Friday, July 31, 2009

July Mini-Reviews

At the end of each month I like to include a post with mini-reviews, focusing on books I've read that I don't have all that much to say about. Either they've already been written up a million times and I want to spare my readers another synopsis on plot or I wasn't overly impressed with the book and therefore, don't have a whole lot to say about the book in general. Enjoy!

A Certain Strain of Peculiar by Gigi Amateau is a young adult book that I just could not seem to get into. I tried, I really did, but the main character and the supporting characters didn't grab me and the whole plot was just slow, slow, slow.

After being bullied and harassed at her new school, 13 year old Mary steals her mother's truck and drives back home to Alabama to live with her grandmother. Over time, Mary learns the right way to deal with her issues, with some help from the older woman and a few unconventional supporting characters.

I was a bit bored by the slowness of the plot, but the other reviews I've read have been fairly good.

A Certain Strain of Peculiar
Gigi Amateau
272 pages
Young Adult
April 2009

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, is definitely one of those titles that's been written up a million times, all with raving reviews. Well, I'm not going to bore you with another plot description, but I will say I absolutely loved the charming story and could probably read it over and over again, without getting bored. I can't believe I hadn't read it until now!

Edward, though an unconventional main character, is brilliant, lovely, and heartwarming, and each of his stops on the long journey of his life adds something to the character. An absolutely wonderful book for a read aloud with your children. Grab jammies, hot cocoa, and blankets and get ready for a beautiful story.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Kate DiCamillo
228 pages
Middle Grade
February 2006

Gone by Michael Grant reminded me of something, though I can't quite put my finger on it. Lord of the Flies, yes...and something else I can't pinpoint. Everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving kids to fend for themselves, along with weird, mutating animals (and some pretty freaky powers for the kids as well).

A good read for both young adult boys and girls, filled with action and adventure, extremely thrilling in some parts, though quite a bit of violence is involved, as well as some death. Definitely for the young adults, but I can see this being a very popular book. I would have liked it to be about 100 pages shorter though, there was quite a few scenes I thought slightly unnecessary to the overall plot.

The sequel, Hunger, came out in May.

Michael Grant
576 pages
Young Adult
Katherine Tegan Books
June 2008

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

Another great giveaway for you!

So yes, it's a bit early for Halloween books, but not when they're FREE!! Plus, getting a head start on some great titles for the Halloween season is never a bad idea, especially for you librarians out there. I really enjoyed this one and the publisher is offering FIVE copies for five of you to have all to yourselves. Details below.

J is for Jack-O'-Lantern: A Halloween Alphabet is written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Donald Wu and is part of the lovely Alphabet series that is put out by Sleeping Bear Press. I've chatted up these books many times before, I truly do enjoy them and feel they're fantastic choices for libraries.

Though this particular one focuses on the Halloween/Fall season, with costumes, spooky ghosts, pumpkins, and haunted houses, it follows the same format as the other books, with each page centering on a letter of the alphabet, simple for small children, with the sidebars containing facts for the older kiddos.

For example, the letter "F" is for Frankenstein. The reader gets a short rhyme for the littler ones: "Frankenstein is famous, frightening, freaky too. Create a monster of your own and see what he can do." And the sidebar is filled with info on Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, as well as the inspiration of the movie.

Very cool books!! To enter to win one of your own, leave a comment on this post by Monday night at 11:59pm. U.S. entrants only please.

To earn a couple extra entries, blog about this giveaway or Tweet about it. Please leave an extra comment for each entry.

If you enter and do not have a blog, please leave an email address where I can contact you. Thanks!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Middle grade girlie selections

I've read a couple of pretty quite middle grade fiction books lately, aimed towards the girls in your lives. Enjoy!

Strawberry Hill, written by Mary Ann Hoberman, is an excellent choice for a read aloud with your girls at home. Homey, heartwarming, and sweet, we meet Allie, a young girl, heartbroken to learn her family will be moving to the country, leaving behind Allie's best friend and beloved home. Some excitement is raised, however, when Allie learns that her new street name is Strawberry Hill, leading her to believe she will live in a home surrounded by yummy, sweet strawberries.

