Monday, June 29, 2009

A few more days...

I've been told I will have internet in the new house on Thursday morning. Keep your fingers crossed that it works out that way!

See you in a few days!

Bad Girls Don't Die review

What a weird, creepy book! Katie Alender has created a novel for young adults that will truly have you guessing from beginning to end. I didn't know who was good, who was bad, if there were ghosts, if these girls were just idea. It was nice to be kept guessing for once.

Bad Girls Don't Die introduces to Alexis and her younger sister Kasey. Alexis is a bit rebellious, really just wanting some attention from her emotionally and often physically absent mother. Kasey is a sweet, shy blue-eyed girl that suddenly starts changing to a mean, vindictive, and violent green-eyed girl. Alexis has no idea what's going on with her sister...or with herself for that matter. Is SHE crazy? Has something possessed Kasey or is it all in her head? Alexis has a lot of questions and not a whole lot of answers. And unfortunately, while waiting for answers, Kasey's strange and scary behavior continues to get worse and worse.

As you turn the pages, I can almost bet you are going to be saying "what in the WORLD is going on?!" And it's a good thing. Suspense-filled, this is a fun, yet creepy, book to read, with intriguing characters and a rather unique plot.

A nice choice for your YA shelves at the library.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Bad Girls Don't Die
Katie Alender
352 pages
Young Adult
Hyperion Books
April 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

June Mini-Reviews

A few quickie reviews for you all...books I've read throughout the month and want to say a thing or two about, but don't have enough to say that requires a full review. A lot of times these mini-reviews are because a book has been on the shelves for years and lots of other bloggers have had a lot to don't need me saying more, just my opinions! Some of these are challenge books, others, not.

First, Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock was one I read for the 48 Hour Read-a-thon and was just as cute as everyone said! Filled with a bit of romance, lots of down-to-earth characters, and location I feel very close to (I grew up with a farm in my backyard), I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the next two in the series.

Dairy Queen
Catherine Murdock
288 pages
Young Adult
9780618863358 (paperback)
June 2007

The Leisure Seeker, written by Michael Zadoorian was one I had on my list for the Fill in the Gaps Challenge. An elderly couple, she with terminal cancer, he with advanced Alzheimer's Disease, decide to take one last vacation together and hop in their RV, hitting the road on the way to Disney Land. Obviously lots of craziness ensues!

A unique story with lots of laugh-out-loud moments, but definitely touching, inspirational, though a bit sad (not in a bad way). The book moved a bit slow, and although the comment on the cover says you'll get to the end and say 'Oh my God,' I saw the end coming...but it was worth it.

The Leisure Seeker
Michael Zadoorian
288 pages
Adult Fiction
William Morrow
January 2009

Though I absolutely loved Lurlene McDaniel when I was younger, I think some of the depressing story obsession has gone away in recent years. All of the books are short, sad, melancholy stories and Breathless was no exception.

Travis Morrison has finds out he has cancer in his bones and ultimately needs his leg removed, ending his future career as a championship diver. As the illness progresses, he asks his friends to help end his suffering, thus giving them a huge moral dilemma to deal with.

A quick read that teen girls will still probably go nuts over, Breathless didn't do a whole lot for me. I did enjoy the controversial topic of euthanasia, but it felt like the same book I've been reading from McDaniel for the last 15 years. Oh well.

Lurlene McDaniel
176 pages
Young Adult
May 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Picture Book Saturday: Pigs!!

I have three adorable picture books to showcase this week, all surrounding the subject of PIGS!!

My first choice is by one of my all-time favorite picture book authors, Amy Krause-Rosenthal, who, together with illustrator Jen Corace, has brought another "Little" to the cute series of books. Little Oink (joining Little Pea and Little Hoot), features a pig that is entirely sick and tired of being messy. All he wants to do is be clean like all of his friends!!

Unfortunately, mom and dad won't allow Little Oink to go out and play until he properly takes part in "mess-up time." He has to mess up his room, change his clean clothes to dirty ones, unfold his clothes, etc. How mean are those parents?!

Kids will love the nature of this story and soon you'll be having the little ones asking if they too can make a mess like Little Oink! Very cute! A wonderful addition to the series!

Little Oink
Amy Krause-Rosenthal
36 pages
Picture Book
Chronicle Books
April 2009

Being a Pig is Nice: A Child's-Eye View of Manners, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Dan Krall, is another silly book for this week. A little girl explains how kids are always being given manners to follow and goes on to tell us readers how EASY it is to be a pig, a snail, an elephant, and lots of other animals. Lots of messes are perfectly fine, muddy hands are great, being slow is normal, etc. Until she realizes that being polite and having manners might not be so bad after all.

Very cute with silly illustrations (the snails are adorable) and a nice message. Manners are given for a reason!

