Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Roam by C. H. Armstrong

A Story That Will Win A Place In Your Heart and Mind

#NetGalley #Roam       /       Available Feb. 5, 2019

In Omaha, Nebraska the Lunde family live a perfectly normal life until seventeen-year-old Abby's mother, who teaches at the high school,  is caught having an affair with the coach. Abby is ridiculed unmercifully even by those she considers her close friends. Her mother resigns and soon after, her stepfather loses his job. With no income, they are forced to make some hard decisions.

The family of four head out in their van for Rochester, Minnesota with the hopes of finding jobs and rebuilding their lives. However, sometimes things don't happen as imagined. The winters are very cold, money is running low and they find themselves confined to what little they do have, a van.

Parking in the Walmart lot, they all attempt to sleep, but not much room and frigid weather make it very hard to accomplish. Abby and her young sister start school but trying to hide the facts that they have no home or money are sometimes challenging and embarrassing.

The girls walk to the library, approximately two miles away, after school. They wait there to be picked up since Mom and Stepdad are searching throughout the day for helpful homeless programs as well as jobs.

Abby discovers that many of the kids at the high school are very well-to-do, yet she makes a few friends very quickly, as well as one enemy. Trish Landry is a popular rich girl and ex-girlfriend of the football quarterback who just happens to be Abby’s new boyfriend.

Though the family does a very good job of trying to hide their homelessness, eventually secrets are exposed. Will it be a repeat of what happened at Abby's last school, or will her new friends stick with her?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Very little concerned me, but I half wondered if the ending was tied up a little too neatly with a bright red bow. 

What I Liked Most: Though the main story is one of homelessness, other plots weave through making it interesting on several levels. 

Homelessness is handled in a way that will most likely touch your life forever. This would be a very good book for classrooms to read.

Author: C. H. Armstrong
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing (Feb. 5, 2019)
Paperback: 320 pages

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy

- Everything You Need To Know, And More! -

Ragweed gives his bouncy version of the do’s and don'ts for a farm dog. His cute handbook spells it out pretty clearly. As a start, it’s best not to wake up the farmer, it’s the rooster’s job. And don't sit on the chickens' nests, and don't eat grass like the cows.

But the fun part comes when Ragweed tells that he has learned to use the don'ts to his advantage. For instance, if you do wake the farmer, you can get a biscuit just to go away.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing

What I Liked Most: It is full of humor that both kids and adults will appreciate. Each time Ragweed offers advice, he proceeds to follow-up with information about what happens if you ignore the advice. And by ignoring it he manages to earn a treat.

Readers will get the humor and love this energetic, little dog who manages to make everything turn to his advantage and goal: biscuits!

5 Star picture book rating
Author/Illustrator's Site: Anne Vittur Kennedy
Published by Candlewick Press 2015
  • Word Count: Approx 447
  • Ages: 3 – 7  years
  • Pages: 32
Activities For This Book: Provided by Candlewick Press

Friday, January 18, 2019

My Little Gifts: A Book Of Sharing by Jo Witek

- The Value Of Giving And Receiving Gifts -

5th book in The Growing Heart Series

A little girl takes us through the many ways of giving and receiving gifts by first having the reader open a gift (a flap on a page). She thanks the givers, Mom, and Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa and 
"They smile, and their smiles make me happy, too, as if I'd gotten an extra gift, one that didn't come in a shiny, wrapped box."
She shares her favorite gift with her sister; at recess, the kids swap trading cards and stickers as well as teach each other their favorite games; we learn gifts can be handmade; even learning can be a gift that is shared.

Each spread has a lesson with a flap that adds interest to each illustration.

The Growing Hearts Series
  • In My Heart: A Book of Feelings (2014)
  • Brave As Can Be: A Book of Courage (2015)
  • All My Treasurers: A Book of Joy (2016)
  • With My Daddy: A Book of Love and Family (April 2018)
  • My Little Gifts: A Book of Sharing (September 2018)
  • My Tree And Me: A Book of Seasons (April 2019)

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: This lift the flap book is ideal for younger children (with some supervision) or even older kids. The flaps are not as sturdy as the board books made for toddlers, in that they aren't made of heavy cardboard.

What I Liked Most: This fun book offers great talking points yet has activities for little ones to take part in. Though this is the first book I've read in this series, I will most likely be reviewing others.

The illustrations are very kid-friendly even though there's lots of white space on each page.


