Posts tagged ‘life lessons’

A LOT TO CHEW ON….

Life in the Gumball Machine

Written by Maureen Bartone

An interesting chapter book targeted for readers in the seven to eleven year age range. On her tenth birthday, Daisy goes for a bike ride with her two best fourth grade friends, Patrick and Michael. Daisy is often considered a tomboy, but one thing her two friends have never persuaded her to do is to play football. When the three friends pause to investigate an old shed, they discover an abandoned gumball machine. Daisy decides that she must have one so she deposits a coin. Soon the machine rumbles and sucks all three of them inside. Little do they realize the adventure awaiting them inside.

Bartone uses lots of human and kid friendly dialogue to describe how the three humans shrink and meet the gumball people and their exciting world. Our three human friends will discover that outside appearance matters little, the real person is wrapped inside. Daisy will experience that football game and face her hidden fears. Lessons learned include how we behave and what we do are a lot more important than how we look.

Daisy is looking forward to her birthday party that afternoon, but things are looking grim that the three friends will free themselves from the gumball world and return to their normal size. The only way to escape is for another person to come along and discover that abandoned candy machine. That does not appear to be a likely possibility. Will the three friends keep their cool and figure out a way to return home? What will happen to their newly found gumball friends? How will Patrick, Michael and Daisy’s lives be changed forever?

The plot of this middle grade chapter book is simple and the text straightforward with enough excitement, surprises and humor to keep the reader entertained and the advice from becoming preachy. A surprise near the end sets the scene for a new adventure. Recommended for children in grades two through six.

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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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UNLIMITED POTENTIAL

The Tiniest Tumbleweed

Written by Kathy Peach

Illustrated by Alex Lopez

TinyTumbleweed

Beautifully told tale with two protagonists. The story opens with a Mother Tumbleweed discussing her tiny baby with her husband who is concerned that the tot will be too small to make seeds. At that same time a young baby sparrow is hatching; his father is concerned that the baby will be too small to fly and spread seeds. Both the sparrow and tumbleweed experience sadness as they watch their siblings grow and they remain smaller than their peers. Their respective parents continue to reassure their children that size does not really matter as they teach their young the skills needed to reach their own full potential. When the desert rains come, tumbleweed works hard to make seeds, while tiny sparrow learns to flap his wings and hop. One day as fate might have it, a rainstorm brings the tiny sparrow and the tiny tumbleweed together. They learn how to work together to make each other reach their goals.

This is a beautiful book on many levels. The fictional story teaches children a lot about disabilities and strength of character as well as the value of family support. Targeted for preschool through grade three, the book works on many levels. Beautiful yet simple illustrations enhance the text as a read aloud for preschoolers. Lessons embedded within the text are appropriate for primary grade children. I like the lesson plans included for teachers to supplement interdisciplinary curriculum. Fun Facts could be the start of science projects, and the curriculum questions provide many avenues of exploration for the teacher or parent of a home schooled child. As some other reviewers mentioned, I noted some spelling and editing errors, which is the reason I gave the book four instead of five stars.

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SO SAD

Runaway Smile: An unshared smile is a waste of time (Niditales Book 1)

Written by Nicholas C. Rossis

Illustrated by Dimitris Fousekis

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Readers who take the time to read the Prologue will discover the secret of this book. Plot is simple: a little boy wakes up one morning and finds that he has lost his smile. Shortly after, the reader is introduced to a set of quirky characters that will definitely make him smile. The boy’s dog, wears glasses, reads Proust and drives a car. A clothes-eating monster lives in the bedroom closet and ants windsurf across the boy’s breakfast cereal, but the boy is steadfast in his search to find the missing smile.

The boy meets several adult characters on his way to school. A workman, a man walking his goldfish, a king being photographed, the greatest salesman in the world, and a clown, each display smiles that they are unwilling to share with the boy. At school, the boy asks his teacher , but she replies that a classroom is no place for a smile and proceeds to pass out a test! By this time the poor boy is completely disheartened. When he gets home, he asks his mother how to find his smile. She reveals the secret.

