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.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Story Blanket - Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz

Released September 2008

Ferida Wolff
Harriet May Savitz

Peachtree Publishers

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The Story Blanket is more than an adorable story on being neighborly, it's also a beautifully illustrated book that reminds me of older folk tales. Authors Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz tell the story of a small town where children gather to hear stories upon Babba Zarrah's wool blanket. When Babba Zarrah realizes that certain children or adults in the town need items to stay warm during an incredibly harsh winter, she has one choice. Shipments of wool are unable to reach town due to the heavy snow, so she unravels her story blanket to make the items people need. When they realize what she's done, the townspeople band together to repay her in a way she cannot imagine.

Illustrations by Elena Odriozola really are beautiful. They have a folk art feel with the rounder faces, bright pink cheeks and bright outfits. The illustrations capture the essence of the story perfectly. The story is cheerful and happy. There's nothing sad or depressing, it's completely uplifting and very enjoyable. Both parents and their children are certain to enjoy this story about sharing and putting others first.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island - Steve Westover

Released March 2012

Steve Westover
Cedar Fort

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Ethan and Jordan's parents bring them to Uncle Bart's post at Crater Lake figuring the best way to stop their fighting is by leaving Ethan with his uncle for the summer. Other teens, Allie, Brady and Jacob happen to also be at Crater Lake hiking when anyone 16 and older vanishes, adults are all sucked into the earth presenting a substantial mystery. Banding together, the teens must figure out what happened to the adults, and if it's possible to save them.

Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island is the first book in a trilogy. The story grabbed me from the start. First, the setting is vivid. The author does a great job at capturing the beauty of Crater Lake. Second, the characters are all likable. Ethan and his sister fight like any pre-teen and teen siblings would. Brady and Jacob's knowledge thanks to their Boy Scout training really put everything they've learned to good use.

One of the things that really stood out for me was that nothing was sugarcoated. To save their parents, the teens face some deadly situations. Nothing is easy, but their love for the parents is the driving force. They bond together, despite differences of opinions, to work as a team to solve the mystery. I think there are great lessons to be learned from their bravery and perseverance. I can't wait to see what happens in Steve Westover's future books.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review is Coming

The current kid's book I'm reading is quite lengthy and has a plot that's complex enough that I haven't been rushing it. So, I apologize for the gap between reviews, but there is a review coming for:

At this point, I'm really enjoying Steve Westover's book. Its pacing is perfect, the setting comes to life and, most importantly, I see where the plot is heading and it's going to be a great story for kids who like adventure tales. Hopefully, I'll have the full review for you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Journeys Through the Unknown - Heather Beck

Released June 2011

Heather Beck

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Journeys Through the Unknown is a horror anthology featuring five stories:
  • Gnome Genome
  • A Weird Twist of Fate
  • The Secret Oracle of an Egyptian King
  • Cold Territory
  • Kingdom of Sugar

In "Gnome Genome," seventeen-year-old Meghan isn't happy that with her family's move from the country to the city. Not soon after moving in, Meghan meets a one of her neighbors, Justin, a boy the same age. After a few mishaps, he gives her an unusual pine tree as a peace offering, only she pricks her finger on one of the needles. Soon after, strange things start happening. Meghan ends up in a land of gnomes where her skill playing games is the only way to return home.

Judith Forge is sick of her parents' dinner parties in "A Weird Twist of Fate." In an act of rebellion, she decides to wear the Goth clothing she prefers to their latest party. As punishment, her mother orders her to gather up charitable donations and deliver them to one of the party guests. In the attic, Judith discovers a book owned by a distant ancestor. She soon comes to learn that she has witches in her ancestry and that her help is needed to stop a witch from revealing the truth.

"The Secret Oracle of the Egyptian King" friends Vaughn and Danny are playing a dress-up game when Vaughn's father interrupts them. Dr. Riley is stressed over an upcoming Egyptian King Rhinkuhtan exhibit he's presenting and doesn't think boys of that age should be playing around. They expect once the exhibit goes off without a hitch, he'll calm down, but during the exhibit, he really flips out when someone asks how he knows it's really the tomb of an Ancient Egyptian. The boys soon learn of the danger involved with Dr. Riley's discovery and that they all could be in jeopardy.

Climber Dale Stone's story is told in "Cold Territory." He successfully scales his latest icy mountain only to have the ground split open. He plummets into a mountain cavern where he meets a strange man who says he's the only remaining inhabitant of the Palace of Ice and that there is no way out. As Dale learns that the caverns are filled with precious gemstones, he devises a way to get out and bring the valuable gems with him. In doing so, he has no idea of the punishment that awaits.

