Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Picture Book Reviews: The Princess and the PIG by Jonathan Emmett / Ballet Kitty by Bernette Ford

One of the great things about co-running a Scholastic book fair is getting books into the hands of children. The other great thing, well I guess it would also be a bad thing on your pocket book, is the amount of books I purchase for my kiddos and I. These are just two out of the I don't list how many here, that I purchased (YES I have a Scholastic book fair weakness).

By: Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by: Poly Bernatene
Published by: Bloomsbury Kids
Released on: September 27th, 2011
Source: purchased from Scholastic book fairs
4 Owlets: We Really Enjoyed It!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Add it to Goodreads

There's been a terrible mix-up in the royal nursery. Priscilla the princess has accidentally switched places with Pigmella, the farmer's new piglet. The kindly farmer and his wife believe it's the work of a good witch, while the ill-tempered king and queen blame the bad witch-after all, this happens in fairy tales all the time! While Priscilla grows up on the farm, poor yet very happy, things don't turn out quite so well for Pigmella. Kissing a frog has done wonders before, but will it work for a pig?

Sure to hog all the attention, this story's frequent nods to well-known fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty, The Frog Princess, and Thumbelina-plus hilarious illustrations-will delight readers of any age

This book is perfect for those who love fairy tales, Princesses and pigs. What happens when a piglet and a baby Princess accidentally switch places? Well you get a Princess who grows up as a normal village girl and piglet who is raised as a Princess. What ensues is a fun read chalk full of mix ups and at the heart, a great story. 

With it's cute story and adorable illustrations, The Princess & The Pig is sure to be a must have for many young readers. It has at our house. This is one super cute, fun fairy tale like story with a twist. The fact this story was about a Princess is what drew my little girl's attention, but add in a Princess PIG and she was sold! This book is one adorable package. From the great story to the really cute illustrations, this one book I'm glad we added to our already over flowing book cases. 

By: Bernette Ford
Illustrated by: Sam Williams
Published by: Scholastic for Scholastic Book Fairs
Originally published by: Boxer Books, 10/1/07
Source: purchased
4 Owlets: We Enjoyed It!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Add it to Goodreads

Ballet Kitty wakes up in the pink—ballerina pink, of course—until she realizes she can’t find her slippers anywhere. Suddenly her leaps aren’t as lighthearted or her pirouettes as pretty. Where could they be? she mumbles and grumbles. How can she dance in her clunky old sneakers? But very quickly Kitty discovers that as long as she’s doing her most perfect plies and cutest curtsies, she’ll always be happy…right from her head to the tips of her little pointed toes!
Bernette Ford’s delightful dance-loving story and Sam Williams’s charming pas de deux of pussycats will inspire every little ballerina!

This was one of the few "must have" books my little girl had to have from the book fair. It's pink, has a kitty, and a ballet dancing kitty at that. It wasn't hard for her to make up her mind with this book. What a cute, really fun, and engaging story it is. Ballet Kitty is getting ready for her perfect playdate with her friend. In order to have that perfect playdate Ballet Kitty has to have her ballet slippers, which she can not find to any avail.

What I loved about this story is that it shows kids that it doesn't matter what clothes you have or toys you do or don't have. Those things don't make the perfect playdates, it's being a good friend that does. What my daughter loved, that the has a lot of pink, kitties, dancing, a tea party and playdate in it. I would recommend this book. It's a great story with a wonderful message and has some simply adorable illustrations to match!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: On The Run by Clara Bourreau

By: Clara Bourreau
Published by: Delacorte Books
Released on: October 9th, 2012
Source: book from publisher to review
2.5 owls: It was an Okay/Good read
Purchase it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Add it to Goodreads

A young boy discovers the real whereabouts of his absent father--jail!
Anthony hasn't seen his dad in years. The reason: His father is busy traveling the world as a wildlife photographer—at least, according to Anthony's mom and sister. The real reason: His dad has been a fugitive from the law and is now in jail, awaiting trial.

When Anthony finally learns the truth, his life changes overnight. He insists on visiting his dad in prison. And once the trial begins, it's the lead story on the local news. Everyone at school starts to taunt Anthony about having a criminal for a father, even his best friend. Then one day, in a shocking turn of events, his dad escapes from the courtroom. Anthony wants to be with him—and when he gets the change, he grabs it. Now father and son are on the run. But how far will they get?

