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, December 29, 2012

Creatrilogy - Peter Reynolds

Released October 2012

Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

This three book set includes The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color.  These three titles celebrate the creative spirit and, even more importantly. underscore the idea that being creative doesn’t require a special talent as much as the desire to just create something.

The Dot invites the child to just begin with making a mark. The teacher of the child featured in the book counsels him to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”  Good start!  From a single dot to a canvass of multicolored dots to a huge picture of a rather surrealistic dot, the child discovers he is, indeed, very creative.

Ish introduces the reader to another little fellow who loves to draw but his pictures don’t always resemble the object he is drawing. They never “look right”,  so the boy decides perhaps he’ll stop making pictures. Then his little sister tells him she likes his art.  Even though it may not look exactly like something. like, say, a vase. it looks “vase-ish” and that’s just fine. Energized by his sister’s support, the young artist grabs his materials and begins to produce a series of wonderfully “ish” drawings. There is one that is boat-ish, another that is sun-ish and a splendid  tree-ish masterpiece.

Finally, in Sky Color a little girl explores color when she tries to create a mural featuring the sky. She discovers a brilliant sunset is all but impossible to capture because the colors are difficult to reproduce. Then she makes an important discover – the sky is a rich palette of all colors.

Although they have been released separately, having these three books together in this “creativity” set is an excellent way of encouraging a child to try expressing himself or herself with form and color. Don’t worry about the finished product; just let the creative juices flow and see what happens. You may be delightfully surprised!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders - J. Patrick Lewis

Released January 2013

J. Patrick Lewis
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders is a collection of poetry for children. The poems capture many figures from the Civil Rights movement, and are told with vocabulary that will challenge, but not overwhelm, younger readers.

There are poems of people I've never heard of. Josh Gibson, a talented ball player, earns his place in the poem The Slugger.

"Our national pastime by the name
Of baseball was once mired in shame.
A prejudice-sized fear
Whitewashed the truth when history wrote
An unforgivable footnote--
The asterisk career."

There are poems for Ghandi, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King, another baseball great, Jackie Robinson, and others. It's a great book for children who are learning about Civil Rights, and a fun way to introduce children to poetry.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rocket Writes a Story - Tad Hills

Released July 2012

Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade/Random House

The sequel to “How Rocket Learned to Read”, this picture book follows the loveable, big, white puppy as he writes his first story.  Rocket’s friend and teacher, little yellow bird, encourages the puppy to begin collecting words and writing them down on pieces of paper.

Once he has amassed a sizeable collection of words, Rocket decides it is time to put them together in a story. That’s the hard part! “I don’t know what to write,” he tells his friend the bird. “You want to write about something you’ve seen,” replies the bird. “Or you could write about something that inspires you!”

Now the dog is off seeking inspiration for his story. Where he finds an idea to write about and how Rocket puts his story together is covered in the rest of this picture book.

Not only is this a cute story but it is also one that could provide an “into activity” that would take a child through the steps of writing his or her own simple narrative.  A creative parent or teacher could use Rocket’s experience to create a valuable and fun learning activity. As you’ll discover, a story doesn’t have to use a lot of words or be very long!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cleopatra: Queen of Egypt - Clint Twist

Released November 2012


Book Review by Bob Walch

The woman behind the myth emerges in this richly illustrated story of the iconic queen’s life. Featuring a fictional journal that invites the reader into Cleopatra’s inner world, this is a beautifully designed guide featuring lots of illustrations and interactive extras such as flaps behind which you’ll discover historical facts and pop-culture references.

The sections of the oversized book cover the queen’s youth, her royal family, the military conflicts during her reign, Cleopatra’s relationship with Antony and her final legacy. 

Not only will children interested in Roman history and the story of Egypt’s most famous queen find this entertaining, but I think adults will also find it informative.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One Little Christmas Tree - The Curto Family & Rusty Fischer

Released August 2012

One Little Christmas Tree

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Short and sweet, One Little Christmas Tree shares the tale of Little Alfred, a small tree growing on Carl's Christmas Tree Farm. All Little Alfred wants to do is grow taller than the rest of the trees. Mr. Phipps, an adult tree, tells him there is far more to being a Christmas tree than size. Little Alfred still just wants to be big and tall. Will he learn the lessons Mr. Phipps has been trying to teach him?

The illustrations in One Little Christmas Tree certainly caught my eye. They remind me of something, I'm not sure what, but it brings me back to my own childhood, and it's got me wondering what characters/books my mind is trying to remember. The warm, bright colors and friendly faces will appeal to children.

The story is equally appealing. If you have children who simply struggle with patience or waiting for something they really, really want to arrive, this book teaches an important lesson. It's a short book, just 24 page, so it's the perfect length of a bedtime book or something to read aloud while waiting for dinner or an appointment.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Speechless - Hannah Harrington

Released September 2012

Hannah Harrington
Harlequin Teen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

This is twice that Hannah Harrington's writing has mesmerized me. For a young woman, she has what it takes to have a lasting career, should that be her goal in life. Speechless did leave me just that - speechless. I've heard of some of the things my own teens have witnessed in and outside of the high school, and it always amazes me that kids can be so cruel. Then I go back to my own high school years and I realize that little has changed.

There's one thing about Chelsea Knot that everyone knows, she's a great source of gossip. In a drunken moment, she blurts out something she just witnessed and it leads to tragic events. Upset with herself and the situation, Chelsea takes a vow of silence. Her actions and her vow create a new world she'd never expected to be part of. She's an outcast with both students and some teachers and now must struggle to find her ground.

Chelsea's story rings so true and brought tears to my eyes. I think many teens will empathize with what she endures, and I'd love to think that others might stop and think twice about their actions, but sadly I know many won't until after their high school years. I know this from an adult vantage point.