The final story, "Kingdom of Sugar," introduces Clayton Baxter. Clayton has a problem, his sweet tooth is uncontrollable. In order to help him, his mother decides to create a "Sugar Reduced Diet" that Clayton must adhere to. Soon, Clayton finds himself in the Kingdom of Sugar where the sweet treats have a taste for something a little more unusual - human flesh.

Journeys Through the Unknown will appeal to middle school readers. Of all the stories, "Kingdom of Sugar" felt the most creative and captured the aspect of horror more in tune with the horror stories I grew up reading. The other stories were good, but didn't put shivers up my spine the way that images of gummy bears with rows of sharp teeth do. I highly recommend the final story, and the others while enjoyable, just didn't grab me the same way that "Kingdom of Sugar" did.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's a Big World Little Pig - Kristi Yamaguchi & Tim Bowers

Released March 2012

Kristi Yamaguchi

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

What a completely lovely children's story. The basic premise, and I'm pretty sure much of this is autobiographical, is that Poppy Pig's been invited to compete at the World Games in Paris. She's nervous, but with the support of her friends and family, she sets off on her amazing journey.

After arriving in Paris, Poppy's fear starts to get the best of her, but she remembers what her family's told her and starts making new friends with the other athletes. While she can't push away all the nerves, Poppy's determined to do her best.

It's a Big World Little Pig is simply a charming story that is beautifully illustrated by Tim Bowers. I loved the illustrations just as much as the story itself. I always found Kristi Yamaguchi's performances on ice to be amazing to watch, and I get that same warm feeling reading her novel. There's a strong message about overcoming fear that will benefit children too.

The author is donating a percentage of the book's proceeds to the Always Dream Foundation. By purchasing It's a Big World Little Pig, your child's smiles will warm your heart and you're helping out an important charity too. It's definitely a book to add to your shelves.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Please Read This

Quite simply, there will be no post today because of my stance against SOPA. Learn more here:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Advice with a Devotional Flavor—Just for Girls!

Uhrichsville, OH – Popular blogging trio, youth culture expert and mother, Nicole O’Dell, along with daughters Emily and Natalie, offer trustworthy, biblically-based advice in Girl Talk. Due to release February 2012, Girl Talk is a sure winner for girls ages 10 to 16.

Culled from actual questions they have encountered on their blog site, this fabulous resource offers real-life help for girls on issues including relationships, character, body image, fashion, gossip, and more. Girls will find 180 questions along with answers and related scripture selections that will both encourage and challenge them in their faith walk. Girl Talk, presented in a trendy format that reads like a magazine, is a super tool for girls’ small groups or for individual use.


Book Trailer:

 Nicole O'Dell is a mom of six—ranging from 20 all the way down to a set of toddler triplets. Nicole writes fiction for teens including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series. She writes nonfiction focused on helping teens make good choices and bridging the gap in parent/teen communication. Nicole is also the host of Teen Talk Radio at, where she talks with teens and special guests about the real issues young people face today, and she loves getting out among teens and parents when speaking at youth groups and conferences.

Over the years, Nicole has worked as a youth director, a Bible study leader for women and teens, and a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. Her writing also includes devotionals and Bible studies for women of all ages. Learn more about Nicole by visiting “I write and speak about how to prepare for life’s touch choices. It’s the memory of my own teen years that birthed a passion in me to reach out to teens muddling through the confusion and pressure that life throws at them,” says O’Dell.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 1: The Night Things - Ted Naifeh

Released April 2012

Ted Naifeh
Warren Wucinich
Oni Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Since childhood, I've loved scary stories. I remember gathering with friends and sitting around to see who could come up with the creepiest tale. My fascination with horror has never diminished, and I'm always happy to find a new author to try. Ted Naifeh's book features Courtney Crumrin, a girl whose family moves into an elderly uncle's mansion. Rumors around town are that the mansion is haunted, and from all appearances, Courtney is not going to argue. Strange noises keep her up at night and she runs into a creepy "thing" in the woods. By day, she's falling asleep in her new classes and facing the wrath of bullies after school. Little does she know her world is about to change.

Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1: The Night Things is comical, yet does contain the perfect amount of creepiness for middle schoolers. I think many children will relate to Courtney in terms of bullying, dealing with school issues and feeling out of touch with adults. The illustrations complement the story that involves goblins, changelings, talking cats and more.

