Review! Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind by Darlene Foster

5 Dec

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind
Series: Amanda Travels #6 (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5)
By Darlene Foster
128 pages – ages 9+
Published by Central Avenue Publishing on October 1, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.”

What I Thought- This was a neat book in the Amanda Travels series. Foster has written a great book that combines mystery, thriller, and travel book into a package perfect for her target audience. She writes in a way that incorporates strong emotions, but still is appropriate for younger readers. One thing I thought was cool was how Leah, Amanda’s friend in England, was not brought into the book (a rather realistic outlook – as even best friends don’t always have adventures together), and a new character, Cleo, is introduced. The story was very well-done, and I enjoyed reading it. I do wish that Foster would have addressed the ghosts at the end of the story more thoroughly. It seems that they are kind of pushed to the side as another plot is brought to a satisfying finish. What I particularly love about this book as with all of the Amanda books, is that you feel like you are on a travel adventure with Amanda and her friends. The reader learns a lot about the place Amanda visits each and every time. I enjoyed this book, and I look forward to more of Amanda’s travels!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Looking for a great holiday gift? If you have a a child who loves a great adventure with characters they can connect with, I highly recommend the Amanda series. Amanda is a bit of Nancy Drew, Laura Croft and Carmen San Diego all rolled into one!

Aaron Blabey Holiday Prize Pack Give Away!

4 Dec

This month, I am giving you all a chance to win a children’s book prize pack from Scholastic Press! The prize pack includes the two most recent picture books from Aaron Blabey, “Pig the Elf” and “Thelma the Unicorn,” a unicorn and a tree shaped cookie cutters, and a Pig the Elf Christmas ornament.

Scholastic sent me the prize pack to give away to one lucky reader within the United States.

Pig the Elf is the latest offering in Blabey’s Pig the Pug series. Pig is an ill-tempered, rude, greedy pug who is expecting a lot from Santa for Christmas. Trevor, the sweet dachshund, is just thankful that Santa is coming. When nighttime arrives, Trevor goes to bed like a good dog, but Pig decides to stay up late to catch the jolly old elf in action. Santa comes down the chimney and leaves presents for both pups. Pig is not satisfied with the amount he is given and decides to take matters into his own paws.

Parents and teachers will be able to expand upon this humor-filled story to include lessons about being greedy. The expressive and colorful illustrations contribute greatly to the story. The book is told in a wonderful sing-song rhyme that never feels forced or off meter. I think kids will like the book even if Pig continues to be a… pig.

I absolutely loved “,” the second book being given away. Thelma is a little pony who wants to be a unicorn. Her donkey friend Otis thinks she is fine as who she is, but Thelma is not satisfied. She finds a carrot and puts it on her head, to pretend she is a unicorn. But then a roadside incident leaves Thelma covered in pink paint and glitter. People mistake her for a unicorn, and it brings her instant fame. Her fans follow her everywhere and everybody knows who Thelma is. Yet she starts to realize that being well-known is not always the best thing, especially when they don’t really know who you are.

This book is such a sweet little story. It has a message of being who you are and how being famous isn’t always the best thing. The story is again told in rhyme, and is an excellent example of poetry. The illustrations are bright, and the cartoon look is perfect for the story. The reader gets a great feel for the story and kids will definitely enjoy reading about the pony who wants to be a unicorn.

I am offering these two picture books and the rest of the prize pack to one winner who comments on the blog post from December 1st to December 19th. The winner will be announced on December 20th. To enter, comment at the bottom of this post!

Best of Luck and Glad Tidings and Happy Holidays to you all!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Blue vs. Yellow by Tom Sullivan

1 Dec

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it is a very nice little story about finding your courage.

Blue vs. Yellow
By Tom Sullivan
48 pages – ages 4+

Published by Balzer + Bray on October 10, 2017

Theme/Topic- Competition/Teamwork
Genre- Fiction
Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Have you heard the news? Blue is the best color.

Nice try, but everyone knows that yellow is the best color.”

Synopsis from Publisher: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Clash of the Colors!
BLUE VS. YELLOW!
Which one will be declared the best color of all?
Will they join forces and be mightier together?
Or . . . will another color challenge them for the title?
Ding! Ding! Let the battle begin!”

What I Thought- This was a really neat book – I knew almost exactly how it would end, but the story is just so dang fun that reading it is absolutely a blast! The book contains minimal colors (of course) but the illustrations still have a lot of life to them. I like that the colors don’t really call each other names, but do make comparisons. It’s nice that they are still polite about it all. I really liked this book from Sullivan!

Activities and Resources- There is a great resource of activities from Momjunction.com about team-building for kids HERE!

The publisher has created some activities to go along with Blue vs. Yellow – Click HERE

Check out the book’s trailer!

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!