Being a Pig is Nice: A Child's-Eye View of Manners
Sally Lloyd-Jones
40 pages
Picture Book
Schwartz & Wade
May 2009

My final "pig" selection this week, is by the ever-popular Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Tim Bowers. Princess Pig is another laugh-out-loud funny book with great illustrations, making for another good read aloud selection.

When Pig wakes up from her nap with a Princess sash around her head, she is convinced she has been named a Princess, refusing to do any of her regular duties and bossing around all of her fellow farm animals. When Pig learns that Princesses don't eat slop and they certainly don't roll around in the cool mud, she begins to reconsider her position.

From beginning to end, this is a sweet, funny story, again, with fabulous illustrations. And I just LOVE Pig's crown made of a teacup. How cute is that?

Great for storytime read alouds and home shelves.

Princess Pig
Eileen Spinelli
40 pages
Picture Book
June 2009

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bilingual Picture books

I have a couple of bilingual picture book selections for you today. Living in New Mexico, and especially Southern New Mexico, where the Spanish language is heard just as often as English, bilingual books for kids are SO important, but so few and far between. These are two I'm sure will be added to the local library collection...nice stories and done in both English and Spanish.

A Walk with Grandpa (Un paseo con abuelo) is written by Sharon K. Solomon and illustrated by Pamela Barcita. It follows a grandfather and his granddaughter on an enjoyable walk through the woods while playing their favorite word game. Grandpa says Daniela is his earth and she says he is her sky. He says she is his summer and she says he is her winter. And on and on it goes while they spend the day in the woods.

The pair skip rocks, pick flowers, see lots of wildlife and just watches nature for awhile, making for a wonderful afternoon for the both of them.

Beautifully illustrated, the soft colors add to the sweet story nicely.

The story is told in English, with the Spanish translation directly below.

A Walk with Grandpa (Un Paseo con Abuelo)
Sharon K. Solomon
32 pages
Picture book
Raven Tree Press
May 2009

Beautiful Moon (Bella Luna) is written by Dawn Jeffers and illustrated by Bonnie Leick. In it we meet a charming girl that wishes she had more time in each day. When she meets the moon one evening, she is given the opportunity to pull back the sky for more time with the sunshine...more time to play, run, eat, and enjoy the day. Soon, however, the girl sees all the trees and flowers drooping, the grass turning brown, and realizes that night time is the time for rest and renewal. That if the day lasted all the time, we wouldn't have any energy or appreciation for it.

With exquisite illustration (oh her EYES!!) and a sweet, simple story, Beautiful Moon is a nice choice for a bedtime story.

Again, English words on top, Spanish on the bottom. Easy to help new-to-Spanish readers or new readers.

Beautiful Moon (Bella Luna)
Dawn Jeffers
32 pages
Picture Book
Raven Tree Press
May 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the road...

Just wanted to remind you all that I'm moving cross-country this month, headed to our new home in Virginia from New Mexico, so if I'm slow to respond to emails/comments/etc, you know why. I have posts scheduled for most days, but I may be lacking on the communication line!

We started this afternoon around 1 and made it 5 hours to Tucumcari, we're already a half day ahead of our original plan. Not too shabby...

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust review

Books about the Holocaust always intrigue me. I love hearing the stories of hope and triumph over terrible situations and even when the story results in death, the information taken away from it is always valuable.

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust by Elly Berkovits Gross is a short little autobiography, chronicling the journey of Elly and her family to Auschwitz when she was 15 and the horrors she endured after her family was immediately killed. This is a true and honest first-person account of experiences and ultimate triumph over tragedy in Elly helping to spread the word about what went on in Auschwitz, as well as in other concentration camps around Europe.

A great resource for middle grade or young adult readers, Elly would make a great source for a project on the Holocaust, as well as just plain old enjoyment reading. A powerful message of hope shines through each page and everyone can use a little inspiration now and then.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust
Elly Berkovits Gross
131 pages
Middle Grade
March 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spring Reading Thing wrap-up

Well, I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't finish the challenge, though I certainly did put the effort in. I only had the one book left, but with packing and getting ready to move this past week, the time to read just hasn't been there. It certainly was fun though!

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
2. The Problem With the Puddles by Kate Feiffer
3. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
4. Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
5. Deeper by Roderick Gordan
6. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
7. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
8. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
9. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
10. A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
11. Fade by Lisa McMann
12. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald

King of the Screwups review

What an interesting plot concept for a book! Rich, snobby kid gets kicked out of his house and has to live with his cross-dressing, gay Uncle in Upstate New York, what more intrigue could one ask for in a contemporary young adult novel? K.L. Going definitely knows the process of putting together an interesting plot topic.

Liam is the big-man-on-campus at his high school. He wears incredibly fashionable clothes, lives in a beautiful house, and always has a hot girlfriend. The one person he can't seem to please though, is his verbally abusive and emotionally neglectful father. Nothing Liam does lives up to his father's expectations and when he gets caught in a compromising position with a girl from his high school, his father finally kicks him out.

