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.”

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Meadow Count - Marcia Daft

Released 2010

Marcia Daft/Moving Through Math/Missarmia Productions
Steven Sugar
Rebecca Sugar

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Meadow Count is the second offering in the Moving Through Math program created by Marcia Daft. Unlike the previous book, Clap, Drum, and Shake!, I can see exactly how Meadow Count helps children build their counting skills.  The entire book has children jumping, twirling, stretching, tapping, and using other motor skills as they associate each action with a number, counting them out along the way.

Each picture in the book shows a child performing the narrator's action a specific number of times. Things like "one leafy spin," "three giant puddle jumps," "seven high reaches," or "ten soft strokes," allow children to both enjoy a physical activity as well as count out loud while performing that activity. As I read the book, it reminded me of the waltz where beginners count the "one-two-three" steps out while dancing. It's that same practical theory at play.

Meadow Count is currently going through a "review" and the reissue date is in the summer of 2012. For now, if you're interested in learning more about the Moving Through Math program, visit http://web.mac.com/marciadaft/Marcias_Site/Products_MTM.html to learn more or to purchase the products.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Clap, Drum, and Shake It! - Marcia Daft

Released 2007

Marcia Daft/Moving Through Math/Missarmia Productions
Steven Sugar
Rebecca Sugar


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm going to tackle Marcia Daft's Clap, Drum, and Shake It! from two perspectives. First, as a parent, I admit to being very tired of the different teaching methods being used to teach math today. Quite frankly, and I did spend a full year as a parent-teacher helper, so I've seen Everyday Math being used in the classroom, and for some students, it really just is a joke. Given that, after reading the information given with the Moving Through Math program, I was highly skeptical.

Let's start with why I was so skeptical. My daughter squeaked by with B's and C's in elementary school because her brain could not process the lessons taught with Everyday Math. Creating a grid to do a multiplication problem took more time than necessary and wound up with her feeling frustrated and often crying because she just didn't get it. I tried to teach her the way I'd learned and her teachers criticized me and would mark her papers as wrong because she didn't use the method they were teaching. It wasn't until sixth grade that her teacher agreed with me and re-taught all the students "Old School" math. My hat is off to Mr. Demar for doing that because her grades suddenly flew to A's, and now in high school, she's in Accelerated Algebra and has a 99% average for the year. She's been recommended to take two accelerated math courses next year. There really is something to be said for the old school methods. As far as I was concerned, something like Moving Through Math was another program that wouldn't help every learner. After reading Clap, Drum, and Shake It!, I wasn't convinced either.

I did, however, hand the book to a friend's child to get his reaction. Bottom line, he absolutely loved this book. He had the time of his life clapping, drumming, and moving around. He said it was one of the "funnest" books he's read. If kids are having fun and a lesson might sink in, there's something to be said for it. Given that, I recommend Clap, Drum, and Shake It! just because it gets kids up and moving around. As for it's benefits in teaching math, I'm still not sure. I discussed how it was showing him patterns, and he really didn't seem to care. He just wanted to keep going through the book moving around and making noise. Over time, the patterns and repetition may sink in. If they never do, one thing is certain, he's learning to read some more difficult words by identifying the words and pictures.

Clap, Drum, and Shake It! is currently going through a "review" and the reissue date is scheduled for the summer of 2012. For now, if you're interested in learning more about the Moving Through Math program, visit http://web.mac.com/marciadaft/Marcias_Site/Products_MTM.html to learn more or to purchase the products.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Vanishing Game - Kate Kae Myers



Released February 2012

Kate Kae Myers
Bloomsbury USA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Vanishing Game is creepy and mesmerizing all at the same moment. Yet, I also found myself slightly disappointed, and I'm finding that weighs heavily on my mind while doing the review. It's one of those books that I'm really glad I read, but I'd like to rewrite sections of the book.

Jocelyn's been mourning the loss of her twin brother, Jack, for a short while when she gets a letter from Jason December. Only three people knew about this Jason, Jocelyn, her brother, and their best friend Noah. The trio grew up in an abusive foster home that has left Jocelyn scared and suffering from nightmares ever since. Jason December was a game the children invented as a secret code only they understood. The reappearance of Jason December means one thing to Jocelyn - Jack must still be alive!

Jocelyn seeks the help of Noah because he is the only person who really knew Jack. Together, the teens set out to decipher Jack's clues and determine if he could possibly be alive. If so, why would he have faked his death?

