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, December 24, 2013

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Release Date - December 24, 2013

Sara Zarr
Tara Altebrando
Little, Brown for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It all starts with an email to EB in New Jersey and Lauren in California. They've been assigned to be roommates for the upcoming year at UC Berkeley. In hopes of getting to know her new roomie before the year starts, EB emails Lauren and introduces herself. This starts off a semi-turbulent friendship filled with ups and downs, all taking place before the pair even meet.

This is the second book I've read this year that has two authors composing emails to tell a story. I love the approach. It's fresh and really draws you into the story. For that reason, Roomies became a book that I relished finding time to read and hated when life interrupted.

As a parent, it was bittersweet, because my daughter is talking about heading south for college. I really related to both EB and Lauren's parents, perhaps more so that the girls in the book did.

There are problems along the way that many teens will understand and likely say "I've been there too!" From lackadaisical parenting to relationship woes, I think teens will find EB and Lauren to be completely enjoyable.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Warning: Do Not Open This Book by Adam Lehrhaupt

Release Date - August 2013

Adam Lehrhaupt
Matthew Forsythe
Simon & Schuster

Book Review by Bob Walch

The fun here begins with the book’s cover which states, “Warning – Do Not Open This Book!”. Of course you’ll ignore this admonition. On the inside cover you’ll find further cautionary signs. One reads, “The book is super – dangerous”. Another states, ‘”Here is the last guy who read this book.” (an arrow points to a skull!) and a third sign says, “I guess you don’t mind being mauled by Mo…..s”.
Do you bail out and stop turning pages? Of course not! Next you find, “Maybe you should put this book back. You don’t want to let the monkeys out.’

Turn back now? Nope! “Why did you turn the page? Didn’t you see the warning? Stay on this page. You are safe here. This is a good page. I like this one.”

Naturally you turn the page again. “Oh, no. Now you’ve done it.” Oops, it appears you have set loose the naughty monkeys. But wait! It gets worse!
You are warned to not tempt fate by turning more pages. Other dangers are ahead. “This is a catastrophe!” Not really, but it certainly is rather funny.

You’ll just have to keep turning pages now to get the situation under control. When you are finished be sure to read the back cover, “Whew! That was close. You’d better put this book back.” Hmmm, I just might not. In fact, I think I’ll read it again!

Children and adults will find this a unique and rather hilarious reading experience. You know what usually happens when you see a sign that warns “Wet Paint”. Adam Lehrhaupt creates a similar situation here because he knows exactly what our response will be!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Racecar Book by Bobby Mercer

Release Date - October 2013

Chicago Review Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

Children age nine and older who enjoy building things will have fun constructing various types of toy cars using the instructions presented in this book. Age- appropriate physics lessons about minimizing friction, potential energy, Newton’s laws of motion and air pressure make teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts an interactive activity. 
The twenty-five projects in this book include step-by-step instructions with accompanying photos. These hands on activities are not only inexpensive but also require minimal adult supervision or assistance. The use of recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, old CDs, chip cans, toothpicks and balloons is another plus.

You’ll find chapters here devoted to constructing mousetrap cars, rubber band racers, rocket racers, gravity racers, edible racers and racecar launchers.

Ideal for either home or classroom use, once you have created a racecar or two try setting up a track or ramp to see which one is the fastest. Not only is this a good indoor winter or rainy activity but it would be fun to use with a number of children as a school/club activity or birthday party contest.

Have the youngsters make Snickers bar racers. All you’ll need are candy bars, toothpicks and Reese’s cups or York Peppermint Patties for the wheels. Once they are finished race the candy cars down a cardboard or wooden ramp and then the contestants can eat their handiwork!

You’ll be surprised how many clever cars you can fashion from some pretty simple and inexpensive materials. Teachers and parents home schooling their child will like the scientific principles at play here as well. Also, once a car is finished try tweaking the design to improve it to make it go faster or farther.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

With a Mighty Hand: The Story In the Torah by Amy Ehrlich

Release Date - August 27, 2013

Daniel Nevins

Book Review by Bob Walch

The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. It tells the story of the beginning of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. From Adam and Eve to the first patriarch, Abraham, to Moses, who led his people out of Egypt to the promised land, the stories in the Torah have been studied and revered since it was first written down nearly 3,000 years ago.

In this special volume Amy Ehrlich offers an authentic, lyrical adaptation that is presented as a continuous narrative. Accompanying the text are the paintings of Daniel Nevins that capture the wonders of these stories. 
When I set out to write a version of the Torah, I soon determined that my best way forward would be to follow the thread of its story,” explains Ehrlich. “I would tease this out little by little and go wherever the story led me.”

Ehrlich continues, “Inevitably, this being the Torah, it led me through thickets of genealogy, law, and ritual. I’ve included portions of these – enough, I hope, to give readers a sense of how the ancient Israelites experienced their faith, and how some observant Jews still do.”

Beautifully designed and executed, With a Mighty Hand will become a cherished possession of any child who receives this special volume.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Romans: Gods, Emperors and Dormice by Marcia Williams

Release Date - September 2013

Marcia Williams
Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

Using her signature comic-strip style, Marcia Williams introduces Dormeo, a gladiator, berry-nibbler, dormouse and, your guide to ancient Rome. This cute, diminutive tour guide and historian will introduce young readers to the temperamental gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus as well as the mortals, such as Romulus and Remus who are associated with this legendary culture.

The journey takes you from the birth of the Roman Republic to the death of Julius Caesar. Along the way you’ll discover how the Romans lived, how they treated their children, what they did to amuse themselves and who some of their good and not-so-good emperors were.

There’s lots of interesting information in this book but the key is not to overlook where the author places it. Besides the central cartoon spreads on each page Williams also utilizes special boxes at the bottom of each page, plus the margins of the pages. Pay attention to Dormeo and his comments or you won’t get the full story!

