Posts from the ‘coming of age’ Category

SEVENTH HEAVEN

Yuri And The Legend of the Seventh Sea

Written by Denis Boystov

Illustrated by Lana Khrapava

This is a sort of coming of age tale of a curious and brave fish named Yuri. Little Yuri lives in a lake where he is loved by his parents and big brother. Yuri is always questioning and never takes no for an answer from his parents and teachers. When he overhears his father tell of a hidden secret map that gives directions to the Seventh Sea, which is a paradise where fish live forever in peace without enemies or danger, Yuri immediately launches a search to find it. He is tired of dodging boats filled with humans, fish hooks, and larger sea creatures desiring to eat him.

After embarking on his journey, Yuri meets up with many dangers but also makes the acquaintance of another fish named Otto who looks out for him.   Yuri and Otto eventually find themselves at the entrance to the Seventh Sea. Now they must get through without wakening the Sea Serpent who will destroy them. Will Yuri survive and if he does, will he find that the paradise truly does exist?

Yuri is an adorable character that children will love. He appears almost human with a personality much like a curious human. The dialogue among the characters is so realistic that readers will forget that Yuri is a fish. I found myself cheering for him to succeed. Children can see themselves in Yuri as he tests his limits, but also faces his fears. The illustrations are beautiful. While I did enjoy this book as an adult reader, I would especially recommend it to a middle-grade audience.

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A THANKLESS THANKSGIVING

A Pardon for Tommy

Written by Patricia Nmukoso Enyi

Chelsea is a college freshman who wakes to recurring nightmares. When she was twelve, Chelsea lost her home during Hurricane Katrina. She and her father were swept away by the flood waters. Chelsea has not been able to bring herself to return to New Orleans

Chelsea retells her experience. She survives the flood with the turkey her father captured for Thanksgiving Dinner in her backpack. Enyi traces Chelsea’s harrowing experiences while awaiting rescue and the reunion with her mother and brother at the Houston Astrodome. The family struggles to maintain hope that Chelsea’s dad, Max, will be found alive.

The scene shifts to adjustment to a new life in Houston at their grandmother’s home. Several subplots are included. There are New Orleans’ bullies who have also moved to the new school. Rex, their mother’s twin brother, is unwelcome at their new house. Chelsea has become attached to “Tommy,” her pet turkey. She cannot accept killing Tommy and celebrating Thanksgiving without their father. Will the family find out whether Max is alive or dead? How will the children adjust in their new home? Does “Tommy” become Thanksgiving Dinner?

The characters in the story experience typical coming of age experiences, compounded by the tragedy of this natural disaster, their father’s disappearance, a forced move, and the family’s dysfunction. This book could benefit from some editing. Transitions are not always clear, and the subplots are not fully developed. On the other hand, the author does a good job of painting the pain and trauma of the disaster. Readers need to suspend belief at times; a turkey surviving so many mishaps is a bit far fetched. On the other hand, the story is a powerful one for middle-grade and young adult audiences.

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AUTUMN ANXIETY

The Forest Painter: A Short Story

Written by Diane Mae Robinson

Deep within The Majestic Forest, a bugle call from the top of Peak Mountain has summoned the fairy sprites, the elves, and the wind weavers to perform their autumn responsibilities. But Aura, the Forest Painter, who has been designated to paint the leaves in autumn colors, feels she cannot accomplish the task. Her grandmother was the master painter. Both Aura’s grandmother and parents have already left to paint the heavens. Aura complains that she has not been prepared properly for the task. If she cannot complete her work before the frost arrives, the frost queen will claim the forest forever. Kepa urges her to ask Boreal to help, but Aura believes that Boreal once stole her grandmother’s paintbrush. Will Aura succeed in her race against time to save the trees of the forest? All the plants and animals of the forest are dependent upon her.

This twelve-page story is written with tenderness and empathy. Robinson has deftly woven personification and alliteration with a cadence of language that is charming. Written for a middle-grade audience, it is a sweet and sensitive read that will appeal to a wide range of audiences from beginning reader to adult. Perfect afternoon read to get into the spirit of the changing season.

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ARMED AND READY

Prince Martin Wins His Sword

Written by Brandon Hale

Illustrated by Jason Zimdars

Hale has written an original, charming chapter book that began as a way to keep in touch with his son while Hale was away from home. The book is divided into eight short chapters that are completely written in verse. Hale does not shy away from challenging vocabulary in a book that is written for the six to ten age group.

Martin is a young prince who lives in a faraway kingdom. At the beginning of the tale, Martin experiences a dream in which he fights a dragon with a loyal dog at his side. One of Martin’s favorite pastimes is visiting the castle armory, where all types of swords and weapons are stored. Unfortunately, the king permits his son to possess only a wooden staff and a slingshot, until the prince is able to prove that he is loyal, brave and true. Martin is unsure of how to do so, but he is determined to set forth out of the castle to the forest beyond.

