Sunday, November 5, 2017

Book Review: Max's Hallowe'en Adventure


It was the loveliest summer afternoon, perfect for a relaxing snooze... especially for a cat. Max was in the middle of a most pleasant dream involving being fed strips of smoked salmon by a very pretty girl when he smelled smoke! Smoke? Gasp! That meant fire! Fire? That meant danger!!! Maybe lives must be saved. Where was everyone? He had to save the book, the book that had started the whole series of adventures, with the twins’ parents becoming lost in the mists of time, trapped in the pages of history. He couldn’t let the book be destroyed, because then Mum and Dad would be gone forever. However, when he plunged (not very) bravely into the smoke, he found himself back in the past, in 1644 to be exact, and he just knew that somehow this involved another very uncomfortable adventure that he hadn’t asked for!

A snarky cat called Berry was waiting to take him back to a tumbledown old cottage that seemed strangely familiar, and in fact, he’d already been there in a previous side adventure of his own (Max’s Christmas Adventure). The whole place was quite spooky, and there was a weird old woman called Goodwife Clowes, who insisted he was necessary to help rescue her sister from an evil man. Combined with this rude cat’s annoying attitude (or should that be cattitude?), Max just longed to go home. Then the weird old woman told him that the evil man was a witchfinder and that’s why he was needed to rescue her sister. Witchfinder? Max asked himself (as did I) was that even a job? In a nutshell, the Witchfinder General (the man had even given himself a title!) was going from village to village, rounding up women who might be witches, or who people had accused of witchcraft. Many innocent people in the village of Mistley Thorn would suffer if Max didn’t help. Can he muster up the last remnants of what passed for courage to lend a hand?

Max has the unfortunate tendency to be thrust into situations that require great bravery and feats of derring-do when this is entirely not in his nature. Once again, he’ll have to pull out all the stops. A brief and memorably nasty encounter at the local jail reveals the enormity of the situation and the truly evil nature of Matthew Hopkins, who specialised in sniffing out witches, or in fact any old lady (like this one), with a broom and a beady stare. Lovely details place young readers right into the setting of All Hallows’ Even (which we know as Hallowe’en), with a suitably eerie atmosphere and an uncomfortable amount of danger. But the peril is too great, the Witchfinder and his men can’t be overcome by two mere cats, even talking ones. Inevitably, Max is sent back to his own era, to plan and return to defeat the Witchfinder. Now Max has the reassurance of Jemima, Joe, and brainy Charlie on his side as reinforcements! Watch out, Witchfinder. Max will be back!

Author Wendy Leighton-Porter, as always, has a treasure trove of extra detail for avid young fans of the series and this fifth mini adventure in Max’s side forays. The origins of Hallowe’en and the pagan festival of Samhain are explained, as are local suspicions of the time and details of why people were blamed for natural disasters and diseases. Lovely word play ensues as well with Max getting quite confused about names, although given the stressful situation, this is quite understandable. Max’s Hallowe’en Adventure is a delightful and deliciously scary prelude to the next adventure (the tenth) for Jemima, Joe, and Charlie, entitled The Shadow of the Witchfinder. It has a wonderfully spooky cover and I can’t wait to read it!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: Zesta and Friendship


Zesta and Friendship by Patricia Johnson is about a little boy, Henry Mandras, whose family relocates to Cialtro, Italy. Henry was a bit sad because he’d miss all his friends he’d be leaving behind. However, Zesta, the horse of many colours, was there to guide Henry in this time of great change. Zesta is a special horse, one with unique powers, a companion to all children to help them in those important moments in life, and in making decisions. Zesta reminds Henry that he’ll meet new people, see new places, and make new friends in this wonderful new life. Zesta also helps Henry while away the long hours of the plane trip. Cialtro is a beautiful place where all the houses are painted vivid colours that remind Henry of ice cream.

Once they’d settled into their new home, Henry saw children playing outside and, although Zesta encouraged him to go out and make friends, Henry stuck to his electronic games. However, he did notice a boy who didn’t join in with the other children and he wasn’t invited to be part of any of the team games. Henry also noticed the boy had a limp. When the boy looked at Henry, Zesta said Henry should go and say hello, but he did not. Henry’s mom also saw the boy and said he should come over to meet Henry, but the boy did not. What will happen between Henry and the boy? Will they both pluck up the courage to say hello and become friends? How will the story end?

This is a deceptively simple story with a wealth of thought provoking information for youngsters to ponder on, and for adults to use as discussion topics with children. I liked the idea of an invisible (to others) horse of many colours, who acts as a guide and sometimes a sounding board to help children make decisions or deal with life changing events. Decisions and choices can sometimes make for a bumpy or a smooth ride in life. Happily, Zesta is there to help children make the choice that takes them on a smooth path. Themes covered include relocation, leaving friends, familiar faces, and places behind, arriving in a new country, making new friends, and having the courage to take the first step to extend the hand of friendship. Since the boy has a limp and looks different, children will learn that friendship includes being open and honest with each other.

The most interesting aspect of this story, however, is the fact that the story events are repeated in a second story, but with a different choice made by both Henry and the boy, with a different and wonderful outcome. The idea of repeating the whole story is important, I think, for young readers, or children who are being read to. Children never tire of a good story, one that holds their interest, so repeating the story will be intriguing, especially if the parent or teacher tells the child there is something different about this story. An adult would jump straight to the end and ‘get’ the lesson. However, a child will enjoy taking that journey again with Henry and appreciating just where the turn in the tale happens, a turn of events that changes life for both Henry and the little boy, Pierre.