When Allie and her family arrive at their new home, she realizes there are no strawberries, and she now has to make brand new friends and get used to living in a whole different place. Allie goes through what a lot of children go through after moving, making for a comforting and sweet story.

Again, great for a read aloud. Get in your jammies and read with your girls!

Strawberry Hill
Mary Ann Hoberman
240 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Little, Brown Young Readers
July 2009

Solving Zoe, written by Barbara Dee, has a lot going on, but in a good, fun way. Zoe is scared of losing her best friend to the drama clique at school, she has a weird boy stalking her and trying to tell her she has a special ability, and she now holds an after-school job feeding reptiles. All that AND she manages to get caught up in some trouble at school that she happens to be the main suspect in.

Finding her place in the world is proving difficult for Zoe. Her daydreaming is out of control and she feels she lost her best friend. Her grades start slipping and she knows she has to figure out what's going on inside her head before she's in true trouble, both at school and at home. She goes to a school for extraordinary children, but Zoe feels nothing but ordinary. Needing some help in solving her own life questions, Zoe befriends the strange new boy, who helps her to discover what and who she is meant to be.

There was a whole lot going on in this book, but not so much that the reader can't follow or won't be able to really get to know Zoe. She is like any typical preteen in the manner that she is slightly lost in the world, unable to solve the mystery of where she fits in.

A nice choice for libraries or as a gift for a preteen girl.

Solving Zoe
Barbara Dee
240 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Margaret K. McElderry Books
April 2009

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

Winners, winners!

I had the wonderful pleasure (well...I didn't, Random Generator did) of choosing three winners to each receive a copy of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. It was a lovely book and I can't wait to be able to share it with you three!


Tower of Books


Ladies, please email me your mailing address and I'll have the publisher send out your books. If I don't hear from you by Friday at 11:59pm I'll have to choose another winner.

I'll have more giveaways coming up soon, keep checking back! Thanks for entering!

Thanks again to Henry Holt :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World

The United Nations estimates the world orphan population to be over 143 million children. Poverty, war, disease, and AIDS are the primary enemies of children across the globe, leaving those who are robbed of their parents at-risk for criminal behavior, prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide.

In his debut novel, accomplished author and speaker Tom Davis offers readers a sweeping narrative that explores these most critical social concerns. Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World (June 2009/David C Cook) delves into the lives of a photojournalist struggling to redeem his past and an African orphan fighting for survival.

Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, Stuart Daniels is reeling from debt, a broken marriage, and crippling depression. The source of Stuart’s grief is his most famous photo, a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. This haunting image indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice.

Stuart is given one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for her life in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. But in the face of overwhelming odds, Adanna finds hope in a special dream, where she is visited by an illuminated man and given a precious gift. Now what seemed like a chance encounter will forever change their lives.

In Scared, Tom Davis, also the author of Red Letters and Fields of the Fatherless, weaves a beautiful story of redemption that takes place in a world far away from our own. Readers will discover, along with Stuart, that, “Sorrow is a part of life, but our tears can leave us with clearer sight, if we look to God.”

True “fiction with a conscience,” Davis’ novel is the first in a planned series of three. Narrated in the first person by both Stuart and Adanna, Scared offers a unique perspective on the tragedies taking place in Africa today and encourages readers to step out and help the “least of these."

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

Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World
Tom Davis
304 pages
Christian Fiction
David C. Cook
June 2009

New titles on teens and body image

I recently finished these two books, though very different in main characters, they have the same overall message they're attempting to convey to teen girls: love yourself for who you are.

Pretty Face, by author Mary Hogan, introduces us to Hayley, a curvy teen that loves her food, knows that she won't ever fit into a bikini, and is obsessed with super-hot Drew Wyler. Hayley is often depressed and miserable, knowing that she is bigger than all of her friends (her mother constantly tells her) and certainly not pretty enough to win over a popular guy like Drew.

Her parents decide to send her to Italy for the summer, to clear her head and live with her Aunt's family, immersing herself in the Italian culture. In the beautiful Italian countryside, Hayley is able to grow into a young woman, one who realizes that being curvy is considered gorgeous, where she is encouraged to eat what she wants, and even manages to fall just a little bit in love.

