Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let it Snow Review

Let It Snow

From building snowmen to drinking hot chocolate by the fire's warm glow, LET IT SNOW celebrates wonders of winter!
With softly-colored art, adorable children, and festive outdoor scenes, LET IT SNOW is the perfect wintry follow-up to LET IT FALL.
(goodreads summary)

Winter will soon be upon us and yet another season has arrived. To get you ready for that first snowy day, here is a cute book to warm you from your head to your toes. Wonderfully bright and bold pictures take you right along with the children as they play in the snow, have a snow day from school and find all the great things winter has to offer us. This is another great book about the seasons that will make for a good classroom read leading into a fun winter activity as well. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Let It Snow
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Pub. Date: April 2011, Scholastic
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marty McGuire review

Marty McGuire (Marty McGuire #1)

Marty McGuire would rather spend recess catching frogs in the pond than playing dress-up with the other girls in third grade. So when her teacher casts Marty as the princess in the class play, Marty's absolutely, positively sure that there's been a huge mistake. But after a special lesson in the art of improvisation, Marty comes up with her OWN plan to IMPROVE the play: Why use stuffed-animal frog onstage when a live one would be so much better? In the end, Marty's one-of-a-kind performance makes for an unforgettable show. Maybe Marty CAN live happily ever after, after all! (goodreads summary)

So far, third grade for Marty has not turned out like it was suppose to. She feels her best friend Annie was stolen by Veronica Grace, who is also taking over recess time by insisting the girls play princess dress up. Annie seems to not have the same interests anymore like catching frogs or crayfish or pretending to be Jane Goodall like the two girls used to and this troubles Marty. Instead of dress up, she would rather see what the boys are up to by the pond and has no fear of the creatures that inhabit there. As if this year couldn't get any worse, the class will be performing the play "The Frog Prince" and to Marty's surprise unexpectedly gets the lead role as the princess! She refuses having the part but her teacher and mom encourage her to stick with it and try her best.  When a theatre professor arrives to help the class with their drama skills, he teaches them the keys to acting improv which takes Marty to new levels of creativity that just may make being a princess a little more bearable for her.

This is a wonderful book for early chapter readers.  Marty has a great voice telling her story and expressing her feelings about the many things she feels has gone wrong in third grade.  Her character is strong and she shows us that you can stay true to yourself when you are faced with the many ups and downs of friendships that change, bossy girls and unexpected disappointments. Children will connect with the details of the daily happenings of a typical third grade school day with humor.  I liked that there was a lot of development, not only with Marty, but among a few other characters as well.  It is a fun read with a quick wit humor that had me laughing at many parts throughout the book.  The idea of improv was a wonderful way to help kids understand that a little flexibility in certain situations can go a long way. There are wonderful illustrations that are full of expression and children will look forward to turning every page to discover another. It is always nice to find a book where the writing matches the age group that it is intended for.  A second book , Marty Mcguire Digs Worms, is due to arrive April 1st and I am thrilled to see a great series like this one for our younger readers to enjoy and learn from. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 7-9.~

Title: Marty McGuire
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: realistic fiction
Pub. date: May 2011, Scholastic
Paperback, 132 pgs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - November 22

It is time for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join and its fun to read what others have to say. This week's Top Ten is:

Ten Authors I'd Love to have at My Thanksgiving Feast

This is a good one..... I wish I had a table big enough for all ten and then some. I really had to think hard to pick ten of my favorite authors. Here is my choice in no particular order. Just ones off the top of my head:

1.  Stephen King - I wouldn't let him carve the turkey though

2.  Kate DiCamillo - she has written two of my favorite children's books, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux.

3.  Dr. Seuss - he'd just be silly and funny.

4. Aldo Leopold - very wise and speak's from the heart.

5.  J.K. Rowling - I find her inspiring.

6. Rick Riordan - my kids would love to have him and would beg him to tell a fantastical story.

7. Santa Montefiore - her writing makes me want to run away to the countryside and live in a quaint cottage by a little lake somewhere and paint...........

8.  Nicholas Sparks - the only time I read romance novels is by him.

9.  Judy Blume - she captured my heart with her books when I was a kid. I'm glad that I could share her books with my kids too.

10. Paula Deen - does she count as an author? She has a ton of cookbooks and I could use some extra help making a feast for all these people.

