WITCHES STEW

Lula’s Brew

Written by Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Lula

Lula is a young witch who has a problem. She does not want to be a witch; she wants to be a chef with her own restaurant. Lula hides her cookbooks under her bed. But Lula lives with her four Aunties who are witches dedicated to making Lula a successful witch. At the beginning of the story they are supervising Lula in preparing a brew to cast a magic spell on the town, but Lula sneaks in other ingredients when they are not looking. Soon a delicious aroma wafts across the town and its residents come knocking on the witches door to partake of the brew. When they demand seconds, Lula has an unusual request for them. Lula manages to cast her magic in a most peculiar way.

This tale is beautifully illustrated. The text will have young children laughing. This is a cute Halloween story that is not scary and appropriate for preschoolers and children in the early elementary grades. Makes a nice read aloud in the classroom, bedtime story or a family share to celebrate the holiday.

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STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE

Sara: A Canadian Saga

Written by Audrey Austin

Sara,acanadiansaga,pic

This novel of historical fiction begins in the maritime provinces in Canada in 1916. It features two protagonists Sara and Roy, who are both age ten at the time. The reader experiences their struggles as children determined to succeed in troubled families whose lives are complicated further by the Depression years. Roy vows to “make something of himself”: Sara works hard to be an independent woman able to support herself.

When Sara and Roy meet and fall in love, circumstances will force them into the same unhappy lives that plagued their parents. Sara’s father is broken by the loss of his business; Luke loses his mother and detests his father’s remarriage. After Roy and Sara marry, the economy will turn sour, Luke loses one job after another. Sara gives up her good secretarial job to follow Luke. Not long after children are born who turn out to be much like their bickering parents. Eventually, Sara and Roy will be separated as he is forced to move to the city of Toronto to find employment. Finally things seem to be improving economically, but their personal struggles intensify.

Despite the turmoil, their family seems to be able to overcome one obstacle after the other. Luke and Sara both have conflicting personalities which are mirrored in their offspring, yet the family always manages to survive, The novel ends in 1942 with Sara rediscovering her childhood journal and reflecting upon her life.

I enjoyed learning about the history of Canada during this time period. The characters are well developed and true to life. This novel is a wonderful coming of age book for children age twelve and older. It is realistic family fiction that is an engaging quick read. If you enjoy historical fiction with strong compelling characters, this book is a good choice.

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BOOK BLAST – MYTHS FOR TOTS

Reviews of two books in the Mini Myths Series: Be Patient, PANDORA! and Play Nice, HERCULES!

Written by Joan Holub

Illustrated by Leslie Patricelli

Be Patient, PANDORA!

Pandora,pic

At first glance, you might say how could a toddler possibly understand the connections between Greek mythology and a toddler’s learning curve, but you are mistaken. Holub has deftly taken the story of Pandora’s box and woven it into a wonderful twenty-four page toddler board book. Each page contains a picture, one word or one sentence to portray a tot named Pandora, who simply cannot contain her curiosity when her mother tells her not to open the box. She cannot resist and then fears rejection and loss of her mother’s love when her curiosity gets the best of her. Patricelli knows exactly how to convey the story in pictures that are so simple yet expressive with the generalization needed for young children to understand the plot.

 

 

 

 

Play Nice, HERCULES!

Hercules,picThis book has more text than the first, but does not go beyond one sentence on a page. Hercules is a toddler who has a habit of getting into mischief. Patricelli says it all in the wonderful facial expressions in her character. Dad warns him to play nice with his little sister who is sitting on the floor with her blocks. You can guess what happens when Hercules decides to display his strength. I especially enjoyed the way Holub used sound words like whomp-stomp and ka-boom to combine pictures and actions of the story. Mighty Hercules will have to learn how to contain his powers, and the siblings will learn a valuable lesson in the process.

Both sturdy board books contain summaries of the Greek myths upon which they are based on the back cover of the book. This is particularly useful for adult readers who may have forgotten the story and also allows the young child to “grow into” an interest for classical Greek literature at a later point in time. Parents and teachers may use the series as an early introduction to fine literature as well as a way to teach the skills and values that toddlers are beginning to develop. If you enjoyed reading these reviews, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS Feed number in the upper right hand corner of this page.

HALLOWEEN WITH A TWIST

Tommy Goes Trick-Or-Treating (Bird Brain Books 4)

Written by Emlyn Chand

Illustrated by Noelle Giffin

Tommy Goes Trick-or-Treating, pic

Story revolves around two animal friends, a woodpecker named Tommy and his raccoon friend, Michael. Both enjoy watching humans for amusement. One day Tommy notices something strange; all the children are dressing in weird costumes and knocking on neighbors’ doors asking for candy. Michael tells Woody that this is the custom on Halloween.

