Archive for May, 2013

SWITCHEROO

Woof: Two Short Stories

by: Dakota Douglas

Woofpic

This book consists of two short stories. These two stories are fairly easy to read with clear sentences. I think children aged six through nine will particularly identify with the characters and story line.

In the first book titled, A Dog’s Life, we meet Jeremy who has recently moved into the neighborhood. The children think he is stuck up and don’t ask him to play. For the last few days a dog that he has named Rufus has been following him everywhere. While Jeremy is watching the children play soccer, the dog suddenly jumps up and puts his paws on Jeremy. In a flash Jeremy has shrunk to the size of Rufus, and he is looking at a much larger version of himself. He has switched places with Rufus! As a dog, he diverts the ball and proves that he can really play soccer. The babysitter, Mrs. Peacock, has come to bring Jeremy home for dinner. But Jeremy is now a dog; he can only communicate by saying “Woof.” At the dinner table, he shocks his lawyer parents by flinging his steak to the carpet and clawing the floor. Meanwhile the real Jeremy is kept outside the house. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Turner take their “son” to the doctor who tells them that he is acting out because they work long hours and don’t pay enough attention to their son. For the next few days, they take the dog, whom they believe to be their son, to the cinema, fairs and bowling. The parents reluctantly agree to keep the dog. Jeremy spends his days chasing cats and scrounging around looking for scraps of food. He begs his dog Rufus to change places and switch roles. Will he agree or will Jeremy be forced to remain a dog forever?

The second story is named, A Boy’s Best Friend.  In the beginning of the story, Jeremy is paying little attention to his dog Rufus because he is busy doing homework. Rufus is bored; he is tired of chasing cats. Later on, Jeremy and his dog Rufus are at the dinner table with Mr. and Mrs. Turner. Mr. Turner reads about a robbery in the neighborhood, but nobody seems to pay attention, Shortly after, Rufus discovers a hole under the fence which allows him to venture forth in the neighborhood. While Jeremy was at school and his parents at work, Rufus remembers seeing three men load boxes in a van. He now knows they must be the burglars. Frantically, he tries to get Jeremy’s attention and tell him, but he is unsuccessful. Can you guess what he will do to get Jeremy to follow him? Suddenly Jeremy Turner is acting strangely. Mrs. Peacock threatens to quit and chaos reigns. Will the burglars be apprehended?

What will happen to the members of the Turner family? Can things ever return to normal? You will have to read these two exciting adventures to find out.

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FRIENDS OR FOES

Larry the Liger

by: Fergus Wilson and Rachel Phillips

LarrytheLigerpic

This work of fiction is an adorable chapter book that has recently been released as an e book. It is part of a series featuring Larry the Liger. The story is marketed for ages two through eight. As a read aloud, it would need to be broken into several sessions for a younger child. The story is easy to follow, but there are few pictures to hold a young child’s interest. Children aged seven and up will find the story engrossing and want to read it to the end in one sitting.

At the beginning of the story we meet Larry who is a “liger.” His mother was a tigress from India and his father a lion from Africa. How did they meet then? They were intentionally mated to create hybrid cubs. From the beginning, Larry was the largest. He had just returned to the zoo after being featured as the Easter Liger, part of the local children’s Easter parade. Larry lives in the Prague Zoo with his five siblings. He has many friends there. Larry spends a lot of time with Chloe the cat, but for some reason not understood by him; she is always mean to him. On this particular day, Chloe has blocked the hole in the fence so that Larry cannot get back to the zookeeper for lunch. When he finally succeeds in returning, the day has almost ended. He finds Chloe with a fat tummy sleeping peacefully. That really makes the usually mellow liger mad! He yells and screams at her. That must have scared her because she disappears.

After two days, Larry is getting worried that Chloe might not be coming back. He finds that he actually misses that annoying little creature! So he sets out to find her. Larry discovers new friends like Olga the Owl and Cyrus the snake who are willing to help him in his quest. The journey and its outcome have unexpected results and teach both Chloe and Larry many things about themselves.

This is a charming adventure story that is lovingly well told and carefully written both to entertain and to teach. Boys and girls will want to read it over and over. Don’t overlook this book.

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A TRUE FRIEND

Grandfather Tree

Written and illustrated by Allennita  C. Cooks

GrandfatherTreepic

Grandfather Tree is a simple book that makes quite a statement. The author has spent many years reading to and working with young children. She has also written skits, poems and short stories and is a member of the Florida Writer’s Association. This book is her first attempt at illustration; it succeeds because the simplicity of color and image works well with the succinct but powerful text.