If you read just one book this year, make it Speechless. There's such a powerful message behind this book. I can't recommend it strongly enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Mole Sisters and the Cool Breeze - Roslyn Schwartz

Released June 2012

Annick Press
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Author Roslyn Schwartz's popular children's book makes it to Amazon Kindle thanks to Open Road Media. The Mole Sisters and the Cool Breeze is another tale of the enjoyable mole sisters.

It's a hot, very hot day and the mole sisters struggle to stay cool. There hasn't been a breeze for weeks, so they take to fanning each other. When nearby dandelions want in on the refreshing fanning, the mole sisters oblige, but soon realize they can't cool themselves and the plants at the same time. What happens next is anyone's guess.

This is a charming children's book with manageable vocabulary for beginning readers. It's not a long story, just 32 pages, and the illustrations are artistic and appealing. If you haven't discovered this series, it's a good one for younger readers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

School Struggles - Dr. Richard Selznick

Released August 2012

Dr. Richard Selznick
Sentient Publications

Book Review by Jen Beams

One of the largest controversies we face today results from the question of; how much help do we need to give our children? At what point do parents step in? When should a child see a psychologist? If a child refuses to learn, is there something wrong with that child? Why can’t he or she just focus in class? Dr. Richard Selznick gives opinions on all of these questions in his book School Struggles.

At first glance, the book appears to be mostly generalizations and broad categories of good kids and bad kids. Dig a little deeper and you find a plea to parents to take action in their child’s learning, for teachers to individualize learning, for each child to be watched carefully so that they do not fall in the “cracks” of our educational system. He gives examples of real situations and snap shots of parents’ and children’s minds. He tells the reader exactly what to take away from the reading, providing for easy summarized reading, perfect for the busy parent or teacher.

As an education student, I highly recommend School Struggles to any parent and every teacher. It gives a solid look into the minds of children with diagnosed disorders, disabilities, and even those who are considered “average.” One solution, though it may work for some, does not work for all. He outlines the “cracks in the foundation” of our education system. Education is worked too much like a machine, where
children fit a specific mold and are treated as such. Where testing is the best and only way to determine intelligence, which is defined only by academic skill, and learning of social skills is a responsibility left to the children.

All of the great educational theorists I’ve read about, all of the text books I’ve been assigned to study agree with Dr. Selznick that we need to individualize learning, and we need to treat our children with respect and care in order for them to learn and develop. Dr. Selznick puts it into a language and organization that is
quick and easy reading, yet chuck full of knowledge, experience, and helpful insight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Little Witch - Jenny Arthur

Released July 2012

Pan MacMillan

Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s a fun board book for you little Trick  n’ Treater.  Little Witch is collecting some icky things to pop into her cauldron so that she can say some magic words and conjure up a new friend. 

In go some sticky cobwebs, a bit of orange monster hair, and some slippery, snail slime.  Then Little Witch works her magic and out of the pot jumps a surprise…her new friend!  Naturally, I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it is but it fits the season perfectly!

What makes this book even more special is the  spooky sound” button that you’ll find as part of the cover. Press the button and you’ll hear the Little Witch cackle. Kids will love it although mom and dad may want to scream after hearing it over, and over, and over again!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry

Released August 2012

Katie McGarry

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In Pushing the Limits, Echo and Noah come from completely different backgrounds, have little in common, and certainly don't run in the same circles at school. Yet, they're about to be thrown together and that brings tremendous change to their lives. Echo needs the money and Noah needs a tutor, so the school counselor pairs them together not realizing that they will develop feelings for each other.

Echo can't remember the events that left her scarred and the talk of the school. All she knows is that there's a restraining order against her mother, that the scars that run all over her back and up and down her arms were caused by her mother, and that her father married her babysitter and they're expecting a baby. It's a lot of upheaval in Echo's life. The counselor working with her is slowly helping her remember the exact events of the day.

Noah's parents died in a fire and he'd do anything to win custody of his younger brothers. The first foster home Noah was in led to a bit of a problem. When the father abused his son, Noah wouldn't stand for it and attacked him. That led to Noah developing a "bad boy" reputation. He's convinced his brothers are going to be in jeopardy at their own foster home, and he wants to rescue them. To win custody, however, he must prove he's changed, earn his diploma, and find a stable job and home. He never expects to fall for Echo, yet that's exactly what he does.

There's a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel to this story, but without the suicide angle. Echo is under pressure from her friends to not date the pot-head bad boy, and Noah is just as pressured not to date the upper-crust, weirdo who suddenly wears long sleeves all the time. This leads to a lot of conflict, and I enjoyed watching the two of them give the proverbial finger to anyone who dared say they shouldn't be together.

 I did really enjoy this story. Granted, I'm looking it from an adult perspective and know how few high school romances survive. I like the honesty the author put into it with both Noah and Echo taking one day at a time. I never expected the emotional impact the book presented, but it did and Katie McGarry did it well. I cried when Noah fought to get his brothers or when Echo struggled to remember what her mother did. I found the writing to be very powerful and romantic, something I would have adored as a teen.

The story is told in alternating perspectives - Noah and Echo. The switches work well and it's always clear who is speaking. It gives better insight into the characters thoughts. Sometimes changing perspectives throw me off, but these changes are done well and made the story complete.

This is a great teen romance and one I am so glad I read. With Pushing the Limits, I think Katie McGarry has outdone herself.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tap Out - Eric Devine

Released September 2012

Eric Devine
Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Quite honestly, it's hard not to read the first sentence of Tap Out and find yourself hooked. This isn't a glossed over coming of age, it's gritty, poignant, and often very challenging emotionally. It's an amazing story that draws you into one boy's life and holds you captive.

