ROLE REVERSAL

The Runaway Mommy

Written by Jane Paris

Illustrated by Scott Rim

 

This book contains a similar story to The Runaway Bunny except that in this edition the parent is running away from the child. The text layout and illustrations are simple, suggesting that the book is appropriate for younger children. On the other hand, the vocabulary which includes things like a tech startup, trauma surgeon, and flamenco dancer, probably won’t resonate with a younger child. The plot revolves around a mother bunny who threatens to run away and pursue new careers around the globe. Her young child is willing to accompany her no matter what role mom decides to pursue.

This short book could be an amusing bedtime story if the parent is careful to explain he or she does not intend to run away. The humor will be appreciated more by adults than children.

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Diary of a Cool Boy

Written by B. Campbell

AJ is the middle child. He has an older sister, Jane, who is learning to drive and a younger brother, Taj, who has the gross habit of picking his nose. AJ’s mom is a neatness and control freak, while his dad is laid back.

Middle school readers will love the humorous situations in which AJ constantly finds himself. Cedric is the classroom bully, and the new boy, Hawk reveals a secret to AJ that will eventually enhance AJ’s reputation. Readers will enjoy reading about the family foibles and mishaps, as well as the sixth-grade classroom escapades. There are a few valuable life lessons to be learned, but the plot is fairly predictable with few twists and turns.

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CYBILS BLOGGING AWARDS 2017

This year I had the honor of participating on a panel of judges to determine the winners in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book categories of the 2017 Cybils Blogging Awards for Children’s Literature.

Today I would like to share my reviews of the winning books in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books. I will share reviews of the finalists in each category in the next few weeks.

EASY READER WINNER!

King and Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code

Written by Dori Hillstead Butler

Illustrated by Nancy Meyers

This is the first book in the mystery series featuring Kayla and her golden retriever, King. I enjoyed the author’s approach of first introducing the dog and later his human, Kayla. King is frustrated that he cannot communicate to his owner in words, so he uses actions to express himself. By the end of the tale, readers learn more about King’s intelligence.

Kayla and King answer the doorbell. No one is there but a letter has been left on the doorstep. When Kayla’s friend Mason comes to visit, he reveals that he has received a letter as well. Neither of the friends can read the letter because it is written in secret code. Kayla and Nathan set out to decode the letters. They find that only the second word is different. King is sure he knows the author, but the humans don’t understand what he is saying. A chance meeting with Jillian, who lives a few houses away may hold the key to the mystery.

I would consider this book more of a chapter book than an easy reader. Children in second and third grade will better understand the nuances and messages of the plot. This book presents multicultural characters and interactive learning opportunities. Recommended for boys and girls in the seven to nine age range.

EARLY CHAPTER BOOK WINNER!

Wedgie & Gizmo

Written by Suzanne Selfors

Illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

Book 1 of a new series featuring a cavy named Gizmo and a corgi named Wedgie. Gizmo introduces himself as a Genius with an Evil Plan. Gizmo has recently been uprooted once again. He began his life in a pet store where a parrot taught him to read. His human, Elliot, chose him and brought him home. But Elliot’s dad has remarried and now Gizmo must learn to live in a new human house. Elliot now has a stepsister named Jasmine and a stepbrother named Jackson. Worst of all, Wedgie, their corgi pet, wears a cap and thinks he is the protector of the family.

The book hilariously describes how Gizmo and Wedgie compete for control and human attention. Gizmo gets seriously ill when he attacks a cereal box in the pantry, and Gizmo hatches a scheme to get Wedgie in trouble with Jasmine. Selfors artfully weaves the animal conversations into the story. Children who feel displaced by moving or becoming a part of a blended family will empathize with their situation. Gizmo undergoes serious trauma when he learns the grandmother comes from Peru where caves are eaten. There are a lot of twists and turns, laughter, and tears, as the new family learns to live and love each other.

The illustrations are fun and humorous. My favorite illustration depicts grandmother (abuela) sleeping in bed with curlers in her hair while Gizmo places a delivery label addressed to Peru on her head. The story is almost two hundred pages and that might be a challenge for beginning readers. While the plot moves along quickly and is really entertaining, I believe it better suited to a third to a fifth-grade audience. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

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MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK

#InternationalBookGivingDay

Happy Valentine’s Day – give the gift of reading to someone you know or love!