An unnamed young boy and his dog are walking through the forest. He encounters a tree that reminds him of his grandfather who is strong and tall. He asks the tree, “Do you think of me?” He thinks of his life before as a baby and asks the tree if it remembers that part of its life.. He ponders about what life will be like when he grows up and asks if the tree would miss him coming to play with it. The boy expresses his fear of thunder and lightning and wonders if the tree is also afraid. Then he talks about the seasons using age appropriate analogies: the tree’s dropping leaves are compared to his hairs falling down when he gets his hair cut. He expresses his doubts to the tree. The boy wants to believe that this tree will always be there for him even when he grows old. However, he is unsure and afraid because he does not know what the future holds in store for him.

Throughout the story, the author integrates the boy’s thoughts into the story by showing a picture of what he is imagining and thinking in a bubble next to the tree. The facial expression of the tree changes as the story unfolds as well.

The author believes the book appropriate for ages four through ten. The simple pictures and the fact that there is only one rhyming line on each page make the story easy to follow. Older children will recognize the deeper layers of meaning in the story. The book is beautifully and lovingly done. Grandparents especially will want to include this book in their library.

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SAILING THE SEVEN SEAS

SAILING THE SEVEN SEAS

The Illustrated Life of Blackbeard

by: Charles River Editions

Blackbeardpiccover

This book is part of  History For Kids series aimed at children in the middle grades. As is the case with other books in the series there are engravings, drawings and paintings. There are no maps of the voyages which would have been helpful. The editors attempt to separate the facts from the myth which is difficult to do because of the paucity of information.

Chapter One begins by telling us Blackbeard’s real name, Edward Teach, and how he might have been born in either Jamaica or Bristol, England around 1680. Teach learned how to become a sailor by serving in the British Navy during Queen Anne’s War. He attacked French ships and soon discovered how  to become a pirate. Later when the war was over, he moved to the island of New Providence on the Atlantic Ocean and worked for the pirate leader, Benjamin Hornigold. Together they attacked Spanish and Portuguese ships for  bounty of wine and flour. They then met a pirate named Stede Bonet who allowed Teach to captain a ship called the Revenge. These two men later broke with Hornigold because he would not attack the British. When the pirates captured a French slave ship that had 40 cannons, Teach assumed command of 150 pirates. Shortly after they attacked a ship named Margaret, its captain, Henry Bostock,  told the governor about Teach describing his long black beard. That is how he got the name, Blackbeard.

Legends about Teach continued to grow and by 1718, the British Royal Navy actively hunted him. Blackbeard feigned repentance and asked for the governor’s protection. His ship ran aground; but many think he wanted to sink his ship to split up the pirates and keep more treasure for himself. Blackbeard did not give up being a pirate as he had promised. He sailed up and down the Atlantic coast searching for ships to plunder. The governor of Virginia, Robert Maynard, chased him up and down the coastal seas. Would Blackbeard finally be caught or would he continue to plunder?

This book is not as well written as the others in this series. At times it appears as if the writers are stringing together information rather than telling a life story. The book does its job in introducing students to the real Edward Teach.

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BOYS BOOKS?…. or maybe not so much

Five Fun Rhyming Boys Stories: Best Sellers Collection

by: Lily Lexington

5FunRhymingBoysStoriescover

This review is being done on the Kindle edition of five of Lily Lexington’s most popular stories. They are advertised as being boy’s stories, but I would not restrict them to one gender. While the themes of the books are traditionally viewed as male, the lessons imparted can be absolutely applied to both sexes.

In the first story, Danny is a geeky nerd whose wish it is to be a hero. As soon as his mother leaves his bedside, Danny becomes a knight who must slay beasts and rescue a princess. Only the princess proves to be anything but a damsel in distress!  Danny learns a lot about friendship.

The second book features a boy named Jack and his dinosaur friend who does not like to eat vegetables. Of course Jack does not eat them in support of his friend. When mom decides there is nothing else in the house to eat but vegetables, Jack and his dinosaur go about their day at play and learn important lessons about good nutrition.

In the third book we meet two very competitive brothers who both have dinosaur pets. They have planned a great race riding on their dinosaurs. When trouble arises, they each think that they have a better solution, but to their surprise neither of them can win alone. Will they be able to save themselves and solve the problem?