Author: Jo Witek
Illustrator: Christine Roussey
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed (September 2018)

Format: Hardcover (Casebound Cardstock With Flaps)
Pages: 30

  • F

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Interrupting Chicken And The Elephant Of Surprise by David Ezra Stein

- Sequel To The Caldecott Honor Book -

Chicken is back in this second book of Interrupting Chicken. When her papa asks if she had a good day at school she replies,
"Yes, Papa! And today my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise. So let's read a story, and we'll find the elephant." 
Of course, Papa attempts to tell her the teacher was talking about the element of surprise.
"It's the part of the story that makes you say, 'Whoa! I didn't know that was going to happen.'"
But she won't give up the elephant hunt that easily. She tells him finding an elephant in a story always makes her say "Whoa!" So can they please read a story together.

Papa gently lets her know that she shouldn't expect to find any elephants in the story. But this little interrupting chicken manages once again to interrupt and finish Papa's stories. Not surprisingly she adjusts each of the three stories, The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid to include an elephant of surprise.

When Papa has had enough he says,
"Well, Chicken, are you happy? You've put an elephant in every story. But now I'm going to tell you a story and I'll make sure there are no elephants."
Chicken is okay with that, but she tells him she will draw the pictures.

Any bets about the elephant of surprise in this last story?

My Thoughts


What Concerned Me: Again, I'm sure most would disagree (since the first book was a Caldecott Honor Book), but I wasn't a real fan of the illustrations.

What I Liked Most: The fresh originality and humor can be enjoyed by both old and young. And of course, any book that incorporates reading into the story can't be half bad!

This book won't disappoint you.

Author/Illustrator: David Ezra Stein
  • Publisher: Candlewick (September 2018)

Approx. Word Count: 649

Pages: 40

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

- A New York Times Bestseller -

New York Times Bestselling Picture Book

At bedtime, the little red chicken promises that she won't interrupt Papa's story. Yet with each story, the desire to cut in and finish it with a better ending is just too tempting.  As Hansel And Gretel is being told, little chicken interrupts,
"Out jumped a little red chicken and she said, '"DON'T GO IN! SHE'S A WITCH."' So Hansel and Gretel didn't. THE END!"
And so it goes with the telling of Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little. Little red chicken wants to save the characters from any ill, by having a chicken (of course her) jump into the story and tie it all up nicely at the ending.

Having run out of stories, unhappy with the constant interruptions and the fact that little chicken is not getting sleepy, Papa hops in bed and asks little chicken to tell him a story.
"Okay, Papa! Here we go! Um . . . "
And Bedtime for Papa by Chikn begins,
"Once there was a little red chicken who put her Papa to bed. She redd him a hundred stories."
The pages show print on lined paper, complete with crayoned illustrations.

In nothing flat, Papa chicken is sound asleep.  So what's a little red chicken to do?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: This is a tiny concern, but it's actually a good thing to become involved in a story. Not so much to interrupt, but story time feels like a different situation. 

I must be the minority, but I wasn't all that impressed with the illustrations.

What I Liked Most: This is a cute twist on bedtime stories. 

Author/Illustrator: David Ezra Stein
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (July 2016)

 Approx. Word Count: 493
Pages:  40 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cookies!: An Interactive Recipe Book by Lotta Nieminen

- No Food Required! -

Now, this is what I call, inexpensive, no mess cooking. You may walk away a bit hungry but, hey, did I mention no mess?

This fourth book in Nieminen's COOK IN A BOOK series has a real cookie recipe for little readers to pretend they are making. This sturdy interactive board book shows pictures of the necessary ingredients and cooking utensils. The reader uses moving parts to sift the dry ingredients, add an egg and vanilla, mix and fold in the dry ingredients, and finally pull the cookies from the oven.

There are two cardboard cookies on the last page that can be pulled from the book. If I had any concerns about them disappearing, (either in someone's tummy or pulled from the book and never returned) I'd keep that a little secret or carefully guard them.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing

What I Liked Most: This is such a fun, innovative idea that kids will love. The book is larger than some board books and is quite sturdy. This is the first book I've read in this series, but I can see why kids who like this would be equally happy with the earlier three books with recipes for Pizza, Pancakes, and Tacos.

Illustrator: Lotta Nieminen
Publisher: Phaidon Press (October 25, 2018)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann

 - Is William's Cooking Going To Spice Things Up Too Much? -

William lives in the magical land of fairy tales, but he’s not the least interested in princesses, kingdoms or pretty much anything associated with a fairy tale. What he's interested in is being a chef and cooking happily ever after.

