Posts tagged ‘peer and family relationships’

A HARROWING HOMECOMING

Welcome to Doom Farms (Bonegarden Book 1)

Written by Karsten Knight

Kayla Dunn had just begun fifth grade in Boston when her parents inform her that they were achieving a lifelong dream to buy a farm in her father’s hometown of rural Orchard Falls.

Trouble begins almost immediately. Kayla is determined to outsmart Charlie Slade, whose family has always won the local pumpkin growing festival. After Kayla plants her pumpkin seeds, it rapidly becomes clear these are no ordinary pumpkins.

Monsters, giant pumpkins, aliens, and family feuds pepper the plot of this middle-grade adventure. This book is an exciting page turner. I would recommend it as Halloween party story or a classroom read-aloud as well.

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THE GENUINE ARTICLE

Just Between Sam and Me

Written by Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell

This middle-grade novel presents the triumphs and tribulations of Olivia Martin, a student beginning sixth grade in rural Spring Hope. She lives on a farm with her parents and older brother, Link. They all work hard to make ends meet.

Olivia’s best friends are a classmate named Isabelle, her cat, Sam, and her Palomino pony, Star. Olivia is saving up to buy a halter for Star because she hopes to enter him in The Spring Daze Festival next May. She will need to work hard to earn the money. Her plan is to create and sell beaded bracelets.

When Candace moves from New York City to Spring Hope, Olivia’s world is turned upside down. Candace is mean, bullying, and a gossip who tries to thwart Olivia at every turn. Olivia confides her problems to Sam by writing them down in her journal. Isabella proves to be a compassionate and wise friend who steadfastly stands behind her.

A series of unexpected events lead to successes and failures for Olivia, as well as the other characters in this touching tale. There are twists and turns that keep the plot interesting. Readers will empathize with Olivia’s trials and admire her tenacity and strength. The characters are so believable and relatable. The story brought me along a roller coaster of emotions. At times, I laughed, at other points in the story, I wanted to cry.

I applaud the authors for creating a deeply engaging plot and characters that will surely resonate with middle-grade readers. Highly recommended!

I received an advanced review copy of this book and voluntarily chose to read and review it with my honest opinions for no compensation.

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FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS

Celestina, the Astronaut Ballerina: A Kids Read Aloud Picture Book about Space, Astronauts and Following your Dreams

Written by Donald Jacobson

Illustrated by Graham Evans

Celestina is a little girl with big dreams. Her aspiration is to become an astronaut. Unfortunately, her friends at school belittle her and adults advise her to downsize her expectations. Why doesn’t she become a ballerina instead?

After a time, Celestina gives up on her dreams and settles in to learn ballet. That changes one day when a new teacher arrives. She counsels her class to dream big. Celestina returns to her real goal. Now she works hard and studies hard. Will she achieve her dream to become an astronaut.

This book includes lots of multicultural characters and vibrant illustrations that are appropriate for the elementary grade target audience. The book reinforces the image of a strong female role model and builds self-esteem in young girls.

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#Hold That Temper

When I am Angry: Children’s Book about Anger

Written by Michael Gordon

Illustrated by Max Larin

Gordon explores the topic of anger and how to handle it with preschoolers. This picture book features a preschooler named Josh who loses his sweet temperament rapidly when he becomes angry. So, when he wants to eat cake instead of lunch, go off alone to play with his friends or demands a pet, he becomes furious. His mom, dad, and older sister suggest ways to control it. He could pretend it to be a giant fireball to be thrown away, count to four or breathe deeply. Will Josh be able to practice these techniques to control his bad temper?

Larin has done a good job of providing age-appropriate colorful illustrations to help toddlers and preschoolers understand the lessons of the tale. Recommended for children ages two through five.

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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Diary of a Cool Boy

Written by B. Campbell

AJ is the middle child. He has an older sister, Jane, who is learning to drive and a younger brother, Taj, who has the gross habit of picking his nose. AJ’s mom is a neatness and control freak, while his dad is laid back.

Middle school readers will love the humorous situations in which AJ constantly finds himself. Cedric is the classroom bully, and the new boy, Hawk reveals a secret to AJ that will eventually enhance AJ’s reputation. Readers will enjoy reading about the family foibles and mishaps, as well as the sixth-grade classroom escapades. There are a few valuable life lessons to be learned, but the plot is fairly predictable with few twists and turns.

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OUT OF THE DARKNESS

Hey Nana! Connor’s Story of Love

Written by Toni Nunemaker

This book is a testament to the young life of Connor, a boy who was murdered by another in a playground not far from his home in a trailer park nearby. The memoir is penned by his grandmother, who herself undergoes a transformation because of the crime.

Readers need to be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster as Nana proceeds through a gamut of emotions proceeding from the moment of the crime, the funeral, the criminal investigation, the trial, and the family’s readjustment to a life without the nine-year-old child, who brought so much love into the world.

Nana even learns to understand and accept the grief that Jamarion, the young murderer, and his family experience and the abuse that led up to it. I think the author does an exceptional job of portraying her conflicting emotions as well as the character of the gentle and loving victim, her grandchild, and the special relationship they both shared.

The book is a powerful commentary on abuse, addiction, love, and the way various members of society cope or fail to cope with them. This book is one that will force readers to consider these issues, whether they agree with the author’s ultimate decision in her acceptance and forgiveness. Recommended for young adult and adult readers.

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DRESS FOR SUCCESS

HAILEY’S WHITE DRESS

Written by Sigalit Benbenishti

Illustrated by Ambadi Kumar

Hailey is a young girl with a flair for fashion. She has a closet full of colorful dresses. One day her mother brings her a gift. Hailey is delighted to find a beautiful white dress decorated with flowers inside. She decides to save this dress for a special occasion, her upcoming birthday. When that day finally arrives, Hailey wears the dress and enjoys her birthday celebration with friends and family. Hailey’s neighbor notices a stain on the dress. Hailey tries to remove the stain. When she is unsuccessful, Hailey determinedly searches the internet for a solution to her dilemma. Hailey finds something guaranteed to work and eagerly awaits the washing machine cycle to finish. Will she get her dress back again, good as new?

I would describe this book as a beginning reader that will also appeal to reluctant readers. There are a few minor editing issues. The text is not overly challenging and there are lots of color illustrations to assist the reader. Recommended especially for young girls who love pretty dresses.

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