Archive for December, 2014

LET YOUR FINGERS DO THE WALKING

                                                      HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Kindle Fire Apps For Kids: 22 Kick-Ass Apps Parents Should Buy and Why

Written by Elaine Donato

KindleFireAppsWhile I am not crazy about the name chosen for the subtitle, this short guide is an informative and useful one for parents trying to navigate the world of apps for their children.

Donato begins by talking about recommended ages and the benefits of iPad use for children. She reminds parents that it is important to set and enforce limitations and know that apps are a supplement not a substitution to a child’s education. Subsequent chapters highlight games for kids like Curious George’s Town and Toca Hair Salon. Donato moves on to preview traditional story book apps like Little Red Riding Hood as well as those that explore geography and science such as Barefoot World Atlas and Bobo Explores Light. In her chapter on art, writing, and music the author includes apps for comics, playing piano and creating your own book. Then there are educational apps for learning the alphabet, phonics, counting, and common object recognition.

Donato urges all parents to test the waters with these apps and share the experience with their children. These apps provide an excellent opportunity for both generations to grow and learn together.

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A SENSE OF BELONGING?

The Borderlands Book One: Journey

Written by Aderyn Wood

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The Borderlands is the first book in a mystery/fantasy sci-fi series. It is a pleasant mixture of fantasy and magic combined with a coming of age story. The plot contains many twists and turns ending with what the reader would least expect.

Dale is a high school student who experiences many of the problems today’s teens face. She is a bit of a geek, bullied by the “in-crowd” at her private school whom she calls “the plastics.” Her single mother, Victoria, is always trying to impress her friends by making Dale into her own image. Dale is sensitive, and a talented artist who paints fairies, spirits, other-wordly creatures. She has also begun to experience auras. One day she meets a new boy named Rhys who has a magnetic affect on her which she is powerless to explain. Dale’s only friend is an elderly, homeless man named Gareth with whom she plans to spend the summer sailing.

Dale steals away in the sailboat; she endures one struggle after another in an effort to survive discovery and capture. A sorceress and friend of Gareth’s named Ness as well as a sprite named Esme and Gareth’s Cat will all be instrumental in her process of self-discovery and a journey to The Borderlands, which are worlds adjacent to Earth. A hierarchy of good and evil powers exists between and within these lands each alternately seeking wars or to maintain balance.

Will Dale succeed in her new role? Where and how will she find her happiness? I recommend this book series for fans of fantasy, sci-fi and mystery. Teen and young adult audiences will readily identify with the characters and their struggles.

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THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

A Homespun Christmas: A 1929 Christmas Novella

Written by M.L. Gardner

HomespunChristmas,picThis is part of the author’s 1929 series and the first of them I have had the pleasure of reading. I must admit that it was the title which attracted my interest. That is not to say the book is without substance. Even though the book is less than one hundred pages, Gardner deftly paints the character and emotions of three families who have endured much hardship during the depression. They no longer have financial resources, but make up for it in love and generosity of spirit.

The reader travels through the Christmas season of 1933 beginning on December 19 and ending on December 25. Three friends, Jonathan, Caleb and Ian work hard on their fishing boat to provide the bare necessities for their families. They and their wives have promised not to exchange gifts so they can afford something for the children. The reader watches the self-sacrifice of the parents as they secretly figure out ways to please each other. One of their children, Jean desperately wants to buy a doll for his sister Amy. His friend Owin understands his pain and hides his own savings for Jean to find. The fact that Owin can see and hear “angels” and knows when deceased relatives are present is a nice holiday touch. You are reminded of O’Henry and feel the real meaning of Christmas. These characters are exquisitely drawn; the reader feels their ups and downs as well as their happiness and their pain.

Highly recommend this book around holiday time or any time you want to feel uplifted. This novella weaves together a dose of history, life’s struggles, humor, family life, holiday traditions and appealing characters in one neat package. Recommended for tweens, teens and adults.

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WISHING A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAY!

CHRISTMAS COLLAGE

Spirits Bright: A Christmas Collection

Written by Angie Lofthouse

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Interesting collection of four very different stories centered around a Christian theme. In “Spirits Bright,” the reader meets Jacey Morris who is so entangled with her computer world that she rarely leaves her home, often forgetting to wash and eat. When her computer game suddenly goes down, and she hears a knock on the door, the world that has become her reality suddenly collapses. She is about to meet two Mormon missionaries who will introduce her to an alternate universe. The second story titled “Milly’s Gift” introduces the reader to a world that has recently been freed from the domination of alien invaders who had been in control for many years. Now the people called the renegades are shedding the trappings of domination and trying to find their own identities. Jerrin and Milly struggle to readjust and find a family to give them a sense of purpose and belonging. “Living Water” is the tale of an anthropology professor called Sean who is visiting the family of his mentor. Sean was born on Earth, but his mentor comes from another world about to celebrate their Nativity Festival. Sean is trying to explain Christmas to them. He will have an adventure with this family that will bring their two cultures closer together yet still leave them miles apart. Finally, in the last story named “Chosen Vessel” Shaalim, the Keeper of a lightship bringing the founders of a new civilization through outer space, faces a crisis when the ship is taken off course and forced to land on another planet. He is given a task by a heavenly messenger. The crew is divided about whether to use force to subdue the planet’s inhabitants; some of the planet’s citizens have been persecuted, while others have prospered. This sci-fi adventure takes many interesting twists and turns.

These stories are an interesting blend of Christianity, science fiction, holiday traditions, and cultural mores. They contain interesting plots and fairly well developed characters, considering the fact that all four stories take up less than 150 pages. Appropriate for tweens, teens and adults, they are a quick and pleasant holiday afternoon read.

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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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