The images are just stunning, with simple yet effective drawings and brilliant, eye catching colours. The images also clearly depict the unfolding of events. The author includes a ‘moral of the story’ to repeat the life lessons learned for young readers, and which teachers and/or parents can use to ask the child their thoughts on the themes woven into the story. A lovely story to read at bedtime, or to use as a book for discussion in class.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Feast For the Beast


Everyone loves a special holiday, a time when one can invite a few friends around, prepare some delicious eats, and everyone settles down to watch the parade on television. One is not supposed to sneak off and eat everything ... everything? Yep, everything. In Feast for the Beast by Russell Dorn, the unthinkable happens. Gummy the (toothless) werewolf just can’t wait for the turkey to be done to a golden brown; he has to stop that growling in his stomach. Before he knows it, Gummy has eaten the feast meant for everyone to enjoy. Aghast, he doesn’t know what to do as his hungry friends depart, saddened by his greed. Gummy has to make it up to them, but how? And then he has an idea! A brilliant idea!

What a lovely tale of mayhem behind the scenes as Gummy wades into the food and literally devastates the feast because he can’t stop at just one bite. Although the feisty fruitcakes fight back, they are no match for a hungry beast! Pumpkin pie, green beans, cocoa, candy bars, it all goes down the hatch. The illustrations by David Dorn are simply adorable! Bright and detailed, they almost tell the story in themselves. The simple but descriptive rhymes very adeptly paint the scene as Gummy quickly scoffs the food meant for everyone to share. Although some words might be advanced for a young reader, this is a perfect opportunity for the adult reading aloud to explain meanings, and build on the child’s vocabulary. I loved the play on words, such as ‘tomb-scones.’ Another fun educational aspect is counting the items that Gummy devours, such as ten slices of pumpkin pie and twelve cups of cocoa.

This holiday story, although set in winter, could suit any special festive day in the calendar. Thanksgiving and Christmas spring to mind, but what could be better than Halloween, given that the guest list features monster characters such as Felipe Femur the skeleton, Sunny Stoker the vampire, Runny Rotten the witch, and Gummy Garou the (toothless) werewolf. Apart from creating a fun monster story, the author has subtly included lovely life lessons for young readers. Gummy had let his friends and himself down, and when he realised his mistake, he made up for it. Friendship, sharing, accepting when you’ve made a mistake, thinking about consequences, and mending those broken bonds are themes that youngsters can learn from, since life is full of ups and down, and youngsters need to learn how to fix what has gone wrong, and that the solution is within their power. The end of the story includes more fun for young readers when they visit Felipe Femur’s website.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: Gregory the Spider


Gregory the Spider: Romping through the Year is an enchanting children’s picture book written by Cynthia Dreeman Meyer and illustrated by Marina Saumell. Gregory the spider takes young readers on a pictorial romp through the year, with significant dates and days of celebration cleverly woven into the full page, full colour illustrations. Gregory invites young readers to follow him as he turns the first page in a lovely adventure of seasonal fun. His friends, Max and Molly Mouse, take part in each month’s romp, and Gregory features significantly, often getting into the spirit of things by wearing a costume or hat. Through sunshine, rain, wind, snow, and ice, Gregory shows youngsters the seasons and significant holidays, special days, or moments in the calendar.

First, the illustrations are absolutely adorable and detailed. Readers will definitely spend some time poring over the images and making discoveries. The images are also deceptively simple because, as youngsters read with an adult, they can be encouraged to spot the clues hidden in each picture to indicate the name of the month and other fun features that make the month special. A check list at the end of the book will help young sleuths. The author invites readers to investigate further on her website for a full list of items to find in each picture, and their significance. However, it will be good for parents or teachers to let young readers try for themselves to find the important items and to guess the significance of each month.

The story itself is told quite simply, and possibly because not much wording is needed. The illustrations have a kind of energy that “romps” along as well as one turns the pages. Gregory is a surprise main character because spiders don’t usually end up in the spotlight. Gregory is a delightful “narrator” with his antics, his appropriate costumes, and his expressive eyes! The lovely cover promises a treasure trove of interesting details inside and young readers will not be disappointed. A lovely storybook to share with family members, or as a gift to a young reader, a book that will be read over and over again!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: The Shnoos and Panoos Are Lost and Confused


The Shnoos and Panoos Are Lost and Confused by Catherine Copplestone introduces young readers to the Schnoos and the Panoos, adorable and whimsical little creatures that have a wonderful life, doing exactly what they know they want to do in a garden where marshmallows grow. They have lots of fun playing tunes, dancing, making “amazing spectacular pants,” and enjoying themselves and life. They eat yummy snacks, love each other, and always say nice things to each other. But one day, everything changed. They forgot their joy; they forgot what to do; they forgot their purpose and meaning in life. Panic ensued and life was chaotic, confusing, and horrible, and it wasn’t fun anymore. The Shnoos and the Panoos argued amongst themselves. Then one little Shnoo came up with a miraculous solution... What could it be?
What a delightful story for both young and adult readers to share. The life lesson of choosing how to react, of choosing our emotions, of choosing love, peace and harmony over chaos and confusion, within this tale of the Schnoos and the Panoos is so simple, so perfect, that it really hit home for me as an adult reader. It’s so easy to be knocked off course by the winds of confusion, to lose our belief in ourselves and what is important, and that’s when we need to hold fast to what we know is true. I loved the delicate, charming illustrations, and how each little creature is made unique and special, from the one who makes “amazing, spectacular pants,” to the one who has a yen to travel to France (“Je suis un Panoo!”). The rhyming is impeccable and lyrical, and will draw the young reader into the story and the lesson.
The lesson itself is quite advanced for young readers, but I think we underestimate children’s capacity for deeper thinking, realising what life is about, making choices, understanding concepts, and choosing their own path. These whimsical fantasy creatures are warm, friendly, and very appealing; they perfectly convey the author’s concept. The story also lends itself to further discussion between young readers and a parent or teacher about making choices and understanding feelings. The Schnoos and the Panoos learned a lesson that day ... and so can readers of all ages.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Book Review: Cuddle Kitten and Puddle Pup