This is a very “busy” book with lots happening on each page; thus, older readers (eight and up) will get more out of it. It would be ideal for introducing a unit on Rome or a discussion of ancient cultures.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book News: Mindful Parenting by Dr. Kristen Race

Dr. Kristen Race, a nationally recognized expert in child, family, and school psychology and founder of Mindful Life. In her new book, Mindful Parenting (St. Martin's Griffin; January 7), Dr. Race uses brain science research to explain how today's technology and over-scheduled kids increases anxiety and impedes proper brain development through the overuse of the amygdala. The book discusses the realities of raising a family in our fast paced and often frenetic world and provides hundreds of easy-to-implement solutions, both for parents and their children, to help them manage stress, create peace, and live happier lives.

Dr. Race refers to today's families as "Generation Stress." But such families can move away from this stigma by practicing these simple solutions to slow down, recharge, and counteract stress by using the prefrontal cortex more frequently. Take a look at some of these fun tips that Mindful Parenting suggests!

  • Quick tips that can be used in the moment to help families relax, recharge, and create happiness
  • Routine, Empowerment, Snuggle Time, Teaching Children to Relax
  • A powerful framework that can transform bedtime into a lovely transition from a busy day

See this video to watch Kristen discuss the brain science behind the book and visit her website to learn more about mindfulness practices!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Release Date - October 2013

Matthew Cody
Random House Children's

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Young Will, son of Lord Shackley and heir to Shackley House, finds himself exiled while his father is embroiled in the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart. With his home unsafe, Will flees into the woods, where he befriends a crew of bandits whose goal is to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Sound familiar? That's because the crew Will is with are Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

From the start, I adored Will. He may be 13, but he's a tough kid. He's seen a lot, gained experience from his father's men, and can stand up to the best of their teasing. That prepares him for the experiences he has with Robin Hood and the Merry Men.

The story does mirror the classic tale of Robin Hood, but it has its own style that I found appealing. I never could get through The Adventures of Robin Hood as a child, but Will in Scarlet pulled me in with the witty banter, enjoyable characters, and fast pace.

Will in Scarlet is a historical fiction novel, but it's so engaging that I can see a lot of kids who say they hate history really getting into Will's adventures. It's a great gift idea for the coming holidays!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Release Date - September 2013

Peter Brown
Little Brown

Book Review by Bob Walch

Mr. Tiger was very prim and proper. He wore an expensive suit, and top hat and was quite well mannered Unfortunately, Mr. Tiger was bored. “He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be …wild.”

Well, you might say, what has gotten into Mr. Tiger? Good question! But Mr. Tiger continued to want to break loose. Then one day the process began. First, Mr. Tiger began walking on all four legs instead of upright on just two legs. Then he let out a big ‘ROAR!’

Now that certainly got some attention. Mr. Tiger’s friends didn’t know what to think. And when he took off all his clothing and went for a swim in the town’s fountain, everyone was aghast. Everyone, that is, but Mr, Tiger; he was delighted!

If you must act wild, kindly do so in the WILDERNESS!” , Mr. Tiger’s friends said. And so off he went where he could go totally and completely WILD.

But soon Tiger became lonely. He missed his friends, so he returned to his city home. When he got back home there were some interesting changes awaiting Mr. Tiger. You’ll see what these were when you read this picture book that celebrates that little bit of wildness that resides within all of us.

If you feel the need to “cut loose” and get a little wild occasionally, this is a story that will touch your very core. So sit back and enjoy Mr. Tiger’s attempt to reconnect with his wild side.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Olivia and the Ice Show by Tina Gallo and Shane L. Johnson

Release Date - August 27, 2013

Tina Gallo
Shane L. Johnson
Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Join Olivia in this Lift-the-Flap picture book as the precocious little pig practices her ice skating skills so she will be selected to skate with "Cinderella on Ice" star Sonya Spencer. 

Olivia creates an ice rink in her backyard so she can hone her skating skills and she also teaches her friend, Julian, how to skate. Things are going along quite well when disaster strikes. Sonia Spencer is ill and the ice show is cancelled.

At this point the creative little pig decides she’ll have her own ice show for the neighborhood and her friends can skate the various roles of her “Cinderella on Ice”. Of course, you know who will skate the lead role!

Naturally the show is a big hit and everyone applauds Olivia. In fact, the local paper even runs a story about the backyard ice show and you know whose photo is prominently featured.

Everyone loves Olivia and her indomitable “can do” spirit. This latest book is ideal for winter read aloud sessions and youngsters will have fun peeking behind the flaps to discover what is concealed there.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who Goes There by Karma Wilson

Release Date - October 2013

Karma Wilson

Book Review by Bob Walch

Lewis Mouse is all set for winter. He has filled his small hole with good food and is ready to enjoy his warm, cozy home as snow blankets the countryside. Even though he is quite happy he feels there’s something missing. Well, no matter, let the winds howl and the snow blow; Lewis is all set to ride out the long winter nights.

Then Lewis hears, ‘Scritch, scratch, tap, tap, tap.’ My goodness, what could that be?
Who goes there? Who could it be?’ Lewis wonders. ‘Who scritches and scratches and taps at my tree?’

Could it be an owl, a big cat or even a bear? Lewis investigates and discovers none of these fierce creatures is making the noise. Who could it be?

You’ll have to read this picture book to see what sort of critter is making the mysterious noise. Let it suffice to say, though, that when Lewis does discover where the noise is coming from, he’ll be quite delighted with his discovery and he’ll discover what that “missing something” is!

Children four years of age and older will find this a delightful story and one they’ll enjoy reading over and over again. The illustrations by Anna Currey enhance the narrative and capture the full range of the little mouse’s emotions as this lovely story unfolds.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

Release Date - November 2013

Sarah Zettel
HMH Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As an orphan, sixteen-year-old Peggy Fitzroy is appreciative that her aunt and uncle took her in, but she's less than pleased to learn her uncle's arranged a marriage to a man who is heading for the Caribbean. She's not thrilled marrying a stranger and definitely not with being uprooted from her cousin. When her husband-to-be accosts her, Peggy fights back. She ends up being kicked out of her uncle's home empty-handed.