This was an interesting book, as it's not one I'd normally pick up and read, but it's one that I read shortly after I received it for review back in the fall. There was something about Anthony, the story's main character that made me want to read more about him. It didn't take long for me to feel bad for Anthony. Everything he's been told about his dad and his whereabouts has been a lie. Once Anthony learns the truth, he wants nothing more than to be with his dad. When his father, a criminal escapes, Anthony runs away to be with him.

Anthony's dad has never been around for him, and even though he did make some bad choices, Anthony has this innocence to him that makes him believe that everything will turn out okay for him and his dad. Anthony's father on the other hand is a character who doesn't try and hide what he did. He explains to his son what he did, and though Anthony still looks up to his dad, his dad also tries to make his son realize this isn't a place his son needs to be, on the run.  Anthony's place is back home with his mom and sister.

 Though the story is very predictable and not an in-depth read, it is one that was interesting for me to read, because I got to see Anthony's world through his eyes, and it changed how I as an adult first perceived his father and the situation these two are now in. Over all this wasn't a book I fell in love with. The writing was unique and gave the story it's own distinct voice and feel, which I liked. Over all this is a book that connected me with on a much different level, though it might be on someone will really enjoy

Friday, April 26, 2013

Unplug & Read: Screen Free Week with Random House

UNPLUG & READ is set to kick off on Monday! This incredibly awesome challenge is one readers of all ages can take part in. If you're part of the "young at heart" group, like I am, you'll probably laugh that now a days we have to have an UNPLUG & READ challenge. When I was growing up there was nothing to be plugged into except the outdoors and reading.

When I was growing up, playing outside was fun, using your imagination was even better, and reading was the best! That meant card board boxes and sofa cushions became castles and forts, we became super heroes and everything and anything was possible. We learned about the world around us from playing in it. Each day was an adventure that brought new discoveries. Reading fueled the endless possiblities that our imaginations could conjour up. Through reading we discovered new places, were introduced us to new friends, and realizee that sometimes we're not "the only one."

To me reading always has been, and always will be empowering.

 Reading teaches us, drives us, expands our horizons, motivates us, and allows our imaginations to soar. Sometimes while reading we're taking on grand adventures, introduced to new friends, and a connect with a story on a level we never thought possible. Some stories make us laugh, cry, sigh, enlighten us, motivate us to do more, make us realize we're not alone, and for some, reading is a refuge from life. It's a security, a safe haven to escape to for a bit, and other times reading helps it's reader find their voice they thought they'd lost long ago.

Reading takes us out of the crazy rush that life always throws at us. In reading, even for just a few minutes a day, we can step back, relax, and open our minds to the vast possibilities, and endless opportunities that await us in between the pages of a good book. 

I am so thrilled to be apart of this week's UNPLUG & READ blog tour hosted by Random House. Let me tell you a little bit more about SCREEN FREE WEEK, which kicks off on Monday April 29th & ends on May 5th:

What Is Screen Free Week?
Imagine going about your day without the trappings of screen media: no phones, computers, tablets, televisions. Preschoolers today spend as much as 4.1 to 4.6 hours per day on one screen or another. Including multi-tasking, children 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours per day with screens. This Spring, Random House Children’s Books is issuing a challenge: UNPLUG & READ during Screen Free Week April 29 – May 5.

Inspired by Dan Yaccarino’s Doug Unplugged (On sale February 12, 2013) about a robot who discovers that the real world trumps the virtual, we are launching Random House Unplugs: A Screen Free Week promotion.  We are committed to supporting teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents in their efforts to encourage children to UNPLUG & READ during Screen Free Week from April 29 – May 5.

Screen Free Week is the annual celebration from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) that encourages turning off screens and turning on life.  CCFC’s Screen Free Week is a creative response to growing public health concerns about the unprecedented time children spend with entertainment screen media—television, computers, video games, and smart phones. Studies show that Preschoolers spend as much as 4.1 to 4.6 hours per day using screen media. Including multi-tasking, children 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours per day with screens. Unplugging for one week provides an opportunity to reset media habits, establishing a healthy, sustainable tradition of media consumption in households and schools.

