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, April 30, 2014

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker

Release Date - April 22, 2014

Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

For Emery Jackson, daughter of a former NBA player and a Laker's cheerleader, being overweight seems to be the worst crime  imaginable. Ridiculed by many of her peers and her perfect older sister and subjected to a mother who feels the best sandwich is one ordered without bread because carbs are evil, Emery finds solace in her equally overweight boyfriend Ben.

When Emery learns her family is on the verge of bankruptcy and that reality TV is the only way out. She agrees to become the star of a show titled Fifty Pounds to Freedom. The goal is to have Emery lose 50 pounds in 50 days. If she's successful, she gets $1,000 for every pound lost and her family receives $1 million. Even Emery knows that with her family about to lose their home, she can't say no.

I love how reality TV is portrayed in How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love. I've never understood the world's fascination with reality TV, it's quite sad the things people will put themselves through in order to gain money. Ken Baker does a great job at capturing how much of a show is really scripted and not impromptu. I also loved that Emery never turned into a fake person like her mother and sister. Her wit, sarcastic nature, and strength came through from finish to end.

That said, the descriptions used to come up with a physical image of Emery often seem over the top. At 199 pounds and 5.5 feet in height, I am not convinced she would have "elbows resting atop rolls of blubber that billow out from the sides below my bra like squishy armrests." Yes, she will have some extra weight, but not quite the blubbery whale the author kept portraying.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lately Lily: The Adventures of a Traveling Girl by Micah Player

Release Date - March 25, 2014

Micah Player
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It seems that Lily has been everywhere. With her parents traveling around the world for their jobs, Lily accompanies them to every corner of the globe. She's traveled by plane, boat, and even hot air balloon, and seen cities like Paris. Join Lily on her adventures around the globe, making friends along the way.

Lately Lily's illustrations drew me in. They're colorful and do not make it immediately obvious where Lily is now. Children and their parents will need to use some of the clues to figure it out. I can see that becoming a fun game to play while reading Lately Lily.

The story itself is ideal for a beginning reader. There are some challenging words, but not too many, and pages often have just one short sentence, so children will not feel overwhelmed as they read each page.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Tale for Easter (Tasha Tudor Collection) by Tasha Tudor

Release Date - January 2014 (Reissue)

Tasha Tudor
Little Simon

Book Review by Bob Walch

This reprint of a Tasha Tudor classic story first released in 1941 features the artist’s watercolors and nostalgic narrative that take the reader back to a time when life was simpler and Spring was definitely a time of rebirth and new beginnings.

The characters are all dressed in period clothing that dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. This rural idyll features little rabbits, ducklings, lambs and a sweet little girl who is told that “if you have been especially good and done nearly everything you have been told” there may be some wonderful surprises awaiting her on Easter morning.

This classic board book is nice and sturdy so it will hold up to heavy use and last a long time. This is a good thing because A Tale for Easter will probably become a book you’ll want to bring out each year with the Easter decorations to share with family and friends.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Release Date - April 2014

Ann Brashares
Delacorte Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There's been a lot of buzz about The Here and Now, the new novel by bestselling author Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).  This new one is a time travel romance, and it's one that does get you thinking. The key point to this book, no matter what happens, the chances for a happily ever after are definitely skewed.

Prenna James came to New York when she was twelve. Unlike most people who move to a new state or country, Prenna has additional rules to follow as she didn't move from another area, she moved from another time. An earth thousands of years in the future where a plague transmitted by mosquitoes is killing off the population. Among the many rules she and her fellow "travelers" must follow, two are proving tougher than others. These rules are simple, she cannot become intimate with anyone who is not a traveler, and she cannot use information she knows to change the future.

Ethan Jarves is fishing the day Prenna arrives. He's instantly drawn to her, but it isn't until high school that he spies her again. Five years have passed at that point, and the growing attraction between them is hard to ignore. Yet, Prenna's been taught that being intimate with someone from this time could lead to his death and changing the future could put her world at risk. She suddenly faces a difficult choice, defy the rules and put Ethan's life in danger, or follow her heart and risk changing the future

Clearly, no matter what Prenna decides someone is going to end up hurt. That's the aspect of this book that kept me hooked. I adored the growing relationship between Prenna and Ethan, but I was compelled to keep reading and find out how she would solve her dilemma.