For as long as he can remember, Tony Antioch's watched his mother move from one abusive relationship to another. She makes no effort to improve things, and Tony's fed up. He refuses to sink to her abuser's level and he's not really sure he has what it takes to battle the abusers, though his anger might certainly make him a worthy opponent when his mom's latest shows up drunk and angry yet again.

Soon, Tony ends up attending one of his friend's mixed martial arts classes and finds he's pretty good. As he hones his skills, a drug dealing biker gang also moves in to recruit as many locals as possible. Between them and his trailer park lifestyle, Tony has an awful lot on his mind and most important is that it's time to change his life.

Tap Out can be violent, but there's no way to honestly tell Tony's story without some blood and gore. The realism in this book catches your attention, and it's impossible not to root for Tony along the way. Thankfully, I didn't grow up in that kind of setting, but I know people who did and life was never easy for them. If you're looking for a book that really stands out, Eric Devine's latest delivers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fog - Caroline B. Cooney

Released August 2012

Caroline B. Cooney
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When it comes time for high school, students from Burning Fog Isle must move from their island homes to the mainland. Christina, Benjamin, Michael, and Anya set off to start school, and this means moving into the Schooner Inne, a bed and breakfast with an eerie past. Captain Shevvington built the house on the cliffs and lived there happily until his wife committed suicide. The school principal and his wife, relatives of the sea captain, own the inn now. When Anya starts acting crazy, Christina fears that the Shevvington's may be more than they appear. She fears they are behind Anya's destructive behavior, and she may be the only person who can stop them.

Set in Maine, a place I know and love, Fog certainly offers a creepy tale that captures the coastline's beauty, power, and mystique. There is bit of a Stephen King quality to this book, but it's not so creepy that pre-teens won't be able to handle the matter. I actually found myself thinking of the thrillers I grew up reading by Lois Duncan. It had that same creepiness that wasn't over the top. There's also the battle of good versus evil that most teens will be able to relate to.

It is important to note that this is not a new series. The "Losing Christina" series was actually released in 2001 by Scholastic books. The titles of those books were Losing Christina: Fog, Losing Christina: The Snow, and Losing Christina: Fire.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MoshiMoshiKawaii: Strawberry Princess Moshi’s Activity Book - Mind Wave

Released August 2012

Candlewick Press

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This inexpensive little activity book is ideal for parents traveling or for grandparents expecting a visit from a granddaughter or grandson. Featuring the popular Strawberry Moshi and her friends, the book offers over twenty pages of activities, such as search and find games, coloring sections, spot the difference pages, mazes, connect the dots drawings and much, much more.

There are also twenty reusable stickers of Moshi which are fun to play with but do present a choking hazard for youngsters who still like to place small items in their mouths.

Purchase a small box of colored pencils to be used with this book and you’ll be ready to offer a diversion for your child when one is needed, like on a long trip, during an airport wait, or on a rainy day.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ivy & Bean Make the Rules - Annie Barrows

Released September 2012

Annie Barrows
Sophie Blackall
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As the ninth book in the Ivy & Bean series, Ivy & Bean Make the Rules is another fun glimpse into the lives of these two young girls. Bean's older sister gets to attend Girl Power 4-Ever Camp, and Bean is certainly jealous, but she's not about to show it. Instead, Ivy & Bean decide to form their own camp in Monkey Park - Camp Flaming Arrow. With plans to hang out and make their own rules, Ivy and Bean decide to make their camp the best camp ever.

Many kids in the 8 to 10 age group will appreciate all that Ivy and Bean do in this latest book. They get into a little trouble, but nothing too bad, and have so much fun. It's an involving story, one that many beginning readers will enjoy. While most boys tend to shy from books that clearly focus on girls, I think there are aspects in this book that will truly appeal to boys too. In fact, I can see many kids deciding to start their own games of Zombie or Komodo Dragons.

This is not a challenging read, but it's not a simple book either. It's the perfect step up for children who are ready to advance beyond picture books, but who still like to have some illustrations in their reading material. At just over 100 pages, it's a longer book with vocabulary that fits perfectly into a child's mindset.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Life Cycles: Polar Lands - Sean Callery

Released October 30, 2012

Sean Callery

Book Review by Bob Walch

Part of the “Discover Earth’s Ecosystems” series, this picture book looks at both the Arctic and Antarctic. The book looks at the life cycles of eleven animals and how they live, reproduce and how they are link with one another and other creatures/plants in the food chain.

The well illustrated double page spreads focus on the hermit crab, Arctic tern, Arctic fox, polar bear, krill, Antarctic silverfish, penguin, skua, herring, seal and the Arctic wolf.

The back of the book also features a helpful glossary and “An Arctic food web” which shows how the food chain works. Each section contains a “Did you know?” box where you’ll find some really interesting facts. For example, you’ll discover that the silver scales of herring reflect light, thus making it difficult for predators to pick out any single fish in a school.

This is a nice way of introducing your readers to nature and some of the creatures that exist in various areas of the planet. Although there is not a lot of information here, there is enough to whet the youngster’s curiosity and hopefully make him or her want to go to a more detailed text for more detailed material. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Education of Queenie McBride - Lyndsey D'Arcangelo

Released July 2012

Lyndsey D'Arcangelo
Publishing Syndicate

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Education of Queenie McBride takes a close look at a problem plaguing many teens. Queenie is starting her first year of college and not doing well. Used to a life of floating by on her parents' money, Queenie is now responsible for herself. When her professor dares suggest she's insecure, he hits a little closer to home than Queenie wants. Taking a walk along the streets in Boston, she never imagines her life is about to change.

While out walking, Queenie comes across a homeless 14 year old. Pudge lived happily with her parents until she announced she was gay. Kicked out of her home with no where to go, Pudge now survives on the street bouncing from a local shelter to simply sleeping on the streets while begging for change or food. Queenie can't turn her back on this teen and makes a huge effort to help Pudge and bring awareness to the number of homeless teens who were kicked out of their home for "being" gay.