Cuddle Kitten and Puddle Pup by J.R. Poulter tackles the subject of toilet training in pets, always a vital part of a young animal’s education. Cuddle Kitten is the perfect cat. She uses her litter tray properly, with no splattery bits and no smells. She is constantly praised by her family and, since Cuddle Kitten is so good when it comes to bathroom hygiene, she even keeps a watchful eye on young Tottie when she goes to the potty. Things are just perfect and orderly, as it should be in a well run household. But disaster strikes when Uncle Gus comes to visit and brings ... a puppy! A noisy, badly behaved, rambunctious puppy that even chewed Cuddle Kitten’s tail, among other things! Even worse, the puppy, Puddle Pup, had absolutely no potty training and just went any and everywhere he chose. Tottie tried to help, but things simply got messier and smellier. Will Puddle Pup ever get potty trained and fit in with the rest of the family?

This is a hilarious tale that will have many adults nodding their heads as they remember the drama and chaos of a new pet. Young readers will learn about being patient and tolerant, and giving a helping hand in teaching others, as well as the family members working together as a team to solve a problem and restore harmony in the house. Children will adore the characters of Puddle Pup and Cuddle Kitten, which are beautifully captured by Trish Flannery’s illustrations. The images are just gorgeous and so realistic with lovely fine detail that young readers will enjoy exploring. The images help the story along magnificently and portray the different scenarios perfectly. At the end of the book is a delightful section on how to train your own puddle pup and easily overcome the hassles of the new pet and the potty. This is a lovely bedtime story for youngsters, and one they will ask for again and again.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: Oliver and the Little Ghost


Oliver and the Little Ghost by Andy Klein is the second book in The Fantastic Adventures of Oliver Phenomena series. Right away young readers are told that Oliver is a very different little boy, one with the ability to attract "unusual encounters with curious things." Since Oliver and his dad are off to stay at Aunt Katrina’s spooky mansion, and look after the place while she is away in London, there’s no doubt that weird things are going to happen. After all, a spooky mansion could hold any number of amazing secrets! Aunt Katrina also believes the mansion is haunted and she asks Oliver’s dad to take photos, and maybe capture evidence of any unusual happenings. He does so, but none of the pictures shows anything out of the ordinary. But Oliver sees something, or rather, he sees someone. He spies a little boy in olden day clothing on the staircase. Oliver’s dad can’t see anyone though. The ghostly little boy, named Austin, is very safety conscious and that’s a good thing. Young readers will learn how Austin’s safety measures prevent accidents. Oliver had marvellous fun with Austin, although his dad wasn’t quite sure about things...
This is a really sweet and entertaining story about a number of themes. Oliver is different and it’s a refreshing idea that a young child can see things that adults can’t, and also reminds us of how, as we get older, we lose some of the ‘magic’ in life. Oliver is brave and curious, and he isn’t afraid of things that he might not initially understand. He takes the step to make friends with Austin, and so they both have a wonderful time together, despite the fact that Oliver is a real boy and Austin is a ghostly one. The theme of safety measures is actually very interesting as Austin’s actions point out just how easily mishaps can occur in the home.


Images are a very important part of a child’s reading experience and here this book shines. The illustrations by Ronaldo Florendo are simply done, are very brightly coloured, and depict the events in detail. The expressions are just superb, and young readers will enjoy the pictorial experience of Oliver’s ghostly adventure as much as reading or listening to the story. I also liked the fact that there is a "This book belongs to ____" in the beginning, to encourage the young reader to make the story their own. The reading level is simple and easy to understand. It would have been nice to discover a bit more about Austin, why he was still living in the old mansion, and what had happened in his life. But perhaps that’s food for another adventure for young Oliver, a very unusual boy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Review: Clarence: The Story of a Boy with Big Ears and a Big Italian Family


Clarence should be the happiest boy ever. He has a big, wonderful Italian family that loves him, his Nonna, his grandmother, is the best cook ever, and Stella, the family dog, always makes sure Clarence gets a big, wet, slobbery greeting when he comes home from school. School. That’s the problem. Clarence has unique ears; they are big and he gets teased and bullied by the other kids about them. Somehow, when his sister, Daria, teases him a little bit, and his older brother, Joey, makes jokes, it’s not hurtful but just part of playful family comments. One night when all the family members are gathered around the dinner table, talking loudly and having lots of conversations across the table, Clarence noticed that everyone else’s ears look normal; his are very different and so the kids at school must be right. He quietly slipped away to his bedroom, but not without his Nonna seeing him leave the table. Clarence listened as Nonna told him some family history, especially about his grandfather who came to America in 1912, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a very special gift; a little silver bell given to him by his father. Clarence’s grandfather was hard working, handsome, and he too had large ears. Nonna gave Clarence the silver bell. Will this small and dainty object be able to help Clarence deal with the mean bullies?
Clarence: The Story of a Boy with Big Ears and a Big Italian Family by Stephanie Baruffi is a charming story about a young boy with quite an unusual difference; his ears are large. Do we ever really notice things like ears, which sit on the side of a person’s head, not really being obtrusive? However, kids who want to be mean pick on the seemingly most unimportant things to tease and bully someone who lacks self-confidence. I enjoyed the way the author portrayed Clarence finding the courage to stand up for himself and to retaliate, but not wildly and just saying anything to his tormentors. Clarence wisely points out that the things he just said were things he didn’t have to say – he was making a point about how the kids carelessly say things that are hurtful. This story is a lovely lesson in respecting your peers, being tolerant, being tactful and compassionate towards others. I also enjoyed the role of family in the story, how Clarence drew strength from his grandfather’s story, and from realising that he was part of, and loved by, a big, boisterous family, and how they all accepted each other. Delightful illustrations bring the characters and events to life for young readers and a little glossary at the back explains the meaning of Italian words used in the text. A great book for storytelling time at school or at bedtime.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Red-Tail Recovery


