Review! From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle

26 Mar

From Ant to Eagle
By Alex Lyttle
256 pages – ages 9+
Will be Published by Central Avenue Publishing on April 1st, 2017

Synopsis- Calvin Sinclair has a little brother, and they do everything together. Or really, Sammy does everything Cal tells him to. They still hang out together, but it isn’t until Calvin becomes enthralled with a new girl in town that they start spending less time together. If he had realized that Sammy had cancer growing inside of him, then he would’ve acted differently. He would’ve spent quality time with Sammy. But now all Cal can do is hop on the roller coaster with him and hope for the best.

What I Thought- This book was outstanding. When I first heard about it, I was interested enough to try it, but not quite sure if I would enjoy it. I am glad to say that I loved this book! Lyttle, being a pediatrician who worked in an oncology unit, knows the details about the ravages of cancer and the toll it takes on families. Lyttle also knows how to write a poignant, thought-provoking story that has beautifully-crafted lighthearted moments. Because of the subject matter, the story does have a darker feel to it, but Lyttle does a great job with keeping a sense of redemption and hope going. I do not normally like or even read books about topics like cancer/death, but this one is such a wonderfully crafted story about siblings I loved this story. Sammy and Cal have the most realistic brother relationship I’ve read in a book in a while. Everything about it rings so true.  Cal says it, that he loved his brother, didn’t wish any harm to him, but he sure could be a pain in the rear at times. Okay – most of the time. Close to the end of the book, there are a few cuss words (s*** and d***) in an acceptable scenario, but just know that they’re there. This is a fabulous debut from Lyttle, and I really hope to read more from him. This is a definite must read.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Why I’ve Been a Bit MIA

23 Mar

HEEEEEELLLLLLOOOOOOO Blogosphere!

Gee, I’ve missed you.

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent for a little bit (or maybe not 😉 ).

BUT I AM BACK NOW – WOO!!

“So why were you gone Erik?”  you ask. Well, maybe you didn’t, but I am going to tell you anyway.

I was not around here because I was super busy with our High School’s  production of The Wizard of Oz!

Music and reading are two of my passions in life and I was fortunate enough to land a role in our musical production.

I was……

 

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

You can’t see me here I’m still behind my big Oz head – isn’t it awesome?

Of course I also got to be Professor Marvel. My mom made the sign on my Marvel cart.

 

So this production was kind of huge for our little school. My high school is small, we don’t have a lot of money and we struggle to make productions like this.

Thankfully we have awesome parents, teachers and community members that all pitch in. This year we really out-did ourselves.

The sets were spectacular!

 

Here you can see me when Dorothy looks “at the man behind the curtain.” 🙂

Of course all the cast members were awesome. We have some very talented singers at my school (thankfully I had no singing parts to subject the audience to).

We had a huge cast. We even had a bunch of grade-schoolers to play the Munchkins.

 

 

One of the things we were able to do is to actually lift me up in the balloon at the end to the play.  I went up like 20 feet – up to where you couldn’t see the balloon’s basket any more. It was both awesome and terrifying at the same time.

Our Wicked Witch was stupendous! She event shot flames out of her broom (learned a little about stage pyrotechnics!).

 

 

 

All of our shows were well-attended but on Sunday (typically our “slow” day), we sold out! I think word got around how good the show was. It is the first time in over 10 years one of our shows sold out. We actually had to turn away about 100 people. It was a real boost for our drama club.

 

If you get a chance to support  an arts program at your local schools, please do. It means a lot to us and we appreciate it. School budgets cut the arts and the teachers struggle to keep giving us these opportunities.

And with that, I take a bow and say I will resume my regular book blog! 😉

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Bogo, The Fox Who Wanted Everything by Susanna Isern

10 Mar

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 good story about being yourself!

Bogo, The Fox Who Wanted Everything
Written by Susanna Isern
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
40 pages – ages 4+

Published by NubeOcho on October 11, 2016

Theme/Topic- Nature/Being Yourself

Genre- Fiction
Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Bogo the fox lived in the branches of a great big tree. This is quite unusual for a fox, but he was a very curious fox and from up there he could see everything much better.”

