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, 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.