Red-Tail Recovery is the third story in Australian author Emma J Homes’ wildlife series about Ruthie, a young wildlife ambassador and her commitment to helping save wildlife in Australia. Ruthie, her younger sister, Bel, and younger brother, Liam, travel around Australia with their parents (Kate and Tom) who are scientists, involved in wildlife research and animal projects. The family travels in a green and yellow bus, while the kids study via ‘lessons of the air,’ as well as learning from life experience about the wildlife in their home country. This time a new adventure beckons since Kate and Tom will be looking after a friend’s wildlife centre, The Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo Recovery Program, for a year while he is away. This will mean living in a house instead of a bus, and going to a real school. Will Ruthie and her siblings adapt? Even more importantly, given that the Red-Tails’ habitat is increasingly threatened by farming and encroachment upon their feeding and nesting environment, their numbers are dwindling fast. Does the Red-Tail have a chance of survival and will Ruthie and her family make any difference?

Beautiful, clear descriptions will transport young readers into Ruthie’s new life in the small town of Bailey’s Lake (pop. 1,400). They will also learn a lot about wildlife and the precautions taken to protect their habitats. Facts are cleverly inserted into the dialogue so eager wildlife enthusiasts will learn while they are enjoying the story, and appreciating Ruthie’s adaptation to her new environment. After all, haven’t we all been the new kid at school? Ruthie makes a new friend, Linsey, and gets involved in school sports and other fun stuff. Readers also read about wildlife smuggling, which seems like an odd thing for people to target, but it exists and that’s another danger young enthusiasts will learn about. Fans of Ruthie’s previous adventures will be happy to catch up on news about Womble, Ruthie’s pet wombat now living as a wild wombat, who was instrumental in solving a mystery causing frogs to die, and in solving the problem of mange in wild wombats (clever Womble!). Ruthie has a new pet in this story, a skink called Lulu!

Wildlife research is not armchair work and Ruthie and her family and Linsey get stuck in, another revelation for readers who think that being a wildlife scientist is easy. One does not study an animal or bird without going outdoors for fieldwork, the best way to study their habitat, their food, and the activities that the creatures engage in. The vocabulary and reading levels are good for all types of readers and the events of the story soon draw young readers into Ruthie’s world, her new experiences, and her reactions to the changes in their lifestyle.

Ruthie is such a lovely young role model for readers to emulate, and I really like how author Emma Homes manages to teach while creating a great and new adventure for many kids, who may never have had any close encounters with the animals and birds of their own country. The story shows very clearly how all of life is entwined, from destruction of trees to changes in environment, and how all this affects the cycle of wildlife; how each creature has its role to play in the ecological chain. I also liked the forward thinking that the story demonstrates, and how Bel’s idea of planting trees will help create a safe environment for the birds to flourish. As Ruthie realises, “Even a small step in the right direction was a difference they could all be proud of.” A small endnote gives readers more details about the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo. The perfect gift for readers who love adventure and the outdoors, and young wildlife and bird enthusiasts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend


Atmosphere, action, and adventure characterise Cheryl Carpinello’s second book featuring the young Princess Guinevere and her friend Cedwyn. I loved the first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, where we got to know the young Guinevere and her best friend, Cedwyn. I was very keen to pick up their story and I wasn’t disappointed. Although this is the second book, the author fills in enough back story to indicate past events for readers new to the series, and those who have read book one will be delighted to see how much the two protagonists have grown and matured.


In Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, the story opens with Britain at war, Guinevere anxiously awaiting news of her father, King Leodegrance, and her betrothed, the young King Arthur, both of whom have ridden north to battle. Some things don’t change though, and when Guinevere and Cedwyn, her childhood friend, slip away from Cadbury Castle, it’s to explore and find out more, this time about the ancient menhirs, the Wizards’ Stones. Magical energy abounds and the two young people are astounded to experience an incredible apparition, that of the Goddess, and she has a message for both of them. However, since peril is hurtling fast towards them, the message portends danger and destruction. Renegades from the north are planning to kidnap the young princess! After a tumultuous and shocking turn of events, Guinevere and Cedwyn discover that the renegades have burnt the Abbey to the ground, the monks have been murdered and, when they make their way back to the castle, they find the children have been taken in lieu of Guinevere to be sold into slavery! Can Guinevere and Cedwyn organise a viable rescue mission, and will it work, taking into consideration that Cedwyn’s message from the Goddess had some dark and foreboding overtones regarding his future...


Author Cheryl Carpinello sets the pace right away for this adventure and it does not let up. Although this author writes for reluctant readers, the narrative is not dumbed-down, and kids will enjoy being steeped in great atmospherics, experiencing every nail-biting, heart-pounding moment of the action, danger, and harsh conditions. Life in medieval times was no picnic and kids will learn just how brutal it could be. The author cleverly inserts relevant details about conditions back then and these help young readers to get a sense of the era and the surroundings the characters inhabit. Young Cedwyn seems to be destined for greater things as he takes the lead in this story, putting himself in danger to save the children. Relevant themes abound, such as making the right decisions, putting others first, keeping your promises, loyalty and friendship, leadership and responsibility, all values that have been forgotten to a large extent in modern society, where “me” is the watchword. In fact, in the very informative and interesting endnotes, Cheryl Carpinello outlines the history of Arthur, the concept of chivalry and the ideals associated with him, and why these concepts and ideals will never die.


