Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. 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.”

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems - Kate Coombs



Released March 14, 2012

Kate Coombs

Chronicle Books

Book review by Tracy Farnsworth

In celebration of April's National Poetry Month, pick up a copy of Kate Coombs' Water Sings Blue. The collection of ocean/sea-related poems is certain to win the hearts of parents and child. Anyone who's been to the ocean knows the feeling of standing on the sandy beach listening to the waves as they hit rocks and beach. It's a soothing sound and the poems in Water Sings Blue captures that feeling.

There are more than a dozen poems that talk about boats, sea life, and the water itself. From the cries of seagulls to the piece of driftwood found on the beach after the tide rolls in, the collection of poems really captures the magic of the ocean. Add in the illustrations by award-winning illustrator Meilo So and you have images that truly complement the poetry. I think parents will love these poems just as much as their children.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Up Cat - Hazel Hutchins & Art by Fanny



Released January 2012

Hazel Hutchins
Annick Press

Book review by Tracy Farnsworth

 Hazel Hutchin's Up Cat catches the trouble and fun one small cat has throughout the day. Whether the cat is getting into trouble by stealing milk from a glass or having fun chasing a ball of yarn, the cat's activities are certain to bring a smile to your face.

Illustrations by Fanny are bright and colorful and do capture the mischievous behavior many cats have. Hazel Hutchins simple narrative, usually two or three word phrases, is perfectly suited to toddlers and beginning readers. Before long, your child will be reading along with you because it's easy to associate the words with the action depicted in the illustrations.

Up Cat is a fun book that really does capture a day in the life of a cat. I have a pair of Maine Coon siblings and they spend many days wresting, chasing their toys around, trying to demolish their cat tree, and once that's done, they do like to curl up within reach of the pellet stove and take long naps. Anyone with cats will know exactly what Up Cat is up to.

Friday, February 24, 2012

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived - Matt Tavares



Released February 2012

Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press

Book review by Bob Walch

Young baseball fans, especially those who live in New England, will enjoy reading this lively picture book biography about perhaps the most famous player to ever wear a Red Sox uniform.

With Fenway Park celebrating its centennial this season, this is a very timely volume that offers an excellent introduction to this iconic slugger. The author follows Williams from his boyhood in San Diego through his early years with the Red Sox team. Just when Williams was really beginning to turn heads and make his mark as a hitter, along came World War II.  Like many professional athletes, Ted took a “time out” to serve in the military. He did the same thing during the Korean conflict as well.

Loaded with excellent illustrations and plenty of statistics, this book makes the case for Williams and the “Greatest Hitter” designation. After reading this introduction to Ted Williams, the young reader can look for more detailed books that dissect the hitter’s career.  Then, after further research and a little conversation with other fans, the youngster can make up his or her own mind.

If you are a loyal Red Sox fan there's probably little to discuss. Of course, Ted was the greatest hitter of all time!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chicken, Pig, Cow's First Fight - Ruth Ohi



Released January 2012

Ruth Ohi
Annick Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Chicken, pig, and cow are the best of friends. One day, while playing in the block city their owner builds, pig becomes careless and destroys the city. This leads to their very first fight. Can the friends move past their hurt and anger and become friends again?

Chicken, Pig, Cow's First Fight is a simple, well-written children's picture book that teaches a valuable lesson about friendship and forgiveness. The illustrations are eye-catching and the message is simple enough for children to understand. Ruth Ohi does a great job at taking a difficult situation and displaying it from both sides.

For beginning readers, the vocabulary is easy enough that most children will quickly pick up words and be reading by themselves in no time. This is one of many Cow, Chicken, and Pig children's books, so add this and the others to your collection. It's a fun read and one that many children and adults will find endearing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Demolition - Sally Sutton



Released February 2012

Candlewick Press

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Roll out the big equipment; it is demolition time! Crack! Crash! Wham! This old building has to come down. In comes the big yellow crane with the heavy ball. It swings back and forth, “Thump and smash and whack. Bring the top floors tumbling down.”

Next, the machine with the strong jaws just like a dinosaur cuts through some steel reinforcement and “Thud! Creak! Wham!”, down comes some more of the structure.

