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.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb

Release Date - December 2013

Rosy Lamb

Book Review by Bob Walch

Paul is a goldfish who has spent his life going around in circles until Bernadette enters his life. The day Bernadette joins him in his fish bowl she immediately points out that there is more to life than swimming around in circles.

Haven’t you ever noticed that there’s a whole world out there? There are so many things to see. Come look over here.’

The two gaze out and see a large banana sitting on a dish. ‘That is a boat!’ says Bernadette.

And that big round thing off in the distance? ‘That is a cactus!’ exclaims Bernadette. Well, actually it is an alarm clock but Paul is in no position to quibble.

Bernadette’s assessment of what is outside the fish bowl may be a bit off, but no matter. The important thing is that (a) she has opened up new vistas for Paul and (b) Paul now has someone to share his domicile with.

This charming ode to an active imagination and the way that life can change when a bewitching individual like Bernadette opens your eyes is intended for children four years of age and older, but I think this picture book will resonate with many adults as well.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Abby Cadabby Up and Down: Brand New Readers

Release Date - September 2010

Ernie Kwiat
Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

Sesame Street characters Abby, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch are featured in this reader that contains four short stories that will start beginning readers on the right path to reading proficiency.

In the first story Abby is looking for a basket to carry a plant in and Elmo is going to give her some assistance finding one. Since she is riding her bike, Abby needs a basket that is just the right size to fit on the handlebars. It will take Elmo a while to locate the right fit, but he will!

Next up, Abby and Elmo are playing with a toy boat in Abby’s wading pool. Elmo decides to see if the boat can carry an apple. One apple makes the boat tilt backwards but two balances the load. Perfect! Well, it is perfect until Elmo decides to eat one of the apples.

The third story finds Abby and Elmo preparing for a picnic outing. The pair must pack the basket carefully so everything fits. Oops, now the basket is too heavy. Of course, Elmo has an idea. Eat some of the goodies now and then the basket will be manageable!

Finally, in the last story Abby decides to play with Oscar’s trash can. Naturally, Oscar is not too thrilled with someone messing with his house so finally he pops up and shouts, Scram!’

Parents should first read the instructions on the inside cover for helping a brand new reader and then enjoy this book with their youngsters. The variety of stories and familiar characters will make this a positive experience for any child just beginning to master basic reading skills.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Release Date - January 28, 2014

Elizabeth Scott
Harlequin Teen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Heartbeat seems like a story ripped from the headlines. It's powerful, emotional, and, even though I'm looking at the situation from an adult point of view, made me sympathize with each character.

Emma had it all. She was a straight A student with dreams of college. She loved her mom and new stepfather, and she also was looking excitedly to the arrival of her baby brother. When her mom suffers a stroke and dies, Emma's world shatters. It's worsened when her stepfather decides to keep her mother "alive" on machines until the fetus is developed enough to survive.

Now, Emma is at odds with her stepfather. She hates him for thinking only of his son and not Emma's mother's feelings. It's during one of her routine trips to the hospital to sit with her mother's body that Emma meets Caleb, a classmate who is always in trouble for stealing cars. Caleb is performing his community service at the hospital, and he and Emma click. They have a bond that no one can match, and both Emma and Caleb may be exactly what they need to heal from the grief and anger they face.

Every year, I create an author's to watch list and Elizabeth Scott kicks off this year's list. This story had me teary eyed from the start. I could feel every piece of Emma's pain, though I also understood exactly where her stepfather was coming from, so that made it hard to find fault with either of them. Caleb, I can't get into how painfully sorry I was for that boy. Elizabeth Scott did such a great job creating his family dynamics that I wanted to climb into the book to give him a hug.

As stated earlier, I said this story had the feeling of being ripped from the headlines. For any reader who hasn't been following this story, there is currently a case in Texas where machines are keeping a brain-dead woman alive until her fetus is old enough for delivery. It's another really sad case that you might want to read.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Basher Basics: Space Exploration by Simon Basher

Release Date - October 2013

Simon Basher

Book Review by Bob Walch

Filled with all sorts of interesting information about space travel, this little book invites young readers to venture to the outer limits of the cosmos. They’ll learn about Apollo 11, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station in the book’s first chapter.

Chapter Two delves into the Venus Express which was launched in 2005 and will end its mission this year, Sputnik 1, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Then, in the next chapter, you’ll move even further out in space and read about Voyager 1 and 2, the Galileo program, and the historic Cassini-Huygens flight sent out to study Saturn’s rings, atmosphere and moons.

Finally, the book’s last short chapter looks at the James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2018 and the Planck and Kepler telescopes, plus the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence project and Gaia, a mission to make a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way.

Designed for young readers eight years of age and up, this book will serve as a good introduction to space exploration. It comes with a small poster that budding astronauts can remove and add to their bedroom’s wall decor.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Inspiration: A Pop-up Book by Ron van der Meer

Release Date - September 2013

Tango Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

Although this is considered a children’s novelty, I believe this particular pop-up book would probably be more appreciated by an older audience. Paper engineer Ron van der Meer pulls out all the stops here to create a complex series of pop-ups that dazzle the eye.

