Monday, November 30, 2015

by Mouse & Frog review


Fastidious Mouse has one idea about how to tell a story. Free-spirited Frog has another. What happens when Frog crashes into Mouse's story with some wild ideas? Chaos!...followed by the discovery that working together means being willing to compromise—and that listening to one another can lead to the most beautiful stories of all.(goodreads summary)

One morning, Mouse is very eager to write a story of her own. As her words begin to flow, Frog suddenly bursts in with ideas of his own on how he thinks the story should go.  He becomes so carried away that the story goes slightly out of control with a King, a Cake and Ice Cream.  Frog does not listen to what Mouse is saying until she gets very upset!  When the two decide to compromise and collaborate, they find that a story by Mouse and Frog will be better simply by learning to work together.

A nice and gentle story not only about working together but also not listening to others, which some kids can struggle with. Frog's excitement unintentionally takes over Mouse's story and she does not like it. Frog just wants to help but does not understand his enthusiasm is not well received until she gets upset. Each one can contribute to create a wonderful story by using both imaginations and working together.  The illustrations are fun and creative adding much humor as Frog draws his version of the story in pencil and Mouse mopping up his many messes along the way. In the end, the two find working together resolves their conflict better. Although older kids will understand about the writing process and connect easily, Preschoolers having trouble in playtime scenarios may also benefit if a discussion follows after reading. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  by Mouse & Frog
Author: Deborah Freedman
Pub. Date: April 2015, Viking Books or Young Readers
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nerdy Birdy review


Nerdy Birdy likes reading, video games, and reading about video games, which immediately disqualifies him for membership in the cool crowd. One thing is clear: being a nerdy birdy is a lonely lifestyle. When he's at his lowest point, Nerdy Birdy meets a flock just like him. He has friends and discovers that there are far more nerdy birdies than cool birdies in the sky. (goodreads summary)

Nerdy Birdy is looking for a few friends to share his interests with about reading and video games. Unfortunately Eagle, Cardinal and Robin really don't care and shun him because they are too busy being cool (or so they think).  Nerdy Birdy finds there is another group of birds just like him and decides to join in making many new friends.  But when Vulture moves into town and tries to join his new group, she is not accepted by the others as one of them because she is different. 

Not only is this story cute but it packs a powerful message about what constitutes fitting in. Eagle, Cardinal and Robin are portrayed as strong and powerful and Birdy as nerdy with his big glasses, love for reading and talent at video games. When Vulture is rejected by both the cool birds and the nerdy birds, he remembers what it is like to be alone showing young readers empathy. While looking at the illustrations, kids will pick up on the funny descriptions of what the cool birds are good at and chuckle.  In the end, Nerdy Birdy learns a valuable lesson about what being a friend really means. This story is a great opener for some wonderful discussions on differences, accepting others and being true to oneself.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 5-8.~

Title: Nerdy Birdy
Author: Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Matt Davies
Pub. Date: September 2015, Roaring Brook Press
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful review


Like the gardener thankful for every green sprout, and the fireman, for putting the fire out, readers are encouraged to be thankful for the many blessings they find in their lives. (goodreads summary)

Not only is this a heart-warming book but it sends a positive message about being thankful for those little things we do not always think about. From the waitress being thankful for comfortable shoes, to the crafter being thankful for glitter and glue, it offers children (and even the adults) the opportunity for some creative thinking.  With delightfully subtle illustrations and simple rhyming text, it gently reminds us that the ordinary things we come across in our daily lives can be a blessing as well. With short and simple poetic words, this makes a quick and easy read aloud before that delicious Thanksgiving feast.  It would be a great conversation starter about various things we encounter in our everyday world that make us thankful.  I know I am thankful for the many wonderfully talented authors and books I find everyday that can be shared with our children.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-99.~

* This book is published by Zonderkidz, a Christian children's communication company.

Title:  Thankful
Author: Eileen Spinelli
Pub. Date:  September 2015, Zonderkidz
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Judy Moody and Stink: The Wishbone Wish review


The town’s annual Turkey Trot race and festival is coming up, and Judy and Stink are training to win. Judy has decided that she is going to take home the big prize: a fat, juicy turkey. (goodreads summary)

Every year Judy's family celebrates Thanksgiving Day going to Grandma Lou's house for dinner and misses their town's annual festivities. But this year, her parents work it out so they will be able to attend both! For the big event Judy finds her best costume; Sarah Josepha Hale, whom I learned was the inventor of Thanksgiving. She is also very determined to win the Turkey Trot Race and has been training hard for weeks. That's because the winner brings home a "for-real" Thanksgiving turkey. Judy is so confident about winning the race that she asks Grandma Lou to promise her she will not buy one for their dinner. When the day finally arrives, Judy and Stink are excited for the upcoming events and bringing home that big prize!