Synopsis from Publisher: “Bogo watched many animals around him. Some of them were so incredible that they made him feel less special. One day he decided to invent amazing things so that he could have everything he wanted.
A pair of wings to fly like a bird. It never worked.
A pair of night glasses to see like an owl. It never worked . . .”

What I Thought- This is a fabulous book celebrating individuality. Bogo is a lovable character who wants to be special and doesn’t give up. Well, he does, but that ends up being the turning point of the book where he realizes how special he is by himself. Isern’s writing has qualities kids will love – there are repeated phrases and everyone feels like they know a Bogo. Wimmer’s illustrations go with the writing marvelously – they create that sense of whimsy. I really like the variety of animals – and the fact that they wear old-style clothing! This is a wonderful story, and I think kids will enjoy having this read to them!

Activities and Resources- There is a great list of ways to encourage creativity from Parents.com HERE!

There is also a post on self-esteem building from Kidsplayandcreate.com HERE!

The book is also available in Spanish!

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

Review! Isaac The Alchemist By Mary Losure

28 Feb

isaacIsaac The Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d
By Mary Losure
176 pages – ages 9+
Published by Candlewick on February 1, 2017

Synopsis From the Publisher- A surprising true story of Isaac Newton’s boyhood suggests an intellectual development owing as much to magic as science.

Before Isaac Newton became the father of physics, an accomplished mathematician, or a leader of the scientific revolution, he was a boy living in an apothecary’s house, observing and experimenting, recording his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. As a young genius living in a time before science as we know it existed, Isaac studied the few books he could get his hands on, built handmade machines, and experimented with alchemy—a process of chemical reactions that seemed, at the time, to be magical. Mary Losure’s riveting narrative nonfiction account of Isaac’s early life traces his development as a thinker from his childhood, in friendly prose that will capture the attention of today’s budding scientists—as if by magic. Back matter includes an afterword, an author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

What I Thought- This was a neat nonfiction book. It is an in-depth look at Sir Isaac Newton’s youth and beginnings as his famous physicist/mathematician. Some of the text is challenging to read, usually being copied directly from Newton’s notebook or a book that he learned from. It makes it a great choice for young advanced readers. Losure does a good job of explaining what the text means. There are illustrations and pictures of real paintings, books, and journal entries – adding to the text. I especially enjoyed these additions. Losure has written a fascinating nonfiction novel. I like how it says that in the time “magic” was considered science, because they knew so little of the world, so Newton did magical experiments. That added a bit of flavor to the story. This is a neat biography of a time in Newton’s life that we don’t know a lot about. I really liked this book, and would recommend it to history buffs and science lovers.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! Our Country’s Presidents by Ann Bausam

28 Feb

presidentOur Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency
By Ann Bausam
224 pages – ages 9+
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books on January 10, 2017

Synopsis From the Publisher- National Geographic presents the 43 individuals who have led the U.S., plus America’s newest commander-in-chief, in this up-to-date, authoritative, and lavishly illustrated family, school, and library reference. It features comprehensive profiles of the 43 former presidents along with timelines and descriptions of crucial events during their terms. Information about the 2016 president-elect is also included.

Thematic spreads cover a variety of topics from the history of voting rights to writing a presidential letter. Full-page portraits, famous quotes, and fascinating facts help kids get to know each leader. This new volume is a fascinating read and excellent reference for students and kids of all ages.

