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.”

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..

Saturday, June 8, 2013

From Ashes - Molly McAdams

Release Date - April 2013

Molly McAdams
William Morrow

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm really struggling to describe how to talk about From Ashes. It's Jekyll and Hyde approach was both intriguing and alarming. There were times I wanted to give up, and other moments where I simply couldn't stop reading. Anyway, here goes...

Cassidy Jameson was always her father's princess. He doted on his daughter and promised her the moon. Then on her sixth birthday, a sudden heart attack ended his life. Cassidy's life changed from that moment on. Her mother turned to alcohol, remarried, and with her new husband made Cassidy's life a living hell. Hitting her with fists wasn't enough. They would beat her with empty bottles, mugs, and even the heels from her mother's stilettos. Cassidy refused to tell, however, because that meant taking her away from the only person who mattered - Tyler, her next-door neighbor and caretaker of both her emotional and physical injuries.

When Tyler leaves for college, he asks Cassidy to come with him. She can share the apartment with Tyler and his cousin Gage. They'll live as one happy family, and Cassidy will finally be free from her abusive parents. The minute they arrive, Cassidy takes one look at Gage and falls head over heels, just as Gage does with her, but Tyler has loved Cassidy for far too long to give her up at this point and will say whatever it takes to make sure his cousin backs off.

That's the premise. The thing is there were so many things that simply made no sense to me. The abuse itself. Either Tyler's parents were idiots, or they simply didn't care enough to get involved. That Tyler's father stitched her wounds up instead of taking her to the ER is absurd. He was a doctor, and I know well enough from my own children's injuries that doctors are trained to spot and report abusive situations. I also wondered how she managed to get through school without anyone noticing. The required scoliosis checks done by school nurses should have triggered some alarm.

From Ashes is a young adult book, however, so I figure that some teens might not think of those aspects and I kept reading. Tyler is simply unlikeable. Bottom line for me is that he's lying scum and I really wish Cassidy had seen it earlier. I didn't have too many issues with Gage, other than he needed to stop being so trusting. Cassidy is a wounded bird, obviously given her past, and I liked watching her gain strength as the book continued.

Here is my other reservation. This book starts out as a young adult book, but towards the end, it was very adult to me. I had to question if I was reading an adult romance or not by the end. Many times I was screaming at Gage and Cassidy to simply sit down and talk to each other rather than always going through scummy Tyler.

Bottom line is that I did enjoy the book, but it went on longer than I think it needed to. It also definitely approached a pretty steamy adult romance by the end. I'm certain my own 17 year old would love the beginning of the book, but by the halfway point, I'm thinking she would have started hating the characters and given up.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Justice: Deck of Lies - Jade Varden

Release Date - December 2011

Jade Varden

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Justice, the first book in the Deck of Lies series, costs very little money and is a gripping story. It's also very short at under 100 pages per my Nook, though Amazon lists it at 154 pages, so it takes little time to read.

The description given on Amazon is pretty vague. That makes it tough to describe the plot without giving away any spoilers, but the basic premise involves a girl named Rain Ramey who wins a scholarship to a prestigious academy. Her first day proves fitting in won't be easy, and then something even more unimaginable happens and Rain's entire world is shattered.

Justice is a mystery though you won't know that straight away. The book begins like a typical teen drama filled will the cruelty between the popular crowd and the others. There is a mystery there, you just need to keep reading. Within a few chapters, I found myself hooked and couldn't put it down.

There are some things that don't make sense to me, but without being able to reveal the true plot of this book, I don't want to go into spoilers and mention any of them. I did still love the book, but I'm hoping the things that didn't make any sense to me are cleared up in future installments.