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, March 31, 2011

The Cellar - A. J. Whitten

Released May 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Meredith Willis can't agree with her sister Heather's attraction to their new neighbor. While Heather and every girl in their school sees Adrien as a complete hottie who never takes his sunglasses off, Meredith sees death and evil. Is her reaction to Adrien part of her grief catching up or is he dangerous?

Meredith comes to realize that Adrien and his mother are hiding something. It all links to their cellar. Adrien knows about Meredith's snooping and is determined to stop her. How can she convince everyone around her that Adrien is not the gorgeous charmer they see before Adrien destroys everyone she loves?

The Cellar is told from two viewpoints, Meredith's and Heather's. They've recently lost their father in a tragic accident, so both question how much of their grief plays a role in their perceptions. Heather falls head over heels very quickly and things revolve around a school production of Romeo & Juliet; she and Adrien have the starring roles. The sisters' personalities are different and the author does a great job capturing their strengths and weaknesses.

Meredith is falling for Heather's former boyfriend and he's the only advocate she has in the majority of the book. While the reader is aware of Adrien's undead existence from the start, characters in the book discover it later into the story. Readers will cheer on their growing relationship and wonder if things will work out. As a result, the horror/zombie aspect of The Cellar is broken up by the teen romance. It's a perfect blend of the two and teen girls are likely to love it!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ballet for Beginners - Mary Kate Mellow & Stephanie Troeller

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Bob Walch

If your daughter has been asking you about ballet lessons, here’s an inexpensive book you’ll want to purchase for her before you invest in expensive lessons.

Featuring the School of American Ballet, this nicely designed volume walks the youngster through the process of learning ballet. Illustrated with lots of color photos, you’ll begin with a chapter on “Creative Movement” for very young children, and then move on to “Children’s Ballet Class”, “Advanced Ballet Class” and “Putting It All Together”.

Basic steps are demonstrated with simple instructions on how to get one’s feet, arms and body into the correct position. There’s also an excellent glossary that can be used to familiarize the child with the terminology of the art of  ballet.

The beauty of this book is that it presents ballet in a manner a younger girl can understand. After reading this book a few times if she is still interested in lessons, sign her up. You may have a prima ballerina on your hands!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Attack of the Vampire Weenies - David Lubar

Released May 24, 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Attack of the Vampire Weenies is another hilarious collection of short stories from David Lubar. Every story is short enough for advancing readers, most only last a few pages. Each story offers creepy, often comical tale of horror, but their so light and comical that they really won't scare younger readers.

Like the author, I'm a fan of Stephen King's work, particularly his earlier works. What he does far better than King is infuses humor into his stories. When I read Rapt Punzel, I snickered at the ending. How incredibly fitting! I also chuckled when he so perfectly mirrored what my teen son has been saying for years: "Vampires aren't sparkly."

Stories within Attack of the Vampire Weenies include tales of vampires, a television-addicted young woman, mimes (I agree with the hero, mimes are creepy), and even a set of mysterious child-locator window decals. There's the tale of an unforgettable roller coaster ride, a cat with a special purpose, and a gym class that no child would expect. In all, there are more than 30 short stories. Some are clearly lined with the horror genre, while others are simply along the lines of the unexplained. All are engaging, easy reads.

If you've missed any of the "Warped and Creepy Tales" books, I really recommend them. My kids are well into their teens now and love the stories just as much as my neighbor's 10 year old does.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Loses a Tooth - Steve Metzger

Released February 2011

Reviewed by Bob Walch

What happens when the Tooth Fairy loses a tooth? You’ll get the answer to that intriguing question in this cute picture book that features
75 stickers.

The rhyming text sets up the scenario of the Tooth Fairy’s dilemma when she bites into a bagel and discovers a front tooth has fallen out. At first she makes a list of what she would wish for when she places the tooth under her pillow. But then, alas, the little Tooth Fairy realizes that no one will visit her during the night and leave a surprise behind.

She thinks, “If someone would leave a gift for me, I’d be really glad! But no one will remember me, and that just makes me sad”.

Of course, she need not have worried because when she is out taking care of children who have lost a tooth, someone does leave something in place of her tooth at home. Who that “someone” is you’ll discover when you read this humorous and clever story.

Since this book does pose a potential choking hazard, please do not allow any child who might still be tempted to place the stickers in his or her mouth to use it. A simple solution to this problem would be to remove the two pages of stickers and then give the youngster the book!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Baby's Colorful World - Jean McElroy

Released February 2011

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This small “Chock-a-block” book features colorful pages, fits easily in a handbag or carryall, and has nice thick pages that little fingers can flip. The ten pages highlight five colors (yellow, red, green, orange and blue) and objects that feature each color.

For example, the red objects include a strawberry, red sand pail and a starfish. The green objects are a leaf and frog. So, while practicing color identification you and your preschooler can also work on attaching the names to simple objects like a butterfly, yellow ducky and blue balloon.

