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!

Review! York by Laura Ruby

30 Oct

York: The Shadow Cipher
By Laura Ruby
496 pages – ages 9+
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 16, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.”

What I Thought- I have a confession to make – at first, I didn’t want to read this book. I think when I got the review request and read the summary, I thought, same old – same old… another 39  Clues want to be. Wow- was I wrong.  Ruby knocks this one out of the park with excellent story-telling and an imaginative plot. I really enjoyed exploring the twists and turns of the novel and the differences between this world and our world. One thing I like is the fact that the Morningstarrs were so advanced for their time that no one was able to even come close to their proficiency and skill – so society was unable to replicate them, and progressed to a semblance of our modern day. All of the little details are so fun to read about, and you get invested in the awesome steampunk society and the idea of the Old York Cipher. Which leads to another point – the book includes information about ciphers and codes, and I found all of that enlightening to read about and also not just a re-tread of stories I already love. The book is told in chapters from each of the three children’s perspectives, with a few added bits from earlier days of New York. Each child has a distinct voice and personality, and it is a complete joy to see all three of them working and growing together. I definitely recommend this book, and I cannot wait to get my hands on book two! This one is getting added to my Erik’s Favs list!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! This Book Stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn

23 Oct

This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash
By Sarah Wassner Flynn
128 pages – ages 9+
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books on March 28, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Get up close and personal with a wonderful world of waste. From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. It’s fun to talk trash when it’s jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats, and fabulous facts. Also included are quizzes and activities to inspire kids to take action, be proactive, and rethink the things we throw away.”

What I Thought- This is a really neat nonfiction book from National Geographic. I particularly enjoy that Flynn puts together a conglomeration of fun facts, interviews, quizzes, and activities – the combination is perfect for keeping kids interested in the topic. The book is full of information that is important for kids to read, teaching them about why and how to recycle, reuse, and reduce our waste. As always, this National Geographic book is packed full of colorful layouts, fact boxes and short bursts of texts that keep their nonfiction books exciting and compelling to read.

Hopefully kids are inspired to help our planet and stop filling it up with trash. Another great nonfiction book from National Geographic!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book By Anders Arhoj

20 Oct

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 just a really fun book.

Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book
By Anders Arhoj
40 pages – ages 4+

Published by Chronicle Books on September 5, 2017

Theme/Topic- Hide-and-Seek
Genre- Fiction
Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Let’s play a game! I’ll close my eyes and you’ll hide.”

Synopsis from Publisher: “This book has eyes—and an irresistible cover! Kids will delight in this innovative seek-and-find picture book that may be read from front to back and from back to front! Two adorable characters embark on an over-the-top game of hide-and-seek through eleven richly detailed scenes, including a lively neighborhood, a bustling shop, an offbeat office space, a festive concert, and more. Open the book from the front to search for one of the characters. Then, open the book from the back to search for the other. It’s two hide-and-seek experiences in one book. As the characters move through each illustrated spread, their colors change, too, adding to the abundant fun.”

What I Thought- This is a very creative picture book. It has both challenging and easy spreads, so readers of many ages will enjoy finding the character. The illustrations are whimsical and full of so many little details – they are perfect for a look-and-find book, but also are just really fun to look at. Arhoj really has created a wonderful book that kids will love.

The book is mostly wordless, with the opening explaining the premise of the book, and then you get wowed by the spreads. One thing I noticed is that at the back, the other character decides to hide, so you flip through again looking for that character – genius! I would never have thought of that, but it also makes perfect sense! I think families will have a nice time trying to find the characters together. This is just a really fun book!

Activities and Resources- 

Play Hide-and-Seek! An awesome – never out of style game!

Enclyclopedia Britanica has a short history of the game including how it is played around the world – click HERE

There is an interview with the author about the book over at Chronicle Books – click HERE

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

Review! Hidden Dangers by Lola M. Schaefer

17 Oct

Hidden Dangers
Written by Lola M. Schaefer
Illustrated by Tymn Armstrong
40 pages – ages 6+
Published by Chronicle Books on August 8, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “These 13 deadly creatures can be difficult to spot until you’re right on top of them . . . or they’re right on top of you. Look for each animal in its environment—look closely!—and learn all the ways you could perish—or survive—depending on how smart, well-informed, and good at running away you are. From the deathstalker scorpion and the poison dart frog to wasps, alligators, and many more, young readers will gain a new appreciation for the animal kingdom, and the dangers it hides in plain sight!”

What I Thought- This is an awesome book – I love how it tells you how you can quickly get into bad situations…but also how you can survive it! The book has just the right amount of danger mixed with factual information to make this nonfiction book a thrilling read for the younger reader. Schaefer has created a wonderful guide to help kids realize they should always be on guard and informed in a situation they aren’t that familiar with. The text is very enlightening, telling the ways that the animals are dangerous, supporting why they are dangerous and then offering solutions in case of encounter with factual evidence and numbers. Armstrong’s art style is the perfect complement to the book – showing the animals in their natural habitats.

This can help kids identify where the animals would typically be seen when they may be in an area that contains a dangerous animal. I really enjoy how the book also includes a spread on things to bring for emergencies in the wild. What an awesome gift this would be for an outdoor loving kid! There is even a spread in the back about what you should take with you when exploring.