For kids who are hesitant to read but have outgrown picture books, graphic novels are the perfect solution.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away - Elanna Allen

Released May 2011


Reviewed by Bob Walch

She is really, really tired of bedtime, so Itsy Mitsy has decided to run away. Rather than talk his daughter out of it, Mitsy’s dad offers to help her pack. Smart move dad!

He begins by suggesting that Mitsy take her favorite dinosaur, Mr. Roar, along.  As dad’s “suggestions” keep coming, Mitsy to go from a suitcase to her wagon to carry all the stuff. And still her father has suggests there are more things she might need.

Of course when he suggests she take the entire house and the lawn, the story reaches the ridiculous point, which is the whole idea anyhow! It is then everyone realizes Itsy Mitsy might as well stay home, which is probably a pretty good idea because the child is now very tired.

If you have an Itsy Mitsy in your household who doesn’t relish bedtime, this cute, humorous story might help get him or her “in the mood” for an evening snooze!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

13 Hangman - Art Corriveau

Released April 2012

Art Corriveau
Amulet Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

If you like time travel or mysteries, 13 Hangmen is going to really appeal to you. The story is in modern day for the most part, but the hero is determined to solve a mystery that spans almost two centuries and in doing so time travel, of sorts, is critical. Some of the story is based on fact and other parts are fictional, but the impact of the story is solid and certain to appeal to the kids who are ready to chapter books.

Tony DiMarco finds it unusual when an uncle he barely knows leaves him a ramshackle house in Boston. Tony's only 13, so why an elderly man would leave him a house with odd stipulations is a little hard to digest. Tony's father thinks this is the opportunity they need since their housing provided by his current job is about to come to an end. Uprooting the family, they move a few states away to start a new life.

Soon, Tony's father has been accused of murdering his uncle by a neighbor who is insistent that the uncle meant to leave him the house. Tony discovers a portal-like device in the attic bedroom he's required to stay in as part of the agreement. This device makes it possible to connect to past generations of 13 year olds who have all lived in the house. Together, the boys try to solve the reason why the Hagmann family has been desperate to get their hands on the house.

13 Hangmen really is a fun story. Details of Boston past and present are clear and sports enthusiasts, specifically Red Sox fans, will enjoy the details into Ted Williams. I admit I learned a few things along the way. The author spins a plot that keeps you engrossed until the final page and then sums up with a look at the facts he included in the book and where he fictionalized history a little to make the plot work. What I really like is that history is included without being boring. I was a student easily bored by history, so I wish more teachers would skip the textbooks and use novels as teaching aids.

If you or your child enjoys time travel and solving mysteries, 13 Hangmen is a great choice.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dragon Puncher Island - James Kochalka

Released November 2011

James Kochalka
Top Shelf Productions

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I like to support local authors whenever possible. James Kochalka's Dragon Puncher Island is the second book in his Dragon Puncher graphic comic series. It's designed for the younger crowd and is so silly that I know many kids would love it. One unique thing about this series is that Kochalka's boys and his cats play an integral part in the characters. The characters may be cartoons, but their faces are real, as are the backgrounds. The backgrounds in Dragon Puncher Island are of coastal Maine.

The story is quite simple. Dragon Puncher is generally being pestered by the Mighty Spoony-E, when the Monster Slapper appears and threatens the Mighty Spoony-E's safety. Not one to sit back while a "friend" is under attack, Dragon Puncher sets into action. Meanwhile, the monster lurking in the water also makes an appearance and no one knows who will end up saving the day in the resulting melee.

Kids love action and that's what they'll find in Dragon Puncher Island. The colorful illustrations, real pictures and goofy storyline are a perfect mix of what little boys, and even some girls, want in their stories. It's about 40 pages making it the right length for children who want more than a picture book but aren't ready for chapter books yet. If you have a child looking for something different, this is the perfect choice.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History - Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Ross Kinnaird

Released September 2011

Annick Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History takes a look at underwear through the ages. While most children put on their underwear without a second thought, in times long past, underwear dictated your social status and served to protect extremities from the cold.

Perhaps one of the oldest recorded pairs of underwear dates back thousands of years. In the 1990s, the discovery of a 3,000-year-old body was found in ice. After careful removal, historians discovered that this man was wearing a loin cloth sewn from goat skin. Underwear of some fashion has also been found on mummies. These references are all detailed in 50 Underwear Questions. Each tidbit starts with a question regarding underwear and goes into detail about what is known historically.

Children will learn about underwear made from animal skin, hemp, burlap, nettles and other materials. They'll learn why men and women in medieval times did not bathe and how underwear was believed to be better than a bath. In general, there's a lot to learn reading this informative look at underwear through the ages. The reader examines petticoats, hoop skirts, bras and corsets. Each section includes a tag graphic called a "Private Part" that includes an additional trivia tidbit.

