Posts tagged ‘family bonds’

LOST PARENTS

Title: Operation Dragon Rescue

Written by Daniel Gate

Robin and her brother, Caden are siblings who enjoy computer games and watching cartoons. One day their dad walks into the room and demands they turn off the electronics and go outside for a walk. Once outside, the children begin reminiscing about times when their parents spent time with them shopping, camping, cooking and sharing experiences. They realize how much they miss spending time with their parents.

The siblings encounter Reggie, a young dragon whose parents have been kidnapped by ruffians. Reggie convinces the children to help him find them. Caden is determined to be a superhero. The children retrieve a bike and a scooter to search for the missing dragon parents. These three unlikely friends are determined to reunite Reggie with his family.

In the end, parents and children realize the importance of family bonds. Will Caden and Robin convince their parents to spend more quality time with them? Do Reggie and his dinosaur parents succeed in finding a safe home?

This book is primarily geared toward primary grade children, but the colorful and attractive illustrations will also appeal to younger children as a bedtime story or read aloud. There are a few minor issues with word choice and editing, but the story is unique and the lessons important for children growing up in a digital world.

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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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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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A FAMILY DIVIDED

Hazardous Unions:Two Tales Of A Civil War Christmas

Written by Alison Bruce and Kat Flannery

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This book is an unusual combination that works well in this instance. Two different authors have teamed up to write two separate stories about twin sisters, Maggie and Matty, who find themselves separated by circumstance on opposite sides of the border during the Civil War. Due to their father’s death, these two sixteen year old sisters feel compelled to help support their mother and brother, whom they love dearly. The setting of both tales begins in the Fall of 1862. Both protagonists encounter physical and emotional trauma; both sisters succeed in rising to the occasion to assume control. They will each need to solve a mystery, navigate through romantic attachments, and survive the war.

In the first novella focusing on Maggie, we meet the twin who has traveled with her employer to a southern plantation in Tennessee. She is a servant girl employed by the Hamilton family. Soon the Union army comes to occupy the plantation; Maggie is the only person who has the strength of character to assume control. But the story does not so much revolve around the events of the war as much as the personal struggles of all the characters on both sides. It deals with their hopes and fears, racism, and family ties as well as the divide between the rich and poor. Maggie hopes to survive and someday be reunited with her own family.

The second story centers on Matty, a servant girl whose employer, General Worthington, has been sent to a fort in Illinois to train soldiers to fight for the Union. Her story rapidly switches to a mysterious piece of paper and Matty’s trickery to deceive a disabled bachelor named Colonel Cole Black into marrying her. The reader learns that she is remorseful for the deceit, but that she is determined that this letter and its information get into the right hands. This is the only way she could find to do so. There is danger for both of them now, and she fears that her solution might come about too late. Still, like her sister, Matty possesses a strong will and a determination to do the right thing, regardless of personal cost. The matter comes to a head at her father -in-law’s Christmas party resulting in lots of unexpected events and consequences.

The first of these stories about Maggie is more leisurely, filled with lots of well defined characters facing complex issues in treacherous times. Matty’s story is shorter; more intense with fewer characters, but a powerful, tighter knit plot. Even though the characters’ struggles and not the events of the Civil War are the focus of each story, the stories are well researched and documented in historical details. In less than one hundred fifty pages, the reader is treated to two tales of mystery, romance and historical fiction. I recommend this highly enjoyable work to young adults and adults who are interested in any of these genres.

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JAMAICAN ADVENTURES

Essie’s Kids and The Rolling Calf -3:Island Style Ghost Story

Written by Dr. & Mrs. Luke Brown

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I came across this e book as a promotion. I had not read the first two books in the planned five book series. This third short story is a strange combination of Jamaican folklore, adventures, and moral lessons that pleasantly surprised me. It makes a good addition to a classroom multicultural library. The book is well written with lots of colorful verbs, analogies and descriptive language though I did find one typo in which the word joint was used for the verb join. A smattering of Jamaican lingo like the word, “mon” also provides an authentic touch.

At the outset, the reader meets Karl who is tossing in his bed because he is haunted by the memory of the dreadful beast known as a rolling calf , a large swift running creature with dragon like eyes who voices terrifying sounds. Karl has met this creature in previous stories and now is anxiously awaiting to confront him once and for all. When he finally succumbs to sleep, he dreams that he is tiptoeing down the ghost-like streets at night. Suddenly, his brother Leonard shakes him; Karl realizes it is all a nightmare.

Karl’s family has journeyed from the city of Montego Bay to their country home in Clear Mont for the summer. His sisters, Myrtle, Geena and Betty play hopscotch and jump rope, while the boys play tag in the front yard. The author contrasts nicely the differences between the “city” and “country” folks. The country children wear plain clothes and no shoes. City kids are teased for being cowardly and not willing to get dirty. In the end, both learn to give and take and respect each others skills and differences.