Review! Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

29 Nov

Dragon’s Green
By Scarlett Thomas
384 pages – ages 9+
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 30, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Effie Truelove believes in magic, as does her grandfather Griffin (although he refuses to do any magic, let alone teach Effie how to use it). After a mysterious incident leaves Griffin close to death, Effie is given an unusual silver ring and told she must look after her grandfather’s library of rare and powerful books. But then the books fall into the hands of shady scholar Leonard Levar, and Effie is propelled into the most dangerous adventure of her life.
Now, Effie and her friends—nerdy Maximilian, rugby-mad Wolf, helpful Lexy, and eccentric Raven—must discover their true powers if they are to get the books back. And Effie alone will have to travel to the Otherworld, where she will uncover the true meaning of the strange old book called Dragon’s Green…”

What I Thought- This was an utterly fascinating story-line. The world is thrown into a dystopian aftermath after what is called the Worldquake – an earthquake that lasted for seven minutes and somehow destroyed the internet. Electricity still exists, but is limited to only power lights. I absolutely loved being introduced to this setting, and the characters in the book were just as well-developed. While most of the story focuses on Effie, there are chapters featuring the perspectives of the other characters too – this gives us a background of their life and thoughts, which is essential to create characters you empathize with. Thomas narrates the story with a certain style, sort of reminiscent of perhaps A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, if less snarky and sarcastic. The book is slightly dark, but not inappropriate for young readers, and still containing a childlike whimsy – it’s hard to explain, but it’s extremely pleasing for the reader. Imagine a dark world, but still with light. I absolutely loved this foray into children’s literature from Thomas, and I cannot wait to read the next books!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Aaron Blabey Holiday Prize Pack Give Away!

28 Nov

This month, I am giving you all a chance to win a children’s book prize pack from Scholastic Press! The prize pack includes the two most recent picture books from Aaron Blabey, “Pig the Elf” and “Thelma the Unicorn,” a unicorn and a tree shaped cookie cutters, and a Pig the Elf Christmas ornament.

Scholastic sent me the prize pack to give away to one lucky reader within the United States.

Pig the Elf is the latest offering in Blabey’s Pig the Pug series. Pig is an ill-tempered, rude, greedy pug who is expecting a lot from Santa for Christmas. Trevor, the sweet dachshund, is just thankful that Santa is coming. When nighttime arrives, Trevor goes to bed like a good dog, but Pig decides to stay up late to catch the jolly old elf in action. Santa comes down the chimney and leaves presents for both pups. Pig is not satisfied with the amount he is given and decides to take matters into his own paws.

Parents and teachers will be able to expand upon this humor-filled story to include lessons about being greedy. The expressive and colorful illustrations contribute greatly to the story. The book is told in a wonderful sing-song rhyme that never feels forced or off meter. I think kids will like the book even if Pig continues to be a… pig.

I absolutely loved “,” the second book being given away. Thelma is a little pony who wants to be a unicorn. Her donkey friend Otis thinks she is fine as who she is, but Thelma is not satisfied. She finds a carrot and puts it on her head, to pretend she is a unicorn. But then a roadside incident leaves Thelma covered in pink paint and glitter. People mistake her for a unicorn, and it brings her instant fame. Her fans follow her everywhere and everybody knows who Thelma is. Yet she starts to realize that being well-known is not always the best thing, especially when they don’t really know who you are.

This book is such a sweet little story. It has a message of being who you are and how being famous isn’t always the best thing. The story is again told in rhyme, and is an excellent example of poetry. The illustrations are bright, and the cartoon look is perfect for the story. The reader gets a great feel for the story and kids will definitely enjoy reading about the pony who wants to be a unicorn.

I am offering these two picture books and the rest of the prize pack to one winner who comments on the blog post from December 1st to December 19th. The winner will be announced on December 20th. To enter, comment at the bottom of this post!

Best of Luck and Glad Tidings and Happy Holidays to you all!

Review! The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

27 Nov

The Goldfish Boy
By Lisa Thompson
320 pages – ages 9+
Published by Scholastic Press on February 28, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?”

What I Thought- I think this was an excellent debut novel. Matthew is thoroughly developed, so that we as a reader feel that we sort of understand why he has germaphobic, agoraphobic, obsessive compulsive tendencies, even if we don’t get a clear picture until almost the end. It’s quite an insight into the mind of someone who middle-grade readers may not “meet” so often. One thing I thought was interesting was that Matthew understood he wasn’t thinking normally, but was unable to stop his thoughts and actions. The book focuses a lot on the inner turmoil of Matthew, and how he must face his fears to be able to help find the missing toddler. The actual plot and the mystery are solid, with lots of clues that keep you guessing as to who did the crime. Thompson has an incredible way of  writing that keeps you drawn into the story. I cannot wait to read what she comes up with next!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Beast & Crown by Joel Ross

21 Nov

Beast & Crown
By Joel Ross
384 pages – ages 9+
Published by Harper Collins on August 22, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Boot boy Ji is tired of scrubbing soles and untangling shoelaces. He doesn’t want to bow and scrape. All he wants is freedom—for himself and his friends.

