Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: SuperHero ABC

Author: Bob McLeod
Published: 2006 by HarperCollins
Source: Library
Ages: 3-8
Rating: 4 Stars

Silly and zany, and armed with the most unusual skills, these heroes are out to save the world-one letter at a time! Bubble-Man blows big bubbles at bullies, and laughing lass laughs at lawbreakers! together, these one-of-a-kind defenders represent the ABC's in a way never seen before.

Renowned comic-book illustrator Bob Mcleod has created a full cast of humorous and delightful characters, sure to please anyone in need of a hero to save the day.

I picked this up thinking it would be a great alphabet book for a little boy and was surprised that my daughter loved it. What child won't love a superhero like The Volcano who vomits on villains or Bubble-Man who blows big bubbles at bullies.

A few of the hero choices were not what I would have chosen - Such as "knight" for the letter K. A fun to read alphabet book I recommend especially to children who love superheroes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review- The Night Before Kindergarten

By Natasha WIng
Illustrated by Julie Durrell
Published by Grosset & Dunlap
Released on July 2001
4 stars- Great Read

"Twas the night before kindergarten, and as they prepared, kids were excited and a little bit scared. They tossed and they turned about in their beds, while visions of school supplies danced in their heads."

It's almost the first day of school, and kids all over town are getting ready for it. What will kindergarten be like? Will the teacher be nice? Will they still get to play? Anticipation and excitement are in the air as they head off to school, where they discover just how much fun kindergarten really is! (taken from the book's cover)

This book was a huge hit in our house last week. Reading this the night before my son went to kindergarten helped calm his jitters a little bit. He enjoyed seeing what the kids did to get ready for school. He was very excited when the teacher read this book to the class the first day of school.

It's written in a memorable style and goes along with the song, "The Night Before Christmas." I definitely recommend this for parents with kindergarteners and to teachers who teach kindergarten. It's a great addition to your book collection.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop CultureJunkie! With this post, we share the books we've received this past week for review, borrowed from friends or the library, received as a gift and/or bought.

For Review:
* Who Stole Mona Lisa by Ruthie Knapp, Illstrated by Jill McElmurry, received and published by Bloomsbury Kids, to be released September, 2010
* Guide To A Drama Free Life, Edited by Sarah Wassner Flynn, received and published by Scholastic, to be release September 2010
* Head To Toe Guide To You, Edited by Sarah Wassner Flynn, received and published by Scholastic, Released April 2010
* The Famous Nini, A Mostly True Story of How A Plain White Cat Became A Star, by Mary Nethery, Illustrated by John Manders, received and published by Clarion Books, released on June 7th, 2010
* Captain Sky Blue, by Richard Egielski, published by Scholastic, to be released September 2010

* The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Julie Durrell
* Lunch Box Mail and Other Poems by Jenny Whitehead
* I Can Read- The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, This is Narnia
* Hide and Seek Polar by David Crossley

Thank you to Scholastic, Bloomsbury Kids, Clarion Books and Sophie for this weeks great reads. What goodies did you receive this week?

Book Review - Hooray For Fish

Author/Illustrator: Lucy Cousins
Publisher: Candlewick Press (May 10, 2005)
Age: Baby to Preschooler
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Paddle along with Little Fish on a mesmerizing underwater tour of friends spotty and stripy, happy and gripy, hairy and scary, even curly whirly and twisty twirly. From the creator of Maisy comes an eyepopping picture book that is sure to have little ones joining the chorus: Hooray for fish!

Normally, when I do a first read of a picture book, it isn't for an audience. However, I was with my nieces at the library and the 4 year old brought this one over to me. Clearly with the intention that I would be reading it aloud. Of course, the private reading for 1 turned into a group read. However, it was nice to see how 3 & 4 year olds responded to Hooray For Fish! and not have to predict.

Cousins, author of the popular Maisy the Mouse books, gets this audience. Bright, bold fish in a variety of shapes and sizes cover the pages. One, "ele-fish", even looks like a gray and white elephant. There is another page with three fish and each fish has a number integrated into their design. As I was reading the book, I realized that I could read it two or three times and focus on a different aspect (i.e., colors, numbers, shapes, sizes, etc.) without repeating myself. The text works in conjunction with the pictures to engage young listeners through a rhythmic pattern but also to highlight the various concepts being introduced.