Will you join the challenge?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Out Today: My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea by Mary Jane Begin & A Giveaway!

I don't know about you guys, but I love it when my kiddos discover the fun toys that were big when I was young, and My Little Pony is one that is a huge hit our house with my little girl. When I received an email with the exciting news that a NEW My Little Pony was being released today I might have done a little inner child dance, because this means a new book that my little girl is going to want, and of course being that it's My Little Pony and a book I won't say no. Check out this book! Seriously, I might have to "borrow" it from my daughter so I can look at the pictures.

UNDER THE SPARKLING SEA by Mary Jane Begin, which was recently featured on EW.com. I'm glad it was, because check out that artwork! Mary Jane drew elaborate hand-colored sketches in each book (so they are extremely special). Thank you to Little Brown, I have this to share with you:

And here is a very cool time lapse video of Mary Jane at work: 

About the Book:
UNDER THE SPARKLING SEA by Mary Jane Begin is a full-color original picture book by celebrated artist, Mary Jane Begin, that introduces fans to a brand-new land in the world of MY LITTLE PONY – the underwater city of Aquastria, ruled by KING LEO. When TWILIGHT SPARKLE receives an invitation to visit the underwater world, she invites all her pony friends and SPIKE to travel with her. Together, they learn of the long-held rivalry between the seaponies and the mermares, and must navigate the oceanic world, confront danger, make new friends, and race to the finish in this adventure that takes place in a shimmering new MY LITTLE PONY world that has never before been seen! This gorgeous illustrated picture book also and includes an exclusive art poster!

The Giveaway:
Thank you to Little Brown, I have an amazing giveaway today! I have 3 SIGNED copies to giveaway! To enter, please fill out the form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Poem As BIG As New York City: Little Kids Write About The Big Apple

Edited by: Teachers & Writers Collaborative
Illustrated by: Marsha D'yans
Forward by: Walter Dean Meyers
Published by: Media Masters
Released on: September 4th, 2012
Source: book from publisher to review
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
Add it to GoodReads

In the best-selling tradition of This is New York and My New York, this delightful book-length poem spreads the wonder and joy that is New York, as told through the words of its children. As part of an unprecedented series of workshops, New York City public school students were challenged to write about what it was like to live, learn, and play in New York City. The poems were collected and edited into this book. Their words provide readers of all ages an honest, kid’s-eye view of the melting pot of cultures, ideas, and excitement found within the five boroughs of New York City.Masha D’yans’s beautiful illustrations complement the vivid descriptions of taking a taxi through Manhattan or a subway up to the "boogie-down" Bronx, the salty seas of Staten Island, passing the family-owned stores that form the backbone of Queens, walking through Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens, and so much more. Lyrical, heartfelt, and bursting with imagination, A Poem as Big as New York City proves that a poem can be as vast and exciting as the greatest city in the world

This is what happens when you bring a community of young writers together and ask them to express their thoughts, views and feelings about a city they all call home. What a lovely book this is! It's beautiful, heartfelt, engaging and seriously lovely! I don't know what else to say about this. The voice of each child who's poems plays a part in bringing this book together is mesmerizing. Above all, I love that this book not only embraces young writers, and poem writers, it's embraces the sense of community. The lively illustrations in this book are a perfect match for this incredible, continuous poem that tells the story of what makes NYC so unique. I highly recommend picking this one up! It's one that can be used for all ages, and in any home, classroom environment.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

By: Jessica Day George
Published by: Bloomsbury Kids
Released on: October 25th, 2011
Source: book from publisher to review
Series: Castle Glower #1
Ages: 8 & up
5 Stars: I Loved It!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Add It To GoodReads

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic

Do you ever get done reading a children's book and wonder where this author was when you were a child? Jessica Day George is one of those authors who's writing I totally love. She's an author whom I wish was around when I was younger. She captures those elements that make reading exciting and fun. In Tuesdays at the Castle, Jessica introduces readers to an exciting, and highly entertaining storyline that's rich in twists, a highly engaging adventure, and has memorable characters you'll want to read more about long after you finish this book. Jessica's characters are lively, fun, lovable and despite their royal status, they have similar family dynamics many of us deal with. I loved seeing how the siblings pull together in times of danger, and what they'll do to protect each other, and what's rightfully theirs.