There's no doubt that The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers is creepy and full of twists. It certainly kept me on my toes, and as someone who enjoys logic problems and various other puzzles, I was amazed to find that many of the puzzles were extremely hard to solve. Short of one, the others had me clueless.

It's the ending that left me floored. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will bet that few readers see it coming. Quite honestly, the ending leaves you feeling like someone pulled the rug out from under you. For that reason, I can't see myself ever forgetting this book.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yoko Learns to Read - Rosemary Wells



Released February 21, 2012

Rosemary Wells
Disney Books

Book review by Bob Walch

Yoko and her mother keep reading the same three books from Japan until the little kitten realizes that her teacher will not give her credit or “leaves” for her reading tree at school it she just rereads the same stories over and over again.

It is then that Yoko discovers that her mother doesn’t read English. When the pair check out some books from the library, it is little Yoko who begins to decipher the text and read the story.  Now that she is beginning to read by herself, the cute kitten offers to help her mother learn their new language.

This is the ideal transition book for a child who is on the verge of beginning to read. Along with Yoko, the youngster can start to master the text and figure out the key words. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Girl Unmoored - Jennifer Gooch Hummer



Released March 2012

Jennifer Gooch Hummer
Fiction Studio Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In many ways, I connected with the heroine in Girl Unmoored. While she appeared to be a little younger than me at the time, I was a teen in the 1980s and really understand a key component of this book better than many of today's youth. For that reason, I probably shed a few more tears than many of today's teens will.

Apron Bramhall's coping with her mother's death, her father's live-in girlfriend, and the announcement that her father and his girlfriend, "M," are expecting a baby. M is anything but pleasant towards Apron. Apron's best friend abandoned their friendship to hang out with a popular girl, and that leaves Apron with a lousy home life and little in the way of companionship, until she meets Mike.

Mike looks exactly like Jesus, so it's not surprising that he's playing the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar. Soon, Mike and his partner Chad take Apron under their wing and have her helping out in their flower shop. Spending time with them helps Apron discover her importance in the world around her.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, which makes it incredibly hard to do this review. Suffice it to say that there are many secrets at play in the book and as they're revealed, the reader's heart is destined to feel a few twangs of sympathy. I clearly remember sitting in our high school auditorium where many of the things Mike and Chad face were covered in what years later would be proven completely untrue. If any reader thinks some of the incidents in this book would never have happened, you're wrong.

If you only read one teen novel this year, Girl Unmoored is the book to read. It's powerful and I really hope it gets some teens thinking about their actions towards themselves and towards others! Jennifer Gooch Hummer is an amazing author, and I will be making sure I'm first in line for her future novels.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fallen In Love - Lauren Kate



Released January 24, 2012

Lauren Kate
Delacorte Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Since entering high school where books are chosen by the teacher, my daughter's lost some interest in reading. This is unusual for me because she devoured all of the Twilight books in one week. The only books she has read since high school began are Lauren Kate's Fallen series. She loves them and was excited over the Fallen in Love anthology. I've never read one up until now.

One thing is apparent, you really should read the current books in the series before delving into Fallen in Love. There's a lot of backstory I missed and as a result, I had to stop and ask my daughter to quickly brief me on the characters and the "Announcers."

Fallen in Love is an anthology of quick romantic tales between specific characters from the series. The book starts with "Love Where You Least Expect It." Shelby and Miles believe they've taken an Announcer home to Shoreline only to find themselves in the midst of the Medieval times. After spotting Luce in a village, they vow to help her reunite with Daniel in time for the town's Valentine's Day Faire. I loved this story simply because it captures the essence of one of my favorite stories of all times - O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

"Love Lessons" is Roland's story. It's a continuation of Shelby and Miles' short story in that they've asked him to locate Daniel and bring him to the Faire. This segues into a romance from his past. He's madly in love with Rosaline, despite what the rules of society were back then, and this time he means to prove his love to her. Only things are not what he expects when he does find her.

"Burning Love" focuses on Arriane and continues from something that happens in Roland's stories. My daughter said she was overjoyed to finally learn how Arriane got her scar. It'ss a bittersweet story about true love in the most unforgiving of circumstances.

Finally, "Endless Love" shares Luce and Daniel's Medieval Valentine's tale. Luce is not from nobility and Daniel's a knight, which means they could never be together. Luce's friends, however, are determined to help them reunite and enjoy a magical Valentine's Day together.

Finally, Fallen in Love ends with an epilogue that reunites the friends. There's also a sneak peek into June's Rapture.

