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.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mr. Doodle: C is for City - Orli Zuravicky

Released June 2011

Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Bob Walch

For example, the “D” entry features a big yellow dump truck, but you’ll also see a pile of dirt on the page. On the adjacent page, “E is for Envelope” is illustrated with a nice brown envelope.  But look again, on the envelope you’ll discover two stamps that feature a mother and baby elephant.

Don’t worry, if you missed some of the added objects on any of the pages. The author provides a guide at the back of the book that highlights each one.

Quite honestly, I have to admit I had to cheat and flip to the back page to figure out the additional “u” object on the “U is for Umbrella” and “K is for Kite”  pages. The author was tad too clever on these two.  Not only will a child be baffled by these two, but I’m afraid most parents will be also!

Even though this book is a little more challenging than most board books and demands more from the reader, it is still well worth purchasing because it does force parent and child to be more observant. It forces everyone to open his or her eyes and eyes and keep an open mind too!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Dragonfly Prophecy - Jacquelyn Castle

Released 2011

Jacquelyn Castle
Class Act Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Anyone who's read my reviews knows I tend to have an issue with paperback books that cost the same as a hardcover. (There is a less expensive Kindle version available for those who own a Kindle.) Given that, many will find it surprising that I'm going to recommend getting a copy of The Dragonfly Prophecy. I wasn't expecting to love this book, but that's exactly what happened. The beginning of the story sucked me in and I simply could not put it down. I'm glad last night was a repeat episode of Criminal Minds because otherwise I would have been torn between my favorite show and reading a book that I found impossible to put down.

The story revolves around Lexi Blane. Apart from fainting spells and horrible nightmares about dragonflies, she's having the time of her life. She's fallen in love with a young, very rich British guy during a trip to England and William's on his way to meet her and her parents. From there, they're all going to fly to the Caribbean for a much-needed vacation. It's during this vacation that things go awry. Lexi suffers another fainting spell and this time she struggles to come back out of it. She hears snippets of her parents and William discussing things that make no sense, but for the most part, everything is a blur.

Lexi wakes up months later and discovers something equally shocking. Worse, no one has ever heard of William, yet Lexi is convinced he was real and not just a trick of her mind. As she tries to sort out reality from fantasy, she trusts in the friendship of a classmate who swears he understands and is like Lexi. With Chace by her side, Lexi hopes to make sense of what her true destiny involves.

I don't want to go any deeper into the plot because there are things the reader simply needs to learn first-hand. I definitely found myself hooked by the writing style from the start, and that's saying a lot considering fantasy really isn't my favorite genre. At times, I'm not really even certain that fantasy is the best way to classify this book. It's a mix of romance, paranormal, fantasy and suspense rolled into one. It's a marvelous read. Jacquelyn Castle is definitely an author to watch.

The Dragonfly Prophecy is for teens. Lexi is just finishing high school, but there's no subject matter that readers in the latter years of middle school and early years of high school should avoid. If parents worry about sexual content, drinking or violence, you won't find it here. Many parents, like myself, will find the story enjoyable and hard to put down.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Boy Wonders - Calef Brown

Released June 2011

Calef Brown
Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Bob Walch

If your child loves to ask you lots of questions, this might be a fun read aloud book.  The boy featured here continually asks “Why? Why? Why?” . Admittedly most of these questions are rather silly (“Are clambakes good for bake sales? Do jealous clouds steal each other’s thunder?”). Yet, they can also be somewhat provocative and spark an interesting conversation.

Although the author has no intention of providing any answers to the many questions his character poses, there are some opportunities for the child and parent to delve into some of them on their own. “Do taffy pullers ever push and make a glob of sticky mush?” Good question and a candy maker might actually be able to provide an answer.

After enjoying a good giggle or two having finished this picture book, I think a better post read exercise might be making up a few silly questions of your own.  “Does a grasshopper like to skip rope?”  “Do little foxes out fox one another when they play hide-and-seek?”  Once a child gets the hang of this, you’d be surprised what he or she will come up with!

So, if you have a question about what to read with your four year old or are wondering if this is a book the youngster would enjoy, just ask one or two of these silly questions and you’ll have your answer!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stars - Mary Lyn Ray

Released October 2011

Mary Lyn Ray
Marla Frazee
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here’s a beautifully illustrated book about stars or, rather, all the places you can find stars besides in a night sky. You can make a star and either carry it in your pocket as a good luck charm or pretend you are a sheriff and attach it on your shirt.

You could place the star on the tip of a stick and then you have a magic wand. If you have a good friend, perhaps you may want to give it to him or her. Also, people may call you a “star” if you do well in sports or at school.

