A SEA-SATION!

The Dragon Dreamer

Written and illustrated by J.S. Burke

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The author of this book is multi-talented. She is a marine biologist, teacher, chemist, artist and geologist. In this book targeted for middle grade students, she somehow manages to weave these disparate elements together in a well-written educational fantasy adventure.

The story shifts between two groups: the golden dragons who are in danger because their life-giving copper supplies are running low, and the octopuses who live on undersea reefs. The main protagonists, Arak, the dragon, and Scree, the octopus healer, will be thrown together by a chance accident. They will work together first as trading partners and later as loyal friends. Each of them will lead their people to safety as they face extinction. Though they speak different languages, they learn to communicate. Burke does a masterful job of character development by uniquely combining the elements of caring, cooperation, romance and diversity. She successfully weaves together an intricate plot that celebrates diversity and intertwines ancient myths and legends with the scientific facts of marine biology.

Readers are taken on an exciting page turning adventure in which you empathize with characters as they face each new obstacle. At the same time, almost without realizing it, you are learning about the food chain, volcanoes, sharks and giant squid. The glossary included at the end is a nice resource for the scientific background. Targeted for readers ages nine and older, the book has a wider appeal for young adult and even adult audiences. A book that entertains while providing an education is a welcome addition to any bookshelf. Highly recommended !

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FIGHTING YOUR FEARS – BOOK BLITZ

Fearless Joe Dearborne

Written by Lisa Whitney Mitchell

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Sixth grader Joe Dearborne has a reputation for being fearless. After all, he runs into a burning house to rescue a puppy, broke his leg while trying to rescue a cat from a tree, and rescued a girl who had slipped through the frozen ice. Joe’s best friend, known as Green Beans, tells all of this to Willy Randolph, a local reporter. In the event of danger, Joe is just not able to feel fear. But Joe has a big problem, he has promised his father that he would stop doing dangerous things.

When his father hears about this latest escapade, he grounds Joe. The next day, Joe decides he will pick up a poisonous snake in the hopes that it would make him feel afraid. He succeeds, but not in the way he had hoped because his is bitten and becomes seriously ill. As the rest of the story unfolds, Joe will meet a new housekeeper who does her best to make his life miserable, his father’s business wanes, readers meet his zany Aunt, and Joe meets a new friend named Meg. Joe will need to grapple with fear in new and unexpected adventures.

This middle grade adventure combines coming of age issue, family relationships, elements of mystery and a bit of humor. I especially like the introduction of a new vocabulary word with its meaning at the beginning of the chapters. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep readers on their toes, and enough character development makes you want to believe in them. In my opinion, the book has most appeal to middle grade boys and girls, but it can be enjoyed by teens as well.

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STEPPING UP – John Bloom and the Victory Garden Book Blitz

John Bloom and the Victory Garden

Written by Leigh Shearin

Art & Design by Katie Shearin

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I used to live in a house that still had remnants of a World War I victory garden popping up between the flowers so I was immediately drawn to this book. So glad that I picked it up this historical fiction tale.

Shearin does an amazing job of capturing the spirit of the three main characters and best friends, ten year olds, John, Joe, and Chewie. The story opens in Appleside, NJ, a small town on December 6, 1941. These three boys and their families will suddenly find their lives turned upside down when Pearl Harbor is attacked and their country enters World War II. The author makes the setting authentic by mentioning things like sitting around the old radio and Fireside Chats of FDR, Life magazine, the 5 & 10 Cent store, and popular games like horseshoes and marbles. These boys spring to life with antics like chewing on their collar, secret door knock signals, and pranks like filling grumpy, Mr. Hutchins’ outhouse with snow. Some things never change; there are the typical classroom hijinks and even incidents of bullying.

When the war breaks out, the boys decide to form a club in an effort to help the war effort. They call it the ABC Club. Recognizing the injustice of rounding up Japanese, German and Italian nationals, they fear the loss of friends in their community. A grumpy neighbor morphs into a new friend when their kindness toward him leads to an unexpected change of circumstances and a new avenue of patriotism.

Middle grade students will empathize with these boys and the difficulties they encounter in adjusting to frightening circumstances. Recommended for children ages nine and older. This is a well-written book with developed characters and plot and is a compelling read for adults as well. Next year’s sequel will continue the story as the course of the war unfolds.

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WE ALL NEED A FRIEND

The Royal Palm

Written by Mrs. D

Illustrated by Chanoa

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This story begins at its end with the protagonist, a stately Royal Palm, reflecting on her beautiful new home. Born on an island in the middle of an ocean that was often brushed with violent storms, she grew up in the shadows of short, plain palm trees who protected her while she was little. The Royal Palm dreamed of living in the garden of a majestic palace. As she grows older, the Royal Palm brags about her beauty and becomes snobby, refusing to play with her plain cousins. She admonishes the green parrots and lizards who mess up her hair and leaves. What she does not realize is that as she grows taller, she becomes weaker and more vulnerable. The day will come when the sun will parch her roots and violent winds will bend her limbs. How does she survive?