Six pirate friends are the characters in the fourth book. Though close friends each of them have very different personalities. They could not agree where to sail their pirate ship. Worse than that, the pirates had run out of food! So the wise pirate finally takes matters into his own hands and sets sail while the rest sleep. When they awake in a strange place, they will have to learn a valuable lesson if they are going to survive.

The last selection features Billy; a brave little cowboy who does not like to bathe. He goes to bed and rides his horse to rescue a little girl’s cat. The poor cat has been trapped in the bank by a smelly bank robber! Will he be successful in his quest and what price will Billy have to pay?

All of the stories are written in rhyme. Preschool children will enjoy them being read aloud. Older children in the primary grades should be able to manage reading them independently. These books are a good choice for parents with siblings of different ages. Illustrations are simple, colorful, clear and explicit, displaying exactly the messages that the characters wish to impart.

This is a fun collection and a good investment.

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TROLL FINDS A FRIEND

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

  Hamilton Troll pic

Hamilton Troll Meets Pink Light Sprite by

Kathleen J. Shields

Illustrated by

Leigh A. Klug and Carol W. Bryant

Hamilton Troll is the story of a likeable little Troll named Hamilton, who is just about the size of a mouse. He is a cheerful person and has many friends in the forest. The tiny green troll has a big problem every time it rains. His shelter is merely a hole in a tree stump which floods and threatens to drown him!  So poor Hamilton cowers in fear each time the rain approaches. His fall back plan is to hide under a plant with elephant like ears which he calls the Flop Away Home. One day as the sun emerges following a thunderstorm, Hamilton hears singing. He finds a beautiful Pink Light Sprite Fairy who has been grounded because her wings are soaked. She must wait until they dry to take flight again.  Pink Light Sprite befriends Hamilton and gives him some good advice. Why doesn’t he move one of those plants over his tree stump home? Then when the rains come, he will be protected. They go off to talk and play, but all too soon, Pink Light Sprite’s wings are dry. Hamilton is afraid; who will protect him when she leaves him? Pink Light Sprite reassures him that he will be safe now. Whenever he needs her, he has only to dream of her and the love and friendship that they have for one another. Hamilton has learned not to fear the unknown and to care for others who might need him.

The characters are charmingly drawn in soft muted colors with wonderful expression. The use of  such opposite characters as a troll and fairy make it appealing to a wide audience. This story is narrated in verse, which is often catchy and clever. It works most of the time, but there a few long passages in which it breaks down so that children may not be able to fully comprehend its meaning. The author does explain some of the more difficult vocabulary words used like transplant and mystique; the definitions are clearly displayed on the same page avoiding the need to flip to a glossary.

I think children age seven and up will really appreciate the characters and story line of this pleasing tale.

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WORRIED WARRIOR

From Man to Man (Wroge Elements)

by D.E. M Emrys

 

From Man to Man

This book is a fast paced fantasy short story that is a prequel to the novel From Ashes to Man. At the beginning of the story, we meet Draven Rheinhart leaving his wife and son at home early one morning. Draven is torn by indecision. He looks at the closed wooden chest at the foot of the bed and desperately wants to open it, but he has made a promise to his wife and son not to go back to his old life. Draven tried being a server and a farm worker in the medieval village of Hidann, but he was unsuccessful at both. When he snatches the axe and closes the door, we realize that he had been a mercenary. A frustrated Draven is chopping trees when a stranger approaches him; this stranger appears to know about his past. He offers Draven a job. He is the village blacksmith named McGowan. Draven refuses the offer until a Huntsman convinces him to use his axe as a tool not a weapon. Draven returns to the blacksmith to accept the job which is to protect the tax collector from outlaws, while he collects taxes from the village. Suddenly there are footsteps in the forest and arrows flying through the air. Lurking in the woods are fourteen bandits led by a character named Pig Nose! Will Draven be able to fulfill his promise to safeguard Nicolas, the tax collector?  What will become of Draven? Can he keep his promises to his family or will he return to his old life? This tale really does not provide an answer. The end of the story is a preview of the novel to follow.

 

Emrys, who is himself a former soldier, writes a fast paced story. He uses colorful language and draws vivid images. “Strutting a loping gait, head bobbing, back bent under the weight of the ledger in one arm and the coin pouch swinging from the other, Nicolas seemed to turn more heads for his manner rather than woes of  his business.” Using few details and telling the story in first person, Emrys quickly lays out the plot and presents his characters. I read the tale  along with the rhythm the author sets and could not wait to find out more. Young adults and adults will want to read the novel and future books from this talented new author.

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