Now it is time for the machines with huge claws to lift the rubble and dump it into the crusher that will grind the cement up into very small pieces. Another kind of grinder takes the wood and turns it into mulch and wood chips.

Finally it is time for the steel remains to be loaded into big metal dumpsters which will be trucked off to be recycled. Now the bulldozers can come in to level off the site so that a brand new children’s park can be constructed.

Lots of sound effects accompany the illustrations and text as young readers follow the process of building demolition. Preschoolers will love watching these big, noisy machines do their work. Perhaps, after you read the book a few times, a field trip to a near-by demolition site might be in order too!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birthday Suit - Olive Senior & Eugenie Fernandes



Released January 19, 2012

Olive Senior
Eugenie Fernandes
Annick Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Little Johnny loves being naked. There's nothing he likes more than running in the sun, splashing in the ocean, or exploring his town, he likes to do it without any covering. His mother has tried to keep him dressed, but buttons, zippers, and snaps are no match for the rambunctious three year old. It's up to his dad to try to get Johnny to remain dressed.

Birthday Suit is a charming children's picture book. The illustrations are beautiful with vibrant colors to help draw children's interest. Johnny spends a good deal of the book naked, but items are included to keep the nudity modest, so I can't see anyone having issues. Children will likely giggle at young Johnny, but that's a normal reaction.

As a parent, I think we've all had the child who just didn't want to remain dressed. Parents will sympathize with Johnny's mom and dad and kids will simply find a lot of humor in Olive Senior's comical story. With a touching ending, there's a lot to love about this book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slither, Slide, What's Outside - Simon and Sheryl Shapiro



Released January 19, 2012

Annick Press: Simon & Sheryl Shapiro
Nora Hilb

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Slither, Slide, What's Outside? is a really fun children's book suited for toddlers and beginning readers. It's just 17 pages, so definitely not taxing for the younger crowd. In addition, the colorful text is easily read because the pictures truly match the action.

The book simply shows children enjoying outdoor activities throughout the season. Each pair of pages has a vivid photograph and then colorful illustrations of children performing the activity. For example, when it's raining, you see a picture of a rainy day and on the opposite page, children are splashing in the rain to cool off on a hot summer's day. Other activities include slithering like an earthworm, skating on ice, laying out to look at the stars, and many other fun activities that both children and parents can do together.

I've been reading a lot of full length novels and it's really a nice change of pace to stop and read something, short and simple with a very cheerful feel. Slither, Slide, What's Outside? is definitely a book I'd have for my keeper shelf if my children were still young enough to appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Franklin's Valentines - Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark



Released February 2012

Paulette Bourgeois

Open Road Media

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I admit, I've always had a soft spot for Franklin Turtle. Franklin's Valentines is a reissue, but it's a classic Franklin story that parents and children love. With this new Kindle version, parents can add it to their Kindle, computer or Smartphone with ease.

Franklin Turtle is all excited. Today's Valentine's Day. Double-checking that he didn't miss any of his friends, he rushes to his school bus. Later that day, the Valentine's Party starts. Only Franklin's valentines cards are no where to be found. What is Franklin going to do?

While most children will just love the students' eagerness for the party and sweet treats, there's a lesson taught within the story about the meaning of true friendship. Illustrations capture Franklin and his friends perfectly and sets the mood for your own Valentine's Day festivities.

For beginning readers, the standard opening to all Franklin books is included. Within no time, most children will be reading those first few lines with their parents.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Article 5 - Kristen Simmons



February 2012

Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Kristen Simmon's debut novel, Article 5, is the scariest book I've read in ages. I know some readers will say it could never happen, but I think some of the post-war U.S. is an environment that presidential hopeful Rick Santorum would happily support. That completely terrifies me.