As is the case with Mrs. D’s other books, the language is lyrical and colorful. She describes the Royal Palm: “Glittering with playful diamonds, her silver dress waved in the air, filled with aroma and warmth.” In contrast, the plain palms are depicted as “dressed in dull brown dresses.” Mrs. D effectively employs the techniques of alliteration, personification and analogy to communicate her message. Chanoa’s illustrations filled with gorgeous pastel colors and animated facial expressions never fail to disappoint the reader.

This book is targeted for ages six through ten. Younger readers are able to follow the story while it is read aloud through the illustrations, while children aged eight and older will be better suited to independent reading of the text. Mrs.s D addresses many of the difficult issues children face in dealing with their peers in a whimsical, charming tale. Highly recommended.

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SANTA IN DISTRESS – BOOK BLITZ – LOBO’S HOWLIDAY

Adventures of Lovable Lobo: Happy Howlidays

Written by C.L. Murphy

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I just love this addition to the Lovable Lobo series. Children of all ages will enjoy the bright, bold computer images that display fantastic emotion in the facial expressions and beautiful background scenery. The story is modern, clever and innovative.

Our friend Lobo is excited to receive a special delivery letter from Snowy Owl. He notices at once that the sack dropped from the sky is moving and is astonished to find that inside the sack an arctic mouse named Arty has a letter from Santa requesting his help! Lobo sets off to the North Pole with his friend Roxy Raven and Arty as his guide. They trudge through the snows and past the Northern Lights. An arctic fox provides shelter, while a polar bear and arctic hare point the way to the North Pole. Finally they reach Santa’s Village, where Santa puts them up in his special guest house. The mystery continues to deepen; why did Santa summon Lobo?

I won’t spoil the surprise, but I will say that sometimes the best of modern technology does not work the way we expect. Santa has an ingenious plan that involves Lobo in an attempt to save Christmas this year. Children of all ages will love the book, while adults will chuckle at how modern man sometimes needs to return to basics to solve a thorny problem. I highly recommend this book be added to your holiday classics.

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THE TRUE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

The Question of Christmas

Written by Benjamin J. Denen

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The author begins his story in the prologue by pondering the question about the true meaning of Christmas and how its meaning has been transformed over time. Then he transports the reader back to few days before Christmas in the 1980’s when he was a twelve year old sixth grade student.

Spencer takes us on a detective adventure with his two best friends, Josh and Tiffany. This Christmas would be a lean one for Spencer’s family as his father has lost his job, and the family faces financial distress due to mounting medical costs. Spencer’s older brother, B.Jack needs heart surgery due to complications related to his Down’s Syndrome condition. The adventure begins when Spencer observes a stranger moving in to a long abandoned house down the street. For some reason, he senses a strange connection. That night hearing about the robbery of a valuable dagger from the museum in Chicago, Spencer is sure he recognizes the stranger in the police sketch shown on TV as that thief.

The three inseparable friends spend all their waking free hours following the man named Alejandro Rojas. When they spy him trying to sell something to Mr. O’Flannagan in the antique store, they are determined to break in to find the dagger as evidence of the crime. I will not spoil the story; of course, the plans go awry. Is Mr. Rojas guilty and what is his connection to Spencer’s town? Will the children be caught and punished? What will happen to B.Jack?

This novella of less than one hundred pages is well written. The reader will draw his own conclusions about what Christmas truly means, but the author’s conclusion is that Christmas is love in action and should be practiced all year round. This tale does not have a biased view. It is just a though provoking feel good story appropriate for tweens, teens and adults of all ages. Highly recommended!

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BACK TO THE SOURCE

Creatus (They Exist):The Prequel (Creatus Series)

Written by Carmen DeSousa

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I grabbed this book as an introduction to the Creatus novel series that I had read about which mixes elements of mystery, romance, suspense and a touch of the supernatural. The action in this prequel takes place fourteen years before Book One and is intended to develop the characters and fill in some gaps in the story line.

While there is no overt sex or graphic violence, the protagonist named Kris witnesses her mother being stabbed to death, and experiments with drugs and sex in her quest to find herself. For this reason, I would not recommend the book for younger teens. Derrick Ashton, her hero, is a Creatus, one of a species almost wiped out by humans. He struggles to fulfill his destiny as an overseer, while feeling a tremendous pull to be a “watcher” protecting this young human girl even though it is forbidden by his kind. Derrick cannot explain why he feels compelled to be her Dark Angel though he knows his destiny and a mate has already been chosen for him. Here we have two main characters struggling to overcome their demons and find their niche in the world. Derrick cannot help himself and Kris cannot control her destructive behavior. Every time she is at the point of self-destruction, she feels the presence of her Dark Angel. Fans of other books in the series will want to read this novella to round out the Creatus experience.

The author draws the reader in with the skillfully developed plot and imbues the reader with the conflict and torment the characters are experiencing. There is a nice balance of story elements including the right combination of mystery, suspense, and paranormal presenting an interesting drama. Fans of all three genres will enjoy the novella. Older teens will identify with Kris and her struggles to find her way.

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