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.”

Saturday, May 31, 2014

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Release Date - May 27, 2014

Dana Reinhardt
Wendy Lamb Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Layla and Nell Golden have grown up being as close as twins. The sisters were often inseparable. Now that Nell is starting high school and her sister is starting her junior year, Nell is excited to be under the same roof during the school day. But something's changed. Layla is distant and clearly keeping a secret from her sister. Nell is not used to Layla being curt and secretive. When she discovers the truth, she faces the very grown up decision of remaining her sister's friend or defying her sister and telling all what she knows.

I have to say, We Are the Goldens pulled me in. It's written almost in journal form, a simply journal written from one sister to the other. As the secret starts taking shape, it's understandable why Nell struggles so much. This is a short book, but one that is also very powerful.

Having finished it, part of me would like to see it told from Layla's point of view. I'd love to get a closer look as to what exactly was going through her mind, especially nearer the ending!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rex the Tyrannosaurus by Jeannette Rowe

Release Date - May 2014

Jeannette Rowe
Allen & Unwin

Book Review by Bob Walch

Although he can be a pretty scary dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex isn’t that fierce in this book designed for young readers. The child will discover that Rex is strong and fast and has very sharp teeth. He is also bigger than a double-decker bus.

Rex never brushes his teeth (which are the size of bananas) so his breath is pretty bad. He also weighs as much as three elephants. Unfortunately, Rex doesn’t have a lot of friends because he tends to eat them soon after they meet. For these and a few other reasons, you probably won’t want to invite Rex to your next birthday party.

You’ll discover a dinosauritis maze game, some dinosaur jokes a nd a page of fun facts at the end of this fun paperback about Rex the Tyrannosaurus.Also, although Rex usually misbehaves when he’s out in public, he won’t scare your little one when he or she reads this book.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell

Release Date - April 2014

Bethany Crandell
Running Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 It took a while for me to acclimate myself to Summer on the Short Bus. My problems were not with the writing, the pacing, or the storyline, my issue was that I wanted to strangle the main character.

The book starts with a very snotty 17-year-old girl, Constance "Cricket" Montgomery. She's been caught holding a party in some stables and is disgruntled that the stable hand ratted her out. Out of desperation, her father arranges to have her serve out her punishment by banning her from going to Hawaii with her best friend, and instead shipping her off to a camp for special needs children.

When the children arrive, Cricket proceeds to pass out after seeing their issues. The only thing keeping her from running off is the very good looking fellow counselor who appears to be a Zac Efron lookalike. Is the potential for a summer romance enough to keep Cricket working with the kids she refers to as having a "smashed-in, dog-faced look... but they can actually feed themselves and even know how to use the toilets." See, Cricket really isn't very likable.

Despite my obvious issues with Cricket, the other characters in the story are quite enjoyable. It takes quite a while before I was even convinced Cricket would be able to redeem herself. The kids, the other counselors, and the camp staff are the people I really loved reading about. I do know there are many out there like Cricket, and I am thrilled that with my daughter's high school and their participation in A World of Difference, embracing people's differences is changing. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Creatures by Orla Kiely

Release Date - April 2014

Orla Kiely
Egmont UK

Book Review by Bob Walch

British fashion designer Orla Kiely has created an animal concept board book that introduces a variety of animals. The clothbound book is sturdy and the graphics and colors come together nicely to create a very attractive and pleasing experience for both the child and his or her parents.

With its upscale graphics this is a cut above the normal concept books you’ll find in the marketplace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cottonmouth and the River by C. S. Fritz

Release Date - May 2014

C. S. Fritz
David C. Cook

There is no doubt that the illustrations within Cottonmouth and the River are stunning. They definitely do have the feel of Where the Wild Things Are. That is really where the comparison ends. I liked the story of Freddie Cottonmouth, and I understand the author's message. Yet, I took issue with the choice Freddie was practically forced into making. That's where the book's message became lost on me.

Freddie Cottonmouth's parents left him two years ago. They simply went off and never returned. Now 10, Freddie has survived in a house by a river, living completely alone, wondering if his parents will ever return. While at the river, he spots a mysterious egg. This egg brings an unusual creature into his life, one that will give him everything he wants, providing Freddie makes one promise. It's a promise that means Freddie will never have what he wants most, unless he goes back on his word.

Clearly any child who has been left alone to fend for himself for two years is going to long for parents, especially parents who made him happy and who promised him they'd return. As an adult, I realize that for two years, Freddie must have struggled to survive. The book says he never was lucky enough to get bites while fishing in the river, so I'm betting this is a kid forced to eat bugs, small animals, etc. to stay alive, and at the age of 8, 9, and 10, wishing for his parents to return is human nature. I ended up thinking it was silly of the creature to tell Freddie there were some things he could never wish for.

Realistically, I am looking at this story from a parent's point of view, knowing how much a child needs parents. Children will likely overlook that aspect. The illustrations definitely make Cottonmouth and the River a worthwhile purchase, one that I really recommend, even if I did have issues with that one part of the story.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lots of Spots by Lois Ehlert

Release Date - March 2014

Lois Ehlert
Little Simon

Book Review by Bob Walch

This Classic Board Book combines page upon page of illustrations of critters featuring spots and stripes with short poems that describe each animal.

Tiger stalks
With shiny eyes,
Then takes its prey by swift surprise.

Not only are the creatures that range from butterflies and snakes to birds and fish rendered in a textured, colorful, collage manner that makes them really attract the reader’s eye, but you’ll also find usually three or more critters on each two page set.

Young readers will love this book and return to it over and over again. Mom and dad will also find it quite eye appealing as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo

Release Date - May 13, 2014

Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Steeplechase horse Jumping Jack and his jockey Roger Trotter are best friends and a champion team. Together, they've won many championships. When Jack's performance becomes lackluster and sloppy, Roger Trotters seeks every specialist imaginable to find out what's wrong with Jack. The answer is more surprising than anyone might have imagined.

I see Jumping Jack as being an exceptional story for a child who may not be excelling in school, in a sport, or really for any reason. It sends a nice message that sometimes we mess up, and it can take teamwork to figure out what is going on. The illustrations capture the essence of the story in a beautiful, artistic way, rounding out what is a very enjoyable children's story.