Liam ends up moving in with his "Aunt" Pete, his mother's gay, cross-dressing brother, that lives in a run-down trailer park in Upstate New York. Basically, Liam's worst nightmare. Once there, however, Liam decides that he no longer wants to be Mr. Popularity and attempts to turn himself into the world's biggest nerd, finally becoming the son his father always wanted.

With the help of Aunt Pete, Liam is able to truly come into his own and see who he really is...and what his father won't ever be.

A bit of strong language is including in the book and many homophobic slurs are used as well. Overall, I enjoyed the novel, though sometimes I felt that Liam's dialogue was incredibly scripted and he came off somewhat fake. Which is hard to describe, because often his character IS being fake on purpose.

Recommended for fans of K.L. Going and Barry Tyga.

King of the Screwups
K.L. Going
304 pages
Young Adult
April 2009

Darkwood review

Ok, so I'm not going to lie and tell you that I absolutely loved this middle grade novel. I didn't love it. However, I liked enough elements of it to allow me to honestly recommend it to certain groups of readers, as I do think some of you (and your kiddos) will enjoy the book.

M.E. Breen has created the character of Annie, a young girl living in the village of Howland, in which darkness falls incredibly quickly and is hugely feared. One moment it may be light and the next, complete darkness. There is no dusk, no twilight, in Annie's world, only darkness, and the evil kinderstalk animals that will kill a human without a second thought and are rumored to be stealing children all over the village.

After escaping from her Aunt and Uncle's house, Annie ends up in a terrible place, where children and adults alike are worked hard, often to death, and have no one to stand up for them. Vowing to help, Annie makes her way to the King, where a person from Annie's past turns up to help her and she begins to learn more about the kinderstalk she has feared her entire life. Nothing is as it seems to Annie, which is, at times, a blessing, though often, a deadly hinderance.

While filled with fairy tale-like descriptions and darkly engrossing scenes, I just didn't completely feel this story. A lot of the plot lines were quite inconsistent for me and though the beginning was thrilling and exciting, the rest of the story just went kinda crazy, not always making the most sense.

Though I may not personally love Darkwood, I do believe that fans of fantasy and thrilling adventure books may indeed enjoy it. I can see several of the regular library patrons taking this one off the shelf and truly liking it, it just was not great for me.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

M.E. Breen
288 pages
Middle Grade
May 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Tour with Toni Buzzeo: A Guest Post

My first guest post!! Toni Buzzeo has a wonderful new book at, truly an adorable offering, titled Little Loon and Papa. She wanted to fill you all in on how her book came to be and how perfect it is for a post-Father's Day read with daddy and kids.

In my experience, as a teller of stories from an Italian family, and a writer of stories for children, stories often arise from other stories. This has definitely been true for me.

Let me begin with a family story. Picture this. A three, four, or five year old child is seated in the bathtub in several inches of water. Around her head, just above brow level, is a plastic halo. Ahhh, one imagines, here is a small saint bathing. But no; take another look. The facial expression isn’t that of a saint. Nor is it the expression of a demon (though certainly her parents may have thought so at times).

So why is she donning the plastic halo? And what frightens her so?

You’ll need the story behind that story. The little girl has a terror of water on her face, especially on hair-washing night. I know exactly how she feels, because that little girl is me. Perhaps my parents were heard to say in utter frustration on one of those hair-washing nights, “I hope that you grow up to have a child who behave
s just like this!” The wish of my parents was granted; thirty-one years later, the grown daughter fought the same hair-washing fight with her own son, Topher, who was equally terrified of water on his face.

In many families, that might be the end of a story of ‘just deserts.’ But when the story happens in a writer’s family, there is ample fodder for a book! Of course, it’s not always obvious to the author how the events of the past will be reshaped into story.

However, it is thanks in part to the bathtub scenes in that first story that my picture book Little Loon and Papa came into being. When my editor at Dial, Lauri Hornik, asked whether I might have any ideas for a book connected to Father’s Day, I claimed to have not a one, but promised I’d begin to moodle the topic in the back of my mind. Having had great success with the characterization of the sassy and imagination-driven little duckling in my second picture book, Dawdle Duckling, I thought I’d again return to an animal story and began to seek a perfect animal—one whose father was very involved in his upbringing.

a second family story. From the time my son Topher was 10 months old, we owned a tiny cabin on Rangeley Lake in the western Maine mountains. Like virtually every Maine lake, Rangeley is home to families of loons each year. Greenvale Cove where our little log cabin was perched was no exception. I fell in love with the haunting calls of the loons there as Topher grew up. We’d canoe next to them, silently watch them dive deep and resurface far away, listen to them as we fell to sleep. When I learned through research that loon fathers take a full fifty percent of the care of their babies and that teaching them to dive is an essential early task, I had an idea for that Father’s Day book Lauri wanted.