After reading this funny and cute story, Judy's enthusiastic nature will have everyone inspired about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  Her commitment to the special day and dedication to winning the big turkey for her family dinner is an important part of the storyline. This easy-to-read chapter book was not only fun and entertaining but it also included Thanksgiving facts.  When Judy shared her wealth of knowledge about Sarah Jospeha Hale, I eagerly found myself wanting to look up more information on this interesting historical figure. I also liked the strong sense of family and bringing the community together for a celebration as well. The full colored illustrations throughout the book are vivid and bold.  The fall palette of colors added to the wonderful Thanksgiving theme.  The text flows easily making this a quick story to read just in time for the holiday break.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 7-9.~

Title: Judy Moody & Stink: The Wishbone Wish
Author: Megan McDonald
Pub. Date: September 2015, Candlewick Press
Genre: chapter book
Hardcover, 128 pgs.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

That's (Not) Mine review


Two fuzzy creatures both want to sit in the same comfy chair. The trouble is, they can’t agree who it belongs to. They get madder and madder, until…
(goodreads summary)

Featuring once again the two creatures from You are (Not) Small, this second book is just as cute and funny as the first.  This time they are disagreeing on whose chair it is since they each declare it "Mine". Just one simple word makes a big fuss for these two leading them into arguing and trickery over who gets to sit in the chair. The illustrations are large, colorful and witty with simple text making for a fun read-aloud. The facial expressions of the characters definitely add to the story as well. Getting along sometimes can be a tough task for our little ones but this silly and clever story about sharing and compromising just may help with a valuable lesson.  I can't wait to see what these two fuzzy creatures get into next!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  That's (Not) Mine
Author: Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Pub. Date:  September 2015, Two Lions
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Moonpenny Island review


Moonpenny is a tiny island in a great lake. When the summer people leave and the ferries stop running, just the tried-and-true islanders are left behind. Flor and her best friend, Sylvie, are the only eleven-year-olds for miles and miles.  But come the end of summer, unthinkable things begin to happen. Sylvie is suddenly, mysteriously whisked away to school on the mainland. Flor’s mother leaves to take care of Flor’s sick grandmother and doesn’t come back. Her big sister has a secret, and Flor fears it’s a dangerous one.(goodreads)

Flor lives on Moonpenny Island year round with her parents, older sister Cecilia and younger brother Thomas. She and her best friend Sylvie are inseparable. During the summer months, the island is filled with visitors and new people.  One such visitor to the island is an unusual girl named Jasper. She and her geologist father are on the island in search of prehistoric trilobites.  But suddenly at the start of sixth grade, Flor is faced with unexpected changes to her family and friendship. Syvlie is sent away to live with relatives on the mainland to attend school there, Flor's mother leaves to take care of her grandmother wondering if she will come back and her sister begins to act strangely giving Flor the feeling she is keeping something from her.   As Flor's world is suddenly crashing down on her, she discovers her tiny island holds many truths she was not aware of.

One of my favorite authors has once again, beautifully written another heart warming, coming-of-age story for young readers.  From the summer island descriptions to each of the many different characters,  I found the story engaging and believable.  After Sylvie is unexpectedly sent away for no apparent reason, this abrupt change strains their friendship like many girls can go through when a friend moves away.  The characters of Jasper and her father Dr. Fife were a subtle but important part to Flor's insight and character development. She is faced with many issues in her young life. Her parents argue and her mother suddenly leaves to take care of a relative with Flor not knowing when or if she is coming back. Her sister is resorting to sneaking around, lying and is holding a secret from Flor. There is even a mention of alcoholism when she learns  of another secret her friend holds that she never realized was happening all along. The changes she faces gives her uncertainty but she learns that adapting and going along with those changes is how you grow.  It is a warm and gentle realistic story about friendships, family, conflict, secrets and change. The story moved along nicely offering a message to its reader about opening your eyes and seeing the things around you but it is how you see those things that will help shape you.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 9-12.~

Title: Moonpenny Island
Author: Tricia Springstubb
Pub. Date: February 2015, Balzer & Bray
Genre: realistic fiction, middle grade
Hardcover, 292 pgs.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Racoon review

Francine Poulet is the greatest Animal Control Officer in Gizzford County. She hails from a long line of Animal Control Officers. She’s battled snakes, outwitted squirrels, and stared down a bear. "The genuine article," Francine’s dad always called her. She is never scared—until, that is, she’s faced with a screaming raccoon that may or may not be a ghost. (goodreads summary)

Francine is definitely confident in her ability as the local Animal Control Officer. Until one evening, she meets her match with a loud and very scary raccoon residing on Mrs. Bissinger's roof.  While trying to catch the ghostly critter, the altercation truly scares her and after falling ends up in the hospital with a broken arm and leg. She thinks she has failed and is just not cut out to be the Animal Control Officer anymore and decides to quit the job. Afterwards, Francine meets a neighborhood boy named Frank, who is just what she needs to help build her up again, getting her back on her feet and return to the job she was made for.

If your young reader is already familiar with Deckawoo Drive, this is the second book in the series.  By recognizing characters from the author's other books, the emerging reader will make many connections. It also has some wonderful vocabulary words for kids to make note of and look up if they don't know the meaning.  I love that the words always flow easily and nicely in any Kate DiCamillo books. The illustrations help break the chapters up with their wit and humor. Frank's encouragement of  Francine to remember who she was and go out and get that raccoon was heart-warming. The two characters together made a terrific team. This was a fast-paced and funny early chapter book that will keep kids engaged until the end. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 7-8.~

Title:  Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon
Author: Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Pub. Date:  August 2015, Candlewick Press
Genre: early chapter book
Hardcover, 91 pgs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Leaf Book review


When the seasons change, a young girl visits the arboretum to collect fallen leaves and make a book with them. (goodreads summary)

Here is one more fun book for the Autumn season before that last final leaf falls to the ground.  A cheerful little girl goes exploring at an Arboretum and finds many leaves of colors, shapes and sizes to place in her leaf book. She uses a tree guide as a reference to match them up before gluing and describing each one on her page. 