Young readers won’t just turn the last page and find the end of the story. Questions for Discussion and Enrichment offer parents, teachers, and librarians a wealth of opportunities to find out how well the young readers remember what they have read, as well as exploring deeper themes for greater understanding. A list of characters and names of places, as well as a map and illustrations keep the young reader firmly entrenched in the story, with a clear idea of who is who, and where they are in the tale. This is a delightful story, filled with history, emotion, action, and adventure to keep those young readers, both reluctant and eager, turning the pages non-stop. The story ends on an exciting cliff-hanger, opening the door to yet another fantastic adventure in an age long past, with themes and ideals that we, living in the 21st century, would do well to remember. A wonderful tale for budding young knights, and those (a little older, perhaps) who remember their chivalric ideals. A great adventure for fans of Arthuriana!


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Review: Sweet T and the Turtle Team


When Tara, aka Sweet T, visits Great-Aunt Mae on Gull Island, with her mom, she doesn’t expect to have all that much of a good time. She misses her older sister, Kristen, who stayed behind with their dad, and has only her younger sister, Jenna, for company. Oh, and of course Jenna’s blue stuffed rabbit called Fuzzy who has the annoying habit of always getting lost. So why are they even visiting Gull Island? It turns out that Tara and Jenna’s mom is involved in a special project at the Gull Island Aquarium.

The young reader is catapulted right into the story’s themes with the kids, including Billy (Great-Aunt Mae’s young neighbour), helping to save a pelican that had become entangled in fishing line. Tara meets a few local kids who are mysteriously rude to Billy. He won’t say what the problem is, but it comes out that Billy has a problem reading, something that Tara thinks she can help with. An impending storm heightens the drama over the special project with the aquarium – the annual hatching of the turtles! The kids can help by stepping in when a Turtle Team nest monitor had to drop out due to an injury. Will the storm prevent the baby turtles making it to the sea, and will the kids be able to help save as many hatchlings as possible.

Sweet T and the Turtle Team is an absolutely adorable book about lots of things that young readers will love: turtles, island life, wildlife and how we can help, friendship, family, and being there for each other. Author Cat Michaels very cleverly weaves both wildlife information and doing the right thing into the story without bogging the young reader down with too many details, or coming across as preachy. I have to mention the stunning illustrations! The images of the wildlife in particular (not forgetting Fuzzy, who has a couple of pics of his own) just make the story come to life and help draw young readers into the chain of events, as well as clarifying wildlife details. Irene A. Jahns is a brilliant illustrator. I also enjoyed the images of the text messages between Tara and Kristen, and this will appeal to the slightly older young reader who no doubt will be using text messages.

The characters are nicely developed and young readers will be able to relate to them easily. From feeling sorry for herself and wishing she were anywhere but on Gull Island, Tara rounds out very well into a lovely young person who thinks of others and tries to help. My favourite just had to be Great-Aunt Mae who, in the manner of many eccentric great-aunts out there, has boundless energy, can cook like a dream, and is always thinking up fun things for everyone to do. I really wish I had a Great-Aunt Mae who would make me triple fudge peanut butter pie for dessert!

The story ends on a bittersweet note, taking into consideration that nature can be harsh and only the strongest survive in times of storms and harsh conditions. I loved reading how the community come together to help the baby turtles find their way to the sea, where they will grow and thrive. The end of the book is not quite the end with some wonderful and relevant material, including gorgeous wildlife photos, which parents and teachers can use to amplify both the story and the information and lessons learned. Mind Ticklers are questions in a quiz to see how much the young reader remembers of the facts of the story. Brain Stretchers ask the young reader their opinion, what would they do in a particular situation. This is ideal for youngsters to start thinking about dealing with social issues, caring about others who are not like them, or who may have a problem, and what they think is the right behaviour in a situation.

Author Cat Michaels spent more than twenty years helping students of all ages, and her experience and expertise are apparent in this lovingly written story. Wise words from Dr. Seuss end this delightful tale, reminding us of the freedom that all creatures deserve. “And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free, as turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Blast: Sweet T and the Turtle Team

BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Blog Tour for the beautiful children's book written by Cat Michaels and Illustrated by Irene A. Johns, Sweet T and the Turtle Team. The tour will run from July 12 - August 9, 2017.
2017-06-16

 About the Book

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Title:  Sweet T and the Turtle Team
Author:  Cat Michaels
Illustrator: Irene A. Jahns
Publication Date: July 2017
Publisher: 2101 Ink
Number of Pages: 72
Recommended Ages: 6 to 11
Summary: It’s nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles on North Carolina's Gull Island. Nine-year old Tara (or Sweet T as her family sometimes calls her) is determined to see hatchlings make it safely from their nests to their ocean home.Summering on Gull Island with Great Aunt Mae could be tons of fun, but T is having a hard time making new friends with island children, let alone finding kids to help her monitor a sea turtle nest.There’s little sister Jenna, but Jenna is, well, little.  Fuzzy is around, too, but Jenna’s blue stuffy rabbit gets lost all the time.  Besides, a toy bunny can’t help protect turtle nests. Tara befriends Billy, a moody island child.  He teaches her skimboarding and shows her the best shelling spots. But Billy stomps away when she asks him to read the “Turtle Team Guide” and join her in saving baby sea turtles. What’s up with Billy?  He’s nice one minute and grumpy the next.  And why does he refuse to join T’s Turtle Team?  T can't figure him out. A tropical storm threatens Gull Island just as the sea turtle nest is ready to hatch. T must abandon the nest and prepare for bad weather.
  • Will Sweet T and her friends keep safe from the storm?
  • Will the sea turtle nest survive angry ocean waves?
  • Will Billy reveal his secret?
Dive into adventure, fun and secrets on Gull Island with “Sweet T and the Turtle Team” to find out! “Sweet T and the Turtle Team” is the third book of the Sweet T Tales Series of chapter books for early and reluctant readers by Cat Michaels, MS., Ed.  With a glossary, comprehension quiz, sea turtle hatch photo gallery, and discussion questions, “Turtle Team” delivers powerful messages about protecting marine life while helping young readers empathize with children who struggle to read.