I did not, however, have a STORY. That’s where the third family story comes into play. Topher was a senior in college but since he’d never had his own car, he’d never had reason to take a car to have its oil changed. In the summer months, I invited him to accompany me to the quick lube shop and get some real-life experience with this mundane task. As we waited for the oil change, I laid out my skeletal loon story idea for him because he’s a fabulous brainstormer. In the oil change shop, we came up with a refinement of the idea. What if Papa Loon were trying to teach Little Loon how to dive but Little Loon, terrified of going under the water, resisted, refused, and finally wandered away? What would happen to that little loon, all alone on the shores of the big lake?

Of course! He’d run into three north woods animals, a bear, a moose, and a beaver (all larger than him and noisier than him but none of them dangerous to him) as he searched for his father. When the beaver fells a tree, it is at the very moment that his frantic father appears and calls to him—on the wrong side of the log! What can he do but gather his courage and dive?

So there it is—the origin of story in story itself--three stories, actually. In every one of my books, the origin lies is personal experience, the germ of an idea that lights a flame, and the personal stories that fuel that fire.

Thank you so much Toni!

Non-Fiction Monday: The Time Book

The Time Book: A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Richard Holland, takes a subject we all take for granted and answers some questions we've probably all thought about at one time or another, but never really searched for an answer for.

Looking at questions such as what time actually is, when did we start keeping track of it, and why is it measured in the manner it is, and why February is such an odd month, the reader gets a whole new perspective on something we've always just had around. Really, a cool concept for a book, and one your kids are going to enjoy.

The illustrations are of mixed-media, which is always interesting, and although the text is done in a fixed chapter form, the writing is clear, concise, and almost conversational, rather than dull. I do wish the authors had broken up the text more within the pictures, as I felt it rather blocky and unappealing on the page, but the actual information given was fantastic.

This would be a really nice pairing with a homeschooling unit on time (or regular school unit of course).

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Time Book: A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks
Martin Jenkins
64 pages
May 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Be Hopeful review

I really enjoy doing individual Bible studies, especially when the study is of a book in the Bible that is not necessarily the most "popular." Warren W. Wiersbe has a wonderful "Be" series and this past week I used his Be Hopeful, a study on 1 Peter. Most of these have been previously published, but I wasn't aware of them until recently, as they are all coming back out in revised editions.

I started the book/series on the perfect day, as we had returned from church the previous day after a sermon on positive attitudes. 1 Peter really teaches us the power of a positive attitude and how Wiersbe's study book expands on Peter, allowing the reader to "make the best of times out of your worst of times."

Done in chapter form with the ability to use the book for personal study/reflection or in a group setting, I found the short, but to the point layout wonderful and the information presented to be well integrated with scripture, not just from Peter, but from other books in the Bible as well.

Be Hopeful is the not the first Wiersbe study I've done and it certainly won't be the last. If you're looking to expand your knowledge on a book or a subject, this is really a great series. You can buy each paperback book for around 12.00 (for the new, revised editions) or I've seen the entire "Be" series in one big book, though I'm not sure what that one costs.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Some random books from the shelves this week. Hope you find something that you and your children will enjoy!

Shark in the Dark, written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Ben Cort is adorable, literally, from cover to cover. The front cover features a cut-out that appears a shark is going to come right through, out at the reader and the text inside is filled with cute rhymes about how this shark scares all the little fish. When the shark meets someone even bigger than he is, a fish that wants to eat HIM, the shark begins to think a little differently about how he treats fish smaller than he is.

Cute, rhyming text, bright, bold illustrations, and a cute plot make for a great read aloud. Not too scary for the little ones, I promise!

Shark in the Dark
Peter Bently
32 pages
Picture Book
Walker Books
May 2009

The Frogs and Toads All Sang is a brand new collection of short little stories by the infamous Arnold Lobel, with color by Adrienne Lobel. The stories, discovered by his daughter, are as lovely and sweet as anything else you've ever read by Lobel, accompanied by familiar, soft illustrations, perfect for bedtime reading.

I felt comfort while reading this book, as it definitely reminded me of my childhood reading of Lobel's work. Frog and Toad will always be hits!

The Frogs and Toads All Sang
Arnold Lobel
32 pages
Picture Book
May 2009

Maggie's Monkeys, written by Linda Sanders-Wells and illustrated by Abby Carter, is my laugh-out-loud pick of the week. Your kids will be giggle throughout each reading of this adorable book, filled with realistic characters (that I'm sure you're children can relate to!).

When little Maggie declares there are pink monkeys living in the refridgerator, everyone in her family, except for her older brother, is very kind to the "monkeys." Dad puts a "do not disturb" sign on the door, older sister helps Maggie make clothes for the imaginary monkeys, but her older brother is insistant that everyone is just crazy!!

A very cute read, perfect for storytimes, with bright illustrations and an adorable plot!