An all-around great book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Funny How The World Doesn’t Stop…

15 Oct

Hello bloggy friends,

I am here once again to explain why I have lately not been the ball-of-blogging fire that I usually am.

Back in July I told you my aunt and three cousins were in a horrific car accident while vacationing in California (they live in Pennsylvania, where I do). My aunt and one cousin did not survive  (Original Story). My other two cousins were left in critical condition. This lead me to be less than regular on my blog and responding to my emails in a timely and professional manner (something I have always prided myself on).

I am happy to say that after months of rehabilitation (both mentally and physically), my cousins Sequoia and Elizabeth, their surviving siblings and my uncle were feeling mentally ready to have a memorial service for my Aunt Beth and cousin Savanna. Our family’s lives were getting back into their normal groove.

Savanna and Aunt Beth

And then another accident.

Literally on the same day my Aunt India and my mother were sending out the memorial invitations, my cousin Steven (son to my Aunt Beth) was in a horrible motorcycle accident. Our lives went on hold again. Steven lost his leg and was left in critical condition on a ventilator. This was two weeks ago. Steven has some moments of consciousness where he responds to commands. We are hopeful he will continue to improve over the next weeks.

This is a lot for me to process and I have been faltering in my usual routine (again). I thought today about how life continues all around you. Nothing stops when you are thrown into life-altering circumstances. For a few days after Steven’s accident, I think even more than the one that took my Aunt and cousin, I felt like I was just watching life, not taking part in it – I think it’s because I am getting older and I am understanding the reality and permanence of death.

But I am also reminded of the Epictetus quote – “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

The quote will be my rally cry over the next few days.

It feels much better to ride the wave than be caught in the undertow.

My cousin Monique has set up a Go Fund Me page to help with Sequoia and Elizabeth’s medical and rehabilitation expenses. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Confiscated! by Suzanne Kaufman

15 Oct

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 fun book about sharing.

Confiscated!
By Suzanne Kaufman
32 pages – ages 4+

Published by Balzer + Bray on August 1, 2017

Theme/Topic- Sharing
Genre- Fiction
Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Brooks and Mikey fought over EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. And whenever they did, their mama would take it away.

In other words, it got CONFISCATED!

Synopsis from Publisher: “When Mama hears Brooks and Mikey fighting over yet another toy, it gets CONFISCATED!

(In other words, taken away.)

It’s only when ALL the toys are confiscated that Brooks and Mikey finally learn how to work—and play—together nicely.

(But not before creating a whole heap of trouble . . . )”

What I Thought- Ms. Kaufman has created a wonderful book that showcases the case for sharing. The dinosaurs are impartial to their fighting, fighting over everything. Eventually, when all the toys are gone, they start talking to each other. And learning how they actually like each other. It’s awesome. There are also great illustrations that fit the story well – I really like how you don’t see Mama’s face until the end. I also really like the wide variety of confiscated items – a bike, Mexican wrestling mask, tuba, and even the dog (which, granted, was a little odd). The only thing I didn’t like was that the tuba was actually a sousaphone – the marching band counterpart to the tuba. But that’s just me being a band geek. 😉 This is an excellent picture book about sharing!

Activities and Resources- There is a good list of sharing activities from Care.com HERE.

There is also some more sharing activities from Powerfulmothering.com HERE.

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

Review! Avians by Timothy Gwyn

11 Oct

Avians
By Timothy Gwyn
316 pages – ages 12+
Published by Five Rivers Publishing on August 1, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Orphans. Runaways. Thieves. The Avians don’t ask questions about a girl’s past. Or her age. They need glider pilots, and the smaller the better.

Raisa is fourteen. Born to a line of powerful silk merchants, her rebellion against an arranged marriage is doomed. The Avians are her only alternative.

Mel is the young servant blamed for Raisa’s disappearance. She meets an Avian recruiter and seizes the chance to spite her employer.

When Mel and Raisa are sworn in with two other girls to form Blackbird squad, their simmering conflict undermines the whole team.

The flying is difficult, the discipline is fierce, and the older pilots don’t even bother to learn their names. The Blackbirds are starting to look like the weakest squad in years.

Then a deadly accident reveals the truth: only the best survive.”

What I Thought- This was an extremely well-written dystopian book. The book takes place on a planet (Celadon) that was inhabited after humans left Earth. It is quite fascinating. The character of Raisa is very well-developed, with aspects that both make you love her and hate her – she’s a brat, but she’s the main character, so it creates an awesome conflict. It also makes it really amazing when she starts to go through changes as a character. I also really enjoyed Chief Corvid, the leader of the entire Avian fleet – the book shows her struggles as commander, with making tough decisions and being moral support for the Avians, quite well, in a touching manner. The book is clean, with no content for kids, but I do think the book is better for an older audience, because the style of the book just lends itself to a more mature reading. For example, there is not much humor – the story’s tone reflects the dystopian feel of the book. Gwyn is able to write in a way that doesn’t make a book dark or light, but just perfect for upper middle-grade readers wanting a more serious book. I really like that. I cannot wait to read the second book when it comes out!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

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