I really enjoyed Hogan's portrayal of Hayley. She came off as a very typical teen girl that you would find in any high school across America (she actually sounded just like me as a teen). I love that her body image was able to grow into respect for herself, in a way that did not seem contrived or fake. And Italy is just a wonderful place for a location!

If I had one minor "complaint," it would be the cover. Feet on a scale has been done before and for this specific book, it gives nothing to the wonderful adventure you're about to take with Hayley to Italy. More than a little boring.

This one would be great for any teen. A nice choice for library shelves (though I think it's only sold in paperback) and a great gift.

Pretty Face
Mary Hogan
224 pages
Young Adult
March 2009

In Skunk Girl, written by Sheba Karim, we have a different type of body image, but it leads to the same place as the previous book.

Nina Khan is Pakistani and believes it is totally impossible to lead a normal teen life because of it. Her parents are incredibly strict and won't let her spend time with her friends and definitely won't let her date, even though the cutest boy in school seems to be more and more interested in her as the days go by.

As a Pakistani girl, one of Nina's biggest problems is her body hair. She's not allowed to remove it until she's older and is stuck wearing long pants and bleaching the hair on her upper lip...her nightmare, however, is the long stripe of black hair going down her back. She's skunk girl.

Nina not only has to come to terms with the strict rules she is required to abide by in her family, but she also has to learn to love herself for who she is, hair and all.

Skunk Girl is a nice choice for those battling culture issues, as well as body image issues. Another good selection for libraries.

Skunk Girl
Sheba Karim
240 pages
Young Adult
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
March 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Moment Between (adult review)

I know I've said it before with the review of her previous two novels, After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow, but I LOVE Nicole Baart. She writes with such description and personality that I'm always left in whatever location she has placed her characters, feeling an actually friendship or kinship with them and am always so sad when I finish the last page. She is most definitely one of those authors that I just wish could write faster, always keeping a book in my hand and those characters in my mind, but alas, I do suppose she's only human like the rest of us.

The Moment Between is Baart's latest and thought slightly "different" than her previous two books, both in location and definitely in the intensity of the read, it was again, absolutely wonderful. The reader is brought to beautiful British Columbia, deep into wine country, following the main character, Abigail Bennett on her quest for knowing. Abigail wants nothing more than to find Tyler Kamp, the man she believes is responsible for the death of her sister, a woman that was already on a path of complete destruction before she met Tyler.

Abigail's "mission" is quite obviously an obsession, bringing her into a new country, giving her a new job working at a local winery, and forcing her to omit her real reasons for being there, in order to keep her relationship with her sister a secret. As Abigail is immersed with new people, wine, beauty, and this risky obsession, the reader also learns of her past with her sister, her family, and the reason she still feels the need to stand up for the sibling that is no longer alive.

Baart has this unique ability to write with such description that the reader really does feel as if he or she is there, in the moment. You will feel so strongly for Abigail, you will want to shake her at times and sometimes you just want to hug her, or drink a glass of wine with her. And believe me, the descriptions of British Columbia will leave you needing to take a vacation, fairly immediately. I've already informed my husband that the next vacation we take will be there!

This is a rather intense read, sad at times, and other times you will be filled with love...for siblings, for travel, for work, for love. The Moment Between was wonderfully breathtaking.

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

The Moment Between
Nicole Baart
384 pages
Adult fiction
Tyndale House
April 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reviews are coming...

So I owe you all a bunch of reviews. Well, a bunch might just be the understatement of the year, but I know I owe them and they're coming. Promise. And they include Fire and The Last Olympian. Again...they're coming. :)

Non-Fiction Monday: ER Vets

In our world today there always seems to be some "craze" going on in which children want all the toys/clothes/books/games surrounding a specific character or theme. We've had (and still have) Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. Eventually the craziness dies down and once again, the books will sit on the shelves waiting for someone to come along and pick them up. Animal books, however, never seem to go out of style. At least in my own experience, children just seem to flock to books, whether fiction or non-fiction, focusing on animals in one way or another, which is, I think, an awesome thing.

My choice for today, ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room, by Donna M. Jackson, is not going to stay on your shelves long. Filled with awesome photographs of cute animals getting all fixed up, the book is a keeper, for sure, as it's not simply a book about animals, it really explains the profession of becoming a vet, for those kids that are interested in making a career out of caring for animals.