Maggie's Monkeys
Linda Sanders-Wells
32 pages
Picture Book
April 2009

Finally, Ballyhoo Bay, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Derek Anderson, is my do-good choice of the week! It's a sweet story of kids and animals teaming up together to save their beloved beach when highrise apartment buildings are said to be in the works.

Though maybe a bit of a complex plot topic for the younger kiddos, the older ones will certainly understand, and the illustrations are so bold and bright, they'll easily hold the younger ones' attention. Plus it's by Judy Sierra! Ya gotta read it!

Recommended for storytimes and for library shelves.

Ballyhoo Bay
Judy Sierra
40 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
February 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poetry Friday: City I Love

Love cities in the summer time? Lee Bennett Hopkins has written some wonderful poems about all things "city," accompanied by cute illustrations by Marcellus Hall, making for a nice poetry book for all age levels.

As the reader, we get to experience cities all over the world, from New York and Tokyo, to Cairo and San Francisco, all with their own unique aspects, as well as some striking similarities. Horns blaring, hydrants flowing, subways traveling, these poems really give an overall beautiful to cities around the globe, easy enough for a child to understand, with some really cute illustrations featuring a cute dog that pops up on each page. Your kids will have a great time looking for him, while you read the poems!

Teachers and homeschoolers could work this into a global unit, mixing some social studies with some poetry. It's always nice to mix and match!

To learn more about this title, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

City I Love
Lee Bennett Hopkins
32 pages
April 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

After Gandhi review

I've been looking for a nice book on Gandhi/people like Gandhi for quite some time and I finally got my hands on one that is completely readable, filled with age-appropriate information, and some pretty awesome illustrations. So many non-fiction books aimed at children/young adults, have too much info condensed into teensy text, no illustrations and that, my friends, equals booooring! This title definitely is not boring! It's about time...

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance is written by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien, and focuses not only on the interesting and beautiful life Gandhi himself led, but also those that came after him. Included are the women of Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1960's, Wangari Maathai, from Nairobi, Kenya, Rosa Parks, and the student activists of Tiananmen Square. Some you may have heard of, some not, but all the stories are incredibly interesting, relevant, and worth a read.

To learn more about this title, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

After Gandhi: 100 Years of Nonviolent Resistance
Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien
192 pages
February 2009

If you have any other suggestions for nice Gandhi-related titles, please fill me in!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some easy reader favorites

The easy reader genre is not one that I get to work with a lot. They don't make great story time read alouds, just because of their length, and I don't have any children/nieces or nephews of the easy reader age group. I do, however, have some favorites that I've reviewed and plan to keep around until until I do have a little one of my own to share them with.

Those would be:

The "Houndsley and Catina" books, written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie Louise Gay. My favorite is probably Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, but a new one, Plink and Plunk, just came out and is also really cute.

Houndsley is a cute hound dog and his best friend Catina is an adorable cat. Together they help to exhibit kindness, understanding, and friendship, with some great giggles thrown in. They're great starter books for new readers and younger kids will love the illustrations, making them a pretty all-around-good book series.

Of course, I just HAVE to mention the "Elephant & Piggie" books by Mo Willems. I've reviewed several on this blog and a new one came out recently, Watch Me Throw the Ball. These books are just hilarious...the best part probably being the expressions drawn on the faces of both Elephant and Piggie when something doesn't go their way.

You have to be a great storyteller to get your kids to understand the sarcastic undertones and subtle humor, but when when they do get it, it's SO worth it. Love these!

Finally, infamous Diane deGroat has great easy reader books featuring Gilbert the opposum, the latest being Gilbert, the Surfer Dude. I love deGroat's illustrations and her plots are also cute, but not "cutesy" appealing to both boys and girls.

Gilbert is another of those super-positive book characters, like Arthur or Biscuit, that kids love to see in a series and these easy readers are the perfect format to continue to exhibit Gilbert adventures.

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two cute picture books

There have been some awesome picture books released this spring season and I've been lucky enough to get my hands on quite a few of them it seems. These two titles have been some of my favorite reads in the past two weeks.

Sylvie, written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler, is the story of an adorable pink flamingo, searching for her identity. When she wonders why she is pink instead of a different color and her mother tells her it's because of the shrimp that flamingos eat, Sylvie decides to try out some different colors, by eating lots of different things.

Sylvie samples some grapes and turns a lovely shade of purple, snacks on some chocolate and becomes a beautiful brown, and even consumes a piece of paisley bathing suit and is instantly a gorgeous paisley all over. However, after trying all of wonderful colors, Sylvie feels a bit yucky and a whole lot less like Sylvie.

Though the plot is one like a lot we've heard before....trying out different identities before truly loving one's self, Sylvie is presented in a unique, super-cute, funny manner, with hilarious illustrations, and some great. This would make a wonderful read aloud!