Young readers will enjoy learning about the many different types of trees and leaves after reading this charming and informative book.  Kids are familiar with the usual oak and maple leaf but what I liked was that it mentioned other different types of tree leaves such as the ginkgo, sweet gum and sassafras. If these are not in your specific area, here is an opportunity for learning where these trees are located.  The short and simple text is a quick and easy read aloud for little ones. The pages also stand out with bright and bold Autumn colors. Side notes on the opposite pages give added facts about leaves as well.  This is the perfect book for fall story time and a great companion before a nature walk, picking up leaves along the way and doing many fun projects afterwards. You don't just have to be limited to a leaf book. The back of the book suggests leaf crayon rubbings and prints. When my kids were little, we would make colorful wreaths by gluing leaves and acorns on paper plates.   They sure grew up fast on me!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title:  My Leaf Book
Author: Monica Wellington
Pub. Date: September 2015, Dial Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Mouse So Small review

A mouse so small

It's time for Bear to go to sleep for the winter, and even though he's hungry, he doesn't have time to eat first. His best friend, Molly, wants to help him and decides to gather food for him -- a task that proves to be very tricky for a small mouse! (goodreads summary)

Before Bear hibernates for the long winter, his best friend Molly Mouse is worried he will be going to bed hungry. She really wants to help and spies a blackberry bush, a food he is sure to love. Reaching those blackberries high on that bush and getting them to Bear is a large feat for such a small mouse.  But that does not stop Molly though! With her determination and the help of a few forest friends, she will learn that her friendship and big heart wins in the end. 

This is another sweet story about friendship and not giving up.  The theme is very similar to many other books already out there but I think readers will appreciate Molly's determination. She proves that no matter what your size is, you can do wonderful things for others when you are a good friend.  It is a nice story that can help teach kids kindness and thinking of others. The soft fall colors of the illustrations add to the gentleness of the heart warming story. In the end, Bear had a wonderful response to Molly which also showed true friendship between the two characters.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: A Mouse so Small
Author: Angela McAllister, illustrated by Caroline Pedler
Pub. Date:  September 2015, Tiger Tales
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Haunting Stories for the Older Kids

We cannot leave out the middle grade and young adult readers out there who love a good book to curl up with on a cold Halloween weekend. Here are just a few that I enjoyed and found spooky enough that will add to the chill.  This is just a tidbit of a description; but you can click on the link to find my full reviews.

Happy Halloween......................


A Curious Tale of the In-Between is one of those stories that will leave you with that spooky feeling. Eleven year old Pram has the unique ability to see and talk to ghosts. Her aunts feel she needs to be among other children her own age and decide to send her to school. She meets a boy named Clarence who takes her to a spiritualist with the hope of helping her find answers to questions they both have about past people in their lives; unaware the Lady Savant has some strange plans of her own. This was a fast-paced middle grade read by a wonderful author. I found myself not wanting to put it down. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 11 (mature 11) and up.~

Title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pub. Date: September 2015, Bloomsbury USA


The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall will give kids spine tingling shivers. It had many exciting thrills for such a short story and I enjoyed this classic styled ghost tale. The words and characters had a wonderful 19th Century English feel to it and I loved the many references of classic book titles and authors.  When Florence encounters Sophia's ghost, it is evident that she was not only nasty in life but it carried over to her afterlife with a vengeance. I know that I really enjoyed this book a while back and think it is a "just right book" for ages 10 and up.~

Title:  The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall
Author: Mary Hahn Downing
Pub. Date: September 2010, Clarion Books


Cryer's Cross was a very unusual story with many eerie elements to it. The main character was a teenage girl named Kendall who had OCD, a best friend who wasn't sure if he was a boyfriend, a new guy that was hard to connect to, the mystery of missing teenagers, a little bit of romance, adults with secret pasts and some supernatural elements. It had a lot packed into this fast paced, easy-to-read book. I found myself reading it in one day because I was determined to find out what was with the creepy desk? I have been meaning to find some other books by this author to read.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 14 and up.~

Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Pub. Date:  February 2011, Simon Pulse


I thought the cover of The Revenant was very striking and definitely caught my eye. I was glad that I found it because it turned out to be a really good book.  This was a simple but chilling historical ghost story that was filled with mystery, murder, plenty of secrets, romance and of course, suspense. It had many twists and turns that were unexpected. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I was pleasantly surprised by another outcome. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 15 and up.~

Title:  The Revenant
Author: Sonia Gensler
Pub. Date:  June 2011, Knopf Books


Imaginary Girls was another beautiful cover but I had a tough time getting into this one. Once I started reading more, I then realized that it was turning out better than I first thought. I picked up on the beautiful writing talents of the author and ended up surprisingly captivated by this supernatural story after all. I found myself eager to read into the next chapter to see what was going to happen. I was glad that I gave it a chance before abandoning it.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 16 and up.~

Title: Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Pub. Date: June 2011, Dutton Juvenile

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Fun Reading!

I cannot believe it is already October and this weekend Halloween is fast approaching. To help get everyone into the Halloween Spirit before trick-or-treating, here are a few fun books to share that will get you started for that evening of Witches Brew and Things that go Bump in the Night!

Happy Halloween....................


Seven orange pumpkins are counting down to Halloween with the help of a scarecrow, a mummy, a witch, a couple of skeletons and a spooky large spider. This is a cute rhyming board book with lots of bright Halloween colors. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 2-4.~

Title: Seven Orange Pumpkins
Author: Stephen Savage
Pub. Date: August 2015, Dial Books


I think Otter stories and his adventures are just the cutest! Here is another great one to add to the Otter lovers out there. Halloween is the best time of year but also the busiest getting everything ready. There are pumpkins to find and costumes to make but when the trick-or-treaters arrive, they are a bit too scary for him. So Otter Keeper comes up with a solution so Otter and his friends can get back to having fun.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title: Otter Loves Halloween
Author: Sam Garton
Pub. Date: July 2015, Balzer & Bray


A friendly witch rides her broomstick cheerfully around the forest with her cat. Along the way, she looses several items and one-by-one are found and returned by several new animal friends. Each one asks if they can have a ride on her broom. Their adventure takes a turn as the broomstick snaps and the witch is confronted by a hungry dragon after tumbling to the ground. The rhyming text flows nicely making for an easy read-aloud.  The illustrations are colorful and with so many characters, each one could be read in different voices adding to the entertaining storyline.  It also depicts kindness and friendship with friends helping other friends in need. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3 - 7.~

Title: Room on the Broom
Author: Julia Donaldson
Pub. Date: August 2003, Puffin Books


As told from Hercules' perspective, this cute and charming story is a wonderful tale not only about the planting process but also learning to have patience as well. With the wisdom and guidance from his new friend Daisy, he finds it takes awhile for good things to grow and learns ways to pass the time. The watercolor illustrations are gentle and eye pleasing. There is so much to see on each page as Hercules' seed grows into something special for the new school year.  This is a fun story and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Ready for Pumpkins
Author: Kate Duke
Pub. Date: August 2012, Knopf Books


A tiny little seed is determined to scare everyone around him. But when he says "boo" nobody seems to be scared. The wind tells him it is not quite his time yet and that he needs to have patience.  This is a cute and charming story that would be a fun read-aloud for your fall season celebrating.   The text flows nicely and the illustrations are bold and colorful. It also touches briefly through its pictures the life cycle of a seed, to a plant and then into a pumpkin that little ones will easily understand.

Title: Little Boo
Author: Stephen Wunderli
Pub. Date: August 2014, Henry Holt


Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he puts out a bowl of candy with a Do Not Disturb sign, draws his shades and locks the door. But in the Barn, the animals are getting ready for a Halloween party. Somebody taps a note on his door and when he goes to investigate, finds that he ends up becoming part of the party anyway. Just like the other books in this series, the story gives many giggles when the animals personalities come to life in Farmer Brown's barn. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Click, Clack, Boo
Author: Doreen Cronin
Pub. Date: August 2013, Antheneum Books

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin review

"How many seeds are in a pumpkin?" Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she's talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn't have a guess. (goodreads summary)

This will make a wonderful addition to the Fall Harvest parties this upcoming week. It is just the kind of book that is great for the math or science unit!  Mr. Tifflin has three different sized pumpkins and asks his class to guess "how many seeds are in a pumpkin?" Naturally, the kids think the biggest one will have the most. When they open each one and count the seeds, they discover a scientific surprise!

This book will reinforce concepts on size and prediction, as well as estimating and counting in various ways such as by 2's, 5's and 10's.  To add further to the teaching moment, the kids could weigh and measure their pumpkins as well.  Pumpkins also offer a great opportunity for sensory input with their funny shaped exterior, unusual smell and mushy insides. There is even a nice lesson for Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, who learns that it is not so bad being small. The story does read aloud easily with colorful and bold pictures that add to the fun. With the interesting facts included at the back, I managed to learn several things from this educational book that I didn't know.  Hope the kids have some fun this fall experimenting with pumpkins! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin
Author:  Margaret McNamara
Pub. Date: July 2007, Schwartz & Wade Books
genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Waiting review


Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected? (goodreads summary)

Waiting is such a difficult thing to do. Five toys with their own reason for waiting, sit upon a windowsill gazing out into the big and magical world. Except for rabbit, he just likes to look out the window. When that special moment finally arrives, each one cherishes the happiness they feel. This heart-warming story did take me a couple of extra times to read in order to fully appreciate it. It evokes a sense of calmness and serenity which would make for a nice bedtime story. The illustrations are in soft and gentle hues of light blues, pinks, browns and greens adding to the affect.  Even though the text is very short and simple, the pictures are what enhances the story best. This would be a good snuggle together book after a warm bath and just before bed with your little ones. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title:  Waiting
Author: Kevin Henkes
Pub. date: September 2015, Greenwillow Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bear Can't Sleep review

Bear can't sleep!

It's winter, and all the animals in the forest are getting ready for the cold weather.  Fox is gathering wood for fires, and Owl  & Squirrel are making jam. But Bear is having trouble falling asleep. He howls & growls & scares the other animals. Patch the Hare isn't scared; he thinks Bear might be hungry & decides to offer him some food. But then Patch learns what the real problem is & he comes up with a clever way to help Bear get some much-needed rest!

The forest animals are hard at work preparing themselves for winter's arrival. They suddenly hear a very tired, grumpy old Bear who is having trouble falling asleep. With his howls and growls, he lets them know he wants to be left alone. All the animals are scared of him except Patch the Rabbit! He thinks Bear is just hungry and bravely takes him some food. When Patch realizes it is not hunger that is keeping him awake, the good friend in him helps save the day by giving him something special that will help him settle in for a long winter nap.

The sweetest character in this story was Patch, who not only shows his bravery but also expresses a genuine concern for Bears well-being. While the other animals were scared of him, Patch was determined there was something he could do to help. When he discovers the main reason Bear cannot fall asleep, Patch's heartfelt gift turned a grumpy bear into a teddy bear.  The story will also teach kids about being kind and thoughtful to others when his persistence pays off in the end.  The large pictures are bold with eye pleasing fall colors making this another cute story to add to the autumn reading collection. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~ 

Title: Bear Can't Sleep!
Author: Marni McGee, illustrated by Sean Julian
Pub. date:  September 2015, Tiger Tales
Genre: picture book, fall season
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall is Not Easy review


Fall is a tough time of year for a lot of us. Kids have to go back to school, teachers and football players have to go back to work, and parents have to look for new places to hide holiday presents. But perhaps fall is hardest of all on trees. After all, they have to change their entire appearance every year! (goodreads summary)

One tree is having a difficult time adjusting to the changes that fall can bring. Winter, Spring and Summer are easy but when Fall arrives something is just not right! He tries hard to make his leaves turn brilliant and bright but strange things keep happening instead. No matter how hard he tries, his colors are not what they are suppose to be.

This was a fun rhyming story that offers a wonderful introduction and discussion about the change of seasons for young children. There will be plenty of silly laughter when kids see the leaves are turning crazy colors and shapes.  For example, a tree with polka dots or stripes?  The text is short, simple and easy for a quick read-aloud. Giving kids a blank tree worksheet afterwards would allow them the opportunity to express their own individual creativity with colors and shapes, instead of the usual fall colored trees they tend to make now.  It is definitely a good choice for those fall-themed and seasonal change centers or crafting story hour. It is a cute story with surprise pages and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-6.~

Title:  Fall is Not Easy
Author:  Marty Kelley
Pub. date: September 1998, Zino Press
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 30 pgs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness review

For  Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation.  Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer.  Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.(goodreads summary)

If only everyday could be like the first day of summer vacation! All the things kids look forward to, either doing or not doing, could make or break a summer. For Cody, she is definitely not wasting one minute of it.  But things don't always go as expected. Her mom is anxious about the start of her new promotion, dad is an over- the-road truck driver, her older brother Wyatt is love-sick over a girl and tracking down a lost cat for her new friend Spencer is harder than she thought.

 Unfortunately, summer vacation may not be turning out what Cody anticipated after all. There are many different scenarios in this short and simple story that will keep young readers interested until the end. Cody's good intentions to cheer up Spencer and help keep his grandmothers cat from running away demonstrates her good nature and heart. Can cats really be hypnotized? It's at least worth a try according to Cody but as she soon learns, things do not always turn out as planned. As for Wyatt and helping to get the girl of his dreams? Well, sometimes it is just best to let things happen naturally.  Even though things backfired on her a few times, Cody's positive attitude and realization that she needs to think before she acts was a wonderful message. I enjoyed the illustrations throughout, which help break up the chapters into smaller sections for a reluctant reader.  I think this would be a "just right book" for ages 8-10.~

Title:  Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
Author: Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Pub. date:  April 2015, Candlewick Press
Genre: middle grade, realistic fiction
Hardcover, 151 pgs.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich review


Delicious tale of a bear, lost in the city, who happens upon an unattended sandwich in the park. The bear’s journey from forest to city and back home again is full of happy accidents, funny encounters, and sensory delights. (goodreads summary)

This cute and funny story about a bear, who falls asleep in the back of a pick up truck after eating some unattended berries and ends up travelling to the city will surely delight many readers.  He finds there are great climbing spots, interesting smells but best of all a sandwich (your sandwich) sitting all alone on the park bench.  Done with acrylic paint and pencil, the vibrant colors make the illustrations stand out. The narrated story is clear and easy to follow and a surprise ending will make kids laugh. I think this a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
Author: Julia Sarcone-Roach
Pub Date: January 2015, Knopf Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Curious Tale of the In-Between review


Pram Bellamy is special--she can talk to ghosts. She doesn't have too many friends amongst the living, but that's all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.  Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram's power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost. (goodreads summary)

Pram lives in a 200 year old colonial with her two adoptive Aunts.  She was told her mother died during childbirth and she has never known her father. She has a special ghost friend named Felix that only she can see and talk with. She meets him down by the pond or finds him in the big tree that sits on the property. Pram has always felt odd about the ghosts and keeps her ability of talking to them a secret, fearing that if someone finds out she will be sent away. Pram has also been thinking about her parents lately and wonders if her father knows about her existence.  Her Aunts are concerned that she is too old for imaginary friends and decides it would be best for her to be among other children her own age by attending school.  Her first day she meets a quiet boy named Clarence, who has suffered a loss and seeking answers to an untimely death to someone very close to him. As the two become better friends, she decides to share her secret that she can communicate with ghosts. He leads Pram to a spiritualist named Lady Savant in the hopes that she will help them find the closure they both are searching for. Lady Savant eagerly agrees to help but is already aware of Prams true powers and strength. Unfortunately, unknowingly to Clarence and Pram, she has a different plan of her own.