While I have a hard time understanding how any parent can kick their child out of a home for something so trivial, I do know it happens. A high school friend moved miles from his home to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents kicked him out because of his sexual orientation. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 26% of teens report they were kicked out of their home after coming out, and many shelters are supported by churches, and therefore the teens don't get the support there either. It's a situation more people should be aware of.

In this book, Queenie is forced to grow up quickly. I loved watching her progress from a somewhat bewildered teen to a woman who learns to take control of her life and actions. From beginning to end, the book captured my attention and had me shedding a few tears along the way.

The Education of Queenie McBride isn't a long book. It's just over 100 pages, so it doesn't take much time to read at all. It's the perfect novel for a rainy afternoon or space filler between appointments or chores.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Giant Pencil - Connor Wilson

Released August 2012

Connor Wilson
Alyssa Machette
Weaving Dreams Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A Giant Pencil is written by young Connor Wilson, a boy who started the story at age eight and finished it within a year. It's refreshing having a story about the troubles kids face told from the viewpoint of a child.

I'll start by saying I love the premise in A Giant Pencil. A boy is sick of his siblings, the bulllies at school, and his bossy parents, so when he finds a giant pencil in the woods, he takes it home and puts it to use. Unfortunately, once he's rid himself of all the annoyances in his life, he comes to the startling revelation that he hates being alone even more. He must figure out a way to get back to the life he now misses.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, certainly appealing to the younger crowd. I can see children becoming inspired by the childlike drawings and wanting to create their own.

My one reservation is the age group that's listed as the target reading age, I would change that. In this area, picture books are a thing of the past by third grade. Children move on to longer books, like the Magic Tree House series in third grade, and by the time they're 12, they're well into 200 - 300 page picture-free novels. If parents are looking at this title, I'd personally say it's appropriate for the 5 to 8 range.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus - Paul Xavier Jones

Released October 2012

Paul Xavier Jones
Storyteller Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Surprisingly, I found myself intrigued and hooked in Paul Xavier Jones' Ameca J. and the Legacy of Menindus.  I'm not usually a fan of fantasy, but something about this book drew me in. The horrific creatures, enjoyable characters, and pace of the writing all seemed spot on. By the ending, I was eager to jump right in to the second book in the trilogy, though it won't be available for a few months.

Ameca J, as she prefers to be called, is sick of having to watch her younger sister. Informed that her mother is going out and her father is working yet again, Ameca must walk to the school to pick her sister up and safely escort her home. Ameca's not thrilled, and things take a turn for the worse when Fraya runs off into the woods. There the girls spot an unusual being and when Fraya touches it, they disappear and end up in a whole other realm.

They've reached Mythrania, a peaceful land that's about to be torn apart by evil. With elvins, Tranaris, and Metrans teaming up, the girls soon learn they, along with their father who is sucked into the world when he goes to find them, are key to defeating the Scelestus once and for all. They're descendants of the magi and have the powers necessary to do away with the evil forces and their armies, known as Werethralls. Can the girls and their father discover the strength within them that's the only hope of saving Mythrania?

Ameca's a bit of a wit, and that I liked. Her father is equally appealing, but only after a while. I think most parents can sympathize with his frustration when he gets home and finds his wife has left him a long list of things to do. His griping about things like saving the environment did get annoying though. Once he enters Mythrania and learns his daughters are there, his protective nature kicks in and gives him the qualities needed to make him likeable.

I think many pre-teens and teens will enjoy this book, right along with their parents. If you enjoy adventure/fantasy, definitely consider Ameca J and the Legacy of Merindus.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Archived- Victoria Schwab

Released January 22, 2013

Victoria Schwab

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Every now and then, I'll come across a book that grabs my attention. I know from the first word that this book will develop a following and has great Hollywood potential. Victoria Schwab's The Archived is one of those books.If Hollywood doesn't notice this book, I'll be surprised.

Mackenzie Bishop's grandfather was her role model and mentor. She never expected, just a few years after losing him, that her little brother would be killed in a hit and run. Since then, her mother's come up with ways to reinvent her life, and her latest idea has Mackenzie, her father, and her mother moving away to a former hotel, now apartment complex, where they plan to open a coffee shop on the ground floor while living upstairs. Leaving behind her best friend, Mackenzie is forced to start anew while still grieving the loss of her brother.

What no one knows is that Mackenzie is not your average 15 year old. Her grandfather was a "keeper," and he trained her to also be a keeper. After death, your "history" is stored in the Archives, a place where every person's history should end up, much like a library. Some "histories," however, slip away into the "Narrows." Those in the "Outer" realm (real world) don't know any of this, but a rare few have special powers that make it easy for them to track histories, and Mackenzie is one of them. Her role as a keeper is to track down the histories in the Narrows and return them to the Archives.

Someone is changing histories, and that's never okay. Mackenzie hopes she is strong enough to find out what is happening before the Archives, and her only link to her brother and grandfather, is gone for good.

Netgally reviewers received a sneak peek of the first 108 pages, so my review is based only on that. The aspect of the histories being changed hadn't appeared in that section of the book, which really makes me eager to get my hands on the final copy because based on what I read alone I was mesmerized.

Victoria Schwab's writing is powerful and packed with emotion. I sympathized with Mackenzie's grief and rooted for her with each chase in the Narrows. She writes in a way that is very engaging and personal.

Part horror story, part parnormal, and part teen drama, this book is going to have huge appeal. Boys will love when Mackenzie starts kicking behind to capture the more unruly histories, and girls will love watching her come to terms with the changes in her life, even meeting a boy in her building who holds secrets of his own.

All in all, The Archived is a book that I highly recommend for fans of paranormal and adventure.

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration - Final Week

Week nine is here! This is the final week and the grand prize with all sorts of Ivy & Bean goodies was given away.