Chapters two through eight covers the adventures that await Martin. He will meet a farmer who warns him of wild hogs, a deer whose fawn is trapped, and a brave dog who is willing to defend the helpless with his life. Martin must face his own fears as well as bullies. Will Martin find the courage and strength to survive and prove himself worthy?

The rhymes are perfect for a read aloud. Younger children might need the help of an adult to decipher some of the vocabularies. Color illustrations in each chapter enhance the adventure. This first book in a series should appeal especially to boys who love adventures, dragons, swords, and dogs. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school age children.

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ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

Being the New Girl in School

Written by Kathleen Voclain

This book is a wonderful resource for any young lady who, for any reason, is facing a move to a new school. No matter what age, she faces worries about how she will fit into the school’s culture, will she be liked, who will be her friend, and the feeling of loss in leaving old relationships behind. The author explains the importance of developing a positive self-image and strong social skills. In the first chapter, readers are encouraged to build confidence by preparing ahead of time. Students should explore the new school’s mission statement and handbook, study the curriculum and practice portraying positive body image. They can get a good head start by making a good impression on teachers. Suggestions include sitting near the front, volunteering to answer questions and offering help and compliments. Newcomers need to observe students and how they interact with each other before deciding on new friends. By dressing neatly, smiling, and introducing oneself with confidence, new students encourage positive outcomes. Those students who are naturally shy or independent should take their time to find a few friends who have interests similar to their own. Finally, when things do go wrong, the new student must remain positive and proud, appreciate and respect the differences of other peers. Above all, never give in to the temptation to compare the new school to your old one or slack off on your studies. Accentuate the positive and use the opportunity to develop your personality and grow from new experiences.

The book could be used as advice for children or adults who are entering any new stage of life. It is an easy read filled with good reminders to promote courage in facing new situations and learning opportunities. Recommended for ages eight and older.

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TAKING ONE GIANT STEP FORWARD

MAYBE ONE STEP BACKWARD…. MY APOLOGIES!

My computer crashed and I have been down 2 1/1 days. So this post and everything else is late!

Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports, and Life

Written by Dr. Kate Lund

The primary focus in this book is to teach parents, teachers, and community leaders how to foster resilience in the early stages in life so that children can develop their full potential. Children need to learn how to bounce back from misfortune and adversity in order to continue to move forward and ultimately achieve maximum potential. Young people must develop a tool box of coping skills to manage their frustrations and emotions. Lund presents seven pillars including navigating friendships and social pressures, sustaining focus and attention skills, developing courage, the motivation to succeed, and a spirit of confidence that will lead to optimism and continued forward momentum.

The author bases her book on her own personal experiences in overcoming challenges and studies of elementary school children as a psychologist for the past fifteen years. Lund includes a short autobiography and a list of resources for further study at the conclusion of her book. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers as well as anyone interested in developing the full potential of society’s future leaders.

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PARENTAL WAR:STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Cupcakes vs. Brownies: Zimmah Chronicles Book 1

Written by Scott King

In the prologue readers meet ten year old Karim, who is falling through pink candy cotton clouds trapped in a bubble of bubblegum. He is clutching a small glass bottle to his chest. At first glance, that does not sound like much of a predicament for a child, until you read on to the first chapter.

Karim’s parents, Malek and Christina, are arguing again. Karim overhears them discuss the possibility of divorce. The boy impulsively rushes out of the house into the streets of San Francisco with his dog in a thunderstorm. He bumps into an elderly woman named Madame Loope, who invites him into her pawn shop to escape the storm. Karim picks up a glass bottle. Steam begins hissing from the bottle as a man emerges from it once uncorked. This man is a Zimmah, a djinn. Karim asks that he be granted a wish. His first wish is to turn his Labrador into a Snow Lion. After the djinn grants that wish, Karim wishes the world was a happy place.

Karim is transported to a world filled with edible sweets. What astonished the boy is that he meets his father transformed into the king of the Cupcake World. Malek is preparing to do battle with his enemy, the Queen of the Brownies. Karim cannot believe his eyes when he discovers the Captain of the Brownie army is none other than his mother. When Karim pleads with Zimmah his wish is to fix things between his parents and return to the real world, the djinn informs him that this is the way things are and there is no magic to fix it. Will Karim ever find his way back home to San Francisco? Is Zimmah a friend or an enemy? What will happen to Malek and Christina?

This book is a creative way to approach the problem of divorce and how children may cope with it. It combines fantasy with an interesting plot that deals with an issue many children in families must face. Appropriate for children ages eight and older; this book could be useful for parents, teachers and social workers to open up many avenues of discussion.

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