Jennifer Sattler
40 pages
Picture Book
Random House
May 2009

The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town, written by one of my all-time favorite children's authors, Judy Sierra, and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is a great bedtime read aloud for one on one with children or at a pajama party at the library.

Going through the alphabet in a nicely rhyming form, using a bedtime routine, readers (or listeners) will work on learning their ABC's, as well as giggle at the silly illustrations done by Sweet. We see "b" taking a bath, "f" full of fidgety wiggles, and "i" and "j" jumping on the bed!

Very cute!

The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town
Judy Sierra
40 pages
Picture Book
June 2009

To learn more about either title or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah review

I love when authors have this ability to take an innocent child, put them in a complicated situation, yet allow them to keep their innocence throughout the experience. It makes a middle grade book great for kids, keeping things simple and pure, as emotions at that age level should be. Nora Raleigh Baskin has succeeded at this wonderfully, in a sweet middle grade book that mixes preteen emotions with the desire to understand more about one's past.

Though Caroline has always known she was Jewish, her parents have raised her in a rather non-religious home, not following the traditions of the Jewish faith or talking about the beliefs with Caroline. After her devoutly Jewish grandmother passes away, Caroline becomes interested in Judaism and what is means to be part of the Jewish faith, wondering if she can possibly be a true follower of the religion, even within a non-religious family.

A very nice book for middle graders, whether Jewish or not, Caroline exhibits real-to-life thoughts and emotions, appropriate for the age group the author is attempting to reach. The religious aspect is a main plot point, but sub-topics of friendship and crushes play a role as well. A good choice for libraries or as a gift.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah
Nora Raleigh Baskin
144 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
April 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Mealworm Diaries review

Ooh mealworms. I have way too much knowledge about these teeny little creatures, as we had several bearded dragons for a few years and they ate a whole truckload of mealworms on a daily basis. And I can say I've seen several of them eaten by friends. Don't ask.

Anywho...when I saw the title of Anna Kerz's middle grade novel, The Mealworm Diaries, I was instantly intrigued. A mealworm diary? What in the world could someone have to say about mealworms that could coincide with a kid's life? Well Kerz does a wonderful job of connecting a mealworm's simple life with a child's incredibly complicated one, and she does so in a manner that appears effortless and often sweet.

Jeremy and his mother have recently moved to a new town and he is having a lot of trouble adjusting to his new school and with making friends with the new kids he goes to school with. After being paired with a complete social outcast for a science project on mealworms, Jeremy knows he is absolutely doomed to be on the bottom of the social scale for the rest of his life. However, as the school year progresses, Jeremy is able to become compassionate towards Aaron, slowly understanding more about why he is the way he is and in the process, begins to heal from the death of his father and connect more with his mom, all while learning about the surprisingly complex life of a mealworm.

A short and sweet novel about friendship, love, loss, and insects, Kerz has integrated a whole bunch of themes into one marvelous one about discovery. The plot concept is one we've seen before, but with a twist (that would be the bugs folks). I think middle grade kids, especially boys, will appreciate and enjoy this one.

Recommended for library shelves and for reluctant readers.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Mealworm Diaries
Anna Kerz
153 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Orca Book Publishers
April 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: What's Inside?

What's Inside? Fascinating Structures Around the World, is written and illustrated by Giles Laroche, and features a unique look into the mysteries within the walls of famous places around the world. From King Tut's tomb to Independence Hall, from a Shaker dairy barn to the Sydney Opera House, readers get an insider's glimpse into these cool structures from all around the world.

Complete with a cute ending, an informative glossary, and a really cool concept, I was really impressed with the ability of this book to appeal to all different age groups. As an adult, I enjoyed looking inside some of the buildings I've been familiar with but never visited. I can see children loving the neat illustrations and the sentences that lead to intrigue as to what's on the next page. And the facts are short, but plentiful.

I must mention the amazing illustrations again....SO cool! I'm not sure how Laroche has done them, but they are incredibly impressive and wonderful to explore. I would love to see more of his work.

What's Inside? is a great title for library shelves.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

What's Inside? Fascinating Structures Around the World
Giles Laroche
40 pages
Houghton Mifflin
April 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adventures of Riley, series review

I really enjoy finding a good series for kids or teens, whether it be a picture book series featuring the same character, or a thrilling mystery series for my teen readers, I just like series books in general. A new one I've come across recently, the "Adventures of Riley" series by Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz is a unique combination of fiction and non-fiction, inviting kids to learn more about different parts of our world through the use of fact boxes, cartoon characters, and real photographs of local animals, plants, and landscapes.

Each book features Riley and members of his extended family going on exploration vacations to cool locations all around the world. Places include the Australian Outback, India and Nepal, the island of Moorea, South Africa, Madagascar, the South Pole, and a whole bunch of others.