Junior’s best friend here is named Ben. He encourages Junior to come to the river and fish. Junior realizes his mother will probably say no, so he hesitantly decides to slip away without asking permission. Ben meets up with his friends, Johnny, Dave and Jasper, who he calls “bad company” because they always manage to get him in trouble. The girls, on the other hand, get their mother’s permission to go to the river and enjoy their day without worries.

Karl had not been himself since the nightmare. He sat by himself most of the day. Karl continued to believe that this strange beast had a message for him. Then he decides to go to the river by himself. As night is about to fall, he sees a bolt of lightning flash before him and feels the swaying of the ground beneath him. Will Karl find his way home? Does he succeed in his quest to confront the beast?

The story abruptly shifts back home to the children listening to their mom, Essie, relating one of her nightly stories. She talks of two men locked in a prison cell. The innocent prisoner sees the possibility of being set free someday even though he has no money to defend himself, but the other guilty prisoner is unhappy and mean. Essie’s lesson is that the mean prisoner continued to see only bad things, but the innocent prisoner continued to see promise and beauty outside his window. Before sending the children to bed, they are reminded to look for the good in every situation.

Boys and girls age seven and up will each find elements in the story to their liking. Adults will enjoy the clever interweaving of sound moral lessons intertwined with the charming setting and folklore of Jamaica and the familiar antics of children everywhere.

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RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

Riki, Tikki-Tavi

Written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894

Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

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This is a story taken from The Jungle Book with which many adults are familiar. It involves a young boy named Teddy and his family who rescue a mongoose named Riki Tiki-Tavi. This poor creature has nearly drowned near their bungalow in Segowlee. The mongoose is an animal known for its tenacity, and Riki will prove his worth to the family who has adopted him.

The reader first learns of Riki’s rescue and the reluctance of Teddy’s mother to keep him. Riki proves a friend to the Tailorbird named Darzee who screams that the cobra snake Nag has stolen an egg from their nest. The snake’s wife Nagaina tries to ambush Riki and nearly kills him. More danger befalls him as a smaller snake named Karait attacks him. The family is impressed with Riki’s bravery. The young boy named Teddy brings Riki everywhere. At night Riki goes exploring and Chuchundra, the muskrat, tells Riki that the snakes plan to kill the humans so that they will have the garden to themselves again. It will be up to the fearless mongoose to protect the family and marshal all the animals of the garden together to defeat these nefarious snakes. Will Riki be successful in rallying this disparate group to protect the family and their habitat?

The digital edition was produced by Gere Donovan Press in 2012. It is also available in hardcover and print, which I would recommend to the fact that it includes the award winning illustrations of Pinkney. The Jungle Book is now in the public domain. In this edition the original language has been simplified, and I believe that children aged eight and up will not find it too difficult. Of course this does mean that some of the beauty of the Kipling’s writing is sacrificed. The lessons of fearlessness, loyalty and devotion to family as well as the local culture that the story imparts remain treasures to be shared by future generations. Adults should note that Kipling does display some violence in his descriptions.

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MYSTERY, FANTASY, ADVENTURE

Pirates, Pirates! (A Rogue’s Tale)

Written by Saoirse O’Mara
Cover by Svenja Liv

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This is the third book in a series: The Lost Diadem (Part 1) and Trouble in the Mage Guild (Part II) preceding this volume. I did not read the first two, but had no trouble picking up the fantasy adventure in this newest release.

Tayla is a young teen living in Davon. She had previously met Govon when she picked his pocket to obtain money in a desperate attempt to survive. Govon is also struggling to support himself. They become friends. After an adventure to find the lost diadem, he becomes apprenticed to Dalen as a trainee for the City Guard. Tayla is adopted by a tavern owner and his family. In this third adventure, the story opens with Tayla witnessing a sailor being beaten on the docks. She brings him to her friend Larissa, a priestess in the Temple. Unfortunately, he dies before he can explain who attacked him. Tayla asks Govon for help in solving the mystery, but she is upset and dismayed when he informs her that he is too busy preparing for his final evaluation to help her. So Tayla is determined to find answers on her own. Larissa and her friend Katia vow to assist her. Things get murkier as a merchant ship is attacked, and a prominent woman citizen is beaten. Tayla goes undercover and lurks in the taverns spying on sailors trying to uncover who is behind the plot. Will she be successful? Who is behind the murder? What do pirates have to do with the plot? Will Tayla be reconciled with Govon?

This is a perfect fantasy adventure for tweens and young adults. It touches upon many of the issues they are grappling with in their lives. O’Mara addresses loyalty, family bonds, hard work, friendship and the search to discover right and wrong. The characters are well developed and the story line moves along quickly with just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. The beautiful cover art captures the mood and setting. The length is under 120 pages so it will not deter a middle grade reader. Perfect book for a rainy afternoon. Hope to see more from this talented writer.

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