He decides to risk everything for a chance to accompany a young nobleman to the Diadem Rite, a magical ritual that chooses the heir to the Summer Crown. Ji doesn’t care about crowns or ceremonies, but he vows that this trip will grant him and his friends new lives, far away from boots and bowing. What Ji doesn’t know is that he and his friends have a dangerous part to play in the Diadem Rite. One that will change them forever.”

What I Thought- I really enjoyed this fantastical fantasy novel from Mr. Ross. I’ve read his other books, and they were great, but I will say that this is perhaps my favorite. One thing I like is that the book explores the topic of how much our life is determined by where we start – the main characters are (for the most part) servants at an estate, and they want to be able to be free. The world Ross builds is such an excellent fantasy setting – I especially like that the book borders on dystopian, just set in fantastical medieval times. The society seems wonderful at first glance, but when you look beyond the surface, you see how wretched it really is. Ross writes in a narrative tone that is very fitting for the characters and audience, perfectly suited for the intended age-range of readers. The cover art is amazing – love the art deco feel to it. Another thing I really liked was the peculiarities of the culture. It was fascinating hearing the history of the land, and about the humans’ intolerance for non-human beings. It will be fun to see how that outlook changes. In a way, the book could be seen as a call for acceptance. I had such a fun time reading this book, I read it in only two days – I can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Morris Mole by Dan Yaccarino

17 Nov

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it is a very nice little story about finding your courage.

Morris Mole
By Dan Yaccarino
40 pages – ages 4+

Published by HarperCollins on May 2, 2017

Theme/Topic- Finding Courage
Genre- Fiction
Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “There was a mole who lived with his big brothers. Together they dug. They ate. And they slept. The littlest mole was Morris. And he was just a bit different from the rest.

Synopsis from Publisher: “Meet Morris Mole—he has always been a little bit different. When the moles are running low on food, it’s up to clever Morris to save the day. With a little help from an unexpected friend and a lot of digging, Morris learns that even the smallest creatures can do big things.”

What I Thought- This was such a joyous book to find. Dan Yaccarino has created such a simple story with such a huge meaning. I really like how the illustrations intertwine so well with the story, with the above-ground scenes having whimsical details, while the underground scenes have very few details – making it feel a bit dreary.

The subtlety is supreme. Morris is a great character; sweet, and willing to help others no matter what. I really enjoyed the story line, and how it encourages speaking up. This picture book is a sweet look at the good that can come from finding the courage to do what you can do.

Activities and Resources- Livestrong.com has a nice article about teaching kids courage HERE!

To learn more about moles, visit Livescience.com for their article about these little critters HERE!

Check out the Book’s trailer!

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!

Review! Mari’s Hope by Sandy Brehl

15 Nov

 

 

 

Mari’s Hope
By Sandy Brehl
Series: The Odin’s Promise Trilogy #3 (#1, #2)
Approx. 276 pages – ages 9+
Published by Crispin Books on May 29, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “In Mari’s Hope, set in occupied Norway in the final years of World War II, young teen Mari has become a valued helper to the village doctor, while continuing to play a role in her family’s efforts in the local resistance. As German war efforts begin to falter, the pressure increases to hold Norway firmly in their tight grip. But the freedom-loving Norwegians will do their best to thwart those plans.”

What I Thought- This was an absolutely amazing end to the Odin’s Promise Trilogy. While I am sad to see the series end, I will say that Brehl has crafted a wonderfully fulfilling ending, tying up all loose ends and satisfying the readers. The Norwegian setting is described in such a way that it feels as if you have always known just exactly what the land is like. Honestly, the book makes me want to visit Norway. I’m not kidding. The characters are all top-notch and fully-developed, making the story feel more like an actual memoir or biography of sorts than a fictional narrative. Brehl is definitely showing her prowess as a weaver of words, and I am excited to see what else she will cook up! The plot is slightly slow in places which is to be expected as several years are taking place within these pages. Although the plot slows down a bit here and there, everything that happens does contribute to the overall story in an important way and the reader is so caught up with imagery and character development the story is a pleasure to read. I really liked reading Mari’s letters, and think that they were a clever way to make the time-span of the book more efficient. This was an excellent historical fiction novel, showing readers about life in occupied Norway – an often neglected topic in fiction. I truly enjoyed reading this!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

13 Nov

Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Written by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Brian Floca
80 pages – ages 6+
Published by Candlewick Press on March 28, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile–a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways.”

What I Thought- I really enjoyed this book. Schlitz has created a fun story about a girl who wants to be herself, and the chaos that allows her to do so. I do like how the crocodile isn’t pushed as a friend of Cora’s, mostly because he does some pretty nasty things (nipping people, chasing people, etc.), but I do like how Cora forgives him. I did cringe a little as the crocodile was running around being awful, but I had to admit that it was a wonderful way to break through the impenetrable shells of Cora’s parents. Floca’s illustrations are fabulous, having an old-fashioned feel, but still modern exuberance permeates the pages.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this awesome book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

%d bloggers like this: