Archive for December, 2016

IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS

The Tree Within the Tree

Written and Illustrated by Sally Huss

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Sally places her message for this story right on the cover: The Importance of Appreciation. Alexander and Charlotte have only two dollars between them. They are walking through a Christmas tree lot on Christmas Eve. The owner informs them that they only have enough money to consider a tree on a pile of rubbish in the corner. There the two children discover a scraggly tree that desperately wanted to become a Christmas tree to make a family happy. The family is poor but determined to embellish their tree. As the tree gazes at the worn furniture and scanty possessions, it is amazed by how family members gather popcorn, aluminum and personal possessions to transform the scrawny tree into the most beautiful tree inside and outside.

Illustrations are simple and classic; this book will not only place smiles on the faces of preschoolers and primary school children, but remind children and adults alike to appreciate the little things and not become embroiled in the materialistic side of Christmas. Recommended as a bedtime story or read aloud for students and families to share.

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CELEBRATE THE SEASON!

Wishing my family, friends and followers a MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH AND JOYFUL KWANZAA

Victor and I began celebrating by going back to our roots in NYC to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and watch the holiday show at Radio City Music Hall. Wherever you are and whatever you do, I hope that the season brings you joy and happiness and that the New Year will fulfill your fondest dreams.xmas2016

And now to today’s book review…….

MIDDLE SCHOOL MANIA

Adventures in the Northwoods: Under the School Book 1

Written by Jehoshaphat Shalom

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Tommy is about to embark on his first day as a sixth grader in Bemmington Middle School. His brother has filled him with dread about the terrors that await Tommy as soon as he gets off the bus. So he and his friends decide to force Tommy to smuggle candy into the school inside Tommy’s backpack. Before leaving the bus, Tommy spies a pretty eighth grader named Marcy standing at the edge of the woods and wonders what is going on with her. Almost immediately after Tommy opens the school doors and goes through screening, he is caught smuggling. To make matters worse, the most evil teacher in the school tricks him into getting caught in a phony cheating scam. Tommy lands in the principal’s office and is issued a yellow slip; he surely will be suspended on the first day of school.

There are three separate story lines in this middle grade/young adult zany adventure. The first one deals with Donnolay, a frustrated principal who is bored with his job, but pretends to love his students. Donnolay is determined to find out who has stolen the school projector. He and a seventh grade student are involved in an adventure under the school that will surprise and thrill readers. Second plot involves Marcy, a new student named Eddison, and a former now famous Bemmington alumni. Our third plot takes us on Tommy’s crazy first day at school, and his adventures with Slippery, the school prankster.

The humor is contagious, it is outlandish but hilarious and will sit well with the targeted audience. While readers of any age will enjoy this book, I particularly recommend it for the ten to fourteen year age group. Book Two continuing the fun has already been released.

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CHAIN REACTION

Kara’s Christmas Smile

Written by A.M. Marcus

Illustrated by Oliver Bundoc

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Kara and her mom are shopping in a store on Christmas Eve. Kara is searching for one special Christmas gift as she and her mom prepare to celebrate the holiday. Kara finds a stuffed kitten that she really wants, but notices the disappointed look on a young boy looking on. She voluntarily hands him the kitten feeling the Christmas spirit. That same boy bumps into a woman and knocks her belongings to the floor. He helps her pick them up. As that woman waits in line at the store, she gives up her place in line to a father and impatient young son. The father and son step outside and notice an elderly lady who has fallen on the ice. They offer a ride to the clinic to get her medical care, and so the chain continues as each new character embraces and shares the Christmas spirit.

Illustrations are simple but lovely. The book aptly conveys the spirit of the holiday season. Perfect choice for beginning readers and a fun classroom or family read to share.

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SANTA UNWRAPPED

Who is Santa: And how did he get to the North Pole?

Written by Stephan W. Bigalow

Illustrated by Bill Megenhardt

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I received this book from the publisher and decided to voluntarily review giving my honest opinions.

An interesting book that tackles many of the legends associated with Santa Claus using a realistic, straightforward approach. This collection of short chapters containing two to five pages interspersed with full page color illustrations is intended to be an independent read for middle grade students or a read aloud broken up into sections for younger children.

Bigalow introduces Santa as a wealthy farmer living in the North Forest region. Santa enjoys crafting toys for a hobby. Mrs. Claus enjoys cooking; she understands her husband well and is adept at keeping him in tow, while at the same time providing advice and guidance. When their barns become overcrowded with toys, he decides to give his toys away. Not wanting others to feel obligated to repay him, Santa loads up his wagon on a dark winter night and the tradition of the Christmas Eve toy run springs forth. Word of his generosity explodes so Santa and Mrs. Claus set out for a larger more private location.