Following a major war, the U.S. is a completely different place. The Bill of Rights are gone and in their place are American Moral Statues.
  • Article 1- Americans may not practice a religion other than the religion of the Church of America.
  • Article 2 - You may not own any "immoral paraphernalia, including books not sanctioned by the Church of America.
  • Article 3 - A "Whole Family" is defined as a married man, woman and their offspring born after marriage.
  • Article 4 - Women must be subservient to her husband, and he will support his family financially and spiritually.
  • Article 5 - Children born out of wedlock are not legal citizens and will be removed from their home and put into rehabilitation. The woman who has a child without being married will be arrested.
  • Article 6 - It is illegal to get divorced, gamble, own a gun or plot to overthrow the government.
There is no police force. They've been replaced by the Federal Bureau of Reformation. If you disobey any of the statutes, you're whisked away to "rehabilitation."

Ember Miller's heard the stories about her peers disappearing for things like skipping school for Passover, but she never imagines to be one of them. When her mother is arrested for having Ember out of wedlock, Ember's world is torn apart. Worse, the boy she loves is the one who oversees the entire arrest. Whisked off to a cruel reform school where the Sisters of Salvation convert teen girls into subservient young women, Ember's life will never be the same.

I started Kristen Simmons novel last night. After reading half of the book, I was furious. I decided to watch my show and go to sleep, but things changed. After turning off the TV and curling up to sleep, I found myself thinking about Ember's situation and realized I couldn't go to sleep until I knew how things ended. I got up, went downstairs and stayed up until the wee hours to finish it. Only a rare few authors have ever managed to keep me up way past my usual 9:30-10:00 p.m. bedtime. It's compelling, vexing and memorable. This is a book that will get teens and adults talking.

Article 5 truly is a scary book. I hope we never live in a world like that. Over the past couple of months, some of the things Rick Santorum believes have come to light. Such as his insistence that rape victims not have an abortion because the child "is a gift in a very broken way." His firm belief that homosexuality is wrong, hence his comparison to same-sex relationships as being no different than bigamy, incest and bestiality. His feeling that birth control is "a license to do things in a sexual realm." His insistence that if families looked at their budgets, they could work something out so that the mom remains a stay home mom and housewife. Many of these beliefs appear in some fashion in Article 5. While this may be a fictional story, there's part of me that worries that down the line, some unrealistic politician will get into office and try to make some of this a reality.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Love Maine (I Love to Read Series) - Jeff Cox, Nancy Griffin, and Anne Rosen



Released November 2011

MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Here’s a fun and informative board book that will introduce youngsters to some of the wonders of Maine. The rhyming text underscores the state’s diverse natural wonders that range from Mount Katahdin and the Acadia National Park to the abundance of wildlife like moose and bears.

Winter sports and summer fun at the beach are two of the seasonal activities featured as well as industries that include fishing for lobster and scallops, logging, and growing such varied crops as blueberries and potatoes. You’ll also visit the state capitol in Augusta and the famous Fryeburg Fair.

This welcome to Maine is an excellent way of preparing a child for a vacation visit or to remind a youngster of the state’s many attractive features and important livelihoods.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rough Waters - S. L. Rottman



Released May 2012 (Reissue)

S. L. Rottman
Peachtree Publishers

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Originally released in 1998, S. L. Rottman's Rough Waters is being reissued in May 2012. For fans of Gary Paulsen's novels, I think you may find Rough Waters to be pretty compelling and enjoyable.

Scott and his older brother Gregg find their world in upheaval when their parents die in a car accident. Gregg's almost 18 and about to head off to college, but Scott at 15 obviously needs a guardian. Both boys are shocked when they learn their parents left custody not to a family friend who's been a major part of their lives since birth, but instead to an uncle they've never met. They're forced to pack up some of their belongings and move from their affluent California neighborhood to a remote cabin in Colorado.

Scott makes the most of it, but his brother's rebellion is apparent from day one. When they're told that they'll be spending their summer helping their uncle run his white water rafting businesses, Scott eagerly begins to learn everything he can while Gregg starts pulling away from the family and getting into trouble. Scott soon struggles to enjoy the relationship he's forming with his uncle and try to hold on to his brother who is the only immediate family he has left.