The Here and Now isn't a long book. It's less than 200 pages, so it won't take readers too much time to reach the ending. This is a definite change of pace from the Sisterhood series, and I actually appreciated it. I now see why so many magazine book reviewers and bloggers have been talking about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's In Your Purse? by Abigail Samoun and Nathalie Dion

Release Date - March 2014

Abigail Samoun
Nathalie Dion
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 My daughter picked up What's in Your Purse? and immediately asked why I never bought her really cool books like that when she was little. I think that really says it all about Abigail Samoun's new lift-a-flap book. Suitable for boys or girls, not only is the book enjoyable with all the lift-a-flap images, but there is a game involved too.

Each page introduces the purse from a member of the family. Start with mom's purse and work you way through grandma's, auntie's, big sister's, and little sister's purses. The purse also has a page of text that asks simple questions like the color of mom's eyes, where auntie traveled to, and who has been reading big sister's diary.

With these questions, children look through the purse to find the answers. There's another aspect my daughter pointed out, it's a great memory game. As you read through the first time, you'll lift the flaps to find the answers, but after that, parents can see how much their children are able to recall. Memorization skills are easily built with this gem of a book. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Release Date - October 22, 2013

A.S. King
Little, Brown

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When he was five, Gerald Faust's family became a reality TV stars on a Nanny 911-type show. While Gerald was portrayed as the troublemaker on that show, the truth was his older sister, Tasha, tortured both Gerald and his other sister, Lisi, regularly, and Gerald's reactions were a result of the abuse suffered at the hands of Tasha. Though many years have passed, Gerald still deals with anger and is scorned by his peers for being the boy, "crapper," who regularly pooped in unexpected places. All he every wanted was a normal, happy childhood. Now that Lisi is old enough to have escaped their troubled household, Gerald feels alone and is desperate for change.

Though he is in anger management classes, true change comes with Gerald is befriended by another outcast at his school. Together, Gerald and Hannah concoct a plan that will change their lives forever.

While I know this is a work of fiction, Reality Boy had an awful lot of truth in it. I avoid reality TV as much as possible, but it's hard  to ignore the fact that some of the stars that you know are headed down a scary line as they grow up being ridiculed, laughed at, and scorned in a very public manner. The author catches the "what happens after..." incredibly well.

My heart bled for Gerald. The mother and even father were despicable humans. That the show kept filming and social services didn't step in bothered me. I only hope that teens who read this engaging novel will realize that being the star of the show is not as much fun as it seems!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Daniel Tiger's Neighbborhood: Thank You Day by Farrah McDoogle and Gord Garwood

Release Date - January 2014

Farrah McDoogle

Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Daniel Tiger and his friends are celebrating Thank You Day. To say thank you to everyone they love, they all write thank you notes and place them in the Thank You tree.

There are notes to Daniel’s grandfather, Katarina’s mommy, and Prince Wednesday’s little brother. Teacher Harriet helps attach the notes to the tree but then a big wind blows them all over the place.

Fortunately, Mr. McFeely, the postman, rescues them and makes sure they get to the person they are intended for. On the book’s final page Daniel asks, “Who will you say thank you to?”

This pre-level one, ready-to-read book will help launch your youngster on the journey towards reading self-sufficiency. The simple words and familiar characters will make shared reading an enjoyable exercise.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here Comes Destroctosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds

Release Date - April 2014 Aaron Reynolds Jeremy Tankard Chronicle Books Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth Destructosaurus is wreaking havoc on his town. He's in the throes of a tantrum that simply is not stopping. Is there anything that can stop his rampage? That's the simple premise for Here Comes Destructosaurus. Anyone with a two-year-old will find Destructosaurus shares similar behavior that many parents have seen from their toddler at one point or another. The story is told with gentle reminders to use words and not actions and to mind manners at all times. This makes it a great teaching tool for a younger child, too. With amusing prose and vivid illustrations, I think this is destined to be a favorite with both children and parents.