The following chapters will explore how they discover the Hidden Valley at the North Pole, strike up an improbable working relationship with the elf community, invent candy canes, build an enormous business enterprise, figure out how to use a sleigh and reindeer, and spread the true message of Christmas giving among themselves and others.

I used to read “The Night Before Christmas” each Christmas Eve to my children. This book could be shared as a family tradition during the weeks before Christmas, read together by older and younger siblings, or read independently by older children seeking to reignite the Christmas spirit in their hearts.

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IT’S A DOG’S LIFE X 5

A Night at the Animal Shelter

Written by Mark J. Asher

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Sweet Christmas tale centering on the plight of five dogs who now find themselves at Blithedale Animal Shelter on Christmas Eve. These five animals narrate the story: Maizie, a four month old Black Lab puppy, Dutch, an eleven year old mixed breed, Raider, a three year old pit bull, Peg, a six year old lame Chihuahua, and Georgie, a seven year old Golden Retriever. Each of these animals have been given up for various reasons they deem to be no fault of their own. On Christmas Eve, their favorite volunteer Ginny is feeling blue, but willing to spend time comforting the animals. Maizie discovers her cage door is left ajar. She will soon be persuaded to let her friends out for a few hours of fun and mischief. Christmas comes and goes; none of the animals seem destined for adoption. In January a visitor to the shelter will leave them behind once more, but provide them with an unforeseen opportunity.

The personification of the animals and their dialogue is both humorous and realistic. It is obvious that the author has a good handle on human and canine behavior. He has written nine books about dogs. This short, sweet and heartwarming tale is a good choice for a holiday read or for any age reader, especially one who loves dogs.

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FOSTERING A SENSE OF WORTH

Snow Pup: Holiday Heartwarmers Book2)

Written by Mimi Barbour

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This is the second book in Barbour’s holiday series. Well-written plot with realistic characters that has no real connection to the Christmas holiday other than the setting. Deputy Shawna Mallory is a thirty-one year old single cop who lives in the rather sleepy town of Carlton Grove. She has a deep commitment to her job, and moves quickly when she hears an amber alert on the radio for a missing eleven year old boy. Mallory hears a dog barking; she finds the boy under a snow drift being guarded by the pup. The sheriff agrees to take the boy in while he awaits a new foster care family.

Complications arise when the boy’s real father arrives back on the scene from an overseas assignment in Chile. John Reid McCrae appears to have a poor parenting track record, but Shawna’s friend Alice knew him many years ago and offers a different opinion. In the meantime Shawna grows attached to Billy, who is about to be given to a new foster family. Billy runs away once again, but even more puzzling is the strange affect Billy’s dad has upon Shawna. What outcome ensues for Billy, John, and the Deputy Sheriff whose lives have become entangled.

A heartwarming story revolving around coming of age, domestic violence, foster care, romance, pets and peer relationships that will tear at the heart strings of young adult and adult readers. Actually, the book could be a middle grade read if one is willing to look past a few curse words and one or two light romantic scenes. Snow Pup is the kind of story that will put the reader in the mood for the holiday season.

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OF CHRISTMASES PAST AND PRESENT

Christmas Healing (Healing the Regime Book 1)

Written by Morris Fenris and Jasmine Bowen

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A bittersweet holiday novella that combines elements of paranormal, horror and romance within a holiday setting. Eighteen year old Annalise led a carefree life as a pretty, popular teen until she was diagnosed with leukemia. Unable to pay her mounting medical bills, she assumes the unusual post of teaching modern technology and cultural customs to a family of vampires. Dr. Hever, the head of the Hever clan becomes her physician. Her life is turned upside down once more when she is summoned by the King of the Vampires to teach his brother Arthur, who has just awakened from a 1000 year sleep. Annalise is terrified. She slowly falls in love with Arthur, but her illness proceeds rapidly to Stage IV cancer. When she is whisked away to the hospital, both she and Arthur are devastated.

The plot sounds far fetched, but the authors succeed in making it palatable, for the most part. Reader’s emotions rise and fall as the conflict tears the two families apart. Annalise thought she was in love with Tony Hever; her fleeting life has been turned upside down by her deep feelings for Arthur. The ending is a surprise. Wonder what will happen in the second book of the series.

Recommended for young adult and adult audiences looking for an unusual but entertaining short holiday read.

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