The winner was not from this blog, but congratulations to:

Becky Wilson of Flint Hill Elementary School!

One of the weekly winners at Colby Sharpe’s Sharp Reads blog

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration - Week 8

Congratulations to Jen B. for winning week seven's Ivy and Bean book giveaway.

Week 8's prize is a copy of No News is Good News.

Make sure you leave a way for me to get in touch when you post a comment. You an also email me at roundtablereviews at gmail dot com to enter. Winners will be a given one week to respond or a new winner will be selected.

Week 9 is almost here and that means the grand prize will soon be selected by the publisher. The super-secret grand prize has been announced and it's pretty special. If you've been paying attention, you already know the grand prize contains:

  •       A complete set of Ivy and Bean hardcover books signed by Annie Barrows
  •           1 set of Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls
  •           1 Ivy and Bean Button Factory
  •           1 Ivy and Bean READ Poster signed by Annie Barrows
  •           Set of Ivy and Bean Silly Bandz
  •           Set of Ivy and Bean stickers 
 The super-secret prize is a set of handcrafted Ivy and Bean dolls.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week 7

The big week is almost here! Soon one of the winners from all the other weeks will be chosen by Chronicle Books to win the grand prize:
  •            A complete set of Ivy and Bean hardcover books signed by Annie Barrows 
  •          1 set of Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls 
  •          1 Ivy and Bean Button Factory
  •          1 Ivy and Bean READ Poster signed by Annie Barrows
  •          Set of Ivy and Bean Silly Bandz
  •          Set of Ivy and Bean stickers 
  •      And a super-secret prize that will be announced
Congratulations to Week 6's book winner - Tania C.

Week 7's prize is a copy of  Ivy & Bean: What's the Big Idea?

Make sure you leave an email in your comment, or you can email me directly at roundtablereviews at gmail dot com to enter. I've had a few entrants who haven't left a way to get in touch with them, so make sure you don't miss that vital step!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hooked on the Book: Patrick's Adventures Through the Books of the Bible - Liz and Jack Hagler

Released June 2012

Liz & Jack Hagler
Morgan James Publishing

Book Review by Bob Walch

The authors take on the formidable task of making the Bible understandable for young readers in this picture book which is subtitled, Patrick’s Adventures Through The Books of the Bible.  Using a cartoon format, a touch of humor, rhymes, games and a fast paced story, the young reader will come away from this 96 page book with a sense of the “big ideas” that are conveyed in the Old and New Testaments.

The Haglers have also created a website for each of the seven chapters that offers a three minute video overview, coloring pages, word searches and crossword puzzles that will also engage the child.

Ideal for individual home use or for classroom or Bible Study groups, Hooked On The Book makes it easy to get a child interested in discovering what the Bible has to offer. Use this as the starting place for a more in-depth and detailed reading of the Bible that will follow as the child matures.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lucretia and the Kroons - Victor LaValle

Released July 2012

Victor LaValle
Random House Digital

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Lucretia's birthday party goes awry when her so-called friends start to tease her. This 12-year-old girl won't stand for it and kicks them out of her house. Unfortunately, this also makes her a bit of an outcast in school. She simply can't wait until her best friend, Sunny, becomes well and then she'll have a birthday party redo. On the day that's supposed to happen, Sunny disappears.

Soon, Lucretia learns the mysterious family, The Kroons, who she's heard about from her older brother may be behind the disappearance. The Kroons are heavy drug users and not quite human at that. Gathering all the courage she has, Lucretia heads into their mysterious apartment and sets off on a quest to save her friend.

I'll give it this, Lucretia and the Kroons is quite creepy. For a young adult reader, this novella is going to have you on the edge of your seat while putting a few shivers up your spine. For 99 cents, I wasn't expecting something so creepy.

Lucretia is a tough cookie, and you'll be cheering her on. If you enjoy the novellas of horror masters, you should definitely give Lucretia and the Kroons a shot. It's certainly not what I was expecting, and I'm thrilled I came across it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week 6

Welcome to Week 6 of the Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration. It's heating up and the grand prize will be awarded in just a few weeks!

The winner of Week 5 is Heidi G. Congratulations, Heidi!

Week 6's prize is a copy of Ivy and Bean's Doomed to Dance. Make sure you leave an email in your comment, or if you can email me directly at roundtablereviews at gmail dot com to enter. I've had a few entrants who haven't left a way to get in touch with them, so make sure you don't miss that vital step!

If you're interested in entering the contest at other blogs, here's a list of those who are running the contest:

Blog Name                                          Blog URL
Media Darlings                        
There's A Book                        
Kid Lit Frenzy                           
In the Pages                             
The O.W.L.                                
Coquette Maman                  
Ruth Ayres Writes                           Http://
Watch. Connect. Read.        
One Page to the Next          
Van Meter Library Voice     
The Family That Reads Together
The Children's Book Review

Friday, September 14, 2012

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero - Fred Chao

Released July 2012


Book Review by Jen Beams

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero depicts the average life of an average guy Johnny Hiro. Johnny is, like most men in their mid-20s, balancing a job, his goals, his girlfriend, and his friends, as his life is disrupted with
misfortunes such as an angry landlord, and overdue rent, and a dinosaur breaking into his apartment; literally. So maybe Johnny’s life isn’t so average. That’s what I would expect of a graphic novel character that is “half Asian, all hero”.

First of all, the scenarios he faces are totally unbelievable. There’s no basis behind the crazy happenings. And even more unbelievable is his reaction to them. He really just shrugs them off as if a dinosaur busting in through your bedroom wall and taking your girlfriend is a monthly occurrence. I’d even go with that if they gave some sort of basis for why he doesn’t run away screaming because there’s a dinosaur in the city in the 21st century.