The Rainbow Dragons and Little Sleepy

Written by Anton Sunberry

Illustrated by Konstantin Federov and Svetlana Moroz

 This is a delightful tale about a little boy called Little Sleepy because he had difficulty waking up each day. Little Sleepy enjoyed his dreams so much that he often slept through most of his daily routines. One night the boy slid down a rainbow right into his dream. There he met several dragons who were different colors of the rainbow. Each of the dragons thought himself to be the best because each possessed a unique talent. These talents included things like being strongest, funniest, most observant, best cook, best musician, and most creative. Sleepy cannot decide who is the best and suggests that the dragons will be better served by combining their talents. Only then will the dragons be able to create the rainbow bridge. If they agree to work together, Sleepy will succeed in returning home to his parents with a valuable lesson.

Illustrations are done with heart and in brilliant colors. Preschoolers and primary grade children will enjoy this tale. Sleepy-heads might even be encouraged to wake up and see their world.

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SCIENCE AT OUR FINGERTIPS

The Exploding Twins: A Volcano Adventure

Written by Y. and M. Leshem

Illustrated by Lucia Benito

This is a charming, hands-on book for curious, young scientists. Daniel and Allison are twins who are listening to their Aunt Melissa, who has just returned from a trip to South America. She is showing them pictures of her climb to the top of a volcano. Their interest immediately peeks when their parents ask if they would like to create a volcano of their own in the backyard.  The twins eagerly jump at the opportunity.

The second part of the book explains in easy to understand text and vivid illustrations how a volcano looks and what happens when it explodes. Then the authors present the materials necessary to create an exploding volcano from ordinary household materials. Each step leads to the climax of the explosion.

This book is an effective combination of endearing characters and a recipe for a science experiment that any family can share together. I have seen this experiment done in the classroom many times and it never fails to amaze budding, young scientists. Highly recommended for elementary and middle-grade students as a good choice in the STEM category to encourage a greater awareness of science all around us for both girls and boys.

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OUT OF THE DARKNESS

Hey Nana! Connor’s Story of Love

Written by Toni Nunemaker

This book is a testament to the young life of Connor, a boy who was murdered by another in a playground not far from his home in a trailer park nearby. The memoir is penned by his grandmother, who herself undergoes a transformation because of the crime.

Readers need to be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster as Nana proceeds through a gamut of emotions proceeding from the moment of the crime, the funeral, the criminal investigation, the trial, and the family’s readjustment to a life without the nine-year-old child, who brought so much love into the world.

Nana even learns to understand and accept the grief that Jamarion, the young murderer, and his family experience and the abuse that led up to it. I think the author does an exceptional job of portraying her conflicting emotions as well as the character of the gentle and loving victim, her grandchild, and the special relationship they both shared.

The book is a powerful commentary on abuse, addiction, love, and the way various members of society cope or fail to cope with them. This book is one that will force readers to consider these issues, whether they agree with the author’s ultimate decision in her acceptance and forgiveness. Recommended for young adult and adult readers.

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JUST DO IT!

Do The Opposite Of Nothing: The Ridiculously Simple Strategy for Serious Procrastinators…

Written by Nealey Stapleton

The author spends a lot of time in her introduction explaining procrastination and how it leads to clutter. When one procrastinates, none of a person’s goals can be achieved. Stapleton then spends a chapter on each of ten methods that might be employed to enable a person to succeed at decluttering and ending procrastination. I found a few to be especially valuable for myself. To avoid a sense of overwhelming frustration, I need to set aside a small, realistic amount of time and select one task to achieve before moving on to more ambitious plans. I am also guilty of the “homeless” mistake. A successful organizer needs to establish a spot for every object and make sure that it stays there.  Many of my friends and I are guilty of buying more than we need, resulting in a storage problem. Do you keep stuff for too long and procrastinate about going through those things that really have no useful purpose in your life?

There are a lot of simple things one can do to feel a sense of accomplishment and organization that will allow a more productive use of time and many of one’s important goals to be achieved. Stapleton provides a plethora of links and resources in each chapter. I must admit they do become repetitive and can slow down the flow of the book. However, I enjoyed the straightforward presentation and practical advice, which I plan to implement daily. Recommended for anyone who has too much stuff and too little time on their hands.

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