Looking forward to reading who others have picked. Have a great week!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Mouse's Big Secret review

Little Mouse's Big Secret

 Little Mouse, like many of us, can't resist the temptation to hoard goodies from even his closest friends. When he finds a luscious-looking apple, he buries it to save it for a hungry day. Before long, however, his deeply grounded secret sprouts into a blossoming tree, offering its delicious apples for all to savor. (goodreads summary)

A simple and delightful book about a little mouse with a very big secret. Mouse's lucky day arrives when he finds a wonderful apple waiting just for him! He decides to keep it secret and hide it from all the others especially when they ask what it is that he has. Even though the book is so simple, it sends message about sharing. The illustrations are minimal and the sentences are either one or two long but you get the idea behind this charming story.  I wonder what mouse thinks when he finds out that the apple had a secret it was hiding too after it blossomed into an apple tree.  That would make for a good discussion with the little ones. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-6.~

Title: Little Mouse's Big Secret
Author: Eric Battut
Pub. Date: March 2011, Sterling Publishing
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - November 15

It is time for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can join and its fun to read what others have to say. This week's Top Ten is:

Top Ten Books that have been on my shelf for the longest but I have never read........

I have a lot of books on my shelves that have been sitting there which seems like forever. If only there were more hours in the day and less cleaning, laundry, driving kids around etc. then I just may be able to catch up on some of these title.

1.  Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti - I received this second book by the author after going to the bookstore and listening to the author talk last year. I read her first one which I enjoyed but just have not gotten around to the second one.

2.  The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian - I just looked at this book and saw that it was an autographed copy.....must have been sitting there for a while cuz I don't remember that before.

3.  The Mermaid Garden by Santa Montefiore - I received this as a gift from my husband for my birthday in July! I love the author and her other book The French Gardener was a beautifully written love story. I keep saying I am looking forward to reading this one soon.

4.  Last Child in the Woods-Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv - I started this book but remember getting interrupted and never picking it up again. Ended up on my shelf.

5.  Women & Money by Suze Orman - I think this one depresses me cuz I think she is going to give me the big lectures on what I'm doing wrong with my life and money. I know I should read it.........

6. The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas - My daughter loved this book and keeps asking me if I've read it. I think I'll put it on my winter TBR list.

7.  Divergent by Veronica Roth - I just have a hard time with the dystopian genre.

8.  The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting - now that I look at this one I wonder what is taking me so long to read it?

9.  Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt - I loved the Wednesday Wars and when I read it to my kids they did too. I picked this one up because of that reason.

I guess I don't really have 10 books but I think 9 is more than enough. Have a great week!

The Name of the Star review

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (goodreads summary)

Rory is spending her senior year in London attending the Wexford Boarding School while her parents teach American Law at the University of Bristol in England.  She is anticipating the many new things awaiting her in London. She finds the school is quite different than back home in Louisiana but adjusts easily and fitting in with her new roommate Jazza. Upon her arrival though, the city of London and its residents are caught up in the frenzy of a copycat serial killer mimicking the gruesome murders of the once famous Jack the Ripper of 1888. Rory finds herself a main participant as well as she becomes a witness to a strange man lurking about the area of a recent murder.  Rory begins to question what she believes to be true as her friend Jazza did not see the same man.  She soon discovers that she has developed a rare ability to see people (mainly ghosts) who others cannot see. She finds there is a small group of others that have the same unusual capabilities but who are connected to a secret underground ghost police force. Is the man that Rory eyewitnesses really a copycat killer or could it actually be the ghost of Jack the Ripper himself? With Rory's sudden unexplainable ability, she finds herself  involved in a crime solving mystery and becomes a link between the supernatural world and the real world.

I first saw this at my local bookstore where they have the young adult section divided up between books for ages 12/up and 14/up.  It was under the 12+ section and I was curious if the age recommendation was correct.  The mystery of Jack the Ripper and his crimes are terribly shocking and turning the history of this into a present day paranormal story was quite interesting. The first half of the book was slow going and it took a while to get exciting. But since this was the first of a new series, I realized there was a lot of focus on character developing and I enjoyed it. I liked the wide variety of characters with each one given a unique personality and back story that made them fit well into the happenings of the book.  I also appreciated the descriptive details put into the London setting. It gave me the sense of being there, taking in the sites, sounds and all of the activity surrounding the Rippermania frenzy. There was a love interest for Rory with an English boy named Jerome, which I questioned why it was there though. I think it got lost in the real story.  Towards the middle of the book, it finally became exciting when Boo, Stephen and Callum were introduced. I gained a better insight to their purpose as the underground ghost police and how their abilities connected them to protecting Rory.  From there it developed into a paranormal thriller centered around solving a mystery of the copycat murderer and stopping a ghostly serial killer before he strikes again.  The author included many grisly details of the murders and history of the Ripper that gave me some shivers after reading them. All the murders were re-enacted in the same style and on the same dates as those of Jack the Ripper giving the impression that he has returned. Because there were so many different characters, I had a couple of conclusions in mind myself but in the end proved that I'm not a crime solving sleuth.  I thought this was a good introduction to the series and definitely left the door open for more. I gained good understanding of the characters and how their roles will used in the future. Do I agree that it is for age twelve? No.....a murderer dismembering victims like Jack the Ripper did to prostitutes is another can of worms I am not ready to open up just yet for my child. I think that this would be a "just right book" for ages 16 and over.~

Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Pub. Date: September 2011
Genre: paranormal,  young adult mystery
Hardcover, 372 pgs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kinder Gators - Hands Off, Harry review

Kindergators: Hands Off, Harry!