I’m new to graphic novels, and once I got past the totally unbelievable scenarios, there are two main characters with little character development. Johnny and his girlfriend do not really have personalities other than Johnny being an average Joe and his girlfriend a ditzy Asian woman. As an introduction to this new graphic novel series, I wish I could have seen more on Johnny’s back story or his and his girlfriend’s relationship. For that reason, I think it's necessary to read the books in order and not jump into the series without having read the first book.

Beyond the lack of realism and character development, there is a satisfying ending, but I’ll leave that for the reader to find. Perhaps this makes a good story for a younger reader, if not for the sexual references here and there, but I really wish there could have been more sophistication. As a female college student, I just can't see myself buying this book or adding it to my keeper shelf.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

News From Chronicle Books

For more than 40 years, Chronicle Books has been known for our distinctive, award-winning and bestselling books and gifts that are favorites with booksellers, librarians and specialty retailers around the country.

Now, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other gift-givers can create personalized Chronicle books, gifts and stationery items for special kids in their life with MyChronicleBooks.

How It Works:

Visit and select from a variety of products such as books, growth charts, lunch boxes, wall d├ęcor and much more than can be personalized with a child’s name, favorite colors, birthday – even a photo!

With just a few clicks, the easy-to-use interactive website allows users to enter their personal information into a simple form, and preview their products right on screen. Products are shipped directly to the customer within two weeks. From, customers can also shop Chronicle’s extensive collection of books, stationery, games and gifts for all ages.

What Can You Personalize?

The collection includes beloved books such as the The New York Times #1 bestseller Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Duck! Rabbit! and titles from favorite authors and illustrators like Laura Numeroff, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Sylvia Long

Enjoy 25% off their purchase at MyChronicleBooks + FREE shipping!

Use coupon code: TryMyCB!

Offer valid until November 15, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week 5

Here we are at Week 5 of the Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration.

Week three's winner, never contacted me, so there's been a new winner picked. Congratulations to V.

Week four's book winner is C. Laker. Congratulations!

Now to the details for week five.

Book five in the Ivy and Bean series, Bound to Be Bad, finds the girls giving up on being good when things don't go their way. Maybe being bad is the best way to get what you want.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Twisted Window - Lois Duncan

Released August 2012 (Ebook reissue)

Lois Duncan
Open Road

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have such a long history with Lois Duncan's books. Years, well decades ago, I volunteered at my hometown's small library. Most of their books were borrowed from the regional library on a monthly basis. The librarian would bring me along to choose teen books for their rotating selection. It was through that volunteer experience that I encountered Lois Duncan's teen novels. I couldn't get enough of them.

In seventh grade, we had to find our favorite author's mailing address (pre-Internet, so research took hours if not days) and handwrite a formal business letter. Lois Duncan was my choice, and she wrote the sweetest letter back that was two pages long. I was one of the only kids in my class to get an actual handwritten note, many got a simple typed out form letter with a stamped signature. She probably has no idea how much she impacted my love of books and writing, but she did.

I'm delighted to see some of Duncan's books released as e-books for new generations. The Twisted Window is one of those books.

After her mother's murder, Tracy Lloyd is sent to live in Texas with her aunt and uncle. She's not happy that her Hollywood dad wouldn't take her in, but it's not like she has much of a choice. She is shocked with a new kid in school, Brad Johnson, turns his eyes to her. She can't imagine why he finds her appealing when she's not the best looking, but she's happy to get the attention.

When Brad tells her his story, she's heartbroken for him. Brad's baby sister, Mindy, was kidnapped by his former step-father. Police aren't actively following clues, so Brad's come to Texas to see if he can't find his sister by himself. The thing is his step-father would easily recognize Brad and go on the run again, so Brad needs help and that's where Tracy comes in. The plan is to get her lined up as Mindy's new babysitter and then Brad will sneak in and steal her back. The plan seems fool-proof, but then nothing ever goes to plan.

I'm pretty sure I'd read The Twisted Window before, as I knew part of the story. It's pretty impressive, however, that I would remember the details 25 years after it came out. But, Lois Duncan does have a way of creating stories that make you think and keep you on your toes. I've always loved the twists she throws into her books, and I'm pretty sure today's teen readers will find it just as appealing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cornered - Edited by Rhoda Belleza

Released by July 2012

Running Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One of the taglines for Cornered, a collection of 14 stories about bullying, is:  "How will you survive the day?" I think many who have lived through or attended high school understand that.This collection can, at times, be difficult reading. I'd like to think that times have changed, but I know they really haven't. Two stories in particular stood out.

In Jennifer Brown's But Not Forgotten, I've been in those girl's shoes. The book details a couple of girls who make a suicide pact because they're bullied for being overweight. I sympathized with them, as I've been there. In my day, the insult of choice was "swamp cow," and it always preceded the moos that followed the girls down the hallways. Teachers did nothing to stop it. In high school, I lost 40 pounds getting down to a smaller size than many of the bullies, and here's the fact for any teen that reads this, that didn't stop them. Instead it became, "Remember when you looked like such a swamp cow..." The good news is that karma did catch up with at least one of my bullies.

How Auto-Tune Saved My Life is another story I related to. Brendan Halpin's tale of a class bullied by their teacher rang true, but not from my years as a student, it's as my time as a parent. Last year, I had one student in my car pool who endured many of the same things the young man in this story faced. The high five that accidentally goes awry leading to a suspension for physical violence, that really does happen.  There's another situation that hit our high school where a student put his best friend's head on David Hasselhoff's body and put it up on Facebook. Both boys thought it was hilarious, including the friend, but the school called it bullying and suspended the one who created the picture.

