Archive for June, 2014

LESSONS THAT NEED TO BE LEARNED

Fairy Tales For And About Kids

Written by Alexei

Translated by Katerina Lejkova

Illustrated by Galina Krylova

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This book of approximately forty pages contains seven fairy tales translated from Russian. For that reason, the language is a bit awkward in a few spots but does not seriously inhibit the story. A few of the tales center around little boys. Willie is a little boy who gives an eccentric old man directions and is rewarded with three wishes. The boy meets up with his friends and uses his wishes foolishly and learns a lesson the hard way. Another tale involves a young boy named Brian who is thought to be a simpleton but later undergoes an experience that turns the tables for him. On the other hand, Tom is a boastful boy intent on bullying the other children and forcing them to comply with his demands. One day his mom and a dog named Pluto prove to be his undoing. A boy and a wicked dog named Molly have a series of adventures that lead to bold actions by another little boy. Sam, a very superstitious little boy misses out on a lot of fun until a little girl named Kate teaches him how superstition is ruining his life. A lazy boy named Lukas spends his summer days watching TV, lying in bed and eating through a tube because he is too lazy to get up. He will have to learn the hard way that being lazy just leads to unhappiness. I think my favorite story is the one about the big trains and the little trains. In this tale, the large trains believe that might makes right and the spend their time quarreling with the little trains over who is more important until both parties realize they are both necessary. Unlike most fairy tales, many of the characters in this collection are boys and the setting is often in a large city.

All of these stories teach life lessons for children, and maybe for some adults! They are charming if nontraditional. There are a few illustrations which add to the appeal, but unfortunately they are a bit small on the kindle version. These short stories make up small chapters so the book is useful as a beginning reader. Parents could use the chapters as bedtime stories; teachers might approach them as short read alouds. Refreshing and different selection for anyone who enjoys fairy tales. Recommended for children age seven and older.

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TEA-TIME TRAVELS

Mrs. Trimble’s Magic Tea-Pot!

Written and illustrated by Steven-Watson-Morris

MagicTea-pot

This book is really an early chapter book which could also be used as a classroom read aloud or bedtime story. All the stories center around Mrs. Trimble, her assistant Rose and her twin nephews, John and Jack. Mrs. Trimble owns a tea shop where she serves tea and delicious home baked cakes. While working one day in her shop, suddenly a giant cloud of smoke arose and a giant tea-pot appeared in the center of the shop. A wizard wearing a pointed cap adorned with stars popped out. Walter the Wizard needs her help because the king’s cook is ill, and he is in need of someone to bake cakes for his party. They all climb into his tea-pot and are whisked away to the kingdom where Mrs. Trimble saves the day by baking the cakes. Walter is so grateful that he gives her a magic tea-pot as a gift that will take her anywhere in the world she wants to visit. The magic words are magic teapot backwards—“Top eat Cigam!” So begins the magical adventures of our characters.

In the first book of adventures, they decide to visit a spooky house and some ghosts where they meet Arthur Halloween, they take a trip to the moon and visit four purple men who are in need of polishing dust to keep the moon shiny and then visit another moon to gather supplies, convince a greedy dragon that he is eating too much and needs to go on a diet, and visit a land of dwarfs where Jack and John receive some surprise birthday presents. Mrs. Trimble even manages to confront an ogre and rescue the key to the city for the mayor. Perhaps my favorite adventure involves her ingenious solution to save the day when Santa Claus is unable to deliver presents on Christmas Day because his reindeer are sick.

There are just enough black and white pencil drawings to hold the interest of young readers just getting accustomed to longer story books. I like the mixture of conversation and prose. Neither one overpowers the other so that the story flows

The Further Adventures of Mrs. Trimble’s Magic Teapot!

Written and illustrated by Steven-Watson Morris

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So delighted that the author is giving us a sequel. In Book Two the reader is treated to seven more magical adventures. This time the reader will meet a one-eyed giant, a silver snake, a naughty goblin, the Easter bunny, an alien planet, some bubbles, and a castle of dreams. The children will learn through Mrs. Trimble that we should be kind and understanding toward others even when others are angry with us, but she also teaches us that when we are naughty like the goblin, we need to undo the harm we have done to others, apologize, and make restitution for our mistakes. When Mrs. Trimble meets the Dream Maker, she learns how to drink hot chocolate as well as tea and sees how sweets can be turned into healthy fruits. What child would not like to have a bubble adventure! Mrs. Trimble and the twins are astonished when the Easter bunny oversleeps one year; they must rescue him and save the day! In their last adventure the stalwart group get to land on the Teapot planet where everything is shaped like a teapot, and where they are introduced to Earlgrey who will restore the magic to their teapot. To return his kindness, Mrs. Trimble will leave them with a special gift of her own. As in the first book, there are delightful pencil drawings. At the end of the book, readers will find a special bonus, coloring pages that feature all the characters in the book’s stories.