Pre-order Now ~ Available July 21, 2017

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About the Author

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Author, blogger CAT MICHAELS, M.S., Ed., has more than two decades of experience helping students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome.

Her chapter books and Sweet T Tales series for beginning readers tell of every day life with a twist of magic and mischief.  Cat’s books encourage young and reluctant readers to use their imagination and solve kid-sized dilemmas as they enjoy reading.

Cat lives in North Carolina with her family, where she enjoys digital photography and graphic design, creates pocket gardens, works out as often as she can, and writes.  

Find Cat’s books on Amazon and iTunes

Blog Tour Giveaway

Prize: One winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift card or $75 PayPal cash prize, winner's choice Giveaway ends: August 9, 11:59 pm, 2017 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Cat Michaels and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book review: The Shadow of the Tudor Rose


The Shadow of the Tudor Rose, the ninth adventure that twins Jemima and Joe Lancelot and their friend Charlie find themselves undertaking, starts off in a typically mysterious way. Catching a quick breath of fresh air outside one evening, Max, their handsome, big boned (certainly not fat!) talking Tonkinese cat, hears a strange voice calling across time and space ... “El Gato!” Of course, everyone know that means cake, right? But somehow the voice, the words, combined with a storm make Max hurry back inside, hoping that the scenario does not presage another adventure back in time, back to usually uncomfortably dangerous situations. Max is not cowardly, just cautious, and although he also wants to help the twins locate their parents, who had gone back in time and are now lost in the past, the reader is ever mindful that a cat only has nine lives. Max might have used up eight already ... who knows? And if this is their ninth adventure, well, it could be the final one.

Every time the twins, Max, and Charlie step into history, using the magical book and key, along with clues in a poem, they manage to experience some dramatic event or other, and several of the events have been particularly hair-raising. This latest adventure is no less exciting than all the others. It is the year 1588 and a dastardly plot is being hatched on the part of the Spanish to invade England using the Spanish navy, the Armada. Although the twins are desperate to locate their parents, of course they can’t ignore the fact that this event is of the upmost importance, even though they already know the outcome. However, this is a three-pronged plot that involves more than just a naval battle. Sabotage, treachery, and assassination are involved! And what of the mystery of the Tudor Rose, since the price of treason is the ultimate punishment...

Once again, under the skilled pen of author Wendy Leighton-Porter, history comes to life! The dangerous intricacies and machinations of court intrigue, the enduring animosity between England and Spain, and the life of people in Elizabethan England are clearly laid out. From the (disgusting) lack of sanitation, to problems involving having no local money, to where to sleep, to how to get food, to how to survive being maybe considered a spy (horrors!), to meeting people now famous for their achievements, young readers get lots of history woven into an incredibly fast-paced and exciting plot that has Max really shining as the ultimate hero. He even gains royal favour! Max has a particularly poignant relationship with young playwright Christopher Marlowe (Kit) that is very special, and very moving.

I enjoyed how the author included so much of the Elizabethan flavour in both the language and phrases (very easily understood) and the events of the times. The twins meet Shakespeare himself, and this does annoy Kit more than a little because, after all, wasn’t Shakespeare just a country bumpkin? Readers who have been following the kids’ adventures, as well as Max’s own independent adventures, will learn more about the Guardians of Time. Once again, lovely word play ensues as characters misunderstand certain words, or else significant clues are embedded in phrases – all very important in foiling this plot. The end of the book contains a glossary of words and phrases, plus details of the major characters who were real life people of the era.

Max is by far my favourite character, and in this story he outdoes himself in terms of bravery and his importance in foiling the plot. To his great relief, he was not required to don a disguise, although he cannot understand why so many ancient prophecies abound which all make mention of some hero’s extreme courage that is necessary for all to end well. And, in this tale of conspiracy and derring-do, “all’s well that ends well!”

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to teachers as well as parents because there is so much interesting information, wrapped up in an exciting, suspense-filled package, to get young readers eagerly delving back into the past. Young and of course young at heart readers are in for an incredible treat.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: Majelica’s Voyage to the Land of the Fairies


 
Book 3 in Majelica’s adventures finds this adorable, green-haired half-fairy/half-human being invited by the Fairy Chiefs to the Land of the Fairies to discover her origins. Majelica had hatched from a sapphire egg and had always been curious about her origins. She longed to discover who she really was, and where she came from. Prince Will and Goldy arrive via the rainbow to accompany her back to the Land of the Fairies. They must traverse the forest to find the portal through to the Land of the Fairies. But can they do it? The forest is filled with all sorts of potential dangers; challenges that might make Majelica become discouraged and give up. Can Majelica overcome her negative thoughts so that her positive thoughts help her find a way through? Will she discover the story of her parents?



Majelica’s Voyage to the Land of the Fairies by Louise Courey Nadeau is Book 3 in Majelica’s adventures. Young readers and their parents who enjoyed books 1 and 2, in which we met Majelica, her guardian Gri, her pet dragon Tris, the warblegrif Odin, Prince Will and his goldaron, Goldy, as well as the Isle of Dreams, will be enchanted by this tale. Once again the author stresses how important it is for young readers to have self-belief, faith, confidence, and many more positive attributes to help them along the path of life. The most exquisite full colour and full page illustrations by Nathan Heinze keep young readers immersed in the story as well as adding visuals that will help even the most reluctant reader to dive into the adventure.