There are a dozen other stories ranging from kids who are bullied for being gay to teens who bully out of anger at their life situation. Each story is heartfelt and gets you thinking. I hope every school adds this to their library and urges kids to read it and change.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week 4

Week four of the Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration is starts today. So far, we've had a number of lucky winners. If you were notified that you won either the book or the mini-notes, make sure you get your address to me. There are a handful of winners who have yet to contact me, so I have a fear that emails are ending up in spam.

Congratulations to week three's winners: Janelle M. wins a copy of the book, and Jasmine K. and BN100 win mini-notes.

This week's giveaway is the fourth book in the series, Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter. The link to the Amazon page is below if you want to check the book out.

To enter, email your entry to roundtablereviews at gmail dot com or leave a comment. Make sure you leave an email so that I have a way to contact you!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Catch the Videos for the Moving with Math Books!

 Clap, Drum, and Shake It!

Explore mathematical patterns through rhythm, movement, and the imagination.

Click to watch a video of kids Moving with Marcia!
Meadow Count      

A delightful counting book guaranteed to have you and your children up and moving! 

Click to watch a video of kids Moving with Marcia! 

Interview with Populazzi's Elise Allen

I'd like to thank Elise Allen for taking the time to answer a few questions about her new release and her books with Hilary Duff. It's been amazing to get to know the author, and I hope Roundtable's readers find it just as enjoyable.

I do apologize for the white boxes after the links. For whatever reason, Amazon text links always put them in, and I've tried everything possible to get them out of there, but they won't go away...

Years ago, Bon Appetit used to run a Q&A with celebrities that had a question I always loved and like to do a take on. If you could pick the mind of any three authors, living or deceased, who would you choose?
  1. ANNE LAMOTT: I love all her work, but I’m especially drawn to her non-fiction work. In it, whether directly or indirectly, she always delves into her relationship with her faith. She’s very devout, but never dogmatic. She questions everything, and struggles through life’s deepest questions with a healthy dose of neurosis. As both a big questioner and a big neurotic myself, I’d love to sit down with her over particularly delicious baked goods and fill hours with philosophical conversation.

  2. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Yes, I’m a fan, so talking to him about writing (over tankards of ale for sure) would be a blast, but I’d also love to get the first-hand scoop on his day-to-day life. And I’d definitely watch Shakespeare in Love with him. My guess is he’d be highly amused… and flattered because Joseph Fiennes plays one very hot bard.

    3. JIM HENSON: Nope, he’s not primarily known as an author, but he did write some books (check it out on Amazon - Books by Jim Henson).And since I worship at the altar of Jim Henson, any way to hang with him is a good one for me. Pretty sure there’s no topic about which I couldn’t learn for him. He set the standard on taking risks, following your dreams, running with your most wild ideas, never standing in your own way, the beauty of collaboration… a conversation with him would be a master class in both writing and in life.
Most authors tap into personal experiences for their books. High school wasn't easy on anyone as I think many have learned once they reach adulthood. Were you more the Cara or more the "Populazzi" type? How did your experiences shape the book?

Oh, I was so much more Cara than Populazzi! The Populazzi wanted nothing to do with me; I wasn’t even on their radar.

My high school experience was nowhere near as eventful as Cara’s, but what I very much relate to is that sense of wanting to be seen and known. So often back then—especially around “Populazzi” types—I felt like I was bottled up inside myself, so afraid of making a wrong move that I made no move at all and became invisible.

The other element of my reality that made it into the book is my dog, Riley. He likes when I remind people that Trista’s dog Riley is exactly him in every way. He thinks he’s a star now, and demands fresh chicken breast every night. I’m on board.

You had the dream opportunity to work with Hilary Duff on the book Elixir, what was that like?

It was spectacular! It still is spectacular—we’re finishing up the third book in the series right now. It’s called True and it comes out in Spring 2013.

I love working with Hilary. She’s incredibly creative, and I loved her concept for the Elixir series from minute one. Her ear for dialogue is impeccable, her story sense is finely tuned… plus she happens to be one of the kindest and most gracious people I’ve ever met. The whole process with her has just been a joy.

You've also written the scripts for a number of movies and television shows? Do you prefer novels over screenplays or enjoy the mix if writing styles?

I love mixing it up! Dialogue is my favorite thing to write, which makes screenplays particularly fun, but I also love the depth of storytelling you get in a novel. The fact that I get to write both is perfection—I wouldn’t want to give up either.

What are you working on next?

I mentioned True, which will finish up the Elixir trilogy. For anyone with little kids, my new episodes of the PBS show Dinosaur Train are airing now. Beyond those, I’m working on some very cool book and TV projects I love… but it’s too soon to share anything about them. When I can, I promise I’ll post any news fit to print on my website,

Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I appreciate it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week 3

Welcome to Week 3 of the Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration! This week's book giveaway is the third Ivy and Bean book, Break the Fossil Record.

Once again, one lucky winner will be chosen to win a copy of the book and three other winners will be selected to win Ivy and Bean mini-notes. Winners will be chosen next Sunday/early Monday from the entrants who comment on this post or send an email to roundtablereviews at gmail dot com.

The winner of week two's book is Linda of TeacherDance. Congratulations, Linda!

Good luck to the week three entrants.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Scared or Not, Mr Croc? - Jo Lodge

Released June 2012

Jo Lodge
Hodder & Stoughton

Book Review by Bob Walch

Mr Croc has invited all his friends over for a sleepover, but some scary things seem to be happening. First, something is looking in his window. “Mr Croc, are you scared or not?”   Of course he’s not, for when you turn the page of this pop-up book out jumps a harmless owl.

Next there’s a knock at the door.  Flip open the door and you’ll see it is only Zebedee the zebra who has just arrived for the party. As each guest arrives there’s a corresponding pop-up that introduces the animal. But, the best is saved for last when, on the final page, both Mr Croc and the reader are treated to a surprise.