We see sweet Shelley, an adorable puppy adopted from a shelter, recover after being hit by a car and Paco, a very ill, newborn foal be nursed back to health. We also get a brief overview of the history of veterinary medicine, a section on the death of pets, a bunch of great vocabulary words, all accompanied by detailed photographs, following the different animals and vets as they are helped in the animal ER.

A very cool book, I would say this one is a "must" for library shelves. You'll have a hard time keeping this on in!

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

ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room
Donna M. Jackson
89 pages
May 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A biiiiig giveaway for you!

Back in May I gave a rave review of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and have already recommended it to several middle graders over the past couple of months, to good results. I love the story, love the main character, and love the cover, and the kids I've passed it onto seem to agree.

The kind people over at Henry Holt have offered up three copies of the finished books for me to give to three lucky winners....a pretty nice Sunday afternoon treat I would say!

To enter, leave a comment on this post by Wednesday night at 11:59pm, Eastern time, with an email address (in case you win) if you don't have a blog for me to go to. Open to U.S. residents only. To get a second and a third entry, blog about the contest and/or Twitter about it. Leave a separate comment for each entry.

Thanks again Henry Holt!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Some cute choices, some sweet choices....hopefully you find something you and the kiddos can enjoy!

My first offering this week is the 2nd children's title from author/illustrator Brie Spangler. Peg Leg Peke was one of my favorite books of last year and this latest, The Grumpy Dump Truck was just as adorable, with a lovable (and grumpy) main character that will have kids giggling all over the place.

Bertrand is an incredibly grumpy dump truck. He's mean to everyone and goes through the day with a frown on his face and a lousy attitude, making sure everyone knows just how miserable he is. Grouchy is just how Bertrand lives his life and goes about his dump truck duties. When he runs into cheerful Tilly (who is SO cute) and she unexpectedly helps him by finding the cause of his grumpiness, Bertrand is finally able to see what life is like when the glass is half full.

Very cute, perfect for a read aloud with the young ones. Bright illustrations compliment the story and will keep the kiddos looking at the pages while you read the giggle-worthy text. Bertrand is adorable!

The Grumpy Dump Truck
Brie Spangler
40 pages
Picture Book
July 2009

Got a cat lover in your family? How Many Cats?, written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Robin Eley is a perfect choice for a fan of the felines or just a little one that is learning to count.

An adorable combination of counting and rhyming, the reader gets to see just what our kitties do when we're away (invite all their friends over of course). Causing tons of cute mischief and chaos, your kids will really enjoy seeing just how much trouble these cats can really make, as one cat grows to lootts of cats.

The illustrations are beautiful and realistic and the storyline great for toddlers. A very nice storytime pick.

How Many Cats?
Lauren Thompson
32 pages
Picture Book
April 2009

Finally, I wanted to throw in a "sweet" book for today and I found that in Anytime, Anywhere: A Little Boy's Prayer, written by Marcus Hummon and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

What begins as Isaac's usual bedtime prayer routine, turns into a great conversation with his daddy, centering on who can hear his prayers and all the great things in his life he feels he should pray for. Isaac not only prayers for his Grandma, but he also prays for the ants and insects, the birds, his friends, the homeless...and the sweet list goes on and on.

Not at all "preachy" or religiously based, Anytime, Anywhere is a very cute exchange between a father and a son. A bit long and a little "goody goody" with the inclusion of some of the prayers, but still a good message. Great for a bedtime story, one on one.

Anytime, Anywhere: A Little Boy's Prayer
Marcus Hummon
32 pages
Picture Book
January 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Me again...

Got a lot going on this week...the in-laws are here and some other things occurring that we didn't totally expect. I'll be back with a post this weekend.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Discover the Oceans

I'm a sucker for any non-fiction book about the ocean. I just find it such a fascinating topic, with so many different places to go and explore, leaving endless possibilities for authors to take on. For this Non-Fiction Monday I've chosen Discover the Oceans: The World's Largest Ecosystem, which is written by Lauri Berkenkamp and illustrated by Chuck Forsman, which focuses on incorporating activities for kids to participate in that will take them on ocean adventures, allow them to both learn and work with their hands.