"Guess what happened at school today!"
Kindergators work and play happily in Miss Harmony's class. But Harry isn't being a good classmate! He's disrupting Friendly Circle, causing accidents, and upsetting the class. Can the Kindergators find a way to help Harry learn to respect personal space?  (goodreads summary)

There are many children that need movement and are just a hands-on type of kid. On the flip side, it is hard on the other students when they have a classmate that does not know how to respect others personal space.  In this book, Harry could represent many of those children on either side of the coin. Harry finds himself getting in trouble because he knocks over others, pokes at others and just has a hard time staying still and keeping his hands to himself.  The story is gentle and makes for a good teaching tool for preschoolers and kindergarteners on the importance of learning personal space. The students help Harry's teacher problem solve and offer a solution to help Harry remember the hands rule. It ends with a happy outcome for Harry that gives him a feeling of importance. Something children need when they do not understand how to make the right choices when it comes to personal space.  I think this will be another great series and a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Hands off Harry
Author: Rosemary Wells
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: June 2011, Katherine Tegen Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wild Wings review

Wild Wings

The majestic Osprey is an endangered bird that hasn’t been seen in Scotland for years, so when Iona McNair locates an Osprey nest, she’s desperate to keep the bird safe from poachers. She shares her secret with her classmate Callum, and the two become friends as they work to save the Osprey they’ve named Iris. They’re able to get the bird tagged by a preservationist, but after Iris flies to Africa for the winter, her signal becomes stagnant, then lost. Spurred by a promise to Iona, who has fallen ill, Callum is determined to track and save Iris, and a leap of faith and the magic of e-mail connects him with a girl in Gambia who can help him make good—in more ways than one. (goodreads summary)

Eleven year old Callum has a pretty decent life for a young boy living in Scotland. He has a good family, attends a good school, has two best friends and lives on a farm with sprawling woods and a river. One day, Callum and his friends find Iona McNair fishing in the farmsteads river. Iona is living with her grandfather whose family has a bad reputation around his village as being a thief among other things.  Iona claims to have a secret that she will share with Callum as long as he never tells anyone. She has located a family of Osprey, an endangered bird species, living on his family's property. Striking up an unlikely friendship, the two promise to keep the nest secret from others while watching over the nesting pair. Then suddenly one day, Iona and Callum find the female bird tangled in fishing line. In order to save it, they must decide on the risk of telling someone. Callum's father contacts Hamish from the local nature preserve. After freeing her, Hamish attaches a transmitter to the bird helping them track her whereabouts via the Internet.  When it is time for Iris to migrate in the winter to Africa, they will be able to track her route there and back again to Ireland in the spring.  When Iona unexpectedly becomes ill, Callum promises her he will watch over Iris. As Iris begins her journey to Africa, it is not an easy one but Callum's promise gives him extra determination to make sure she returns home again.

This inspiring story is for the nature lover and those that have a heart for saving our endangered animals. It is also a story about friendship, standing up and helping others in need as well as strength and determination for a cause.  The other kids made fun of Iona because of her background but Callum saw something in her the others did not. He saw the passion in her heart for saving the endangered Osprey family and her inner beauty through her drawings of them as well.  When it is time for Iris to migrate to Africa, Callum looses her signal and fears the worst.  In his determination, he sends out e-mails to locate somebody in Africa that would be willing to help locate her. He corresponds with a 10 year old girl, named Jeneba  from Gambia, who is in the hospital willing to enlist her family and village in the search for Iris. Through the Internet and e-mails, Callum deepens his friendship with her and Iris connects the two in more ways than one.  The book offers children a good perspective of other countries and how different they are from our own. Things we have at hand for us are not necessarily there for others as Callum had also learned. But even though Jeneba faces many personal challenges in her country, her village was willing to help someone they did not know miles away. It turns out, the people of Gambia feel the Osprey brings them good fishing when it returns to Africa every year and they welcome the birds presence.  Reading how the kids got their heads together to problem solve and also help others in need was inspiring. There were many moments of character development especially for Callum's friends who were a bit insensitive at times. The use of technology was a great demonstration of how children can connect different places and bring that diversity together. It had plenty of Scottish vocabulary words and a good sense of African culture.  At the back of the book, the author gave useful websites to learn more about the Osprey. I enjoyed this quick and easy read. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 9-12.~

Title: Wild Wings
Author: Gill Lewis
Genre: realistic fiction
Pub. date: April 2011 - Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 287 pgs.