As pop-up books go, this is one of the better ones I have seen this year. The paper engineering is excellent and the vibrant, colorful illustrations grab the reader’s eye. All in all, this is a pretty cool book!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Save Money & Enter to Win a Gift Card

Currently, three of Spark Point Studio's most popular summer books are on sale and blazing up the charts on Amazon Kindle, and not one of them costs more than $2.99

For anyone who purchases all three and sends their receipts to NOW through Wednesday, Aug. 22nd, they’ll be entered into a drawing to WIN a $300 Target gift card! They'll announce the lucky Target shopper on Friday, Aug. 24th.

That’s right, spend $7 (cheaper than a Starbucks run!) for a chance to win a $300 shopping spree! Also, it goes w/out saying that these books are among our best. We can’t keep up w/ all the accolades! 

·         Girl Unmoored: Brilliant cross-over YA and women’s fiction, 8 awards and recently featured on Entertainment Weekly, calling it “… the undiscovered young-adult novel of the summer.”

·         India’s Summer: A woman on the edge of turning 40—what more do we need to say? Adored by A-list Hollywood from Orlando Bloom to Goldie Hawn.     

·         Finding Emma: Fellow blogger and debut author Steena Holmes has turned out a riveting story of child abduction that has reached bestseller status on the Amazon charts alongside Fifty Shades of Grey (seriously, move over!) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-a-Bration: Week 2

Week 2 of the Blog-a-Bration is here!

I'll start by congratulating last week's winner: Jamile. I discovered a neat website ( that takes a list of entrants and randomizes them to pick a winner. Usually, we do the name out of a hat trick, but this made it much easier.

Week 2's book giveaway is:

Here's a video clip about the book series:

Three mini-notes for Ivy & Bean will go out to three runners-up.

Same rules apply. Leave a comment or send an email to roundtablereviews at gmail to enter. Winner will be picked late Sunday night from entries received by midnight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Populazzi - Elise Allen

Released August 2012


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Moving to a new school is hard, especially for a girl who's spent every year struggling to fit in. This year will be different. Cara's best friend comes up with a foolproof plan to send Cara skyrocketing to the top of the social ladder. All Cara has to do is become the perfect girl for each guy on the social ladder, and she'll be one of the Populazzi in no time. Climbing the rungs is easier than Cara ever imagined, but she soon learns nothing is as picture-perfect as it might first appear.

I admit, it's pretty easy to get sucked into Cara's world when reading Populazzi.  I see her struggles in my daughter's own high school career, and as a parent, hope my daughter learns what Cara learns sooner rather than later. I snickered from time to time, felt pity others, and really couldn't stop reading until I knew the outcome. It made for one long night, and now I'm dragging this morning! Part of me, however, wished it didn't end and that I could catch up with Cara once more in her senior year.

Populazzi reminded me why I hated high school. I was one of those "betweeners" who wasn't popular but wasn't bottom of the heap either. Sadly, I'm sure I made some mistakes like Cara did, and it wasn't until I was out of school that I learned from some of the popular students that they didn't have it any easier than the rest of us. I am certain teen girls will love this book, but I can see some moms sneaking the copy into their own reading piles too.

Keep watching Roundtable for Kids. An interview with the author is coming soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Temptation - Karen Ann Hopkins

Released July 2012


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Reading Karen Ann Hopkins' Temptation was an interesting experience. As a teen, I would have adored this story, both characters equally, and longed for my own lasting teen romance like the one Rose and Noah shared. As an adult, I know that few relationships started at that age last. I've seen many high school friends marry their high school sweetheart and end up divorced and single parents before they'd even reached their mid-twenties. I do think having that adult insight did shape my feelings towards Noah, and that detracted some from the book.

Rose is new to town and never imagined she'd fall head over heels for Noah, an Amish boy. Noah's at the age where he needs to find a wife, and despite his immediate bond with Rose, he knows his parents will never go for an English girl unless she were to become Amish. Rose is just as mad about Noah, but she knows her father will never go along with her becoming Amish. It becomes a Romeo and Juliet-style romance that no one knows for certain how things will play out.

Karen Ann Hopkins does an amazing job building the chemistry between the two. However, their were character traits I couldn't overlook. Rose's mother died of cancer less than a year before their move. She's grieving, as is her father and siblings, so I can see her transferring her grief into an intense need for Noah. Her unwillingness to get to know non-Amish locals surprised me a bit, especially when it was her brother Sam asking her to tag along. Few older brothers ever do that and I would have jumped at the chance when I was her age.

Noah was my bigger issue. I realize he's Amish and that's a whole new culture with different standards. He came off as very controlling to me, and I didn't like that. Control at that age usually leads to at least verbal abuse, and I wanted Rose to see it. When Noah forbids her to go to a party with her brother, when he tells her he couldn't dream of becoming an English and that she needs to change for him... I still say "Screw that!" Rose is far too young to make any changes for a man.

Despite my issues with Noah, Temptation is part of a series, and I'm curious to see how things play out. I will certainly read Belonging when it comes out in May 2013.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-a-Bration: Week 1

Everyone loves freebies! Each week for the next eight weeks, Chronicle Books are giving away a copy of one Ivy & Bean paperback and mini notes.

For week one, one lucky reader from this blog will be chose to win the weekly prize package. The lucky winner is also entered to win the grand prize package that includes: 
  • 1 set of Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls
  •  1 Ivy and Bean Button Factory
  •  1 Ivy and Bean READ Poster signed by Annie Barrows
  • 1 Set of Ivy and Bean Silly Bandz
  • 1 Set of Ivy and Bean stickers
  • AND – a super-secret really cool prize we’re working on (stay tuned!) 
This week's book giveaway is the first book in the Ivy & Bean series.

 Entering is easy. Simply leave a comment or email roundtablereviews at gmail. That's all it takes and the winner will be notified Monday morning.