The sepia toned illustrations in this book are done beautifully; they capture the spirit and humor of the tale. A poem, “Ode to a runaway smile,” included at the end portrays the cleverness and wit of the author. Adults will understand all the nuances of this story. The simple illustration on the cover is a bit misleading as to the underlying story. Young children will enjoy the pictures but probably won’t grasp some of the concepts without adult guidance. I feel the book is best suited for independent readers who enjoy different kinds of books with an unusual plot so I would especially recommend it for ages ten and older.

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HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Not Just a Princess! (The Mia Collection)

Written by Mary Lee

MiaCollection,pic

Trilogy of books combined into one edition that will empower young girls. Targeted for ages infancy to age six, the stylized, colorful, multicultural illustrations and large simple vocabulary text can grow with a child. Youngest readers will enjoy looking at the pictures and enjoying the read aloud. Children in kindergarten and first grade might use the book as an early reader.

The first book features Mia who generally loves playing princess, but wakes up one morning feeling like anything but a princess. She imagines herself a lioness, a pirate, a starfish and a cowgirl among other things. Mia decides there are many more options a lot more exciting than being a princess. The second books features Mia on her first day of ballet school. Again, Mia discovers a lot more than ballet steps and learns a lot in the process. In the final book of this set, Mia explains that she enjoys eating cookies a lot more than the process of baking them. She uses her imagination to think of other alternatives. The next morning Mia comes up with a surprise for her mom that does not turn out as she expected. But, in the end, Mia learns a much more important lesson about herself and her life.

Parents and teachers who want to delight and inspire their little princesses and instill a strong female role model should check out this collection available in kindle and paperback.

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ROSCO to the RESCUE

Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch

Written by Shana Gorian

Illustrated by Ros Webb

Rosco,pic

James and Mandy McKendrick live on a farm. They look forward to their annual adventure in late September to the pumpkin patch where they will walk the corn maze, go for a hayride, visit the petting zoo, ride a pony, and of course, find the perfect pumpkin. This year they are bringing their German shepherd pup named Rosco Their mischievous pup promptly finds himself in trouble by stealing another family’s pumpkin. In quick sequence Rosco  gets into more mischief by opening the door and releasing baby sheep. He finds trouble on the hayride, but manages to redeem himself as a hero when James and Mandy get lost in the corn maze. Dad has a reputation to maintain; will he manage to find the children and still have the time to find the perfect pumpkin to carve? After all, every year James has managed to carve the best jack-o-lantern in the neighborhood. When all is said and done, the McKendrick family have an exciting day at the pumpkin patch, while learning valuable lessons in the process.

This chapter book is targeted for children in the six to eight age range. Illustrations add charm to the story, but they are quite small in the kindle version The tale could be broken up into a classroom read aloud or independent reader for second or third graders. Nice change of pace from the more common Halloween spooky story for kids.

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CLOSET CHAOS

Runaway Clothes

Written by MRS.D

Illustrated by Chanoa

RunawayClothes,pic

Do you have a young lady in your home who is a less than perfect housekeeper? This book might be just what the doctor ordered.

Nika is a wide-eyed pretty little lass who awakes one morning to find that all her clothes are missing from her closet. Both the metal and wooden hangers are bare. She looks outside her cold window and sees only the mist. Where can her clothes be hiding? Nika is freezing because she is dressed only in her pajamas. She does not know what to do. Then she gazes around her room and observes that all her toys are lying around in disorganized heaps. What if they decide to abandon her as well? Nika panics. So she purposefully sets out to clean and organize her toys and stuffed animals.

That does not resolve her dilemma. It is cold outside; how will she ever be able to leave the house without her clothing? Nika talks to the trees and the sun rays who are both sympathetic. The wind blows her salty tears and they land on her clothing, which it turns out, are closer than Nika is aware. Does Nika ever find her wayward clothing? At the end of the story, Nika’s mom is really impressed with her daughter because she has learned a few valuable lessons.

The illustrations by Chanoa are beautifully done in large computer images with detailed facial expressions in soft pastels. As in another of MRS. D’s previous, books, Good Morning, World!, personification plays a large role in the story. The hangers, clothing, wind, sun rays and fog come to life. There are some guardian spirits looking on as well. The illustrations face the text on the opposite page. While a few vocabulary words like enraged are a stretch for younger children, the illustrations provide context clues. I would recommend the book for little ones in the elementary grades and for parents who might want to impress upon their child the importance of taking good care of their belongings.

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