Set up in different chapters, the author has included a mass of information in a pretty short book, but in a manner that is pleasing and easy to understand. Each chapter has lots of facts, a "words-to-know" section in which highlighted words from the text are defined, an activity or two, fact boxes and some illustrations.

A glossary, index, and section on how to help the oceans rounds out the book. My only real criticism of Discover the Oceans is the lack of color on the pages. The illustrations are done in muted browns and blues, rather than the bright colors one typically associates with ocean life. For that reason, I don't see the pages holding the attention of younger children, but the book would be a great resource for a middle schooler doing a project.

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

Discover the Oceans: The World's Largest Ecosystem
Lauri Berkenkamp
96 pages
Nomad Press
July 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So when is...

...someone going to kindly send me their much-coveted copy of Catching Fire? Or are ya'll really going to make me wait until October like the rest of the world? I'm a nice girl, should send it to me. Should I beg? Hands and knees? Or maybe "pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top?"

Darn you Scholastic, I sure did want one of those ARCs!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hook review

How lovely this picture book is, I can't quite put into words, but trust me, you want to read it. Whether you have a library or a classroom full of children, a family at home, or just yourself, you'll want to read it.

Ed Young, winner of the Caldecott Medal has written and illustrated Hook, the story of an abandoned egg, found by a boy and given to chickens to raise. Once the egg has hatched, however, the chickens quickly determine the baby chick was simply not meant for Earth, but for greater things. Hook, as he has come to be called, learns to fly, eventually growing up to be one of the most beautiful and beloved bald eagles.

A very simple story, with such a complex meaning, I was incredibly impressed with the work of Young on Hook. The illustrations are really beautiful, done in soft tones (Amazon says the illustrations are chalk) that compliment the short-but-sweet text on the page. Children will enjoy seeing something "different from the crowd" turn into a gorgeous eagle, and parents will enjoy the compassion of the chickens that help to raise Hook and the boy determined to see him fly.

Overall, a truly wonderful book for both library and home shelves. This was a great one folks!

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

Ed Young
32 pages
Picture Book
Roaring Brook Press
April 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hancock Park review

Ah high school. Filled with cliques,constant judgement, friendships, and the occasional class, high school is typically pretty brutal, even if you're one of the kids that gets along with everyone (that was my role). Try being in high school in Los Angeles, at one of the most elite schools, surrounded by beautiful people, a slightly crazy family, and, of course, your psychiatrist on speed dial. Welcome to Becky's world.

Becky attends Hancock Park, an incredibly exclusive school in the heart of Los Angeles. The girls at her school are rich snobs, expecting nothing but perfection from their classmates...and watch out if you aren't one of the perfect ones. Anxiety abounds in Becky's life, as her parents are fighting more every day, thus convincing Becky that she needs more therapy and more meds to help the craziness in her life.

Learning to take control over herself and her life, both at school and at home, is a slow process for Becky, but she does it and in such a way that teens, rich or not, can most definitely relate to.

For the first 25 pages or so, Becky was a bit irritating. Over the top, more than a little whiny, though her problems did definitely resemble those that a lot of teens face every day. As the book went on, the main character grew on me, and I really started to enjoy watching her self-progression and her ability to relate to today's teens.'s a bit of a guilty pleasure to read about these rich kids and their not-so-perfect lives.

Fans of Gossip Girl and the Clique novels will enjoy Hancock Park, or anyone looking for a light, fun, beach-type read.

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

Hancock Park
Isabel Kaplan
272 pages
Young Adult
Harper Collins
June 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some possible changes...I need your input!

So, I'm having a bit of a dilemma and I'd really like as many opinions and thoughts on this as possible, as it will affect you, my lovely readers. Nothing huge, major, or catastrophic, just the possibility of some additions here at A Patchwork of Books.

My content focuses mainly on where my career has led me and where my main interests in reading lie...that being with children's and young adult books. I do read adult fiction, non-fiction, Christian fiction, etc., but I don't spend a lot of time on my reviews and sometimes I just skip the reviews altogether. I've even started straying away from picking up an adult book that interests me, only because I fear it won't interest YOU. You come for a great review (or my simple thoughts, however you want to think of it) of a children's title and that's what I want to give you.