Learning about yourself is also part of the story, as it is with Majelica’s journey in this tale. The back of the book has a lovely question and answer session for young readers to relate their own self discovery to that of the characters in the story. The power of love, the power of self-belief, the power of listening to your own heart and following your dreams are themes that are beautifully explored, and I have no doubt that young readers will be able to relate to all the characters in this third tale. For readers new to the series, the author includes a mini synopsis and cover image for the previous books that will encourage young readers to go back to the beginning of Majelica’s story. An enchanting book to be shared in the classroom and in children’s libraries, a must-read tale filled with beauty and magic that will soon become a great favourite.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: Initiation - Sky Raider Academy Book One


Life just couldn’t get any worse for 11-year-old Tommy. After the death of his father, he and his mom move from New York to Colorado, and (even worse) they’ll be staying with Tommy’s eccentric Uncle Joe, who owns a llama farm, and is (adding to the even worse part) a conspiracy theorist and something of a joke to the townsfolk. His new school is called Mustang Mountain Elementary and Tommy’s convinced, especially after a rocky start, that he’ll never be happy there. The teachers are also a bit eccentric, albeit in an interesting way, and the school bully has homed in on him from day one. Life sucks! But then life changes in (literally) a flash of light as a mysterious stranger, Mr. Bellarium, appears to Tommy one night and whisks him away to a very different kind of school, one in the sky called The Sky Raider Academy. This is where specially chosen kids learn how to manage the weather. Tommy’s father was a Sky Raider, and considered to be one of their most gifted and inventive students. Tommy’s problems with fitting into a new town, a new school, and dealing with new people fade into insignificance when it becomes apparent that a rogue Sky Raider is wreaking havoc on the world by manipulating the weather ... with disastrous consequences! Can Tommy, with his new Sky Raider friends, Will and Rachel, find the courage to combat this enemy and emerge victorious, and how much did this rogue Sky Raider have to do with Tommy’s father’s mysterious death?

First up, kids who aren’t even vaguely interested in science and meteorological phenomena will be riveted by how the author has turned science into magic. After all, “magic is just misunderstood technology.” There aren’t any magic wands, but there’s a plethora of gadgets, gizmos, rides, and novel pieces of equipment to delight any kid who loves to tinker with “stuff.” There is danger, excitement, and feats of derring-do aplenty. In between all the otherworldly Sky Raider activities, Tommy fits in a normal day’s school every day.  The author shines here in making real the dialogue, the problems, the events, and the interactions normal kids would have. As Tommy realises the world is bigger than he is, he starts noticing more about others; for example, his mom seems happier here on the farm now. It’s easy to turn inward and feel sorry for oneself, but Tommy rises to the occasion, especially the one that demands a final act of heroism.

There’s a large cast, but young readers won’t get confused because teachers (both at school and the Academy), family members (including Pinky the llama that eats almost anything), and friends are well defined and stand out as individuals. Hopefully, there’ll be more on them in subsequent books. I found the setting up a little slow, but considering this is to be a series, the information will serve young readers well. As an adult, I also found the meteorological and scientific details a bit too much, but looking at this book from a young reader’s point of view, I am sure that won’t be a problem. Author Kirsten Pulioff’s middle grade book, Initiation, tackles issues that children have to deal with and often struggle to cope with adequately (death, bereavement, moving, leaving friends behind, new school, bullying), as well as infusing a real world with a parallel world of fantasy, adventure, heroism, and more. I enjoyed the moment where Tommy stands up to the school bully and, in a unique way, gives him a “taste of his own medicine.” This could be seen as a book for boys, but Rachel is a very appealing sidekick and girl readers will love her character. A good start to an exciting series!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bartholomew Buggins : A Zombie with Different Cravings

2017-02-16 

 BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a C over Reveal for Crystal Marcos's new picture book, Bartholomew Buggins : A Zombie with Different Cravings. The cover reveal will take place on February 20, 2017.


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Title: Bartholomew Buggins: A Zombie with Diffe rent Cravings
Author: Crystal Marcos
Illustrator: Marie Marcos
Number of pages: 32
Recommended ages: 4+
Expected Release Date: April 2017
Book Description: A humorous Children's rhyming picture book by Award-winning author Crystal Marcos about a distinguished littl e zombie who just want to be your friend.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon



Order Authographed Copies from the Author


Watch the Book Video




About the Author

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 Award-winning author Crystal Marcos has been a story teller her entire life. As the oldest of five children, she had to do a lot of entertaining. She lives on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State with her husband, daughter Kayle e, and toddler son Jaxon. Crystal is the author of Middle Grade Readers, BE LLYACHE: A Delicious Tale and HEADACHE: The Hair-Raising Sequel to BELLYACHE, Young Adult Novel, No vus (The Cresecren Chronicles, Book 1), and Children ’ s Picture Book, Bartholomew Buggins: A Zombie with Different C ravings.



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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Blast: Dream Horse Adventures

BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Book Blast for the children's book series Dream Horse Adventures written by Susan Count. The blast will run February 7 - 9, 2017.

