Archive for November, 2014

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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MAN’S BEST FRIEND

BENTLEY: Bags The Bear (Bentley and Friends)

Written by Michael Owen Jones

Illustrated by Emz Wright

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First in a series of early chapter books for beginning readers. Children will enjoy reading the large print and chapters of a few pages each. The main character is Bentley the dog who has adventures with animal friends and enemies like Rodney the Cat and Meezel the Weasel.

In the first chapter readers are introduced to the family including the children Rebecca and Jonathan as well as Aunt Fanny who promptly sits on the couch and breaks it. Bentley, the puppy, is always blamed for breaking things and getting into mischief; all he wants is to be helpful and loved. When Rebecca loses her stuffed bear named Old Fur Face, Bentley hatches an ambitious plan to seek out and find it. This leads to a series of adventures with Rodney, the cat who despises him, a swim in the ocean, an encounter with a weasel, and an unexpected surprise upon arriving home that evening. Does Bentley ever get the recognition he deserves and will Rebecca find the missing teddy bear? At the conclusion of the adventure, Jones gives an enticing preview of the next book in the series in which Bentley observes a monster looking in the window!

This promises to be a wonderful series for beginning readers. Jones seems to have found winning elements, a combination of endearing animal and family characters, humor, adventure, and family lessons to be shared. Highly recommend for young readers ages six through nine and for teachers looking to refresh their read aloud selections. Parents might also read a chapter a night as a bedtime story.

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DINOSAUR DIMENSION

Dinosaurs! A Kids Book About Dinosaurs Fun Facts & Amazing Pictures…..

Written by Alexander G. Michaels

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This e book of approximately seventy-five pages is thorough and well organized. Despite a few minor editing and program errors, it provides a treasure trove of information for the young scientist who is a dinosaur enthusiast. The table of contents provides an easy reference guide to access quick facts. I would recommend the book especially for children ages nine and older. Younger children will enjoy the pictures, but may find independent reading a bit difficult.

Michaels explains terminology and moves through the three parts of the Dinosaur Age, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. He covers the fossils, eggs, food, habits, intelligence, speed and size of sixteen different types of dinosaurs. Michaels devotes a few pages to each type, some commonly known species like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and lesser known species such as Spinosaurus. Each section contains the dinosaur’s name, origin, description, photograph, place of habitat, food sources, size, method of locomotion, and level of intelligence.

The last section of the book discusses the possibilities that caused the extinction of a life group that inhabited the planet Earth for 150 million years. Scientists believe a giant meteor or volcanic eruption are most likely. Either of these would have filled the skies with debris that blotted out the sun and destroyed dinosaur food sources. Highly recommended for anyone who is eager to know more about dinosaurs. It deserves a place on classroom and library reference shelves as a good starting point for research on the topic.

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SOMEONE LIKE ME

A Book of Poetry for Teenagers: Vol. 1

Written by RyAnn Adams Hall

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This collection of poems of approximately one hundred pages hits on many of the issues so important to the teens of past and present generations. The author organizes her poetry collection by age rather than theme; the poems become more sophisticated and complex as the chapters and maturity levels progress through time.

Poems are listed by title only, the reader must peruse through to the end to find the theme. But the underlying themes match the trials and tribulations that coming of age brings upon all of us. Several of the poems relate sorrow at not having a mother present while growing up. At age twelve the author writes about her “best friend forever” Renee. There are poems expressing fear and frustration, relationships with boys, and feeling left out of things. Many poems express hope and optimism like “The Stars,” “My Shadow,” and “What You Do.” In the very last section of poetry written in the period from ages twenty-two through twenty-seven, the author finds her true love, David, and then becomes the mother of Kayleigh in whom she places her hopes and dreams.

I think many that teens will enjoy having these poems to read as they pass through the many moods, phases, ups and downs of adolescence. Nice book to have when you feel the need to take a moment or two to reflect on the joys and sorrows of growing up and life in general.

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GUARDIAN AND DEFENDER

Andee The Aquanaut:Guardian of the Great Seas

Written by Simon James House

Illustrated by Zoran Zlaticanin

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This is the first book in a trilogy aimed at readers age six through twelve. While the chapters are short, there are twenty-four making it a very long book for a child at the lower end of that range. It could be a read aloud, but a child might not be patient enough to wait that long to hear the ending.

At the outset, the reader meets Andee, a young boy who lives on an island with his parents who are marine biologists studying the coral reef in an effort to find new medicines and cures for illnesses. Andee enjoys playing with Tingo and Tango his dolphin friends. One day a storm whips in as his parents are out in the dinghy and Andee is playing onshore. Andee’s dolphin family rescues him and brings him to an underwater cave. As Andee explores his new surroundings, he meets the Wise White Dolphin who guides him to the cave of the Lost City.The dolphin informs him that he has been chosen to be guardian and protector of the seas.

Andee is given a magical suit that allows him to swim faster than the dolphins. As he learns to use his powers, Andee will experience many adventures. He will succeed in rescuing his dolphin friends from pirate fishermen, protect the eggs of sea turtles from poachers, swim with manta rays, and communicate with the jellyfish. A giant tooth may literally become the key to lost treasures, and the merpeople may be able to help him locate the parents he thought that he had lost. Andee comes close to death many times; the ending to the first book is a cliff hangar.

The book is a mixture of adventure, fact, legend, science and coming of age themes. There are a few editing errors. I did find it a bit strange that the story is told in past tense. Still there is a nice balance of elements that appeal to early readers, and the plot has enough depth and moves along at a good pace. Illustrations are well done and encourage the reader to visualize the adventures. I recommend it for readers ages eight and up. Buyers should note that the author donates a portion of profits to marine research.

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DID I REALLY IMAGINE THAT? – BOOK BLITZ

Sweet T and the North Wind (Sweet T Tales)

Written by Cat Michaels

Illustrated by Irene A. Jahns

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Sweet T is the nickname given to ten year old Tara by her grandmother. Tara has recently celebrated her birthday and has been gifted with a new scooter by her parents. But the North Wind is howling over Kelly Lake; her parents tell Tara that she will have to wait till spring to ride it.

Tara and her two younger sisters are part of a close-knit family. Her grandmother suffers from dementia; and her grandfather has recently moved into the nursing home with her. Tara is experiencing “cabin fever” so she goes down to the basement to look at her scooter. All of a sudden the scooter begins talking with her. The scooter informs her that she has one hour to use her imagination to go outside on a spring day and enjoy her scooter. At first this seems impossible, but soon Tara is whizzing down hills with her sisters on the scooter. Then she goes back in time to imagine a better time with her grandparents in their house on Harriet Lane. A surprise ending makes the reader ask, “What if….?”

This story combines fantasy, whimsy and imagination to tough real life situations like a family dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The author faces the challenges without belaboring the point. Short chapters and charming watercolors make the book a perfect beginning chapter reader for children in elementary grades. Look forward reading the other books in this series.

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DON’T FORGET TO VOTE FOR THE BLOGGER AWARDS ON NOVEMBER 15. This blog is nominated in the children’s book review category.

 

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