What I want your thoughts on, is whether or not you would like to see more reviews of adult titles or whether you think they belong on a separate blog. I've thought of starting a second blog, but figured maybe you DO want to see more of this genre.

Now, I'm not talking about reducing the amount of children's/YA reviews, simply throwing in more titles from the adult genre as well. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bible studies...

I really enjoy joining Bible studies through my church, as it's a time for great learning AND fellowship with others that live for the same reasons I do. I do, however, also participate in Bible studies on my own, typically with a particular book I've found and I'll just work on it daily. It's my morning quiet time. A good cup of coffee, a devotional, my Bible and a Bible study book is my morning routine.

I recently had the chance to review a couple of Bible study books out of a new series by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose, which is really sparking the reason for this post. I was SO impressed by these books. First, a rather simple thing in the big picture, but their appearance was fabulously modern...the one book a bright pink, the other a deep orange, both nothing but the title and a vase of flowers on the front. So many books written about spirituality and religion and the Bible come off as stuffy and boring from just lack of a good cover designer!

The series is called "Fresh Life" and the books are each a "20-Minutes-a-Day study of different portions of the Bible. The two I've reviewed are Live Deeply: A Study in the Parables of Jesus and Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis. I've, by no means, gotten all the way through each, but again, am very impressed as to what I've seen so far. Filled to the brim with scripture, Bible descriptions, and thought-provoking questions, as well as sidebars with more to learn about and encouraging prayers, a lot is placed into these daily studies, which I think truly results in the reader having to expand her mind to absorb what the Lord is bringing through the authors.

Each daily lesson is divided up into 5 different parts:
Lift up (prayer)
Look at (God's word)
Learn about (new insights)
Live out (application) and Listen to (quotes from other believers)

You can use these study books for a small group, or as I have, just for your own use. There are two other books in the series, Live Intimately: Lessons from the Upper Room and Live Fearlessly: A Study in the Book of Joshua.

To learn more about this great series, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Winner, winner!!

The winner of my giveaway of an ARC copy of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is.....


Congrats, Melissa! Just email me your mailing address ASAP and I'll get the book out to you. Thanks to everyone who entered...more giveaways coming soon!

Non-Fiction Monday: Frog Scientist

8If you read my blog often and you see my weekly Non-Fiction Monday posts, you'll notice that I most often feature books with wonderful photography. With young kids and non-fiction, in my own experience, the books are more likely to be picked up and enjoyed if they feature awesome pictures with simple, easy-to-read, informative text. This week, the book I'm featuring is another of those wonderful, necessary combinations, with some of the coolest photographs I've seen, and a very nicely written, educational format.

The Frog Scientist, part of the "Scientists in the Field" series put out by Houghton Mifflin, is written by Pamela S. Turner, with photographs by the very talented Andy Comins. In it, we follow Tyrone, a graduate student, around the world as he attempts to solve the mystery of why frogs are dying everywhere and being born malformed.

The reader not only gets an insider's glimpse into a very cool, unique topic, he or she is treated to some incredibly impressive photographs of frogs and landscapes, as well as backstory on Tyrone's life and experiences. I was very pleased with this title, as I have been with all of the "Scientists in the Field" books I've come across.

This would be a fantastic choice for a school library, both middle and high school, as well as for a homeschooling science unit. A great book!

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

The Frog Scientist
Pamela S. Turner
64 pages
Houghton Mifflin
July 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bull Rider review

I know all of you librarians out there are dying for some great books aimed at your teen guys and I've come across one that not only will please the reader, but the giver as well. You'll like it, their parents will like it, and the teen reader will enjoy it too. And though it's probably aimed towards the guys, with a male main character and lots of male secondary characters, not to mention quick a bit of sports action, there is a great plot and family dynamic, so don't feel like you can't hand it to girls too!

Cam O'Mara is a championship skateboarder. He lives to board and spend time with his friends, practicing and learning new tricks. Cam comes from a family line of championship bull riders (definitely not skateboarders) and though his grandfather, father, and brother have, at times, shown a bit of disappointment in Cam's lack of interest in the sport, they know he loves his skateboarder and is darn good at it.

