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.