In the end, our little fish who has been leading us through the waters of the book is reunited with his mommy in a very touching, kissy-kissy moment that thrilled my young audience.

This is a fun book that would be a nice addition to any sea/ocean unit in a preschool curriculum.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review-Captain Sky Blue

Story & Pictures by Richard Egielski
Published by Scholastic
To Be Released September 2010
Source- Scholastic
3 stars- This is a good read!

Santa brings Jack his best toy pal, Captain Sky Blue, a pilot. Sky speak in pilot talk ("Roger! Wilco!"). After a thunderstorm separates Sky and his buddy ("Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!"), Sky is abducted by a whale, then left alone to wander the frigid ocean floor until he chances upon a very special place, a place where he's been before ("Now I'm spooled up!"). Captain Sky Blue thinks he has finally found an easy way home, but first he must help Santa out on Christmas Eve- a challenge that put his pilot skills to the test. (taken from books cover)

This is such a delightful read that younger kids and especially those who love planes will really enjoy. Young readers will love going on an adventure with Captain Sky Blue, as he tries to find his way home to Jack. Captain Sky Blue loves his best pal Jack, his blue and yellow plane and flying. When Captain Sky Blue becomes lost in a thunderstorm, and finds he's far away from home, he sets out to find a way to return home.

On his journey home, he finds himself back at Santa's workshop. Santa needs his help! Will Captain Sky Blue be able to help Santa? Will he ever be reunited with Jack? Be rest assured, Captain Sky Blue will do all that he can to help Santa and return home to Jack. This is a delightful read, with great illustrations. I love that there's a page with definitions for all of Captain Sky Blue's pilot talk. This is a great book to read not just for the holiday season, but all year long.

Book Review - Swim Swim

Author/Illustrator: Lerch (James Proimos)
Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 1, 2010)
Ages: 4 to 8 years
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Lerch is one sassy, snazzy fish who seems to have it all: good looks, charm, a great sense of humor, and a perfect smile. But he's lonely (the bubbles and the pebbles ain't talkin'!) and wants to find a friend. But where? Then, with the help of an unexpected "admirer," Lerch meets Dinah, and it's true love from first glance.

Yes, I know. Summer is almost over, school is about to begin but it is 100 degrees out and technically we have several more weeks before fall is officially here. So I have a couple of fish/ocean related reviews coming. First up, Swim! Swim! by Lerch.

Lerch is lonely. He is looking for a friend, but a fishbowl is somewhat restricted. His attempt to speak to the pebbles, and the man in the deep-sea diving outfit fail miserably. Lerch then finds bubbles, despite talking "bubble", he still has no luck. The bubbles pop and disappear. So what is a lonely fish to do? When he is introduced to Dinah (another fish) will the friendship last or will there be fish on the menu.

This book is funny. I loved the cartoon/comic book style of the illustrations. They are bright, bold and interesting and the facial expressions on Lerch communicate even more. The text is written in word bubbles and provide an almost rhythmic pattern to the story. Young and old readers will have fun with this story.

Take a moment to enjoy the remaining days of summer and pick up Swim! Swim! for a fun read. Tomorrow I will share another fish story that readers will enjoy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bob Books Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered to win our Bob Books Giveaway!!

Our winners are: Alyssa Rowles and Mindy Janicke!! I'll be emailing you shortly.

Thank you to Scholastic for hosting the giveaway!! Be sure to visit Bob Books for more information on these great learning to read books-http://tinyurl.com/252np3a

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review - Hurricane Mia: A Caribbean Adventure

Author: Donna Marie Seim
Illustrator: Susan Spellman
Publisher: Peapod Press
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Ages: 8-12
Rating: 4 Stars

Mia's entire summer is ruined! First, she learns that her mom is sick. Then, she and her younger brother Jack are whisked away to their grandparents' home on a remote island in the Caribbean. Mia is furious until she meets Neisha, an island girl, who tells her about "the tea that cures everything." Will Mia be able to find the tea? Will it cure her mom? And will it prove to be her plane ticket back home? Join Mia on an incredible adventure, where she sails the high seas, meets wild donkeys, explores uninhabited islands, and searches for a magical tea.

Hurricane Mia is a cute adventure story for middle grades. At 150 pages this book is perfect for the child who has recently transitioned to chapter books.