When his older brother Ben, arrives home from the Iraq War, seriously injured, unable to ride a bull, and depressed, Cam decides that he finally do what his family always wanted him to do...become a bull rider. Cam figures this will allow his brother to live through him, watching Cam get on bulls and rule the sport. Unfortunately, nothing comes easily and not only does Cam's mother want him to have absolutely nothing to do with the sport of bull riding, but Ben just can't seem to snap out of the funk the war left him in.

Filled with great descriptions, lots of action, and some family drama, Bull Rider will definitely please a crowd. It's written on a topic that we don't get to see a lot of, making it a nice recommendation for those kids that just read everrrrything. They probably haven't read one on bull riding yet!

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

Bull Rider
Suzanne Morgan Williams
256 pages
Young Adult
Margaret K. McElderry
February 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer review and giveaway

At first glance, this young adult novel by Sarah Ockler may appear to be very much a romancy beach read with no real substance (which, I must admit, is how I first thought it would be), but in reality, Ockler has produced a novel filled with love, compassion, and teaches us what true friendship is really all about.

Anna's first true love was named Matt. "Was," because Matt died last year. Matt also happened to be Anna's best friend Frankie's brother, and no, Frankie didn't know about Anna and Matt's relationship. The summer after Matt died is one filled to the brim with emotions, with Anna wanting to fill Frankie in on her love for her Matt, but Frankie not really being emotionally available for her, suffering from the loss of her brother.

At the beach, the girls make a pact to try to meet at least twenty boys that summer. Frankie wants to take her mind off Matt, but Anna simply wants to have him back and can't let Frankie in on why she isn't really into the whole "summer boy" thing. Both girls are struggling internally with their loss and throughout the summer, begin to learn more about each other than they ever thought possible, while meeting boys, dealing with parents, and suffering through an almost unbearable loss.

The author really got her characters and was able to truly make both girls stand out with their emotions. This is a great beach read, but it's not simply a fluff novel to pick up in between parties this'll want to keep reading to see where it goes.

One lucky reader can win a copy of Twenty Boy Summer, just by leaving a comment on this post by Sunday night at 11:59pm ET and letting me know your favorite part about summer time. Only entries from the U.S. for this one please! Don't forget to leave me an email address if you don't have a blog.

Want an extra 2 entries? Blog about this giveaway. Facebook about it. Twitter about it. Leave a separate comment for each you do. You can get an extra 6 entries!

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

Twenty Boy Summer
Sarah Ockler
304 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown Young Readers
June 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eyes Like Stars Blog Tour

Let's not beat around the bush. THAT COVER!!! Drool. Double drool. What a lovely, gorgeous cover for a book that, when opened, delivers just as well as the first impression. Lisa Mantchev has created this totally unique concept, expanded it with cool, well-written characters, and paired it with, again, a brilliant cover. Teens are going to be drooling, just as I was.

Bertie Shakespeare Smith is an outsider. Having grown up in the theater, surrounded by all the characters of the famous plays of history, she has built up a strange sort of family, but they aren't her real family and Bertie has made that known by consistently playing pranks and causing trouble around the theater her whole life. When the Theater Manager decides that Bertie is not contributing to the theater and must leave unless she comes up with her own method of bringing something to theater life, Bertie decides to become a director and put on her own, play, recreating Hamlet. Easier said than done when dealing with characters that already know their roles, having been born to play them.

Throw in some romance with a minor character from the Little Mermaid, some hilarious fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and, of course, an enemy (who happens to be from The Tempest) and Mantchev has given us readers quite the unique and fun-to-read story. Bertie is a spunky character, always having something quick-witted to say, and the fairies are SO funny! Teens will really enjoy Eyes Like Stars and will probably be looking to Mantchev's next book as soon as they finish this one.

To learn more or to purchase, follow this link to Amazon.

Other stops on the Eyes Like Stars blog tour:
The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, Abby the Librarian, All About Children’s Books, And Another Book Read, Becky’s Book Reviews, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, The Friendly Book Nook, Homeschool Book Buzz, Homespun Light, Hyperbole,, Never Jam Today, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm back!

Yes, after a bit of a hiatus while moving cross-country and attempting to get settled in a new house/city/time zone, I'm back (at least mostly).