Rough Waters does tackle topics that many teens face on a regular basis -- drugs and alcohol. The interactions between Scott and his brother are incredibly realistic and filled with emotion. It's the relationship he forms with his uncle that really impressed me. The author took time, in an honest fashion, as Scott really had never met this man and never heard about him growing up either. The confusion as to why his parents left him with a person not involved in their lives was clear. The reader learns more about the situation along with Scott helping to involve them in the story.

I really enjoyed Rough Waters. With the right mix of emotion, adventure and tension, it's a gripping read.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Friend for Einstein: The Smallest Stallion - Charlie Cantrell & Dr. Rachel Wagner



Released April 2011

Disney/Hyperion

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Children love stories about animals and this true tale about a little stallion born to two miniature horses will definitely make an impression on young readers.

Einstein was so small that he wasn’t able to play with the other miniature horses. The little fellow was so lonely that he tried to make friends with a range of creatures like kittens, geese, a rabbit and even a turtle. Unfortunately, none of them were interested in being Einstein’s friend.

But then, just when he is all but ready to give up and accept the fact that no one would play with him, Einstein comes across Lilly. The two bond immediately and the dog, who is about the same size as the little horse, is more than willing to be Einstein’s companion.

Based on a true story of an actual miniature horse, this picture book is illustrated with color photos of Einstein and all the animals he encounters. No bigger than a large stuffed toy, Einstein will gallop into your heart and you’ll enjoy multiple readings of this special book with your child.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Girl - Paige Harbison



Released February 2012

Paige Harbison
Harlequin Teen

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

A year ago, I discovered a college-aged author who really impressed me. I'm delighted that Paige Harbison's releasing her second novel, New Girl. Like Here Lies Bridget, the author creates characters that I'm certain teens will relate to and find themselves engrossed in their story.

In New Girl, readers meet an unnamed character who used to wish that a private school in New Hampshire would accept her into their program. Years later, she's forgotten about the school, but her parents never did. Learning she's been accepted, she doesn't have the heart to tell her parents that she's no longer interested. Instead, she packs up and leaves warm, sunny Florida for cold, snowy New England.

At Manderley Academy, the new girl is not accepted with a warm welcome. Her roommate treats her like dirt and the whispers of fellow students are all to noticeable. She soon learns that Becca, a popular student, disappeared and that's the only reason she landed a spot at Manderley. Soon, she's being accused of trying to fill Becca's shoes, including claiming Becca's boyfriend as her own. Rumors are that Becca was pregnant and disappeared to have the child, others fear she's dead. The new girl can't help but wonder if Becca is really out there or if the boys she loved may have caused her harm.

New Girl takes a spin at the classic novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It's been decades since I read Rebecca, so I really don't remember much about the novel. I read it for school and books I read in school tended not to stick with me.

That aside, Paige Harbison's novel did leave an impression. First, Becca is a very mixed-up character. Readers learn more about her as the novel progresses. There are times when chapters are told from Becca's viewpoint in the past making it easy to get to know her. I definitely preferred the main character as she had common sense and perseverance. She goes through a lot and grows along the way. I also liked Max, Becca's boyfriend, and loved watching his encounters with the unnamed heroine of the story.

The mystery regarding Becca's disappearance didn't actually shock me. I'd figured it out by the half-way point. I also read a lot of mysteries, so it's not uncommon for me to solve a book before the ending. I think teens will enjoy going through the facts and trying to figure things out.

All in all, New Girl is another great read. It proves that Paige Harbison is going to be a name to watch.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Up Dog - Hazel Hutchins



Released February 2012

Hazel Hutchins
Annick Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Up Dog is a charming, simple story about a puppy that gets into a little trouble. It's perfect for toddlers and young children just learning to read. Every page offers clear illustrations detailing the trouble the puppy gets into and then sums up the issue in two simple words. The repetition of "up" is perfect for teaching little ones to read.

At just over 20 pages, young children will not get bored having to sit and listen to a lengthy story. It's the perfect length and the illustrations by Fanny capture the puppy and his adventures perfectly. Anyone who's owned a puppy will sympathize with the pet owner in this story.

If you have a younger reader and need a fun, short story that makes children want to read aloud, Up Dog is the perfect choice. I highly recommend it for toddlers and preschoolers.