that is true. I've heard my neighbor's kids say it and I still want to smack my head against a wall when I hear teens say it. If any teen is reading this -- YOU CAN become pregnant the first time. You can also become pregnant if you're on the pill or using a condom. It lessens the chance, yes, but there is still that slim margin for failure!

If you're expecting a long book, look elsewhere. I was kind of surprised by the short length given the subject matter. It's just a little over 100 pages. Plan B took very little time to read. If your child is required to read a number of books before the school year ends, it may not even qualify. My daughter is required to read books over 180 pages for them to count towards her required number in eighth grade. Books of this length are what's required for the fourth and fifth graders.

The writing style is enjoyable and the message is necessary in today's world. I wish the book had been longer though. Even my 14 year old felt the book was too short. She wanted to know what the teens really decided for themselves, not just what their parents wanted them to do. This is just one book in the Surviving Southside series, but it appears each book involves a different student. I'm not sure Lucy and Luke will appear in other stories.