Woody is jealous; he wants some of his own candy. So he enlists Michael to go trick or treating with him. At first they are unsuccessful, until they figure out that they need their own costumes and must say the magic words, “Trick or Treat.” Once they get the hang of it, the two animal friends go off the deep end and abuse the custom. Read the book and find out what happens to them and what lessons they learn.

Illustrations cleverly done in Halloween colors are interspersed throughout and will hold the interest of younger readers. The book is an excellent choice for an early chapter book. Don’t be fooled by the length; half the pages are not part of the actual story but rather author background and summaries of other books in their series. Teachers might use the book as a read aloud for Halloween and parents might want to discuss its lessons before their children go trick or treating. I would recommend it especially for ages six through nine. This book is also available in Spanish. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe by clicking on the word Follow or by hitting the orange RSS Feed button in the upper right hand corner of this page.

TRIP THROUGH TIME

Time Taxi: Book One: Back to Your Beginning

Written by Bruce Boyce

Illustrated by Daniel Demirdjian

Timetaxi,pic

Jack and Jill (they hate their names) are bored twins on summer vacation who live in the suburbs. They are tired of reading, watching TV, playing video games and texting friends. When Jill gets a weird message on her cell phone with a picture of a taxi on Jack’s screen and an invitation to take a taxi ride, they are mystified. After a phone call to their dad who confirms that he knows about the taxi, they follow the yellow brick path down the road where the yellow taxi marked Timeless awaits them.

The driver named Numan, who is a cloud shape-shifter, explains that they are going to take a trip through time using a wormhole as a short cut. Here the twins will meet their ancestors and experience what life was like on earth before life was human. First stop is more than three billion years in the past when the moon was three times bigger and life consisted of slimy green forms on rocks. Their next stop takes them inside a small primitive fish named Astraspis diserata. Jack experiences life as an Ichthostega, a life form that has made the transition to land having both gills and lungs. Their journey proceeds through the evolution cycle to Dimetrodon and the ancestors of the dinosaurs. Then they arrive in the dinosaur age just before the meteor hits the earth destroying most of the planet. As they continue forward, Jack and Jill meet their mammal ancestors, Australopithecus, Homo erectus and the wild wolves that were tamed and taught men how to hunt for food. Now men could hunt for meat and their brain size increased dramatically allowing them to become superior. When the children and the taxi arrive home at last, they find an unexpected surprise on their doorstep.

This book is a fantastic way to teach evolution and history, while allowing students to experience a fantasy adventure at the same time. The reader can imagine herself inside these creatures as the twins go on their riding adventures. They probably won’t realize how much knowledge they are absorbing. Middle grade students should find the reading level comfortable, and the colorful illustrations are an added bonus. Highly recommended for teachers and librarians to add to their bookshelves. Lovers of fantasy, history, time travel and adventure ages eight and above should not miss this one!

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HATS AND HIJINKS

Gaspar and the Fantastical Hats

Written by David A. Lindsay

Illustrated by Pilich

GasparHats,pic

This fantasy novella just short of one hundred pages is set in medieval times amidst dark alleys, cobblestone streets, a wizard’s den and raucous taverns. Gaspar has just spent the night at one of his favorite haunts, The Bag O’Silver Inn where he could pick up gossip on who to target and who was after him. Shortly after, two assassins named Sloat and Weasel confront him in a dark alleyway. An unknown intruder saves his life.

The Council of Guild Masters run the city. These guilds are arranged in a hierarchy of power. Strangely enough the City did function. The wizards had a monopoly of magical artifacts. Gaspar is a petty thief who is a freelancer not a member of any guild. How does he get involved in a dangerous caper? The women of the Merchant’s Quarter had taken a liking to wearing hats that were decorated with magical objects. Some of the wizards began taking bribes, while the milliners took advantage of the fad. Eventually magical artifacts became scarce. Gaspar is enlisted to steal a magical artifact for one such hat. His friend, Hubris, the Spell-broker is recruited separately to steal another. They break into the Wizard’s Hall where they are confronted with a golem, a giant living stone statue. Both thieves must steal an artifact and successfully escape the golem. These partners will discover that appearances are deceiving; the plot twists and turns to reveal new deceptions, and the reader does not foresee the conclusion.

The characters are interesting and the plot well developed in this novella even though the sentence descriptions can be wordy at times. The combination of fashion, mystery, adventure and intrigue are nicely balanced in the right amount for a middle grade reader that will appeal to boys and girls. The golem’s riddles are a nice touch; they will encourage young readers to ponder and philosophize This book can easily be read in a couple of hours or broken up into sections for discussion as a class read aloud.

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