Peggy is lucky enough to have had a mysterious man approach. He says he was a friend of her mother's, so Peggy doesn't have to be out on the streets. Instead, she's given the opportunity to pose as Lady Francesca and become part of King George I's court. The ruse seems easy enough, Lady Francesca became ill and while she actually died, Peggy is going to pose as a recovering Lady Francesca. Along the way, Peggy becomes certain that Lady Francesca didn't succumb to an illness but instead was murdered. Peggy is determined to unravel the truth.

I have to say, I don't read many historical romances because they tend to follow the same old plot. Palace of Spies is different. I started out with a lot of respect for Peggy, because she didn't do what was expected of women in that era. She fought her betrothed and definitely had the skills needed to keep herself safe.

Once she was out of her uncle's house, the action picked up and the book became part spy novel and part romance. I loved that balance. I became addicted to the story and kept reading well into the night to see how everything would play out. This is the first book in a new series, so I'm anxious to see what happens next.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Very First Bible & Prayers: Mini Box Set by Lois Rock and Alex Ayliffe

Release Date - September 2013

Lois Rock

Lion Hudson

Book Review by Bob Walch

This nicely designed boxed set for young children combines vibrant illustrations with 20 Bible stories and 120 everyday prayers that relate to childhood. The small size makes these two books easy to handle and the material they contain is general enough to fit well in any Christian household regardless of what church the family may attend.

The Bible stories include Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale, and Moses and the King from the Old Testament plus an equal number of tales from the New Testament including the birth of Jesus and the tale of the good Samaritan.

The book of short prayers is divided into sections such as “Make Everything Better”, “All the Animals” and “People I Love”.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Waiting to Catch Fire - Promotion

In anticipation of the next Hunger Games movie, Scholastic Press offered reviewers three books with an apocalyptic theme. The first, Inhuman by Kat Falls (September 2013), is a gripping story of Lane McAvoy. Society's crumbled and heading east of the Mississippi is against the law. Lane is stunned when she is quarantined for possibly having the feral virus that makes it illegal to go over the Mississippi. She soon learns her father has been crossing the river illegally, and it's up to her to find him.

The remaining two novels were not provided in whole, reviewers simply received a sample of these novels. The first, Jeff Hirsch's The Darkest Path, features a civil war between the government and the Glorious Path. Callum Roe has been part of the Glorious Path for nine years after he and his younger brother were taken hostage and forced to enlist. Callum ends up on the run when he decides to save a dog that is about to be turned into a killing machine.

The Bar Code Prophecy takes place a dozen years from now, it's also the third book in the series. Grace Morrow learns she was adopted, and returns home to find her adoptive family have disappeared. She turns to an anti-tattoo organization to help her find them.

As a big fan of the Hunger Games novels, I have to admit, I found Inhuman and The Darkest Path to be equally enjoyable. The Bar Code Prophecy is a little harder to rate, because I'd never read the previous two novels. I do think that missing out on the previous two novels took away from my enjoyment.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Big Storm - A Very Soggy Counting Book by Nancy Tafuri

Release Date - August 2013

Nancy Tafuri
Little Simon

This classic board book offers an account of how the animals of hill hollow react to the arrival of a big storm. As the sky begins to turn gray and dark clouds gather overhead, a single bird takes cover in the hill hollow.

Next, the wind kicks up and that sends a little mouse scurrying for the hollow too. Now there are leaves swirling everywhere and a squirrel runs to take cover.

Oh dear, is that lightning? Rabbit doesn’t like the light show and thunder so he joins his friends. As the rain begins, a chipmunk, skunk, woodchuck, raccoon, red fox, and opossum all squeeze in the hollow. Now there are ten critters taking shelter and huddled together.

Is that a strange sound they hear coming from the back of the cave? Goodness, there are two bears asleep! Wow, it looks like everyone has decided to quickly exit hill hollow!

This adorable counting book not only allows a youngster to practice counting up to ten and identify some common animals but it also offers a clever story. You’ll find that The Big Storm will quickly become a favorite at story time in your household and be a book your youngster will return to again and again.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat

Release Date - August 2013

Samantha Berger
Dan Santat
Little Brown

Book Review by Bob Walch

What happens when an ordinary kid wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and begins the day in a grumpy mood? CRANKENSTEIN! Yup, that’s what you are dealing with as you’ll see when you read this picture book.

As the child a simple question like, “How are you?” or “Who wants pancakes?” and what will he reply? “MEHHRRRR!!” And, unfortunately, the day doesn’t get any better for Crankenstein. He remains cranky at school, after school, all through dinner and when you get to bedtime…well, let’s not even talk about that!

About the only thing that can improve Crankenstein’s lousy disposition is when he encounters… No, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read this story to see what finally puts a smile on Crankenstein’s sour face!

Everyone can have a monstrous day and when that happens no one wants to be around the person. With its big bold illustrations and humorous narrative, this book addresses the problem and shows how sometimes the situation can be reversed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Young Adult Review - Broken by Elizabeth Pulford

Release Date - September 2013

Elizabeth Pulford

Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

While Zara lies in a coma following a tragic crash, she finds herself in the world of her brother's favorite comic book hero. She can't find her brother, but she's certain that if she finds the comic hero, her brother won't be far. Meanwhile, her quest to find Jem isn't easy because the villain Morven is hot on her heels and visits from friends and family who she can hear but not see also adds to her distress.  The appearance of one more character is most challenging because he wants to force her to remember the details of her past before she can move on to her future.

Throughout Broken are comic book sketches done by Agnes Gomes. This adds brings readers from what I'll call Zara's real world into the comic world where she wants to find Jem. There are two real plots going on in Zara's story. One is her coma and whether or not she'll make it out of it. The other involves an incident from her childhood that she's never really worked through and that impacts her current state.

I did want to state that while I was grabbing the cover art from Amazon, I noticed a site recommends the story for ages seven and up. If you are looking at this novel for your younger child, I really think you need to look at the book first. The publisher states it is for ages 13 and up, and that is far more appropriate given some of the subject matter.