Mia is not thrilled to be spending the summer on a small island in the Caribbean where there is nothing to do. Mia sets of on an adventure to track down "the tea that cures everything" in hopes of curing her sick mother. But as is the case with most adventures things don't always go according to plan.

The book includes a glossary, party ideas and discussion questions at the end.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review - Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

Author: Annette Laing
Published by: Confusion Press
Source: Publisher
Ages: 10-13
Rating: 3.5 Stars

What a nightmare. Hannah Dias, California Girl with Attitude, and Alex, her laid-back brother, have moved from exciting San Francisco to boring Snipesville, Georgia. Life doesn't improve when they meet Brandon, a dorky kid who is plotting his escape from the Deep South, and the weird Professor, who has a strange secret.

Suddenly, the kids are catapulted thousands of miles and almost seventy years to England during World War Two.

They fall into a world of stinging nettles, dragon ladies, bomb blasts, ugly underwear, stinky sandwiches, painful punishments, and non-absorbing toilet paper. They learn so much more than they could ever learn in a history class. Not that they want to learn it.

But they can't go home unless they find George Braithwaite, whoever he is, and whatever it is that he has to do with Snipesville.

The introduction to this book had me laughing:

The Second World War began on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Too many Germans had lost their minds in the 1930s and decided that Adolf Hilter was their ideal leader. Hitler was a nasty little man with a silly moustache, who spent a lot of his time and energy hating people he didn't know, and thinking of ways to kill them. But I bet you knew already knew that.
This is a good book to use to help children understand what life was like for those who lived during World Wars I & II. From the way children were treated, to the toilet paper they used, to the food and clothing they had, to what a visit to the dentist was like, this book made me grateful for the world we now live in.

It took me a long time to get into this book. The first half I had no emotional connection to the characters and considered putting the book aside. Thankfully I continued because I enjoyed the second half of the book. The story came together and began to draw me in as the mystery unraveled and was solved. I liked the character Mrs. Devenish and her interactions with Hannah & Alex.

Marketed to children ages 9 and up. There were a few mild expletives I felt should have been left out since this is aimed at younger readers.

It's probably not a book my 8, 10 or 12 year old would read on their own but a book I would recommend be used to supplement a study unit on World War II.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Familiars Trailer

Have you seen the NEW Familiars Trailer?!?

Meet Adam and Andrew here

Thank you to Adam and Andrew for sending us the great videos!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review- The Very Fairy Princess

By Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton
Illustrated by Christine Davenier
Published by Little Brown
Source- Little Brown
5 Stars

Do you believe in fairies? Geraldine does... and though her family and friends don't, Gerry knows for certain the she is one.

In fact, she is a VERY fair princess! From morning to night, Gerry does everything that fairy princesses do: she dresses in royal attire and practices her flying skills, and she is always on the lookout for problems to solve. But it isn't all pin and proper-as every real life fairy princess knows, dirty fingernails and scabby knees are just the price you pay for a perfect day?

This is such an adorable story with illustrations little girls will love. What little girl doesn't like to dress up and pretend they are a princess, or wear tu-tu's around the house and dance? Gerry knows she's a fairy princess and with her tiara, and fairy wings on, she's ready for what day has in store for her. This fairy princess knows her manners and always acts like a proper princess. Even while playing and getting dirty for trying to catch frogs.

Gerry's story takes us through her day of getting ready for school, attending music and art class (her favorite classes), playing pretend, going to dance class, taking bubble bathes and getting ready for bed. Just because her brother doesn't think she's not a fairy princess, doesn't mean she isn't one. She believes she is and that's all that matters.

Gerry's an adorable, relatable character and one my little girl just loves reading about. If you have a little princess at home, I highly recommend picking up this imaginative story to read to her. It's quickly become a favorite in our home, as Gerry is just like any other little girl who loves pretending their a princess.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: Mackenzie Blue - Friends Forever?

By: Tina Wells
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on June 22, 2010
Source: The Publisher
Ages 8-12
5.0 stars - I highly recommend reading this book!

Synopsis (from Harper Collins Childrens): Mackenzie Blue is hitting the trails!

It's time for Brookdale Academy's camping field trip, but Zee has much more to deal with than a lesson about nature. . . .