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About the Books


maryssong

Title: Mary's Song (Dream Horse Adventure Book 1)
Author: Susan Count
Genre: Children's Fiction
Number of Pages: 122
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group
Release Date: October 20, 2016
Book Description: Mary’s heart breaks over the pending destruction of a beautiful, but damaged filly. When life is not fair, the courageous challenge the obstacles. Twelve-year-old Mary was disabled at the age of four by the same virus that took the life of her mother. While she longs to have a horse of her own, she’s limited to reading horse books. A talented artist, she spends her days on a blanket in the grass sketching the horses at the farm next door. She falls in love with one of the foals and is outraged to learn the filly is considered worthless as it was born lame. Mary befriends and enlists the help of twelve-year-old Laura, whose family owns the horse farm. Against the better judgment of the farm manager, a brief reprieve is negotiated for the foal’s life. The girls conspire to raise money to save her, but time is running out. Sadly, it appears the expensive surgery the foal needs has little chance to correct her problem anyway. Mary isn’t about to give up. She sacrifices what she holds dear, including the trust of her papa, to gain her heart’s desire. Will she lose everything in her struggle to save the foal?



selahs

Title: Selah's Sweet Dream (Dream Horse Adventure Book 2)
Author: Susan Count 
Genre: Children's Fiction 
Number of Pages: 198 
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group 
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Book Description: American Horse Publications - FIRST PLACE - Equine Fiction..... Feathered Quill - GOLD Award..... Readers Favorites - GOLD Award..... Twelve-Year-Old SELAH (Say-la) aspires to be an equestrian superstar. That would require a horse. HER DILEMMA: Grandpa wants nothing to do with horses. THEN: Selah sees buzzards circling the grasslands behind Grandpa’s farm. They are stalking a horse trapped in wire and Selah is its only hope. DANGEROUS: The horse is wild and defiant - jeopardizing Selah’s dreams. FOILED: The legal owner searched for the horse for two years and wants it back. BUT: Selah is confident that God will provide her heart’s desire. MEMORIES: Grandpa shows Selah a video, from long ago, of a phenomenal equestrian. Selah declares that she wants to be like her and Grandpa explains the rider was her grandmother. HOPE: A world renowned horse trainer offers to train SweetDream and Selah. FOILED AGAIN: Her parents could ruin everything unless Sweet Dream’s unruly behavior ruins it first. LOST: Selah’s opportunity to mirror the equestrian talent of her renowned grandmother evaporates when the horse causes mayhem at the trainer’s facility. NEVER GIVE UP: Will Selah gather her courage and face up to the trainer to save her aspirations?

https://www.amazon.com/Selahs-Sweet-Dream-Susan-Count/dp/0997088303/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484936125&sr=8-2&keywords=susan+count

About the Author

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One day...I began to write with no preconceived ideas about anything. I’d read what I had written the day before and add another scene to the adventure. No one could have been more astounded than I was when it turned into a book. The whole process gave me great joy and restored my spirit after a season of loss. My motivation was my desire to bless one particular young lady with a story to show her a love relationship in a family, with the Lord, and with a horse. I truly thought the story would remain in a drawer until she was old enough to read it. Surprise. 

I write at an antique secretary desk which belonged to the same grandmother who introduced me to horse books. The desk has secret compartments and occupies a glass room with a forest view. Bunnies and cardinals regularly interrupt my muse, as do my horses grazing in a clearing. 

Though I am a rider and lover of horses, I make no claims of expertise in any riding discipline. I hope that my research keeps me from annoying those who would know. 

The only thing more fun than riding might be writing horse adventure stories. Saddle up and ride along!



Dream Horse Adventure Series Giveaway


Prize: One winner will receive a copy of Mary's Song and Selah's Sweet Dream

Giveaway ends: February 22, 11:59 pm, 2017

Open to: US and Canadian Residents Only

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: The Musketeers is a "Must-See!"



It’s not often that I feel inspired to review movies or a series. However, The Musketeers is what you’d call a ‘must-watch’ series. I hesitated before picking this up. I mean, how many versions have already been done of Dumas’ story? But something said, go on, have a look. Well, I was riveted. First, the series is perfectly cast. I cannot imagine any other actors playing the roles that these performers filled. The costumes are perfect, the settings beautiful (even the grotty streets with mud, mud, and more mud), the action is real, and thankfully the fights are perfectly timed and do not go on so long that you’re mentally saying, “For pity’s sake, kill him already!”
The episodes pay homage to the original story, but veer off into great little side plots. Yes, you know that at the end of each episode things will be resolved in favour of the musketeers, but that’s fine, that’s good, and there’s none of this new trend of producers to lure viewers into loving and rooting for a character, only to have him/her killed off in a nasty “take that, suckers!” kind of attitude. In fact, the very lack of vicious, gratuitous violence, abusive kinds of sex, and needless nudity that sadly seems to be popular with a famous series (no names here) is part of the reason why I stuck with and so enjoyed this series. Everything that happened was meaningful, within context, and played a part in the overall story arc.
For once, I want to mention the villains more than the heroes. Possibly because I have stopped watching The Walking Dead because for some reason the producers or the scriptwriters have turned a fine actor like Jeffrey Dean Morgan into a leering “Mwahahaha” villain with the depth of a puddle and little or no intrigue or back story to make one want to watch further. The Musketeers’ villains are just wonderful. From the coldly calculating and Machiavellian Richelieu (superbly and intelligently played by Peter Capaldi) to the psychotically cruel but lovelorn Comte de Rochefort (a brilliant Marc Warren) to the horribly creepy and plotting Marquis de Feron (also brilliantly played by an almost unrecognisable Rupert Everett) to Milady, whose love for her husband was destroyed. These villains all have some redeeming quality – hard to find in some cases, but it’s there. Richelieu loves France; Rochefort loves the queen; Feron discovers that he is, in fact, loved and accepted by Louis, and that changes everything. A villain must have depth for viewers to want to keep watching. Milady is a study in complexity and far from the surface villainess one might initially label her.
Another character I thought really warrants mentioning is Louis himself, and how actor Ryan Gage chose to portray him. It’s hard to give life to someone who comes across as capricious, shallow, vain, and self centred. But Ryan Gage managed to imbue the character of Louis with a certain childlike charm, a naiveté, and even an innocence, sheltered as he was from the realities of life. I thought the actor brought tremendous depth to a character who might have been dismissed as annoying but necessary.
Last but not least, take the time to watch the Extras on the DVDs. They are informative and very enjoyable. Sword fighting and horse riding is not as easy as these fine actors make it look.