Riley and his family, all done in cartoon-like illustrations by Sarah McIntyre, explore these wonderful locations, having lots of thrilling adventures along the way. The facts are inserted as "fact boxes," around the pages, which are filled with brilliant photographs of animals and landscapes. I just loved the integration of the illustrations with the real photographs, it appears seamless.

There is a glossary and additional information in the back, as well as instructions to use the Adventures with Riley website.

This is a fantastic series for school and public libraries to have on their shelves. I was overly impressed with the presentation of the information, as well as the high interest level of the fiction portion of the books.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Adventures with Riley series
Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz
Non-fiction/Picture Books
Scholastic Press

Let Go review

Let Go: Live Free of the Burdens All Women Know, written by best-selling author and Women of Faith speaker, Sheila Walsh is going to be a book I'm constantly recommending to my women friends from now on. This book is such an eye-opening, comforting read for Christians and an encouragement for those non-believers.

Through this book, Walsh wants women to "live free of the burdens all women know," by using the word of Jesus to help let go of "stuff" we've been holding onto. She breaks up this goal into chapters, each focusing on a typical part of a woman's life that is difficult to let go of. Whether it be living in the past, a forgiveness issue, loneliness, bad relationships, etc. she covers it all and does so in such an incredible way, you'll honestly feel like a friend is just having a conversation with you. I can't imagine that is a simple task to accomplish for any author, especially those of self-help books, but Walsh comes across as a good friend rather than someone preaching to you about how to best get your life on track.

Personal examples and accounts from other women help to solidify the message in each chapter, with lots of Scripture woven throughout the pages as well. There are also a few discussion questions and a prayer at the end of the chapters, in case you're reading it with a group, though the discussion questions can also be done as a devotional. That's how I used it. Not only will you be encouraged to help yourself get out of a rut, but you'll also learn more about the Lord's word in the process.

My favorite chapter was probably "The Trap of Unforgiveness," in which Walsh looks at how forgiveness is portrayed in the Bible and just why it's so hard for us to forgive each other throughout our lives. The manner in which she writes about not letting the hurt someone dealt you sit with you for the rest of your life (holding grudges), hits home and I believe that each person reading the book will take something incredibly personal away from it.

I've never read a book by Walsh before this, but you can bet I'll be reading more of her very soon. I highly recommend this for libraries, as gifts, and as a permanent fixture on your bookshelves.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

I read this one for the Fill in the Gaps challenge.

Let Go
Sheila Walsh
224 pages
Christian Non-Fiction
Thomas Nelson Publishing
February 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If the Witness Lied review

I was a huge fan of Caroline B. Cooney when I was younger. Face on a Milk Carton was one of my favorite books, as was the rest of the series....I loved them! And I must admit, bad librarian that I am, that I haven't read a book by this author in probably 10 years. Bad, bad!! Well, after picking up this latest piece of work by Cooney, I can certainly see what the appeal is to upper middle grade kids and young adults, though I think, now being an adult myself, the writing style has lost a bit of it's magic for me.

If the Witness Lied is an emotional story about a family is true turmoil. Jack Fountain's mother died because she dared carry his youngest sibling to term, not allowing the necessary chemo treatments to treat her cancer. His father then died in a tragic accident, caused by none other than that same youngest sibling. The media has been interested in his family's story for quite some time and Aunt Cheryl, the guardian of the children, is quick to feed into their interest.

With Jack struggling to take care of his baby brother while attending school, Madison no longer living in their household, but with friends, and Smithy away at a boarding school she enrolled herself into, the Fountain family is seemingly broken and unfixable. With the looming television show Cheryl has gotten them into, coming too close for comfort, these siblings finally bond and vow to protect their littlest brother from media exposure, at any cost, which unraveling more and more secrets about their family.

With a great plot concept, intriguing doesn't begin to describe this story. I did feel the pace was a bit slow, almost bordering on boring at times, but the actual idea of the plot was pretty awesome and currently very relevent. Teens will really enjoy the Fountain siblings' story.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

If the Witness Lied
Caroline B. Cooney
224 pages
Young Adult
Delacorte Press
May 2009

Picture Book Saturday: Father's Day edition

I've been accumulating reviews on daddy books to post about just in time for Father's Day, giving you all a little bit of time to track them down and make them a good read for your kids and their daddy. Hopefully you'll find something that appeals to you!

Don't miss the giveaway link at the end of the post!

When Papa Comes Home Tonight, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by David McPhail has been written 10 whole years after the famed When Mama Comes Home Tonight. We finally get a daddy edition!

Going through all of a father and son's rituals after Papa arrives home from work, the reader gets to see a sweet connection between the pair. From cooking dinner to washing dishes to playtime, storytime, and finally bedtime, another beautiful story perfect for a one-on-one read aloud with daddy's and kids.

The illustrations are nice and soft and the text, rhythmic, making this a nice bedtime book.