I learned a lot reading 50 Underwear Questions: A Bare-All History. I'm still not convinced that nettle underwear is something I'd ever want to wear, but it's interesting to read how the underwear served a dual purpose, including being a deterrent to flea problems. If you have a child or teen interested in fashion history, this is a must-read.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is Worry Worrying You? - Ferida Wolff, Harriet May Savitz, Marie LeTourneau

Released September 2011 (Reissue)

Tanglewood Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

"A worry isn't polite. It has no manners. It doesn't ask if it can enter. It just barges in. And it will stay as long as you let it."

Those two pages, accompanied by unique illustrations, captures the essence of Is a Worry Worrying You? amazingly well. Every child and adult worries about something from time to time. Children fear the government mandated tests, fears accelerated by urgings from teachers that students must pass for the school to make money. Children's fear monsters under the bed, grades in school, parents leaving them and things as simple as having to eat a food they hate. Those are the things captured in Ferida Wolff and Harriet may Savitz's children's picture book.

Throughout the book, different scenarios of what causes a child to worry appear. It may be worrying about what will happen if a rhino comes down the road headed right for you or what will you do if 100 elephants come to tea and you don't have any tea bags. The scenarios can be realistic too, such as what happens if your loud, boisterous uncle comes for a visit and his booming presence scares you. In each case, the authors suggest how to overcome that fear and how to handle anxiety. It's a great book for children, especially those who are prone to anxiety. I highly recommend Is Worry Worrying You.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The House on Dirty Third Street - Jo S. Kittinger & Thomas Gonzalez

Released March 2012

Jo. S. Kittinger
Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishing

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

A young girl and her mother move to a new home. Much to the girl's dismay, the run-down house is on a very dirty-looking street, that she nicknames "dirty third street" and she can't see this place being fun. When she spies her mother crying, she offers a prayer that may just turn their luck around.

The House on Dirty Third Street is actually an extremely touching book that shares a strong message on hope and never giving up. With the housing market collapse, there are two houses on our street that sit empty and the more time that passes, the more the houses seem to fall apart from neglect. I'd love to think someone like the mother and daughter in this story would move in.

The lessons this girl learns along the way will make for interesting discussions between parent on child on having faith and never losing hope in what seems like an impossible situation. Thomas Gonzalez's illustrations also capture the book's magic perfectly by taking the ramshackle house and sprucing it up into a real beauty by the end of the story.  I really enjoyed The House on Dirty Third Street and highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Best Kind of Kiss - Margaret Allum

Released December 2011

Bloomsbury Kids

Reviewed by Bob Walch

The cute little girl in this picture book just loves kisses. She loves to receive a fluffy kiss from her cat, a fluttery kiss from a passing butterfly and even a smelly-yelly kiss her brother plants on her.

The range of kisses in this book is quite extensive. There are “make up after fighting” kisses and “before leaving, sad kisses,” as well as “friendly kisses after play”. Kisses are showered on the child by her grandmother, friends, and mother. But of all the kisses the little girl loves, the “big bristly-growly-daddy kiss” is the best of all.

Hmmm, moms will love hearing this no doubt! You may not want to put your child on the spot by asking him or her which kiss is the better, but still, this is a fun picture book, and you’ll enjoy sharing it with your child. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Princess and the Pig - Jonathan Emmett

Released September 2011

Bloomsbury Kids

Reviewed by Robert Walch

Jonathan Emmett has a lot of fun with one of the staples of fairy tale literature – a mix up in the royal nursery.  An odd but humorous situation results in the royal baby, Priscilla, being switched with a farmer’s piglet named Pigmella.

Although both sets of parents realize something odd has taken place, they accept the situation as the act of a good or a bad fairy. The piglet is raised in the castle and is accepted as the royal daughter while Priscilla grows up in the farmer’s household and is delighted with her surroundings.

Eventually, the farmer realizes what has occurred and tries to convince the king and queen that there was indeed a “switch” made. Here’s where the story becomes really amusing. “Ridiculous!” said the king “The girl may be smart and beautiful, but she does not look or speak like a real princess.”

Perhaps, but does that mean that Pigmella does? I think not!

The story’s conclusion is not what one would expect, but that’s okay because the intent of this silly yarn is to “pork” fun at this type of fairy tale! Not only will young readers enjoy The Princess and the Pig and probably want to share it with their friends, but the book will give mom and dad a few chuckles too.