Spooky stories are always a favorite of mine. I found myself not wanting to put this book down, so I read it in two nights! The storyline was captivating, hooking me right in after the first chapter. The writing style is quite graceful and flowing, just like a ghost would be.  Felix was a good character with his quick wit and personality. He was very protective of Pram and I had the sense that he really cared for her. After Pram met Clarence, she finally knew what it felt like to have a real person as a friend.  I felt saddened at times for Felix because I could see him sitting in his tree, watching her go off with her new friend and realizing he could not give her what Clarence could.  There is certainly a difference between the real world and the spirit world.  The story does, however, take a sudden dark twist when Lady Savant enters. I had a hard time visualizing Pram and Clarence as eleven years old because of the dark theme.  I almost wished they had been sixteen or older on a few occasions, although they both were very mature, strong and brave for their depicted age. I found myself going "oh no" more than once as certain parts became heart pounding and scary.  I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what happened only to go "oh no" again. Lady Savant was so eerie and the story got creepier as to why she wanted Pram for her own devious plot and what she was going to do to get her own powers stronger. Pram did help unfold Lady Savants story so I was happy for an explanation. The ending wrapped things up nicely leaving me wondering if more books will follow about Pram's unique ability and see where it will take her. It was fast paced and I never found myself losing interest.   There is deep subject matter relating to depression, suicide, kidnapping, grief, death and death of children that might not sit well with a younger or sensitive audience. A mature middle school reader would be best for this type of story. On the plus side, it does offer love, a strong sense of family, true friendship, courage, the willpower to live and talented writing. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 11 (mature though) & up.~

Title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pub. Date: September 2015, Bloomsbury
Genre: middle grade, ghost story
Hardcover, 226 pgs.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Everyone Loves Bacon review

Egg loves Bacon.  Lettuce loves Bacon.  Waffle loves Bacon.
Bacon is sizzling with popularity.
And pretty much everyone thinks he is the best.

That is-until Bacon's fame goes to his head. He's so busy soaking up the attention, that he soon forgets the important things in life, like friendship and family. How will it all pan out for our dashing, delicious hero? (goodreads summary)

In this cute and very funny story, Bacon is so popular among the other foods that it goes straight to his head. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten his friends along the way as he enjoys his sudden celebrity status. As we all know, this is something that can happen living in the popular world.  This book would make a great read-aloud since the text is short and flows easily, giving kids many opportunities for a giggle. Everyone could use a smile and a little silliness during their busy days and this is just what Bacon's story will do. It definitely will make you laugh out loud. The storyline also offers a wonderful teaching moment about popularity and its impact. I enjoyed the illustrations as they gave me a sense of the Old Diner feel and were very bold with color making the pages pop.  In the end, there is a surprise twist that some may or may not see coming.

We were in a gift store browsing a while back and never realized the popularity of bacon until that day. We saw bacon band aids, bacon puzzles, bacon playing cards, bacon bandannas, bacon air fresheners and bacon lip balm. We got a good chuckle about it because my son is a huge bacon lover! If he was little again, this would have been the perfect book to add to his reading collection.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Everyone Loves Bacon
Author: Kelly Dipucchio, Illustrated by Eric Wright
Pub. date: September 2015, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Wonderful Things You Will Be review


From brave and bold to creative and clever, the rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when they look at their children. With beautiful and sometimes humorous illustrations, this is a book grown-ups will love reading over and over to kids—both young and old. (goodreads summary)

This wonderful picture book will touch the heart of any parent.  By imagining the many possibilities children could someday become, our hopes and dreams are beautifully expressed by the gentle words and soft illustrations. Sweet and simple, it blends nicely together with the rhyming and poetic text for reading aloud. The calm and soothing illustrations are perfect for a bedtime story. This book would make a great baby shower gift for the new parent or birthday present for a one year old.  It is definitely a book to cherish for years to come as your child grows.

Do we wish for our children to be kind, creative, caring or bold?  It will raise a few questions while also leaving us to wonder. But the most important message conveyed is that whoever or whatever they may become, your child will forever have your love. After reading this book, it made me think about my own two children and I realized they are growing into everything I could have ever wished they would be.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 0 and up.~

Title:  The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Author: Emily Winfield Martin
Pub. date: August 2015, Random House
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 36 pgs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Red A Crayon's Story review


Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let's draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can't be red, no matter how hard he tries!(goodreads summary)

Although Red crayon's label says red, he is definitely not. No matter how hard he tries, even with the help of family and friends, he is the color blue. Then one day, he meets a new friend who asks if he would color the ocean for his boat he is making. After that moment things change for Red as he finally learns he can reach his full potential by just being himself.  This book reminds me of the saying "you can't fit a square peg in a round hole".  It offers a wonderful message about seeing past the label and finding your true matter how hard others want you to be something you are not. Even though Red had the help of his teacher, family and friends, he just could not be forced into something he wasn't. He definitely wanted to please everyone by trying hard but it ends with a very good lesson about acceptance. The story is well written and definitely thought provoking.  Great illustrations with bold colors, simple text and a happy ending for Red who learns his true self is amazing! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Red A Crayon's Story
Author: Michael Hall
Pub. Date: February 2015,  Greenwillow Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Click Clack Peep review


