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, February 23, 2014

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska

Release Date - December 2013

Nina Laden
Renata Liwska
Little, Brown

Book Review by Bob Walch

Renata Liwska’s marvelous illustrations make this picture book about memories come alive. Featuring a small child and a collection of little animals, the central question raised here is, “What do we remember?”

Does a feather remember it once was a bird? Does a book remember it once was a word?’

Although the text is minimal the illustrations expand each question and provide more meaning. (A picture is worth a thousand words certainly applies here!) For example, on one page you’ll see the little boy raking leaves.

Does work remember it once was play?’

The adjacent page shows three cute raccoons having fun and frolicking in a pile of leaves.

The final page of the book encourages the reader to list a few of the “favorite things” he or she remembers. In a classroom situation or story time at the public library, this question could really engage the audience and be a fun activity.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Peanut: A Nutty Tale About Sharing by Simon Rickerty

Release Date - October 2013

Simon Rickerty
Simon & Schuster

Book Review by Bob Walch

Simon Rickerty’s minimalist approach works beautifully in this cautionary tale about learning to share. The central characters are two red and blue spider-like blobs and a peanut.

When they spy the peanut (on the opposite page in the corner), the two blobs cry out in unison, ‘It’s mine!’ Actually they aren’t sure what the peanut is, but no matter. They both want it!

Is it a chair, hat, telephone, rattle, drum, boat, or skateboard? The blobs can’t decide but the ‘It’s mine!’ struggle continues. Then suddenly a much, much larger black blob appears and seizes the peanut. In the ensuing struggle, the peanut bounces away and something really funny happens.

I won’t spoil the ending of this clever picture book by telling you what happens, but let’s just say the red and blue blobs work out their difference of opinion and learn to share.

Children three years of age and older will love these bright, bouncy illustrations, although it might take a slightly older youngster to fully understand the book’s underlying message about sharing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Me Since You by Laura Wiess

Release Date - February 18, 2014

Laura Wiess
MTV Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 At 16, Rowan Areno feels a little too sheltered by her parents. Her father is a police officer and lets Rowan get away with nothing. When her father's fellow officer catches her skipping school, she expects the worst, but she never expects her entire life to change so drastically from one simple mistake. As the world around her crashes down, Rowan learns more about life than she should have to.

If you're rating Me Since You based on the number of Kleenex it took to get through it, the answer is five. Rowan is a personable young woman, and the situations she faces are not easy. I can see rebelling and not thinking your actions through. I think anyone who has been a teenager has rebelled at some point. I sympathized with her, but as the real story took off, from the moment the stranger enters the scene, I couldn't stop reading.

Laura Wiess's story isn't an easy read. It's incredibly emotional, definitely keeps you on your toes, and certain evokes plenty of "what ifs" as you read each chapter as they lead to the story's end. There is a discussion guide at the end that would be perfect for book clubs and classroom discussions. I think this is an excellent book to bring into a classroom and see how different teens react. It's an interesting look at how social media can change a girl's life and also how the actions of a stranger can impact an entire town.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Olivia and the Perfect Valentine by Natalie Shaw

Release Date - December 2013

Natalie Shaw
Shane Johnson
Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Olivia is determined to make this Valentine’s Day really special. The little, white pig is going to make perfect, personalized cards for everyone on her list. Of course, Olivia also likes Valentine’s Day because red is her favorite color and she can use it to her heart’s delight.

Amassing a pile of red paper, white paper doilies and her crayons, Olivia is ready to begin producing her special Valentine’s Day cards. Each card she makes has a special picture that relates to something the person who will receive it likes. For example, Firefighter Fred’s card has a fire dog and hose on it while her brother Ian’s card features a soccer ball with hearts on it. 
There were so many cards to make because Olivia didn’t want to forget anyone but, alas, she did. Olivia forgot her pet dog and cat. Fortunately, Olivia’s mother came up with the perfect solution to this dilemma. 
Was this the best Valentine’s day ever for Olivia? Of course it was!
Not only is this a fun story but children who are honing their reading skills can practice by reading this book aloud to their parents or younger brothers or sisters.