What have I been doing? Unpacking and painting. And painting. And painting. And more painting to come in the next few days. The previous owners of our house were in mid-painting mode when they decided to sell and so not only were the colors not really our taste, but they were also half done, so the painting needed to be pretty immediate. My master bedroom went from yellow stripes to a nice blue/gray, the family room went from plain ol'primer with beige trim to a green with white trim (which is still growing on me...not loving the green I chose), and in the next few days we'll be doing the kitchen/living room/hallway, which are yet undecided. And after all this I never want to paint again.

We're also pricing new carpet, so that should be going in eventually, along with new appliances on Saturday, and new ceiling fans at some point. Once things are pretty much done I'll post some before and after pictures for you all.

I LOVE being near a Wegman's for groceries, it makes me feel like I'm home in the Syracuse/Rochester area, LOVE having a screened deck to sit on in the mornings and evenings, and have fabulous neighbors. So far, VA is being good to me.

Obviously I'm not getting a whole lot of reading done, but I did accomplish 3 audiobooks on the way from NM to VA and I still have a bunch of books left over to review that I finished reading during the packing process. Bear with me for a couple more weeks as I readjust to blogging life!

I do have a couple booky-comments to make before I actually get back into reviewing. If you haven't read A Moment Between by Nicole Baart (new in May I believe), an adult fiction read, go out and do it. Same goes for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. I'm probably the last person on the planet to read that anyways, but if you haven't, go do so. Give it to the kiddos as well.

I'll be "back" with a blog tour tomorrow, a giveaway Wednesday, and all the usual stuff throughout the week. Oh and for all you VA-area people, if you have any must see, must eat, must do things in the area, send the tips my way!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

I love dogs and I LOVE David Catrow, so my first selection this week just had me at hello! Doggone Dogs!, written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow is an adorable, laugh-out-loud silly book about ten dogs and their rather rambunctious activities.

\Also including counting from one to ten and back again, not to mention some great dog names and absolutely amazing illustrations, Doggone Dogs is one great read aloud for story time and the book your children will be pulling off your shelves to read, over and over again. I especially love the old man squinting between the dogs at the obedience school...SO funny!

Doggone Dogs
Karen Beaumont
40 pages
Picture Book
October 2008

Gone with the Wand, written by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Brian Ajhar, is a perfect title for that little princess in your life! A hilarious storyline with adorable illustrations, it's sure to please all those little girls that love Disney Princesses, dressing up, glitter, and girly fun.

When the best fairy godmother in the land has a slight wand mishap...well, a big wand mishap, things are starting to look verrrry bad for her, until the tooth fairy takes her under her wing and offers up friendship, kindness, and some pretty silly antics!

The entire book is one big girl-fest. Not my first choice for a boy's read aloud, but it's silly enough that they may just enjoy it too!

Gone with the Wand
Margie Palatini
40 pages
Picture Books
Orchard Books
April 2009

My Brother Bert, written by Ted Hughes, with illustrations by Tracey Campbell Pearson, is a perfect storytime book that will have the kiddos giggling all over the floor!

Presented with cute, rhyming text, we learn from his little sister that Bert has a rather unusual. He has been so secretive and mysterious, that she simply can't take it anymore and opens his door, letting loose almost an entire zoo of silly, zany animals!

Complimented by bright illustrations with a storyline that's a whole lot of fun, this one is great for read alouds and for both library and home shelves. A great toddler gift book!

My Brother Bert
Ted Hughes
40 pages
Picture Book
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
March 2009

What Really Happened to Humpty? is written by Joe Dumpty (as told to Jeanie Franz Ransom) and is illustrated by Stephen Axelsen and presents the ultimate crime case for little kids to solve.

Joe Dumpty, Humpty's younger brother,is definitely not the popular brother. Mother Goose much preferred Humpty, and thus built all the stories around him. When Humpty takes his infamous fall, the rumor on the street is that he was pushed! Joe just happens to be an investigator and sets out to solve the crime of who pushed Humpty off the wall!

A very cute concept, your kids will love that their beloved nursery rhyme might just have a little backstory going on. The characters are a lot of fun, with appearances by Little Miss Muffet, Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, and others, this one is a lot of fun for a read aloud with the family.

What Really Happened to Humpty?
Jeanie Franz Ransom
32 pages
Picture Book
February 2009

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