 It's a very powerful story and one that brought tears to my eyes from time to time. Broken is different, but a fascinating read.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Juvenile Book Review - Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voight

Release Date - September 2013

Cynthia Voight
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There's a bit of a Lemony Snicket feel to Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things.  Max is a pretty independent 12 year old, his parents run a local theater and are actors, so Max has learned through them the skills it takes to act like someone else. When his parents receive a mysterious invitation to travel to India, they first think about leaving Max with his grandmother, but quickly change their minds and decide to make sure he's invited on their adventure.

The day of the big voyage, Max arrives at the harbor after his class to find the ship they're supposed to sail on doesn't exist. His parents are gone, and Max has no choice but to go to his grandmother. The pair start unraveling the few clues they have to figure out what happened to Max's parents.

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things definitely had that whimsical feel at times that I loved in Lemony Snicket. That was certainly the book's strength, but I struggled with the characters and that made for hard reading. Max is a pre-teen and some of the situations he finds himself in seem to be too adult and no one stops things, especially not his grandmother who is really the one person who should be putting her foot down. Letting Max live alone in his home was the first thing that triggered my "what" response. No way would my 12 year olds been allowed to live alone in my absence. Granted that is an adult view in a book intended for 8 to 12 year olds, so it may not bother kids.

In the end, the story is okay, but I didn't find it compelling enough to make me feel an urgency to read the remaining two books in this series. It's good but not great.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Children's Book Review - A Single Pearl by Donna Jo Napoli

Release Date - June 2013

Donna Jo Napoli


Book Review by Bob Walch

Children three years of age and older will love this beautifully illustrated book that explains how a pearl is formed over time inside an oyster. Like the pearl itself, the story is a multi-layered tale of how the oyster is found by a diver who then takes the beautiful pearl and sells it to a prince.

The prince gives it to his wife who, in turn, saves it until she has a daughter. The pearl is then made into a necklace for the princess and becomes her favorite piece of jewelry.

The underlying theme of this story is that the small grain of sand feels quite worthless and insignificant at the beginning of the narrative. “I don’t matter at all. I am worthless,” the grain of sand thinks. Although it feels alone, lost and insignificant through the first part of the story, we see that over time the little grain of sand is transformed into a magnificent, precious object that attracts a lot of attention.

There’s a message here, of course and depending on the age and maturity of the child you read this story to, this aspect of the pearl’s life may be obvious. On the other hand, you may have to do some explaining to make the point clear. Either way, make sure to emphasize this part of the pearl’s story.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Children's Picture Book Review: Stick! by Andy Pritchett

Release Date - August 2013

Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

What fun! Puppy has a stick. Unfortunately, as Puppy discovers, playing with a stick isn’t much fun if someone won’t throw it so you can fetch it back. Puppy approaches a number of animals to see if they want to play.

Cow is more interested in grass, Chicken wants to look for worms and Pig only wants to wallow in the mud. What a bunch of spoilsports! Puppy is NOT HAPPY.

CLUNK! What’s this? Who threw that stick? Why, it seems to be another puppy who wants to play. Wow! Now that stick is flying all over the place as the two puppies play “throw-n-fetch”. Is this fun or what?

Guess what? Now Cow, Chicken and Pig want to play too. Will the puppies let them join in? You’ll have to read this picture book for youngsters three and older to find out!

Bright colors provide the background for the cast of adorable animals featured in this six word story of friendship and play. Don’t be surprised if your toddler quickly masters this simple text and reads you the story!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Juvenile Fiction Review: Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

Release Date - January 2013

Jane Yolen
Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Rebecca Guay
Charlesbridge Publishing

Book Review by Jessica Maguire

Cleopatra, Jezebel, and Bloody Mary...were they really bad queens? And what about Elizabeth Bathory, Mata Hari, and Virginia Hill? Were these women really bad girls or misunderstood, misinterpreted, and sometimes even heroines?

For example, was Elizabeth Bathory really bad or was she a victim of the times? Left by her husband soon after marriage, she became involved in the occult. After all, what is a young, lonely divorcee of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century to do?

Well, the lonely Elizabeth, not wanting to age (like any woman, really) had hundreds of people killed so that she could bathe in their blood with the belief that it would “make her young!” I guess that gives new meaning to the phrase blood bath!

Covering 26 notoriously bad women from 110 BCE, starting with Delilah, through the 1960s, and ending with Virginia Hill, the mother-daughter author team of Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple provide unique and fun insights about these strong women. Concluding each chapter is a comic illustration by Rebecca Guay, which stars the authors as they debate the innocence or guilt of each woman’s badness.

Readers ages ten to thirteen will enjoy reading the short chapters featuring the bad girls of this book. I must confess that I found this book a great read for adults as well. I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about these wonderfully bad women. Bad Girls would be perfect for a long flight or a quick weekend getaway read.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Children's Picture Book Review: Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex by Robert Neubecker

Book Release - July 2013

Robert Neubecker
Simon & Schuster

Book Review by Bob Walch

Ruth Ann loves visiting the Museum of Natural History. She loves all the exhibits and because of her many trips to the museum she has learned a lot about the Ice Age, the oceans, and dinosaurs. But Ruth Ann is in for a big surprise when she walks into to the new Cretaceous Surprises exhibit.

Hello, I’m Linus,” says a giant Tyrannosaurus rex that greets the little girl. “I am quite hungry. Won’t you join me for lunch?”

Ruth Ann has a few misgivings about the invitation because she fears that she may well be the main course. Imagine her surprise when she discovers that Linus is a vegetarian. The only things the T. Rex attacks are arugula, broccoli, and some tomato plants.

A little taken back by her new friend’s docile behavior and that fact that all the other dinosaurs seem to like Linus a lot, Ruth Ann wonders if Linus should be a little more ferocious. But when a couple of aggressive velociraptors jump out of the bushes, gentle Linus shows he does have an aggressive side too.