I didn't mind Fallen in Love, but I don't think I got as much out of the story as long-time readers of the series. Not understanding what happened in the other books, and the relationships of the characters, really made this just an average read for me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Posts Will Resume Soon

Last week wasn't a good week. Our septic tank stopped draining effectively, and the septic guys found a collapsed section of pipe. The people who were supposed to fix the issue came out, charged us $300 and said there was nothing they could do unless we paid them $600 to $700 to bring out excavators. We have another person coming out tomorrow who said he can replace the collapsed section of pipe and then run a camera down to see if there are other issues before bringing out the heavy machinery.

But life with limited use of a septic tank means we're having to do laundry elsewhere, and that's pretty time consuming on top of freelance writing jobs. I can't push my writing work off, so I'm focusing on that so that there is money coming in to take care of these bills we're facing.

Meanwhile, I'd planned to read yesterday, but our oldest cat took a major turn for the worse and needed my attention throughout the day and night. The vet still can't find out why she's having seizures after doing scans and blood panels, but yesterday's series of seizures really left her weak.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls) - Victoria Foyt



Released January 2012

Victoria Foyt
Sand Dollar Press

Book review by Tracy Farnsworth

In Revealing Eden, the first book in the Save the Pearls series, the world has changed. The air temperatures are well in excess of 100 degrees and solar radiation is deadly, especially to those with fair skin. Humans now live underground. Eden Newman's 18th birthday is six months away. Per current laws, she must mate before her birthday or she'll be tossed outside into the brutal heat where she's sure to perish.  The problem is Eden is a Pearl. It's the "Coals" who are respected in this new world and anyone with pale skin is considered to be one of the lowest forms of life. As a result, Eden's potential matches are few and far between.

When the man Eden believed to be her potential mate betrays her, attempting to steal her father's top-secret experiment, she's forced to trust in the one person she loathes. Escaping to a rainforest, Eden learns a new way of life and struggles to save her father and herself.

Revealing Eden is part one of the Save the Pearls series. Typically, series novels end with an open ending that leaves you frustrated and wanting the next book to come out instantly. I appreciated that Victoria Foyt actually ended things so that I was both satisfied and eager to read more. Not every author can pull that off, but her talent is clear.

There is a convincing blend of romance, action, and adventure in Revealing Eden. If you're looking for a book that is part apocalyptic/futuristic novel, a study into the human race, and the quest to find true love, you won't go wrong with Victoria Foyt's latest.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Left, Right, Emma! - Stuart Murphy



Released February 2012

Stuart Murphy
Charlesbridge

Book review by Bob Walch

If your youngster is having trouble distinguishing his or her left and right sides, this picture book by visual learning specialist Stuart Murphy will help solve the problem.

Using a simple text, repetition and a cute cast of characters, Murphy presents a way of helping your child remember which side is right and which side is left.

Emma is asked to be the leader of her class marching band but to do so she’ll have to keep everyone in step, which means she must know her left from her right side. A little unsure of herself, Emma’s teacher comes to the rescue with a piece of red string she ties on Emma’s right wrist.

With the simple aid, Emma can practice her “left, right moves”  and on the day of the performance all goes well because everyone moves together in step.

Besides the story itself, which illustrates how Emma masters left and right, the author also includes a  “Closer Look” page that suggests a few other ways parents can reinforce this important cognitive skill in their preschoolers.  

It won’t be long at all before  your child,  just like Emma, will be very comfortable with the concept of left and right.

Monday, March 5, 2012

You Can Run - Norah McClintock



Released April 2012

Norah McClintock
Lerner Publishing

Book review by Tracy Farnsworth

Robyn Hunter returns in a second teen mystery. In You Can Run, one of Robyn's a classmates goes missing. Strangely, the girl vanished on the same day she and Robyn had a disagreement. The girl's mother is very ill and is desperate to see her daughter. Her Robyn's father is hired to help track the girl down. He's having a hard time getting students to talk, so Robyn agrees to step in and see if she can find any hint of where the girl is hiding out.

It was clear from the start that I'd missed the first book in a series. While the relationships between the characters are summed up for readers who are new to Robyn Hunter, there are parts I didn't feel were recapped well enough for me to really understand the relationship between Robyn and her boyfriend. It's strictly for that reason that I wish I'd read the first book in the series, Last Chance.

Despite that one reservation, I did enjoy You Can Run. The relationships between Robyn and her parents make for fun reading, and add in the dash of romance with a little sleuthing and it's a great blend. I think any reader who enjoys romantic mysteries will love Norah McClintock's series.