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BABYSITTER BASICS

How To Baby-sit (Survival Skills)

Written by Joy Berry

Illustrated by Bartholomew

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Joy Berry has written many books on behavior; this one does exactly what the title says. The manual includes everything a parent, child or prospective babysitter needs to know. Berry covers how to mentally prepare, search for a position, set up the home, deal with misbehavior and practice consideration for the child and family for which you are providing babysitting services.

There are six steps anyone needs to ponder if thinking about a babysitting job. A prospective applicant needs to do the following: 1) get permission from his parents to babysit for other people’s children, 2) learn everything possible about child care and first aid, 3) get first-hand experience and on-the-job training before beginning, 4) decide how much to charge for services, 5) find parents who might need a baby-sitter and let them know that you are available, and 6) gather items for a “Babysitter Survival Kit.” These include supplies for an emergency in the home, pen and paper, playing cards, crayons, stickers, books, a ball, an old sheet for pretend play, and paper stacking cups. All these supplies need to be age appropriate for the child.

Preparation does not end here. Once a job is accepted the baby sitter must prepare by visiting the family and child ahead of time, taking notes, and building a rapport with the child. The sitter must know how to deal with misbehavior and comfort a child, practice safety for self and the child while in the home, and inspect toys to make sure that they are safe. Berry’s cardinal rule is to treat the child the way you would like to be treated. She gives detailed instructions exactly how to do everything that has been outlined above.

I cannot think of anything that has not been covered in this guide. It is a must for any child contemplating babysitting as well as the parents of the sitter and prospective employers. While much of this book is common sense, Berry’s ability to pull things together concisely and clearly is unparalleled. The cartoon illustrations are well done adding to the appeal and effectiveness of the book. Highly recommended and appropriate for children age eight and above. Book is available in hard cover, paperback and kindle formats.

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CAPTIVATING CATS

Coming Home (the journey of two special cats)

Written by Jane Ayres

Coming Home cover

This short novella is targeted for pre teens and teens, but cat-loving adults will enjoy it just as much. Ayres has written many books about ponies and horses; in this particular book she displays a unique talent in having the ability to make the reader experience the story through the cat’s eyes. Sky and Max are two beautiful sibling cats who are abandoned and found by Kira. She pleads with her parents to adopt them. They agree reluctantly. Soon after Kira’s parents are divorced, she and her mother Joy are about to move to the seacoast.

Tragedy strikes when the cats are trapped in a garage overnight. Kira pleads with her mom but the moving van is ready to leave. She urges her neighbors to contact her if they see her beloved cats. One mishap after another befalls Kira and the cats. Kira goes searching for them; she is robbed and left abandoned overnight at a train station. The cats search the old neighborhood frantically. They find temporary shelter with a homeless man and a good Samaritan named Gabrielle who unknowingly aids Kira get back home. Kira and the cats keep missing each other until an automobile accident and trip to the vet allows Sky to be traced by microchip. But Sky is crestfallen without her Max and both of them are now on the verge of death. Will the feline siblings ever be reunited? Does Kira ever get her life in her new home back on track?

The author writes from the heart and gives from the heart. All the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to a charity for cats. I read the entire book in a couple of hours. Simply could not put it down until I found out what fate had in store for the devoted and compassionate Kira and her stalwart pets. A heartwarming read that teaches persistence and compassion.

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CAN DO CREW

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL!

 

Miss Quince and The Can Do Crew

Written by Mark and Katie Whyte

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This book is a must have addition to the shelves of libraries and school classrooms. It provides an excellent springboard for discussion to explore differences among children that are frequently labeled disabilities but can in reality be strengths. Many children, especially those in the middle grades, seeking to belong to the most popular peer group seize being different as an opportunity to tease and bully. Mrs. Quince and her class sitting “behind the yellow door” are a class of superheroes.