This fun picture book for children four years of age and older not only features dinosaurs but it might also be a sneaky way of convincing your little T. Rex that eating his or her vegetables might be just the way to emulate this not-so-ferocious dinosaur!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Taking Chances - Molly McAdams

Release Date - April 2013 (Reprint)

Molly McAdams
William Morrow

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by setting up the premise. Having grown up under the watch of a very strict military father, Harper has only ever been homeschooled and spent her days on the military base where the Marines watched after her. She's excited to move across the country and start a new life attending college in San Diego. Her roommate, Bree, is shocked to learn that Harper has never even kissed a guy.

In San Diego, Harper's best friend, Carter, a 20-year-old Marine, does all he can to keep an eye on Harper that she's on the opposite coast, all while her father ignores her. It isn't long before Harper is falling in love with a Brandon, a smoking hot junior, and also fighting her attraction to Bree's brother Chase. Caught in a love triangle, Harper goes from being inexperienced when it comes to relationships to suddenly having to make a choice, one that is going to break someone's heart.

How do I feel about Taking Chances? It's tough to call this one. I loved the characters, the story moved alone quickly, but things seemed so unrealistic to me at times. Bree's family suck Harper into their midst and soon she's calling Bree's parents "mom" and "dad." They include her in Christmas celebrations and go overboard with their gift giving in my opinion. The teens all seem to have thousands of dollars tucked away and can buy houses, expensive cars, etc. It's all a little too unrealistic for the average college student.

There's another aspect of the story that I can't discuss without giving away a major spoiler. Suffice it to say, I didn't find that very believable. I'd love to be able to discuss my own experiences with situations of that nature, but I'm avoiding the spoiler. If you read the book, you'll likely see what I mean.

Did I love the romantic aspect of this story? Yes. However, it is a bit of stretch to think things would work out so well given the situations Harper faces. You just have to approach the story as being one that is all about the romance...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

You're Wearing THAT to School - Lynn Plourde

Release Date - June 25, 2013

Lynn Plourde
Sue Cornelison

Book Review by Bob Walch

Penelope is doing her happy hippo dance because tomorrow is her first day of school. When she tells her best friend, Tiny, that she plans to wear her sparkle rainbow outfit, he responds, “You’re going to wear THAT?”

But then it gets even better. When Tiny sees the huge picnic lunch Penelope plans to take to school, he exclaims, “You’re going to eat THAT?”

After he convinces her to dress less flamboyantly and settle for just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Tiny thinks his friend is ready for the first day of school. But when he sees what Penelope plans to take with her for show-and-tell, Tiny shouts out, “You’re going to bring THAT?”

Of course, Penelope decides to ignore her friend’s advice and wears what she wants, packs a huge lunch, and takes her favorite stuffed toy with her to share with her new classmates.

Tiny is worried that his friend will have a terrible first day but, as you’ll see, that’s not quite what really happens.

You’ll find some “Tips for a Hippo Happy First Day of School” at the end of this humorous story. Share these ideas with your child after you’ve read this story and that first day in the classroom should be a smashing success.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Carnivores - Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat

Release Date - August 20, 2013

Aaron Reynolds
Dan Santat
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Without a shadow of a doubt, Carnivores skyrocketed its way to the top of my favorite children's books of all time. Only a few Dr. Seuss, Mog the Forgetful Cat, and The Cranberry Thanksgiving top it.

The story revolves around three magnificent creatures: a lion, a great white shark, and a timber wolf. These carnivores are being picked on by the plant eaters, and it hurts to be picked on. Hoping to gain acceptance, the three animals try to figure out how they can change so that others will like them.

Carnivores is a children's picture book. It's packed with humor, fun illustrations, and a pretty impressive base message about being yourself.

That aside, the adult in me found plenty of humor in Carnivore from a different perspective. As an omnivore, I've definitely had my share of vegan and vegetarian relatives or acquaintances ridicule me for eating dairy, meat, and seafood. Granted, there are many just as accepting out there, but for those that aren't, their preaching ways tend to get under my skin a bit. I appreciated the book's message from that angle. Be who you are and accept others for who they are.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Oliver and His Alligator - Paul Schmid

Release Date - June 25, 2013

Paul Schmid

Book Review by Bob Walch

Oliver is a little worried about his first day of school so he decides to stop by the swamp and pick up an alligator. Now, in case things “get rough” Oliver has a friend who can deal with the situation.

Right away things do get rough! A lady meets Oliver at the door of the school and asks his name. Poor Oliver suddenly can not remember his name so he responds, “Munch, munch!” which is code for “Eat her!” and the alligator does!

As the day progresses every time the little boy is unable to respond to a question, he says, “Munch, munch!” Soon his alligator is very, very full and the school room is very, very empty! Then Oliver hears noises coming from inside his alligator. “What’s this?” There is laughing and talking. School has started without Oliver.

Now what is the little boy going to do? “Munch, munch!” he said.

Young children will love this very silly story, and if you have a youngster a little wary of his or her first day of school, share this book ahead of time. Once you’ve done that, send the child off with his favorite stuffed animal and the magic words – “Munch, munch!”

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Lost Boy - Greg Ruth

Release Date - August 27, 2013

Greg Ruth

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Having grown up to enjoy comics like Ripley's Believe It or Not and Archie, I do have a weakness for graphic novels. The Lost Boy is a chilling, but not too chilling, story involving Nate. He has no say in his family's move to a new town. While he appreciates having first pick when it comes to bedrooms, he never imagines his choice will lead him on the quest of a lifetime.

Nate finds an old reel-to-reel recorder in his room, one that belonged to a kid who vanished decades ago. The discovery of the kid's story draws Nate and his neighbor Tabitha, into a new realm. One where an evil creature wants a key, and Nate has no idea where to find it. If they fail, their entire town may be destroyed.

Amazon lists the age group for this graphic novel as eight and up. I'm in agreement. There is an aspect of fantasy, maybe a touch of horror, but it's nothing more frightening than the Harry Potter books had. I also think that many adults will get hooked in the mystery and want to read along with their child.