Looking in the yard, you’ll discover that star shaped flowers can change into pumpkins or strawberries and that when it snows, the flakes can resemble stars.

As you read this book you’ll discover that stars are everywhere. They may even be on your pajamas or on the last paper your teacher returned to you.
So don’t just look for stars at night. If you are observant, you’ll find them in some pretty cool places!

After you have had fun reading this book with your child, launch your own “star search” to see how many stars you can find around the house, in the yard or in the neighborhood.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Raj the Bookstore Tiger - Kathleen Pelley

Released February 2011

Kathleen Pelley
Paige Keiser

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here’s a fun picture book for children five and older about a kitty who thinks he is a tiger. Raj is a bookstore cat and performs his tasks, like sitting in laps and sleeping in the window, with great panache because his owner has convinced him he is a tiger.

All is well until a new cat, Snowball, arrives on the scene. Snowball, who has tons of attitude, informs Raj that he’s a marmalade kitty, not a fierce tiger. With his confidence shaken, Raj retreats into himself and ceases to interact with the store’s customers or his owner. Now it is up to Felicity to get her cat back to his old self and restore his confidence.

Obviously she does so but I’m not going to share how she accomplishes this feat.  You’ll have to read the book and share it with your child to find out how the bookstore tiger regains his “stripes” and confidence.  If someone has made some unkind remarks to your child that have had a negative impact, this story may do wonders and even reverse the unfortunate situation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Sweetest Thing - Christina Mandelski

Released May 2011

Christina Mandelski

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Her mom left her when she was very young, but Sheridan Wells knows she will return. It may have been two years since she received a card from her mom, but deep down Sheridan is certain her mom is making her way back to their family. When Sheridan's father receives a dream offer for his own cooking show on a popular culinary channel, Sheridan decides to search for her mom. She's not as impressed with her father's plans to leave friends and their restaurant behind to move to New York City to become cooking show celebrities.

When she's not working in her grandmother's bakery preparing lavish designer cakes, Sheridan keeps busy with her friend Jack. Soon, Sheridan's world takes a surprising turn when a popular high school hottie asks her out. This is the start of what could be an amazing relationship, so stopping her father from moving is a top priority. The search for her mother heats up, but suddenly her friend Jack is growing distant and no longer showing any interest in helping her realize her dream of finding her mother and convincing her to return home.

Sheridan is a very likable character. She is naive, but then I've seen first-hand how some children will do anything to please a parent, even when it's not in their best interest. It's a sad but true fact that love is unconditional, even if a parent doesn't deserve it.

The Sweetest Thing is a gentle romance. I'd highly recommend it to anyone 13 or older. For parents who worry about sex in teen romances, you won't find it here. Sheridan is a very smart girl and when faced with tough decisions, she thinks things through. I think teens will find her completely enjoyable and maybe learn a thing or two in the process.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There You'll Find Me - Jenny B. Jones

Released October 2011

Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

There You'll Find Me is a stunning novel certain to thrill teen girls. This is a christian teen romance, but secular readers will find the story just as enjoyable. The religious matter fits the story extremely well and any reader will understand Finely's battle as she decides if God has turned His back on her.

After Finely's brother dies during a tragic bombing in Iraq, she's questioning God's intent. With a wounded heart, she sets off to same city in Ireland where her brother spent time soaking in the magic of the country. Attending an Irish school as an exchange student, Finely hopes to reconnect with her brother through his journal entries and photographs.

Finely's host family runs a bed and breakfast. One of their guests happens to be a popular teen actor who appears in the latest vampire movie series and has set many teen girls' hearts fluttering. Beckett's in town shooting the next in the series and facing a difficult choice. Finely is the daughter of a hotel mogul and she could care less, but her attitude appeals to Beckett so he asks her to become his personal assistant.

In exchange for her help, Beckett will take Finely to all the places in her brother's photographs. Beckett enjoys being treated like a normal guy and Finely finds herself falling for the actor who isn't the wild child the tabloids make him out to be. However, Finely's hiding her own secrets and with Beckett's help, she may finally find the courage to face her fears.

I had one of those mornings where I was wide awake at 4:00 a.m. and I find that's the best time to curl up with a book. I started reading and couldn't stop. Finely's character has weaknesses and you can't help but feel for the girl. Beckett is a nice match to her fragile emotions. He's strong where she's weak and in turn, she develops a strength that matches his weaknesses. They became one of my favorite couples ever and I'd love to have the author revisit them in other stories set in Ireland.