What I Thought- This is a fabulous resource of most of what we know about the presidents of the United States. Granted, the book is not a full analysis, but a general outline of their highs, lows and accomplishments as president. Kids will be introduced to the presidents, along with information involved with the presidency; polling, the electoral college, and what first ladies do, among those mentioned. The information is presented in a clear, easy-to-understand and relatively unbiased way for the young readers. I really enjoy the layout of nonfiction books from National Geographic, with bold spreads, vivid pictures text as well as fact boxes. This book follows that format.

pres2

The publisher lists it as a middle grade book, but it could be read by a younger reader, or a teacher could read to a class/parent to a younger child as well. An up-to-date read -Bausam included some information on the background of President Trump, but seeing as the book was published when he was still President-Elect, it couldn’t have included information on what he has done as president. All in all, this book is a great resource to start kids on learning about the presidents.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! I Love My Grandma by Giles Andreae

26 Feb

grandmaI Love My Grandma
Written by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Emma Dodd
32 pages – ages 3+
Published by Disney-Hyperion on December 6, 2016

Synopsis- Grandmas are great. After all, they’re like moms, but with more time for you! You can do a lot of things with your grandma, and she will be there for you to teach you about things, and to play with you too! You love your grandma, and she loves you!

What I Thought- This is a really cute book celebrating the relationship between a grandmother and her grandchild. I really like how Andreae kept the book simple, with rhyme that is great for family to read together. The book itself is large, which also lends itself to being a read-aloud book. Dodd’s illustrations are a perfect match with the artwork spilling over the two-page inside spread.

The illustrations add to the warmth of the story. It’s nice that the grandma and child are pictured doing a wide variety of things from baking to playing pirates. This would be a nice Mother’s day gift for a grandmother. This is a part of a series involving the child with titles such as “I Love My Mommy”, “I Love My Daddy”, etc.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

25 Feb

squirrelThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Vitale Mangiatordi
336 pages – ages 9+
Published by Marvel Press on February 7, 2017

Synopsis – Doreen Green knows that she’s different. After all, there is literally a perfectly legit reason why she obsesses over squirrels. You see, Doreen Green is a fourteen-year-old with a squirrel tail. But now she’s moved across the country from sunny, brilliant, cheery California to…New Jersey. What if there are no squirrels?!

Luckily, there ARE squirrels! But Doreen’s new town is pretty messed up. There are graffiti “artists” and wild dogs running loose! So, Doreen decides to do what any good citizen should do – clean up her town. And it goes fine, until she finds out that she now has an arch-nemesis. Which stinks. Now it’s up to Squirrel Girl to stop this squirrel-hating psycho from destroying her town!

What I Thought- I knew about Squirrel Girl from reading comics. She had a brief run with her own comic but she really is a minor character so I was interested to see what the Hale’s did with her in this middle grade novel. This book is actually really funny. There is just a lot of details that make for a humorous read. One of the ones I like is that there are footnotes throughout the book from Doreen, because she is reading the book at the same time as you are! There are also text messages between Doreen and some prominent superheroes that are absolutely hilarious. Doreen is a very enjoyable character that seems a bit too naive at times. Mr. and Mrs. Hale are a great writing team, and have the voice of young teenagers down perfectly. They make the characters believable. Along with that, the setting is well-described, and doesn’t really diss New Jersey (which usually is an easy target), just her fictional, messed-up town. There are also black and white squirrel illustrations throughout the book that were a nice touch. This was an altogether enjoyable read, and a nice foray into the Marvel universe from a lesser known superhero!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Are We There Yet? by Nina Laden

24 Feb

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 great story.

areweAre We There Yet?
Written by Nina Laden
Illustrated by Adam McCauley
36 pages – ages 4+

Published by Chronicle Books on March 1, 2016

Theme/Topic- Using Imagination

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “Are you ready?

Synopsis from Publisher: “We’ve all been there. Or more accurately, we’ve all been with kids in the backseat clamoring (over and over!) “Are we there yet?” In this genius of a picture book, bestselling author Nina Laden combines forces with dynamic illustrator Adam McCauley to turn that dilemma on its head. Fun for kids and adults, the book is filled with details that readers will want to hunt for (over and over!). Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

What I Thought- I think that this book is a great tribute to the imagination. The book never goes out and states that the kid is imagining the things outside the car, but it can lead into a great conversation between parent and child! A great concept story, the book has minimal text, consisting mostly of the child asking the question “Are we there yet?” (and what parent hasn’t experienced this!) and his mother answering “No” – along with a few other word bubbles. The main focus is definitely the illustrations. The illustrations are a feast for the eyes. They are whimsical, having the essence of reality intertwined with the marvel of imagination.

arewe2 arewe3 The book is a fabulous collaboration between two very creative individuals, and I hope to see them working together again!