When Papa Comes Home Tonight
Eileen Spinelli
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
April 2009

Grizzly Dad, written and illustrated by Joanna Harrison is a wonderful book describing what happens when your child's dad is feeling a little bit grumpy.

What happens when dad is in a grizzly mood? Well, he turns into a bear! And a young boy has to learn how to take care of a mess-making, stinky-breath, starving, complaining, grizzly bear!

Very cute with gorgeous illustrations, this one would make a wonderful family read aloud (with dad doing bear voices of course!). A nice choice for libraries and home shelves.

Grizzly Dad
Joanna Harrison
32 pages
Picture Books
David Fickling Books
May 2009

Say Daddy!, written by Michael Shoulders and illustrated by Teri Weidner is another "bear" focused book, but only with the characters this time around.

As a family each reads a baby a book, he or she really wants the baby's first word to be their own name. "Say mommy!" "Say daddy!" "Say Grace!" But the little baby really has his own first word in mind...and it's a very cute one!!

I would give this adorable book to everyone I know having a baby shower or with a little one at home. It's so sweet in the descriptions and illustrations and the end will have you giggling. Lovely!

You can win a copy of this one here!!!

Say Daddy!
Michael Shoulders
30 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
February 2009

And finally we have My Daddy Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Jane Monroe Donovan. Now, I'm being a little sneaky with this's not quite a picture book, but it fit well with the post, so I wanted to include it. This one will be for your older kiddos, instead of the little ones.

Filled with poems that describe silly sayings that daddy's often say, ones that can be confusing to young one's mind, and the explanation as to where the saying came from, this is really a cool, unique book.

Did you ever wonder where the saying "wipe that smile off your face" came from? Or "you're driving me up a wall?" Or what about "the buck stops here?" You'll find explanations for all of these, paired with some really nice illustrations.

So I cheated, it's not a picture book, it's still a fun choice and nice for fathers and their children to read together this Father's Day!

You can win a copy of this one here!!

My Daddy Likes to Say
Denise Brennan-Nelson
32 pages
Sleeping Bear Press
April 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Poetry Friday: Vacation

It's mid-June and seemingly everyone has a vacation planned, happening now, and already done with for the summer. Even I'm taking a "vacation" in a little less than two weeks, driving across the country to our new house in Virginia! I thought today's selection for Poetry Friday was appropriate...and in honor of all you lucky beach goers!

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean, with poems by David L. Harrison and illustrations by Rob Shepperson, is a great intro to summer fun. With poems all about what kids end up doing on vacation, from hiking, to horseback riding, from getting squished in hugs by Aunts to, of course, the beach, the reader gets a nice dose of everything "vacation."

Nice, short poems and easy-to-read text, make this a nice choice for any child from beginner to middle grade. The illustrations are done in black and white pencil drawings, kept simple, and the small size is perfect for sliding into a backpack for your child's own vacation!

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean
David L. Harrison
62 pages
May 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast review

Apparently, this charming book by Alan Aldridge and William Plomer was quite the big hit when it first came out in 1973, but I must admit, I've never heard of it, nor come across a copy in all my years as a reader. A new edition, out this past March, has come to my attention, and after perusing the beautiful pages for awhile, I can most definitely see why it made such an impact on readers.

Aldridge and Plomer created wonderful, flowy poems accompanied by amazing illustrations that appear as if they're about to just jump off the page at you. "The Rodents' Express" poem is just adorable, all the rodents on their way to the ball, and "The Butterfly Ball" brings everything to fruition, all the preparation of the various animals and insects culminate at the ball.

The illustrations are simply extraordinare (except for perhaps the slightly evil looking clown in the last illustration) and the end includes a couple of paragraphs on each animal in the poems, from a gadfly to a dormouse, to a gnat, and of course, a butterfly.

A lovely book, perfect for library and home shelves, this one will be taken down by the kiddos again and again.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast
Alan Aldridge and William Plomer
96 pages
Templar Books
March 2009

HUGE Non-Fiction Giveaway!

Well I just have giveaways galore lately, don't I?? Today's is fabulous, I promise you that! Wonderful Valerie, over at Bearport Press has just let me know she has an entire set of recent Children's Choice Award non-fiction books, for me to give to one lucky winner. A set of 6, beautiful, hardcover books (and I've seen these folks, I have a set myself). Super sturdy, great for libraries or for little kids at home that enjoy ripping things apart!

The books included in the set are as follows:

Spooky Cemeteries

Florida Panthers

Southern Sea Otters

Pararescuemen in Action

Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox

and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

What a great group of books!

To enter:

Leave a comment on this post by Monday night, June 15th, at 11:59pm. Make sure you leave an email address if you don't have a blog, so I can contact you.

Extra entries:
1. Blog about it (this earns you two extra entries)
2. Twitter about it
3. Facebook about it

Make sure you leave a separate comment for each entry!!

Thanks again to Valerie at Bearport!!