The Lost Boy is a good way to get kids reading. I know from volunteering in my kids' school that some older kids prefer comics over books, and it's always been my opinion that getting a kid to read is far more important than whether it is a comic or not. With a graphic novel, there are plenty of pictures, but kids are going to be challenged with the vocabulary, too. That makes it a win-win situation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Discovery: Sharkopedia

Release Date - June 2013

Time Home Entertainment

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sharks fascinate me. They always have. Sharkopedia, a comprehensive guide to sharks, is a must for any family. This book is packed with information that I never knew, and as a kid, I spent a lot of time in aquariums when visiting Mystic, Connecticut, or Boston, Massachusetts.

Here are just a few of the things you'll learn:
  • Whether or not sharks sleep.
  • Which shark is pregnant for almost two years.
  • Which shark lights up like a firefly.
Every page in Sharkopedia is covered in color photos of the different varieties of sharks. The book begins with the anatomy of a shark and progresses into facts about each kind. There's also a section on conservation, and can I say the photo on one of those pages has me wishing it was the view from my front window!

Finally, the end of the book contains a guide into aquariums where you can see sharks, and a number of other resources for learning more about these ocean dwellers.

Sharkopedia is perfect for teaching children about sharks. It's also equally enjoyable for adults. I happened to have the book on my coffee table, and many of our adult visitors immediately glanced through it and wrote down the title. It definitely is marketable to all ages.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bullying Under Attack - Stephanie Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, Heather Alexander, et al.

Release Date - September 2013

Teen Ink

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Bullying Under Attack is a collection of poems and essays written by teens who are bullied, are bullies, or witness bullying and don't take action. It's a powerful collection. One that starts with a foreward by John Halligan. I live just two towns over from Essex Junction, so I remember the news stories about Mr. Halligan's son. It lead to huge changes on some school's responses towards bullying. I'd love to say every school improved, but that's not the case.

There are stories that really tugged at my heart. To the girl who said she can't wait until she's out of high school because bullying doesn't happen in the real world. I feel for her because she's soon going to learn a big lesson. Bullying may ease once you're out of school, but it never goes away. One of my darkest days came when my boss at a travel agent told me not to mess up a sale and to do whatever the client asked. I did and he immediately came to the office screaming, spit flying with his rage, and called me a "stupid blonde" repeatedly, all because the client told me he'd promised them something that he apparently hadn't, but he'd said to do whatever it took to get the sale, so I did and was apparently wrong. For weeks, any interactions with him involved him calling me "stupid" or "dumb" blonde. In the end, the pay wasn't worth his verbal abuse, so I quit.

To the boys and girls who suffer because of their sexual preference. Just remember that for every jerk, there is someone who doesn't care. My own teen daughter has defended so many gays at her school that she's been picked on for her actions. She doesn't care, and if you were in her school and she saw it, she'd be first in line to jump to your defense.

I've seen bullying from many sides. I've been the teen being tormented. I've been the bystander. Sadly, I've even been the bully, egged on by peers that I desperately wanted as friends. All of these lessons were handed down to my kids, who have also been bullied. I was the helpless parent watching my daughter and over a dozen other kids get suspended in the new zero-tolerance world, only to have the accuser months later admit he lied to get attention. Those kids who dealt with suspensions received failing grades for all three days, were not allowed to make classwork back up even after the kid admitted he'd made it up, and were ridiculed by peers as being bullies for months until the kid fessed up.

There is no perfect solution, and it's something I truly wish would change. Reading a variety of teen experiences in Bullying Under Attack is proof that times are changing, but there's still a long way to go.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nighty Night ZooBorns - Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Release Date - July 2013

Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Beginning readers will meet Kito, a little Hamadryas baboon; Siku, a polar bear cub; a newborn wolf named Pepe; and a number of other animals in this level one, ready-to-read book. Full page color photos accompany the text that introduces each zoo born animal.

Besides introducing eleven creatures that you’d expect to find at a zoo, you’ll learn some interesting information about the animal like red pandas love to eat bamboo leaves and snow leopards wrap their tails around their necks like scarves to keep warm.

To assist the young reader the sentences are simple and the text is large enough to see easily. A good bedtime read, this is also an excellent book to use before a trip to a local zoo or to launch a discussion of endangered species.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia - Jenny Torres Sanchez

Release Date - June 2013

Jenny Torres Sanchez
Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A little over a year ago, my son learned that one of his school janitors committed suicide. Just hours earlier, my son chatted with the guy and asked him if he had any plans for their three-day break and the response was: "Definitely going to take advantage of the sunny weather and hit the golf course." Two hours later, the man's family came home to find he'd taken his life. My son always wondered if he overlooked something in that conversation. Much is the case in Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.

When readers meet Frenchie, they meet a girl who is hiding a secret. She had a crush on a classmate, and when he committed suicide, he destroyed Frenchie's world. She can't tell anyone that she was with him for hours before he took his life. Her secret knowledge of that night is tearing her apart.

Frenchie made me cry. Her pain is so apparent. The girl is in dire need of a support team throughout much of the book, but she can't share her secret and that leaves her with the grave site of someone named Emily Dickinson, not the poet but Frenchie likes to think it could be, to talk to about that night.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia had me hooked from the start. I couldn't stop reading until I'd learned every nuance of Frenchie's secret. Jenny Torres Sanchez is an outstanding writer. She had me hooked, made me cry, and also had me emitting a satisfied sigh when I reached the final page. The subject is a little dark, but I think there are many teens out there who would find a level of solace with Frenchie's ordeal.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bully Bean - Thomas Weck & Peter Weck

Release Date - July 2013

Lima Bear Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Lima Bear Stories are the creation of Thomas Weck. His son, Peter, urged him to take the stories he told them as children and turn them into picture books for today's youngsters. Hence, the series of beans surrounding these colorful bears was born.

Bully Bean captures an important message - bullying. Lima Bear loves exploring the underground caves near his home. He never expects Bully Bean, the town bully, to find his peaceful sanctuary and try to attack him. When Bully Bean gets trapped in the caves, Lima Bear has the perfect opportunity to get even with the mean bear. What will he do?

I love the message behind Bully Bean, and certainly appreciated the bear's reactions to the situation. It's definitely idyllic and not always the way things play out in real life, but it would be nice if kids could learn something from this and try to change their ways.