There's more trouble on the farm, but Duck has nothing to do with it, for once. This time the trouble is a four-ounce puff of fluff who just won't go to sleep, and whose play-with-me "peeps" are keeping the whole barnyard awake with him. How do you get a baby duck to hit the hay? Poor Farmer Brown will find out - and Duck might just find himself in trouble after all...(goodreads summary)  

Since the arrival of a new baby duck, Farmer Brown's barnyard animals are having trouble falling asleep. Baby duck does not want to go to sleep himself and keeps everyone awake with his constant peeping.  As the chickens try singing a lullaby and the sheep knit blankets, baby duck will not keep quiet! So finally, Duck comes up with a plan that just might save the sleepless night.  Here is another cute and funny book in the Click Clack series that I think we can all relate to;  how to get a little one to sleep!  When all else fails, Duck takes charge once again for a humorous outcome leaving Farmer Brown scratching his head.  The story is short but the expressions and the things the animals come up with are always good for a giggle. These books have always been a favorite for my family and this one will be added to the list. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title: Click, Clack, Peep!
Author: Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Pub. Date:  February 2015, Atheneum Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Such a Little Mouse review

Every season of the year, "such a little mouse" pops out of his hole and goes out to explore the wider world. (goodreads summary)

This cute little mouse is curious and hard working!  Each morning he pops his head out of his hole and goes exploring. He stops to investigate many things while out and about. When his day is done, he always brings home something special for his store room.  One morning when he sees snow, he goes back down to his warm and snuggly house all ready for the winter. The illustrations are not only sweet and delightful but the bright bold colors depict the change of seasons nicely as we follow along during his busy year. His effort pays off when he gets to enjoy his cozy home he has prepared for the winter.  Kids will want to point out what he has taken back at the end of the day to add to his store room.  This cheerful spring to winter story is simple and would make a wonderful read-a-loud. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: Such a Little Mouse
Author:  Alice Schertle, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Pub. Date:  March 2015, Orchard Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Finding Spring review


A baby bear cub named Maurice is curious about spring--and he's upset when Mama tells him that before he can experience his first spring, he has to hibernate through his first winter! Mischievous Maurice decides to leave their warm den and go find spring for himself. He asks all his friends for help . . . and finally finds something beautiful and full of magic and light. Spring!(goodreads summary)

Little Maurice is so impatient waiting for his first Spring that he does not want to hibernate as Mama Bear suggests. So while she is taking a winter nap, he sets out on his own to look for it. Along the way, he runs into his friends who seem to be too busy to think about Spring. He eventually finds what he thinks is Spring and wrapping it up, takes it back to his den . After he awakens, he is excited to show everyone that he finally found Spring but when he opens his scarf it is gone!  When he returns to the spot where he found it, there is a beautiful surprise waiting for him that is even better. 

This was a nice story about waiting and having patience. The illustrations were made from hand-cut paper and are definitely intricate with plenty of detail.  Looking at all the different pieces of paper added a fun element to the story. It was quite creative turning the forest and its creatures into original cut-out artwork making it visually appealing. The story was a little predictable but with the illustrations they make it worthy of a quick read-a-loud. It would be fun for kids to write their own Springtime storybook and make paper collage illustrations to go along with it. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~ 

Title:  Finding Spring
Author:  Carin Berger
Pub. date:  January 2015, Greenwillow Books
Genre:  picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What Forest Knows review

The forest sees every season, from the first snowflake to the blossoming flower buds. The forest sees the ever-moving life in nature and the beauty it emanates. With lyrical language and rich and textured illustrations, What Forest Knows takes you on a hike through the trees, beyond the meadows, between the deer and foxes, and into the heart of the outdoors.(goodreads)

When you think of a forest would you ever see it from Its' point-of- view?  This gentle, poetic book will do just that as it takes you on a journey with its' beautiful text and illustrations. It guides you through the changes of the season while a boy and his dog explore the forest beginning with winter. Forest soon turns into spring, then summer and fall while knowing every new beginning and ending that follows.  As the buds begin, animals awake and food becomes plentiful, the forest knows many wondrous things letting us know the magic it holds.  The illustrations were soft and gentle reminding me of a nature walk in one of my favorite places taking in all that it has to offer. Spotting the dog on every page as the story flows will be a favorite for the little ones.  This book could also work well with a nature themed unit just as the seasons are about ready for a change. What about adventuring out for a nature hike afterwards!  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  What Forest Knows
Author: George Ella Lyon, illustrated by August Hall
Pub. Date:  November 2014, Anthem Books for Young Readers
Genre: picture books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree review


One day Red Knit Cap Girl and her friends discover a hollow tree in the middle of the forest. What can be done with one ordinary tree? "I will keep my book in this nook so everyone can read it," Red Knit Cap Girl says. But the tree isn't only for books. Little by little, one by one, the animals share their unique gifts and turn the ordinary tree into a special spot for everyone to enjoy!(goodreads)