Aside from the human characters, is a fabulous setting that plays a much bigger role than that of a setting. One of the things I loved most about this story is the setting. More specifically the role the setting itself plays in the book. I love it when a setting is much more than a setting, it's not just a place or an object or a destination, but it's a character, and plays a huge role in the story. The castle itself is just that. You could even venture to call it a supporting character. Castle Glower is more than a refuge and a home to Princess Celie and her family, Castle Glower is a protector. When young Princess Celie's parents are feared dead, and treachery is uncovered among some of their friends, it's the Castle whom Celie turns to for help.

Princess Celie is a young character that readers will be able to admire because of her bravery, her strong will and her ability to keep her wits about her when I would have personally been scared to death. She's a hero, and I loved seeing her and Castle Glower in action. Jessica Day George does an excellent job at providing moments of humor, mixed in with the story's suspense, unexpected twists, and the nail biting danger. In all honesty I don't know why I waited so long to pick up this book. This book has everything I love, and all the right elements I loved reading about as a child. Magic, danger, excitement, adventure, rich family dynamics, a true hero, and an enticing storyline that kept me hooked till the end. I highly recommend picking this book up!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint

By: Charles De Lint
Illustrated by: Charles Vess
Published by: Little Brown Kids
Released on: March 5th, 2013
Source: book from the publisher to review
4 Stars: I Enjoyed It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The magic is all around you, if only you open your eyes....

Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills--until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures--from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People--to find a way to make things right.

In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl's journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one's own destiny

I am a huge fan of fair- tales and folklore. There's something exciting about these stories, especially Folktales. I've always been fascinated by Folktales, as they always seem to have a rich history to them that I find enticing, and highly engaging. These are stories that are full of possibilities, lessons learned, and have an element of realism to them. In essence, folktales are exciting to listen to, and read about.

Charles De Lint's The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is an unforgettable folklore brimming with magic, extraordinary creatures, and filled with adventure.

Lillian's incredible journey begins in the heart of the wooded area behind her Aunt's farm. Like many adventures, this one teaches young Lillian a lesson. Her story is one about choices, consequences and making things right. One of the things I liked about Lillian, is her sense of adventure, her fearlessness, and her willingness to make sacrifices. Lillian is a character who grows up a lot on her quest for answers, and once she finds out the truth, I loved that nothing was going to stop her from doing what she had to do, to make things right again. Right, but not completely how they were. As Lillian learns, nothing can be exactly as it was before, and I liked that parallel with real life.

Along her journey Lillian meets a lively cast of unforgettable characters. One of my favorites was the Fox. He made the perfect side kick to Lillian in both her cat form and her little girl form. I also loved the Opossum Witch, who teaches Lillian some important lessons about her choices. There are plenty of other magical creatures that readers will enjoy meeting as they journey with Lillian on her quest for answers.

This story's setting was magically enticing. I love a setting that is out in the outdoors, and this story's setting is an timeless one. Sparse farms, a wild wood, and the possibility that lies beyond the middle of the woods. Have you ever walked through the woods and in the heart of it wondered what lies beyond that? De Lint takes readers through the heart of Lillian's woods and introduces them to a world where the impossible is possible. This story's setting is more than just that. It plays a huge role in Lillian's journey and I love it when a story's setting is it's own character as well.

Charles De Lint and Charles Vess are a match made in children's literature heaven. This exciting folk fantasy adventure would not be complete without it's enchanting illustrations. De Lint and Vess have crafted together such an lovely book that you could easily enjoy reading the story for itself, as you could looking through the Vess's whimsical illustrations by themselves. Vess captured De Lint's perfectly. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a book I'd recommend to fans who enjoy a story that mixes together different mythologies, and creates an original fork-tale that teaches it's readers a lesson or two as it takes them on an unforgettable adventure.

Please go HERE to check out some of Charles Vess's amazing artwork.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~