If anything, this book offers the perfect way for parents of children who are or may be bullied to get their children to open up. That said, as much as I'd love to say that some bullies could learn from it, of the bullies I know of from my own childhood or my children's, the bullies all come from verbally or physically abusive households, so I can't see the parents caring enough to try to change their child's behavior.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Far, Far Away - Tom McNeal

Release Date - June 2013

Tom McNeal
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Far, Far Away may be classified as a young adult book, but as an adult, I was mesmerized. I think there will be equal appeal with teen and parent this time. 

Jeremy Johnson Johnson's life is unlike that of most teens. Jeremy's mother abandoned both him and his father, and since then, his father has refused to leave the house, and even sometimes his bed. At school, Jeremy also has a bully to watch for. When Ginger Boultinghouse starts showing him attention, he gets caught up in her pranks. One nearly leads to his arrest. The bigger issue for Jeremy is that his father doesn't work and therefore they are about to lose the family bookstore that happens to be attached to their house, so that means they'll soon have no home.

What people don't know about Jeremy is that he has a protective ghost following his every move. That ghost happens to be Jacob Grimm, one of the popular Brothers Grimm. Jacob knows his mission is to keep Jeremy safe from the Finder of Occasions. The problem is that Jacob has no idea who this "finder" is.

I grew up on a steady diet of the Grimms' fairy tales as a child. They are quite gruesome if you've read the real stories and not the Disney-fied versions. The interwoven facts and details of the Grimms and their stories really add to Tom McNeal's novel.

I did figure out the Finder of Occasions identity long before Jacob did, but it didn't take away anything from my enjoyment. I was hooked on the characters, the setting, and the small town ways from the very first page.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Boy and the Airplane - Mark Pett

Release Date - April 2013

Mark Pett
Simon and Schuster for Young Readers

Book Review by Bob Walch

There is no text to explain what is happening in The Boy and the Airplane. The reader will have to look at the illustrations and provide his or her own storyline. Summarizing the action here, you’ll see a small child playing with his toy airplane. Then, unfortunately, the plane ends up on the roof of a house and the child can’t climb up to retrieve it.

The downcast child is sitting under a tree, perhaps thinking about his airplane, when a seed pod whirls down from the branches above. The youngster plants it close to the house.

With the passage of time the child becomes an adult and the seedling becomes a mature tree. Finally an old man with a white beard climbs the large tree and retrieves his airplane that is still there and intact after all these years. Playing with the toy now doesn’t seem to provide him with much pleasure, so the old fellow gives the plane to a little girl. End of story!

Make of it what you will. this is a picture book that demands you and/or your child invent the story to accompany the sepia illustrations. Perhaps this will be fun – perhaps not. You’ll have to make of it what you will. On the other hand, giving this book to an older child or an adult might elicit a much different response or reaction to the drawings. This little boy will “speak” to each reader in a different way so make of this book what you will.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dare You To - Katie McGarry

Release Date - June 2013

Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Beth Risk steps in for her mother to keep her mother out of jail. Beth feels she's stronger and without a record, she won't be held for long. On the other hand, her mother has a larger risk of being put behind bars for years. Beth never expects for her long-absent uncle to suddenly reappear and demand custody.

Ryan Stone is the classic all-American jock. He's a strong contender on the pitcher's mound, and he can't figure out why he's so drawn to Beth. The fact that her uncle is a former MLB player doesn't hurt. Breaking through Beth's shell isn't going to be easy, but it's exactly what Ryan wants to focus on.

Dare You To starts with a simple dare. From there, it becomes an interesting look at two teens, both with personal demons. Watching their romance blossom and grow, even if they are high schoolers, is definitely involving and had me rooting for them.

Going back to my favorite books as a teen, Dare You To reminded me of the old Loveswept series for teens back in the 1980s. It had the same emotional pull, sense of true romance, and characters that felt real.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

BOOM!: Big, Big Thunder & One Small Dog - Mary Lyn Ray and Steven Salerno

Release Date - June 2013

Steven Salerno

Book Review by Bob Walch

Rosie is a very brave little white dog. She isn’t afraid of tigers, orange cats, fire trucks, the vacuum cleaner or even taking a bath. But, thunder is an entirely different matter. Rosie does not like thunder.

When she heard a “Boom!” or “Crack!”, poor Rosie tried to hide. No matter where she went, under a table or behind the sofa, it didn’t matter. The little dog was still frightened and could hear the racket.

But when her boy picked up Rosie and snuggled with her on his bed, Rosie felt a little better. And when the storm blew over, the brave little dog was once again ready to face the work with a happy bark. She wasn’t afraid of anything! Well, almost anything!

This is a fun picture book to share with a child who is a little afraid of stormy weather. The youngster will be able to easily relate to Rosie’s plight. Parents can also use this story to perhaps discuss the situation and why thunder and lightning storms are dangerous but not something one has to be overly fearful of.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Little Acorn Grows Up - Edward Gibbs

Release Date - April 2013

Edward Gibbs
Little Brown Kids

Book Review by Bob Walch

This board book opens with a little yellow acorn falling to the ground. As it lays there, various animals approach the acorn and ask the same question. “Little acorn, little acorn, what will you be?”

The acorn responds by saying that someday it will grow into a big tree and provide in some manner for the creature. For the white mouse that asks, the tree will one day offer shelter, while for the rabbit it will be shade to keep the rabbit cool on a warm day.

Six critters ask the question and after the little acorn sprouts and grows into a healthy big tree we see how it, in fact, keeps the promise and becomes everything it had said it would be.

Not only does this story show that great things come from small packages but,also it emphasizes the interdependence of animals and plants. Because of the repetition and simple text, Little Acorn Grows Up would also make a good beginning reader.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Trick of the Light - Lois Metzger

Release Date - June 2013

Lois Metzger
Balzer Bray

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Without a shadow of a doubt, A Trick of the Light is a book that will stand out this year. Not only is the storyline completely unique to me, but it brought attention to a fact I never knew.

