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.”

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.