Perfect for a very young child this lightweight book works on a number of levels and given the low price ($4.99) it is a good way to get your toddler use to enjoying the feel and look of a book.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amazing Crayon Drawing with Lee Hammond - Lee Hammond

Released March 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm going to sum this up pretty easily. If you have any interest in art or crayons, rush out and buy Amazing Crayon Drawing. Lee Hammond's work is fascinating. The book breaks down the art of creating art using a box of crayons.

One thing I've always loved is a new box of crayons. When my kids were little, I'd buy two boxes, one for them and one for me. That way, I didn't have to deal with broken, dull crayons. Crayons still fascinate me. The range of colors is amazing. .

However, I'm about as un-artistic as they come. Sure, I can draw a simple shape, but that's the total of my skills. Bringing depth into a drawing is something I simply cannot handle. Therefore, I'm amazed by many of today's artists. I have one particular favorite named Julian Beever If you have never seen his breathtaking drawings, I highly urge you to go to his site and check them out. When I started reading Amazing Crayon Drawing, I felt that same rush of amazement. Lee Hammond's talent with crayons is very impressive. She made it look so easy that I decided to give it a go. In the end, I created amazingly realistic bricks, a pretty impressive peach, and then gave up when it came to animals or faces.

Amazing Crayon Drawing with Lee Hammond contains step-by-step instructions. There's also an acetate grid in the back to help you create the more detailed drawings. Best of all, she goes into thorough detail into using the crayons to create the sheen and shadowing that occur in nature. With those techniques, your artwork really comes to life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just Grace and the Double Surprise - Charise Mericle Harper

Released August 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In Just Grace and the Double Surprise, Grace's best friend Mimi is expecting a new sister. Her family is expecting the call from the adoption agency any day now. Grace and Mimi spend their time planning for the arrival of the girl. They have no idea how old she will be or her name, they're hoping for Jasmine.

What Grace doesn't know is that she has a surprise of her own coming. When she finds out about it, she's overjoyed and can't wait to tell Mimi. Meanwhile, Mimi's surprise isn't at all what they were expecting, but will it be just as good?

What a charming story. I'm new to the Just Grace series and am delighted I found this new offering from Charise Mericle Harper. Girls who still like pictures in their books but need more challenging text should find Grace's life to be extremely engrossing. Grace has an innocence that appealed to me, but, at the same time, she's a very precocious child with great insight into the world around her.

While I missed the previous entries into this series, I'm certain each book works well as a stand-alone. Once hooked, however, your child will likely want the rest of the Just Grace books.

Shine - Lauren Myracle

Released May 2011

Lauren Myracle's Shine is an amazing piece of fiction. It's not horribly fast-paced, yet it moves along nicely. You really have time to understand the characters and the situation. However, I will warn that this is not an easy read. It's extremely emotional. Perhaps more so if teens read the newspaper or watch the news. The fact is that the story told in Shine could happen in any town at any time. It's scarily realistic.

Cat's sixteen and sadly has experienced a little too much in life. When her best friend is found badly beaten and tied to a gas pump with the gas nozzle stuck down his throat, Cat is horrified. It's a terrifying hate crime that police are not solving fast enough. As a result, Cat decides to do some sleuthing. Her investigations worry her brother, especially when the town's meth problem comes to light. No one wants to talk and someone definitely wants Cat to stop snooping. Cat's determined to learn the truth, but at what cost?

This is certainly a tearjerker. Because I know hate crimes of this nature really do happen, I found myself immersed in Cat's investigation. Like Cat, I was outraged and felt the truth needed to come out. Her investigative skills may need some work, but her determination rings true from start to finish. She's a tough cookie and one that doesn't back down easily.

With bullying at the forefront of many teenager's minds, and hate crimes filling the headlines, events in Shine will seem like they've come straight out the news. The book is a very real look at everything that's wrong in today's society. I highly urge teens and parents to read and discuss the book together.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Night Flight : Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic - Robert Burleigh

Released February 2011

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Exquisite art work accompanies this account of Amelia Earhart’s 1932 solo flight across the Atlantic. The first woman to achieve the feat, Earhart would set many aviation records before she disappeared in 1937 on a planned flight around the world.

Robert Burleigh’s evocative prose captures the drama of that 14 hour and 50 minute flight from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to a pasture north of Derry, North Ireland.

“The red Vega rolls down the runway. Faster, then faster. The plane swoops like a swallow over dark puddles and patches of tundra. The shore gleams in the waning light…Amelia Earhart lives for this moment: to follow the wide horizon that never ends.”

On that lonely journey across the ocean the aviatrix has to deal with stormy weather, a broken altimeter, and icing that nearly brings her plane down. Suffering from exhaustion and with her eyes watering from leaking gas fumes, the brave pilot finally sees her destination.

“A coastline emerges, festered with boulders and crags…An unseen clock is ticking. She must hurry, racing a time bomb of exhaust flames and rising fumes. The countryside spreads out like a green fan beneath her. It is Ireland.”

Wendell Minor’s beautiful illustrations combined with Burleigh’s sparse narrative bring this historic flight to life. Not only will this story capture the young reader’s imagination but hopefully it will make the youngster want to learn more about this remarkable woman.