Mike Welles seems to be a normal teen. He plays sports, has friends, and does exceptionally well in his classes. Things aren't always what they seem though. Tensions at home are leading to a change in Mike.

The worse things seem to get, the more Mike starts listening to the voice inside his head. That voice wants to make Mike a happier, more successful teen. Soon, Mike's life is spiraling out of control.

Some reviews jump right in and talk about the main point in this book, but I don't want to do that. I feel that knowing what the voice was kind of ruined the element of surprise for me, so I'm leaving readers to learn it as they read.

I loved the writing style. There was no beating around the bush in A Trick of the Light. The author jumped right into Mike's life and things started steamrolling from there. The more I learned about him, the more I felt for him. I found myself mad with his parents for being so oblivious to the impact their actions were having on Mike.

I picked up A Trick of the Light thinking I'd read a little before bed. However, what really happened is that by the end of the first chapter, I was so engrossed that I stayed up and read it in one sitting. It's not an overly long book, I finished it within a couple hours. It does have a strong message and brings a condition to light that I knew of but never really knew the extent of its reach.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sports Illustrated for Kids: Big Book of Who Football

Release Date - June 2013

Sports Illustrated for Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Big Book of Who Football is a collection of 101 football players compiled by Sports Illustrated for Kids. The book includes color photos, trivia regarding each player, and plenty of fun facts. This is a book geared for any child interested in football, but I found it has equal appeal with adults.

One player covers one or two pages, so it's a pretty thick guide, and the heavy cover is going to stand up to plenty of wear. In a house where sports books become prize collectibles, having a durable book is important. I do not have any worries about Big Book of Who Football falling apart after a few years.

My husband is the football addict in this house. He's been watching football games since he was a kid in the 1960s. I went through the book to see just how hard some of these trivia questions were, and surprisingly, he found many of them to take a little thought. Some he couldn't guess at all. Among the more challenging questions:

1. Who has the best winning percentage in NFL history as a quarterback?
2. Who was forced to change the way he celebrates a sack?
3. Who first dumped Gatorade on a coach in a Super Bowl?

The Sports Illustrated for Kids book is broken into sections. These sections include:

  • Champions
  • Personalities
  • Record Breakers
  • Super Scorers
  • Yardage Kings
There's also a player index in the back to make it easy to look up specific players in a hurry.

All in all, if you or your child enjoys football, I would rush out and get a copy of this book. It's great for kids, but just as much fun for quick trivia games at gatherings before the big game.

Monday, June 24, 2013

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference - Katie Smith Milway

Release Date - January 2009

Katie Smith Milway
Eugenie Fernandes
A & C Black Publishers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After Kojo's father died, he had to step up and become the man of their house in Ghana. This meant dropping out of school and spending much of his day gathering firewood for his mother to sell at market.

Their village in Ghana pools money for people to borrow for important expenditures. When Kojo's mother borrows money to buy a cart that allows her to bring more firewood to the market, Kojo asks for the remaining money to buy a hen. Soon his one purchase is bringing in a steady income that allows him to add to his flock. That one small investment may be what it takes to completely change Kojo's life.

I love the simple lesson taught in One Hen. While the loans in Kojo's town were small, they truly mattered. That's important for children to learn. Some of the best business ideas came from simple ideas that didn't cost a fortune.

With colorful illustrations, descriptive narrative, and a story that spans generations, One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference is a delightful story that's worth owning.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough - Katie Smith Milway

Release Date - September 2010

Katie Smith Milway
Sylvie  Daigneault
Kids Can Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In Honduras, Maria Luz Duarte's family struggles to put food on the table. When dry weather and poor soil nutrition lead to small crops, Maria's father must go away and find a job to earn enough money for next year's seeds.

While he's gone, Maria returns to school and learns that they  have a new teacher. Not only does this teacher teach the student important lessons like math and science, he also teaches Maria about composting, using flowers for pest control, and building gardens in a terrace fashion to help retain water and keep soil from washing down the hill. With his guidance, Maria may be able to save her family and make sure there is always plenty of food on the table.

The Good Garden is a charming story. It's all common knowledge to many Americans, but not every culture does recycle food scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves. It's a great way to introduce children to composting, companion gardening, and creating a garden that will last. The characters are enjoyable and the illustrations certainly draw you in. I'd certainly call this book a must-have!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We Are Twins!: The Story of Sam and Ben - Sylvia Pagan Westphal

Release Date - March 2013

Nicole Gsell
Pinwheel Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

We Are Twins celebrates the differences and similarities twins share. Ben and Sam are twin toddlers. They don't look alike, they don't always like the same thing, but there are things they share in common. As you read the pages, you'll learn a little bit about each young boy.

The story contains a little harder vocabulary making it an excellent story for a child who is out of primary readers but still needs something with colorful pictures and a shorter story. It's a perfect way to celebrate the joys of twins and the love of a family.

The author, Sylvia Pagan Westphal, is the mom of twins, so there is clearly a bit of an autobiographical feel to this children's book.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Basher History: U.S. Presidents - The Oval Office All-Stars! - Simon Basher

Release Date - January 2013

Simon Basher

Book Review by Bob Walch

Another in the excellent Basher series of books published by Kingfisher this little book offers information and fun facts about all the American presidents. There’s a full page cartoon illustration of each president along with another page that gives a brief, first person narrative where the president discusses some of the highs and lows of his term in office. You’ll also find some fun facts that set each man apart from the other office holders of this position. 
Type of Reading: U.S. history, biography, presidents.

Recommended Age: Seven years of age and up.

Little Kid Reaction: A friend gave this to his ten-year-old son to read and, for the most part, he enjoyed it.

Big Kid Reaction: I thought the format was excellent with facts, cartoon type art, and interesting tidbits about each president. 
Pros: Good content, the art draws in the child, and the first person approach in novel. 
Cons: Can not think of any!

Borrow or Buy: Buy. Excellent resource for educators and definitely for families home schooling their children.

Educational Themes: Good for background on U.S. presidents..