William has tried working at the Brick House (obviously from the Three Pigs fairy tale), but the menus seemed too dangerous since he is supposed to fix Pot-o’-Wolf Stew and one of the ingredients in it is a Big Bad Wolf! He has served porridge at Three Bears Bistro but the folks there were very persnickety. And he’s baked for Gingerbread-on-the-Go, but that didn’t end too well for him either since his cookies escaped.

After deciding to work at home, William discovers his pantry nearly bare so he heads to the market. At the market, he sees a box that has flipped out of a truck headed to FairyTale Headquarters. In the box are apples, beans, and a pumpkin. But will any of these seemingly innocent ingredients be involved in other fairy tales? Oh, I don’t know, maybe Snow White for one? Oh, oh .  . .

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: If kids aren't familiar with fairy tales, much of the humor will be missed.

What I Liked Most: This is a creative, fun, cooked-up fairy tale that kids should fall in love with. The bright illustrations complement the text beautifully. 

Illustrator: Ben Mantle
Published by Random House Children's Books, 2017

  • Approx Words: 633
  • Ages: 3 - 7
  • Pages: 40

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde


Timminy, the boy telling this story, lets the reader know right from the start, "My dog, Maxi, dies." 

Being forewarned, we are drawn into a tale of a boy who moves with his family to a new town where his dad will be the principal of his middle school.

Timminy dreads the move, partly because of his short stature and dread of being bullied and not fitting in. His parents, knowing how hard this move is for him, let him get a dog. Maxi is a beautiful Great Pyrenees, that the family soon discovers is deaf. When they learn this, Timminy embraces his dog even more, since he knows what it's like to be a little different.

While Timminy is correct about having to handle bullies and rude kids, he learns ways to deal with it. In time he meets his neighbor Abby, who is blind but doesn't let it define her. 

Maxi, Timminy, and Abby form a somewhat unlikely trio, but one that works extremely well together.

Though Maxi plays a large part in this book, her illness and death are handled in a way that could prove inspirational to others facing a like situation.

The author puts it all a little more succinctly: 
Lynn Plourde Yes, Maxi dies at the end of the book--the beginning of the book lets the reader know that--so, yes, a book with tears, but also with laughter. Maxi is Timminy's deaf dog. Timminy's next door neighbor is Abby, a blind girl. He also has a neighbor named Rory, whose nickname is Beast of the East because he is so large. Timminy is the shortest kid at his school. It is a book about FITTING IN.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing

What I Liked Most: Each chapter ends with a secret that Timminy picked up from living with Maxi. A secret that applies to life in general. The relationship and growth of the characters encourage learning and understanding.  Though this book has all the markings of possibly being a bit didactic, the messages are extremely subtle and woven beautifully throughout the story.

Publishers Weekly probably says it best. "This story is a tender reminder that perceived shortcomings don't define us and that the power of friendship can't be underestimated.”

Author: Lynn Plourde
Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (August 2017)
Pages: 272 (hardcover)

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Boo at the Zoo by Jeffrey Burton

- A Lift-the-Flap Book -

This is a rhyming, interactive book with zoo animals dressing up in costumes. It even includes a bit of a guessing game. All things that should appeal to small children.
"We love to haunt / and float at the zoo.
We disappear at the zoo. / We disappear then pop up and say "Boo!"
The left page shows a flamingo. The right has three flamingos with the words "Guess Boo?" When the page is turned we see flamingos wearing sheets. The text is
On another page, we see a wolf.
"We love howling / a mighty loud tune.
Our tighty-whities show and glow / in the full moon."
Again, on the right page are wolves with the words "Guess Boo?"
When the page is turned there are wolves wearing underwear.
The majority of the book is like the above examples. It pulls together at the end by asking a question about the animals at the zoo and then telling how the animals celebrate Halloween.

My Thoughts

What My Concerns Were: Well, I'm sorry to say that I had several, though I thought it might be a fun book.
  1. Board books are meant to for very young children, this missed the mark.
  2. Guess Boo instead of Guess Who might be easily overlooked but,
  3. What small child is going to understand the play on words? Even as an adult I wasn't too impressed.
  4. The rhyme felt forced and off.
  5. The flaps that lift to show what the animals are dress like is very thin and could easily be torn from the sturdy pages. Plus little fingers would have a hard time grasping and opening the flap. 

What I Liked Most: This is a very creative book with a fun concept; I wish it had been geared up and marketed to an older group.

