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, September 30, 2014

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Release Date - September 30, 2014

Molly Idle
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Molly Idle was an artist with DreamWorks, but she left that career to become an illustrator for children's books. This is the second book of hers that I've reviewed, and this one also left me saying "wow."

Flora is ice skating when she meets her new friend, a lively little penguin. When feelings get hurt, how will the new friends make up?

Once again, this is a book with no words. Flora and the Penguin has flaps you lift to learn more about the story, but the actual storytelling is up to the parent or child. That's a good portion of the appeal. My kids always preferred telling their own stories at that age, so having just pictures is a huge plus.

The illustrations are gorgeous, the characters are memorable, and the story is charming. It's another win for Ms. Idle and any parent smart enough to buy a copy for their child.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

DreamWorks Dragons: How to Start a Dragon Academy

Release Date - August 26, 2014

Erica David
Simon Spotlight

Book Review by Bob Walch

Hiccup’s dragon friends are creating some problems for the inhabitants of Berk. “The dragons scare fish out of the Vikings’ nets. They chase sheep out of their pens, and they steal food.”

Hiccup and Toothless are given the task of getting the misbehaving dragons under control or they will end up in cages. This is too big a job for one person , so Hiccup will have to enlist his friends to help. Together the Viking youth devise a clever plan to reeducate the dragons so they are not banished from the village.

This Level One reader will appeal to youngsters who follow the characters in this series and it will work well with those who may be reluctant to begin taking on some of the read aloud chores themselves.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Release Date - April 29, 2014

Tanuja Desai Hidier

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dimple Lala has reached her 17th birthday, and her interests lie in more than typical teen drama. She's an avid photographer, but more than that, she is trying to find her place in a world where her parents' Indian culture differs from that of her peers in the United States.

Her boyfriend broke up with her. Her best friend has her own boyfriend and has little time for Dimple. To make matters worse, her parents have reunited with an old friend who happens to have a son around Dimple's age. They want nothing more for Dimple to fall for this boy who shares their culture, but Dimple wants to explore relationships on her own terms. When she meets Karsh, she's not thrilled, but soon she learns he has his own activities, those her parents would never find suitable, and that makes him all the more intriguing.

Born Confused grabs you from the start. I loved the balance of Dimple's parents cultural ideals with Dimple's own need to experience U.S. customs, even if they are not ideal. She does go out with her friends and get drunk using a fake ID. She does want to wear somewhat revealing clothing. It's all part of growing up and her parents just don't get it.

I enjoyed watching Dimple grow and mature, making wrong and right decisions along the way. This is the first book in a series, and one I'm glad I read.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet

Release Date - September 16, 2014

Herve Tullet
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Love, love, love this book! If you want a way to teach children about colors and art, Herve Tullet's Mix It Up is the perfect choice.

Herve Tullet's Mix It Up starts with primary colors and then shows what happens when you mix them. Not only do you watch the paint splotches change colors, but there are pages where the two paint splotches are pressed together so the texture of the paint blobs is apparent. Children are instructed to tip the book and the paint on the page appears to have run.

The heavy cardboard cover will take lots of use. Geared for children ages three to five, I think this is a must-have for parents who want to get their kids thinking about colors, how paint creates art, and how colors blend together.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Good Home for Max by Junzo Terada

Release Date - September 2014

Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Tabi the mouse spends his evenings cleaning and organizing the little shop where he lives. He is also concerned over a cute stuffed dog named Max who is overlooked and needs a home. One night, Tabi comes out to find Max is missing. Where could the little dog have gone?

A Good Home for Max features colorful, enjoyable illustrations that caught my eye. Paired with the story about Tabi and Max, it's a fun read for parents and one that beginning readers will easily handle.

One thing I did wonder about are the store signs. They are in French and having taken five years of French, I knew what they said. For those who don't know French, it will be harder. Some you can figure out from the pictures, but others, such as "jouet" (toy) or "beurre" (butter), may be tricky. A glossary for translations would be helpful for some.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Telephone by Mac Barnett

Release Date - September 9, 2014

Mac Barnett
Jen Corace
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Have you ever played telephone? It was a popular game in school. The teacher started at one side of the class quickly telling a student something and then each student had to quickly whisper it to the next student. By the time the final student was told the message, it rarely was the same.

Mac Barnett's book Telephone follows this theme. The message begins with one bird who is asked to tell Peter to go home for dinner. By the time the message reaches the end of the line, it's become a fantastic story. Find out what happens when you read Telephone.

Of all the kid's books I've read this year, Telephone was a gem. From the illustrations to the message, it's just a fun look at this popular game. I highly recommend this to a beginning reader and his or her parents or daycare provider.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dinosaur vs. School by Bob Shea

Release Date - June 2014

Bob Shea

Book Review by Bob Walch

Little dinosaur starts school today and there are new friends to meet and activities to engage in. As with the other books in this series, Little Dinosaur will ROAR his way through the day. Everything seems to be turned into a contest. “Dinosaur versus dressing up! Dinosaur versus glitter, glue and googly eyes! Dinosaur versus monkey snacks!”

And, as you can probably guess, Dinosaur always WINS with a ROAR or two. The only time Dinosaur seems to need some assistance is when clean up time arrives. “It’s too much for one dinosaur! But when everyone helps…everyone wins!” Well, that’s nice!

The illustrations here are not very eye appealing and the pages are cluttered with graffiti-like drawings. Young children apparently like this picture book but I’m not sure why. Check it out carefully before making a purchase or get a copy from the library first!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen and Scott Bakal

Release Date - August 26, 2014

George Hagen
Scott Bakal
Schwartz & Wade

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Gabriel Finley is like many other middle schoolers, but he's missing his mother, who vanished when he was young, and his father who abruptly left one day and has yet to return. With his 12th birthday soon to arrive, Gabriel would really like to know what happened to his father.

One his birthday, he receives a present from his father, it's an unusual key. That key leads him to a magical desk that hides a secret journal kept by Gabriel's father. It's this journal that begins to reveal the truth. This truth involves both good and evil ravens. Gabriel and his friends team up to discover the truth and find out what happened to Gabriel's dad.

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle is an action-packed middle-grade reader. With the mix of riddles, some are easy to solve and others are much more difficult, children will not only read the book, but it's going to get their minds working as they try to solve the riddles before the characters.

There is a slightly creepy aspect to the story thanks to the evil valravens, but it's not too scary. Overall, Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle is the kind of book my son would have loved when he was between the ages of 8 and 10, just before he discovered the Harry Potter and the Artemis Fowl series.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Release Date - August 26, 2014

Jennifer L. Holm
Random House Books for Young Readers

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The last thing Ellie Cruz expected was to have a new housemate, yet that's exactly what happens. Her mom arrives one night with a teen boy in tow, and she quickly learns that teen is her grandfather. Somehow the scientist figured out a way to turn back the clock and become a teen again. While her mother is not pleased to have a 13-year-old boy bossing her around and devouring her groceries in mass quantity, Ellie is thrilled to have the chance to help her grandfather collect the jellyfish he used to regain his youth and publish his study. There's just one complication, getting into his lab as teenagers is not so easy.

The Fourteenth Goldfish dishes up lively characters, especially Ellie's witty grandfather. I loved the interactions between him and his daughter. Ellie's friends are also memorable. The situations they faced seem true to nature and their solutions sometimes involved thinking outside the box without becoming unbelievable.

Also scattered in this book are details about real inventors and scientists that will teach kids something as they read this quirky, involving novel about life, family dynamics, and the world around us.