All you need is a little hideaway to transform into a quaint book nook and share among your friends. A little girl does just that when squirrel discovers a special spot in a big oak tree. This charming story is a take on the Little Free Libraries that seem to be popping up in many communities. Each woodland friend brings something they want to share with the others.  Even Owl and Moon make a special sign that gives the little reading nook that extra touch. This was a cute story about sharing and finding that special place to sit and read with friends. The serene color pallet adds to the illustrations softness and warmth while reading.  It is a nice story about the value of books and sharing what you read with others. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree
Author: Naoko Stoop
Pub. Date:  September 2014, Little, Brown & Co.
Genre: picture Book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Just Us Girls -48 Creative Art & Craft Projects for Mothers & Daughters review

Explore and nurture your mother-daughter bond and create a keepsake that you'll cherish forever. This highly-illustrated craft and activity book includes 48 heartfelt, earth-friendly projects to make together. The projects mix and explore themes of beauty, magic, and appreciation for the natural world, while moving through the seasons of the year. (goodreads summary)

If you love crafting with your daughter but need some new ideas, this would be a great book to try! The crafts are quick and easy using many natural, earth friendly and best of all upcycled materials.  It is divided into different sections by the four seasons and includes the elements of earth, wind, fire and water bringing you closer to the appreciation and beauty of nature. The project pages also offer tips and information that will help make your crafting time together extra special.  A couple of my favorites were the Totem Pole Painted Tin Cans that focuses on your family traits or the Miniature Shadow Box to capture a special moment or dream encouraging creativity. The directions were simple to follow, plenty of beautiful photographs and the supplies can be easily found by searching outdoors or recycling things from around the house. The first few pages offer a list of items you will need and a brief introduction to the meaning of the seasons and elements which were helpful.

I also think this would make a wonderful addition for a Girl Scout Troop looking for some fun themed activities such as; the Treasure Box Nature Scavenger Hunt, Salt Dough Crafts or a Happy Thoughts Jar. If a birthday party is in the near future, then there are Nature Wands or Fairy Homes to create as well. With 48 projects to choose from you are sure to find something inspiring. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 6 and up.~

Title: Just Us Girls-48 Creative Art & Crafts Projects
Author:  Cindy Ann Ganaden
Pub. Date:  March 2014, Quarry Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback, 144 pgs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tap to Play! review


Tap to play!
Blip has to reach the bar to win his game--but he needs your help. If he wins, he gets a surprise!  Bounce Blip, shake Blip, tilt him and tickle him! Help Blip win the game in this spirited interactive picture book, perfect for reading--and playing--again and again!
(goodreads summary)

Before Blip can win a special surprise, children will have to help him reach the bar before the time runs out.  They need to shake, tilt, tap and flap in order for him to reach his goal. The character is cute and looks friendly. Because of its' simplicity though, this probably would be better for preschool age kids. The large and bold text would work well as a read-aloud for a small group.  Many feel that this is too similar to other interactive books and were not impressed with it. I agree that it is somewhat generic but I guess I am all for whatever gets kids moving or shaking. This book makes for a quick movement activity and a little fun to break up the day! In the end, they could even try other ideas for movement they think might work just as well.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-4.~

Title: Tap to Play!
Author: Salina Yoon
Pub. date: October, 2014,  Balzer & Bray
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Fourteenth Goldfish review


Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has many unexpected changes since the start of middle school.  Her mom is a high school drama teacher and her dad is an actor that travels. They both keep telling Ellie she needs to find a passion. Her best friend Brianna has found a new group with the volleyball team. Her babysitter suddenly quits one day and her scientist grandfather, Melvin, comes home with her mom looking like a 13 year old boy. Apparently, he thinks he has discovered the fountain of youth which he experimented on himself that turned him back into a teenage boy. At the current moment though, he is designated as Ellie's new babysitter after school. Unfortunately, he wants to break into his old laboratory with her help to retrieve his jellyfish T.melvinus, which was used to create a compound to reverse the aging process.  Grandpa Melvin plans to change the world with this discovery and win the Noble prize but at what cost.........

This story would not only connect with a reader who is a science enthusiast but others may enjoy the humor and message as well.  It has an unusual theme with several funny moments and leaves you thinking about the interesting topic of people never-aging.  The short chapters move along quickly and smoothly while keeping its' reader engaged for the final outcome in the end. It is funny that even though grandpa Melvin now has a body of a 13 year old boy, he still dresses and acts like a 76 year old man .  He wants a younger self but yet is he ready for the changes that come along with it? The characters of Ellie and her grandpa definitely learn from one another helping bridge the generation gap as well.  Ellie also senses that what her parents want her to be, may not be what she is best at. When she opens her mind to science, she discovers that it is worth the try, finding herself wondering and thinking about the "what ifs".   Ellie also connects with a new friend Raj and there are many character developments within the story for everyone. There are several references to real people who have made scientific impacts on our world such as; Marie Curie or Robert Oppenheimer offering many teaching moments throughout the book. I loved that the author encourages her readers to observe the world around us and find the scientist in themselves. Once the story got going it was simple, fast-paced and could be a good book report talk for a reluctant reader. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 10-12.~

Title:  The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author:  Jennifer L. Holm
Pub. Date: August 2014, Random House for Young Readers
Genre: fiction
Hardcover, 195 pgs.