The story begins with a boy named Nate who is speaking to his dad who happens to be physically disabled. Nate tells his dad that the children at school have been implying that his dad is feeble and weak in body and mind because he is in a wheelchair. Dad relates the story of a boy named Marcus who became disabled as a child riding his bicycle, his initial fears, and inability to cope. Then he introduces Mrs. Quince, his new teacher, and the class of superheroes. This teacher forces Marcus to focus on what he can do, rather than what he cannot accomplish. Over a period of time, Marcus realizes he has the power to succeed on his own. In fact, he proves to he a hero when the class takes an excursion one day. Then he slowly discovers the unique power each of his classmates possess. Every child whether blind, deaf, physically or genetically disabled contributes to the well being of the class and the community.

The authors and their family have various types of disabilities or professional skills and training to work with this population. As a former special educator, I can appreciate the feelings of those emotionally or physically disabled as well as the dedicated professionals who work with them. The lesson of this book is a message that needs to be shared with those in the community who must learn to understand not bully this valued sector of the community. This book is well written with large, colorful illustrations. Highly recommended for children and adults age eight and older.

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A STUDY IN CONTRASTS

Thiel: One Foot in Front of the Other

Written by Lynne Pearl

Thiel,pic

This author has a gift for selecting the right words at the right time. Thiel Clay is a young man who has a crooked face and a cripple’s body, but in the words of the author, “Nature had given Thiel an ugly outer shell and a fine inner core.” He lived with his poor family and spent his days working on Squire Turo’s farm. He dearly loves his grandmother, Narn. One day his life dramatically changes when she passes away and she leaves him a box with a letter and a key inside.

Thiel cannot read or write; he takes the letter to a neighbor, Mr. Bunmet. The young man is astonished to learn that his grandmother left forty pieces of the realm in trust at the home of Justice Thwaite in the city of Goneton. Thiel is afraid; he has never been far from his village. Now to ponder a trip on foot to the city is an unthinkable task, but his kindly neighbor encourages him to be man and claim his fortune.

Thiel does not tell his parents, Sara and Ed, because he instinctively knows that they will claim that he is a simpleton and take it away from him. So Thiel carefully constructs a plan for his journey with his faithful dog, Heap. When they reach the house of Farmer Weeks, they are welcomed with food and warmth. More importantly he supplies Thiel with a warm coat and a map indicating a traveling plan for the journey. He volunteered to take care of Heap, while he was gone.

Thiel soon became homesick and scared as he reached the city outskirts and the terrifying crowds of noisy people. After much travail, Thiel finds the home of the Justice where he gets another surprise, he has also inherited the key to an estate far away in Minark. So begins another difficult journey….

Pearl uses personification effectively to describe nature and the medieval-like surroundings of Thiel and his time. The characters are well developed. Thiel is a character you want to embrace and hug. The contrast between city and country and modern versus traditional is played out well. Looking forward to reading more of this series. Suitable for children in middle grades and young adults. Mature readers will find it quite entertaining as well.

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FREE OR SLAVE?

Runaway

Written by Dennis Maley

Runaway,pic

This work of historical fiction which stretches nearly two hundred pages is a fascinating study of white and black characters struggling with each other not in the North and South but in the new western territories caught in the battle between slave and free. Maley’s protagonist is a fourteen year old black boy named Blanche Bruce who begins life as a slave in Virginia, but later struggles to assert his independence in Missouri after his current master’s death. Here he is owned by a printer who relies on him to set type for his newspaper. Bruce had secretly learned to read and write as a young boy. The author admits that Blanche is a composite character, but his thoughts and actions are very believable as the intricate plot unfolds.

Bruce will take a journey along the Underground Railroad, while he is pursued by the pro-slavery forces he left behind in Missouri. They consist of an unlikely alliance of preachers, lawmen, politicians and citizens. Butler reveals himself as a clever young man struggling to differentiate between exactly who are his friends and enemies. The pro-slavers found opposition in the abolitionists and free soil settlers who hoped to make the new territories a land of new opportunity. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot as Blanche struggles to find a safe haven. At the end of the tale, which has a surprise ending, the author provides an epilogue illuminating what facts are real and which are fiction. This section is instrumental in understanding the plot; the reader might wish she had it earlier as sometimes the story line becomes complicated to follow.

I still recommend the book as an interesting one appropriate for adults and children age twelve and older. It presents a good psychological study of the pre-civil war era that is a lot less widely known and understood. Students of mid-nineteenth history can use it as a vehicle for examining the personal, moral and political conflict occurring in America’s new territories at that time.

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