Activities and Resources- I found a great post about the importance of imagination, along with activities to spark it HERE at Parenting.com!

There is also a fabulous list of imaginative games you can play from Familyeducation.com HERE!

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

Creative Kid Thursday! Guest Review by Josie: Red-Tail Recovery by Emma J Homes

16 Feb

Happy Thursday!

Today my sister Josie is reviewing a book that she really enjoyed!

What is more awesome is that you can pick up a FREE copy of the kindle book on Amazon TODAY – click HERE!

redtailRed-Tail Recovery

series: Ruthie’s wildlife (Book 3)
by Emma J Homes

55 pages – ages 6+
Published by Spark Street Communications Pty Ltd on December 14, 2016

Publishers summary: Ruthie’s wildlife scientist parents are taking on a new challenge – saving the endangered red-tailed black-cockatoo. For Ruthie this means a lot of exciting firsts: living in a house, and not a bus, starting at a ‘real’ school, and the chance to make some friends. As always, Ruthie will be helping her parents with their work, but will it be enough to make a difference for these rare and beautiful birds? And what will Ruthie and her family find themselves up against this time?

What Josie Thought: I really like this book. I liked the other book in this series I read (The Vanishing Frogs of Cascade Creek) and I want to get the first book too. Ruthie is a nice character. Her parents are scientists they travel around Australia in a bus and study wildlife and figure out how to help them. Ruthie and her brother and sister get to go too. That sounds like a pretty cool life. I like science and nature and this book teaches you about the Red-Tail Cockatoo and their habitat. There is a link in the back of the book for a website where there are people actually doing the work of saving the Red-Tail talked about in the book. This is what a Red-Tail looks like –

redtail2

The chapters in the book aren’t very long so it is a great book for kids who have trouble reading or are starting out. The story is fun to read and I like Ruthie’s smart solution to help the birds when their environment is being destroyed.

I give this book five bookwormsfivebooks

Thank you Josie!

Don’t forget to grab a FREE kindle copy of this book CLICK HERE!

To learn more about Emma J Homes, go to her website – click HERE

Review! Muhammad Ali by Gene Barretta #BlackHistoryMonth

15 Feb

aliMuhammad Ali: A Champion is Born
Written by Gene Barretta
Illustrated by Frank Morrison
40 pages – ages 4+
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 3, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- In this picture book biography of Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time.

The Louisville Lip. The Greatest. The People’s Champion. Muhammad Ali had many nicknames. But before he became one of the most recognizable faces in the world, before the nicknames and the championships, before he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he was twelve-year-old Cassius Clay riding a brand-new red-and-white bicycle through the streets of Louisville, Kentucky. One fateful day, this proud and bold young boy had that bike stolen, his prized possession, and he wouldn’t let it go. Not without a fight.

This would be the day he discovered boxing. And a champion was born.

What I Thought- Gene Barretta really knows how to write a picture book biography. He’s written books about other historical figures, including Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin. He handles this book fabulously, showing how Ali goes from Cassius Clay, a young boy who knows nothing about boxing, into Muhammad Ali, world champion. It was also nice that Barretta didn’t just focus on Ali’s path to boxing – he also showcased Ali’s civil work against segregation. This is a good book that shows someone working hard to achieve a goal, accomplishing that goal, and then helping others – kids will learn a lot from the book. There is a spread in the back talking about the life of Ali in more detail, including why he changed his name, and more about his civil work. The book is illustrated by Frank Morrison, who does a really good job at portraying the time period and capturing the essence of the people in the book. This is a great reading choice for Black History Month, seeing as Ali is a good role model all around and today’s kids should know about this great man. I really enjoy these picture book biographies by Barretta, and can’t wait to see more!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

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