Van der Meer finds his inspiration in six Chinese proverbs that are intended to inspire and uplift the reader. The paper sculpture for each proverb is not only appealing and rather intricate, but obviously the intent is to offer a little inspiration to the viewer as well.

The proverbs range from Count not what is lost, but what is left,” “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere,” to “If there is a wave there must be wind.”

This blending of ancient Chinese wisdom with cutting edge, bright, bold, paper engineering is a must purchase for anyone who collects books of this nature. These pages will hopeful awaken curiosity in young readers while, with an older audience, they will elicit a real appreciation of van der Meer’s imagination and skill.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pretenders by Lisi Harrison

Release Date - October 2013

Lisi Harrison
Poppy/Little Brown

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A new year of high school is starting and for five misfit students, this means the first year of high school. There's Sheridan, a bit of a drama queen who gathers strength by acting like her favorite character. Lily who has been homeschooled for years and is now entering public school for the very first time. Duffy is an all-around athlete, but his home life isn't all you'd expect. Jagger's parents are on death row, so he's an emancipated minor, which makes the students envious, and he's also pretty mysterious. Vanessa's parents are heading for divorce, and she puts tremendous pressure on herself to excel.

Pretenders is told through a series of journal entries assigned by their English teacher. The story begins in the future with one of these freshman (now a member of the Phoenix 5) taking these private journals and sharing them with all, ten the origins of the journals and the teenagers' lives comes next.

I found Pretenders to be a little Gossip Girl-ish, but somehow the writing to me was more addicting. Gossip Girls tended to involve a lot of drinking, drugs, and even some sex, while these five teens have a slew of different issues that made them more intriguing.

This is the first part of a series. Like Gossip Girl, the story does come to a neat and tidy ending. There will be cliffhangers and many story lines are left open for the next book in the series. Look for License to Spill in June of 2014.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Patrick Eats His Peas and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes

Release Date - August 2013

Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

Even reluctant readers will find this a book they’ll want to dive into. Patrick Bear is a delightful combination of cute and bratty, which means his daily activities can keep his parents on their toes and the reader chuckling with glee.

In the first story Patrick’s mother serves up some peas with dinner. Patrick is not happy with this veggie. ‘Peas are little green balls of mushy poison! I’m not hungry!’ declares the little bear. After unsuccessfully trying to hide the peas in his napkin (they roll out onto the floor), Patrick comes up with a plan that will satisfy his mother without involving trickery.

The next short story follows Patrick as he decides to assist his dad in doing yard work. Naturally this doesn’t go well and Patrick is more of a nuisance than a help. Eventually the mischievous bear is sent indoors to help his mon in the kitchen!

The final two stories focus on bath time and going to bed. As you now expect, Patrick is going to make both of these routine activities a memorable experience for his partents.

In this level two reader the author uses a cartoon format to tell each humorous story. Parents using this book with a young reader should take a look at the “How to Read Comics with Kids” on the back, inside cover page. There are some good ideas here on how to engage the child in the reading experience and make it something the youngster will want to take part in.

Thanks to its sturdy binding, this book will stand up well to heavy use and would be an excellent addition to any children’s school libraries.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The ABC's of Yoga for Kids by Teresa Power

Release Date - December 2013 (Reissue)

Teresa Power
Kathleen Rietz
Stafford House Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The ABC's of Yoga is a reissue, and one that I feel parents of school aged children should own. There's no question that kids today are feeling incredible stress. I'd never even heard of an anxiety attack until I was in my 20s and experienced them, so it was disheartening to see both of my children start having them when high school hit. Basic yoga principles are one of the most helpful tools I could share with them. Yoga is often what we turn to to manage stress before it has a chance to take over.

Each letter of the alphabet is represented by some easy yoga poses children can follow. The details share the pose's positioning in a colorful illustration and an easy-to-follow poem. For example:


I am a cow on all fours
Staring out the barnyard doors.
I arch my back, inhale, and say, "Moo."
Yoga is an activity I love to do.
Exhaling now I round my spine.
This helps me keep my body aligned.

With more than 50 poses included, this is a book I really wish had been around when my kids were younger. It's a book I plan to purchase for my friends' younger children and one I am thrilled is out there.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell

Release Date - January 14, 2014

Patricia Hruby Powell
Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Happy New Year! It's with pleasure that I get to start the year off with a fascinating look at the life of Josephine Baker. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker is a children's picture book, but it's written in such a way that I think adults will like it as much as, if not more than, the child they're reading to.

The story begins with a very young Josephine Baker who is living in the slums. It then progresses into her love for music and dancing and continues sharing her story as she went to France, worked for the Red Cross, and went on to become a role model for thousands of people. It's written in prose, so while it tells a story, each page is a poem, so you can break the story up over a few bedtime rituals or read it in one sitting.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker definitely wowed me. I'm not sure all children will gain the same appreciation, but hopefully some out there do and learn from this woman's charitable actions and incredible strength.