2 Stars
May need a Fairy Godmother. 

Author: Jeffrey Burton
Illustrator: Emma Trithart
Publisher: Little Simon; Board book edition (July 2018)

Pages: 14

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

- Once Upon A Time, There Were Three Colors -

Reds, Yellows, and Blues once lived in harmony. The Reds were definitely the loudest of the three. Yellows were naturally brighter. And Blues were simply the coolest. But that all changed one day when Red announced,
"REDS are the BEST!"
Yellows quickly responded,
"NO! We're the BEST because we're the BRIGHTEST!
How did the Blues respond to these outcries? With silence. They were far too cool to say anything at all.

The colors each began to gather in their own separate parts of the city. There was Red Village, Blue Town, and Yellow Heights. Harmony just didn't exist anymore. Until . . .

Yellow zoomed by a park bench riding a skateboard. Blue was sitting on the bench looking quite blue, in this case sad, not cool. Yellow sat down to visit with Blue. It cheered Blue up and Yellow was able to calm down. Soon they were inseparable. But not all the colors were okay with this new friendship. In fact, they were quite upset.

But Yellow and Blue cared for each other enough that they decided to get married. And of course, eventually, a baby color joined the family. And this baby was a beautiful combination of brilliant and cool.

But how will the Reds Yellows, and Blues handle this new turn of events?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing

What I Liked Most: Actually, when I started reading I thought this would be a bit of a color wheel lesson with a story. Oh silly me!

This simple narrative examines pride, prejudice, and discrimination, in a straightforward story that children can easily understand.  (However, sometimes adults -okay, me- can start to go astray.) 

This is a very good book for both families and classrooms.

Author/ Illustrator: Arree Chung
PublisherHenry Holt and Co. (July 2018)

Approx. Word Count: 278
Pages: 40

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Sweet Taste Of Revenge by Mary Ellis

Two Mysteries Run Simultaneously

#NetGalley #SweetTasteOfRevenge Available February 1, 2019

Kate Weller is a PI who's attempting to rid herself of years of threats by visiting her brother, Liam, who has been in prison for16 years. He became the fall guy after being involved in a robbery that left one person dead. Kate hasn't talked to him since this happened, but she continually has received threats saying that she needs to keep quiet about what she saw. 

Though her brother was not aware that Kate was at the scene of the robbery, she has blocked everything from her memory. However, when her boyfriend's car explodes (he is unharmed) she feels she has to go see her brother and find out what's going on. Fearing for her boyfriend's safety, Kate breaks up with him and heads to Florida to see her brother. Since he cares deeply for Kate, he follows her using the pretense of looking for a restaurant to purchase. Her office assigns her a case to work in Florida so that she can spend some time with her brother and still work.

Kate finds herself in Florida trying to discover who set her brother up, as well as solve the death of a woman who was most likely poisoned on her yacht.  

This is the second book in a series, the first being Hiding in Plain Sight. However, I wasn't aware of that when I read this book, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me:  Unlike some books, I had no trouble finishing this, but I did feel that it jumped from here to there without fully fleshing out the story.  The reader is supposed to feel that Kate is a trained PI, yet she flits around being impulsive without any concern that she might be on someone's radar. 

While the reader is supposed to be concerned for her safety because of the boyfriend's car exploding and her threatening phone calls, basically nothing happens to cause concern in Florida. Yet her friends are extremely concerned for her safety. 

I think it might have been better to stick to one mystery and make it a little more complete.

What I Liked Most: While the story itself felt like it could have been improved, it wasn't hard to continue reading. The sentence structure and writing were very good.

Author: Mary Ellis
Publisher: Severn House Publishers (February 2019) 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Never Follow A Dinosaur

 Could Those Tiny Footprints Belong To A Dinosaur? 

One afternoon, Joe and his sister Sally spot a strange set of footprints. After close examination, Joe is sure they are tracks from a small dinosaur. So what do children with imaginations do? Follow the tracks, of course.

The footprints lead to their pet’s bowl: an empty bowl. So it must be a very hungry dinosaur the two conclude. They continue to follow the footprints into the yard and notice how deep the prints are. So it must be a heavy dinosaur. As they follow the prints they end up concluding that the tiny prints must be from a hungry, heavy, swimming, dancing dinosaur with a headache and a sore foot and wings!” Will they ever find the animal that made the prints?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Cute concept but the ending is a bit of a letdown.

What I Liked Most: It's a fun, silly story about children’s observation, deduction, and imagination.

Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
Publisher: Peachtree (September 2016)

  • Approx Words: 582
  • Ages: 4 - 8
  • Pages: 32
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

A Believable Tale You Won't Want To Put Down

This is a glimpse into the life of Wallace "Lolly" Rachpaul, a grieving, angry boy who is attempting to work through the death of his older brother. He and his family reside in a housing project in Harlem where he is surrounded by all sorts of influences that can easily pull a person into a hard life.

The characters that encircle Lolly are diverse and very believable. His friends say that Lolly has two mothers: his birth mother and her good friend, a toy-store security guard named Yvonne. Yvonne has tried to help Lolly recover from the loss of his brother by providing him with Lego's from the store where she works, something she knows he loves to build with.

Jermaine, the older brother, lost his life to the drug-hustling underworld of Harlem. 

Vega, who is from the Dominican Republic, is Lolly's best friend. 

Mr. Ali is a social worker with a story of his own. 

And of course, there is Big Rose, who by the way doesn’t like to be called Big. Rose is constantly made fun of because of her size and "different" behavior. 

Lolly's father makes a few entrances and the reader gets insights into what has been going on with him. 

These characters feel so true-to-life and each stands out with their own inner struggles.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing.

What I Liked Most: The story covers a myriad of things as it depicts the life of a 12-year-old boy in a New York housing project. It easily kept my interest, though there was no building plot of one certain subject. It was the day to day life of people living in Harlem that kept me turning the pages. It was the well-developed characters that I wanted to learn more about. It was getting to see who the person is beneath the shell that is being bullied daily, Rose. It was an eye-opening experience. 

I highly recommend this book.

Author: David Barclay Moore 
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 2017)
Hardcover: 304 pages

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes A Bow by Nicki Greenberg

What Is Ruby Reindeer Up To Now?

When Ruby attempts to wake up all the reindeer before Christmas in order to get a head start on delivering gifts, she is met with
"Too early!" they grumped. "Back to bed, right away!"
"Huh! Too early, my antlers! Each year it's the same, We run out of time and then I get the blame! We rush and we muddle. We only just make it!" 
When Ruby can't get any reindeer to join her in delivering the gifts early, she decides to deliver them herself. But, oops, they are so heavy that she falls from the sky right outside George and Amelia's house.
"There's still ONE MORE DAY before Christmas!" they cried. "And someone might see you! Quick, get that inside!"
When George and Amelia's parents nix the reindeer staying at their house, the kids decide to take Ruby to school. As it is, a reindeer is going to work just lovely in the school Christmas play. But minutes before showtime it occurs to Ruby that there is a sleigh full of things that need to be delivered.

Is Ruby going to be able to pull off getting the sleigh back to the North Pole? And what about Santa? Will he find the sleigh missing?

My Thoughts


What Concerned Me: The story didn't feel cohesive and really didn't work for me.

 What I Liked Most: The illustrations are expressive, fun, and colorful. 

Author: Nicki Greenberg
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (August 2018)
Ages: 3 - 6
Pages: 32

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

A Story That Celebrates Being You

While this book seems to be more about the challenges of Angelina, a brown skin girl with large curly hair, the content applies to everyone. Because we've all felt like we don't fit in.
Maybe it will be your skin, your clothes, or the curl of your hair.
Sometimes it will be what we say, sometimes we might be laughed at. As Angelina begins school she realizes that most of her classmates traveled during the summer. Angelina stayed home caring for her sister. She enjoyed that experience but feels again that she stands out from her classmates.

Three other children—Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela; perhaps a Korean girl with lunch of kimchi, rice, and meat; and a white boy from what might be a suburb—experience teasing for their outsider status as well. 

The illustrations depict quite sad and lonely children.
And all that stands beside you is your own brave self - - steady as steel and ready even though you don't yet know what you're ready for. 
And here is where the story begins to take a brighter view of the situation. Even though Angelina still feels like no one there is quite like her, she begins to share her stories. She begins by explaining that reading and telling stories to her sister during the summer made her feel like she'd traveled everywhere.

By sharing something about herself, the other children begin to relate and share as well.

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: Nothing

What I Liked Most: This demonstrated the challenges that everyone, both young and old, has experienced at one time or another. It suggests a coping strategy and shows that the problem can not only affect those from other countries, but also those who are local. In fact, it can branch out to those with disabilities, food allergies, lower learning skills, economically challenged, and much more. This is a universal problem that many are are attempting to deal with.

It is a perfect book for teachers to share with their classrooms since it gives a wonderful awareness and opens lots of opportunity for discussions.

Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (August 2018)
Approx. Word Count: 622
Pages: 32