1. My BFF, Ally, is visiting all the way from Paris! Ooh la la!
2. My friends and I are so going to win the environmental scavenger hunt!

1. We have to stay in teeny-tiny log cabins. How will we all fit?
2. The legendary (and terrifying) Mountain Man . . .

The third book in the Mackenzie Blue series really hit home for me. You see, while the other books were about Zee staying true to herself, this one was about friendship. Zee's BFF, Ally, returns to visit from France just in time for Brookdale Academy's camping trip. I could so relate to Zee's lack of enthusiasm at being outdoors for a week with both her old and new friends. It's awkward, trying and makes for some great reading as we get to see Zee grow up and realize some valuable lessons on friendship.

A pivotal moment in Zee's growth occurs with this diary entry (p. 121):

Hi Diary,

Does Ally hate me? I know I hirt her feelings. But, I didn't mean to . I just want everyone to get along. I think Ally is mad at Chloe, but it's not Chloe's fault.

What if we had done Ally's idea instead of Chloe's? Would Chloe be mad at me? Maybe having a lot of friends means you just can't win.


And then to make matters more interesting, Zee's older brother tells her the legend of the Mountain Man. Is he real? Is he just a scary story? Why is he looking for his missing leg amongst unsuspecting campers?

I loved the other two Mackenzie Blue books, but this is my favorite by far. To watch Zee begin to comprehend complexities like friendship in a very real way makes for some head-nodding moments as you turn the pages. If you have a tween girl in your life, I highly recommend getting the Mackenzie Blue series. The books teach valuable lessons in a subtle, realistic way that even your most sophisticated tween will enjoy. And once again, the illustrations, IMs and diary entries make the story even more current.

The fourth book, Mackenzie Blue: Mixed Messages is one that I'm really looking forward to and it's release date is November 23, 2010. That's just in time for holiday gift buying and I already know a tween girl who will have this book in her stocking and a Mama who will gladly read it with her on Christmas Day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review - Mackenzie Blue, The Secret Crush

By: Tina Wells
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on December 29, 2009
Source: The Publisher
Ages 8-12
5.0 stars - I highly recommend reading this book!

Synopsis (from Harper Collins Childrens): Mackenzie Blue has a crush!

But how can she get Landon—the cutest boy in school—to notice her? The class's new rock-and-roll musical is her chance.

Reasons why our musical is going to be amazing:

1.I could be the star!
2.Landon could be my co-star . . . which means we'll hang out together.
3.Working on the sets, props, music, script, and costumes will be tons of fun.
There's so much to do, I'd better get started!

Between her crush, the musical, and her friends—not to mention school work—Zee is torn in a thousand different directions. With all the real-life drama going on, will she lose sight of what's really important?

This is the second book in the Mackenzie Blue series and I have to admit that both my tween daughter and I thoroughly enjoy the voice of plucky Zee. One of the things I love about her is that she's a very realistic 7th Grade girl -- with fairly real problems. She has her friends, her seemingly unsupportive older brother and parents that she perceives as meddling at all the wrong moments in her life -- like when she's just about to kiss her crush Landon, her Mom walks in! I know, I was laughing too, and remembering all those middle school moments in my own life. But, Mackenzie's not overly dramatic or too snarky like some of the current tween heroines, she hits the right notes for both her middle grader readers and their parents.

So in this second installment, Zee's class is putting on a musical. One that they will write, practice and put on themselves. I won't spoil it for you but there are lots of surprises. Zee's antagonist, Kathi, is suddenly being very nice. Zee's BFF, Ally, who is still in Paris, has a boyfriend and doesn't have as much time to IM her and then, of course, there is the matter of Zee's crush on that cute boy Landon. One of my favorite moments in the book occurs when Zee takes inventory of How to Tell If Someone Is Your BFF (p. 184-185):
  1. She helps you with your problems.
  2. She's always there for you.
  3. She keeps your secrets.
  4. She makes sure you don't totally embarrass yourself.
  5. She chooses you over her boyfriend.
Both my daughter and I enjoyed Zee's quirky yet realistic inner dialogue and once again, the lesson to be true to yourself is illustrated in a positive way. The book contains the same fun character illustrations, IMs and diary entries as its predecessor making it a quick and amusing read.
I'm looking forward to reviewing the third book in the series, Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever? and I admit that I've already pre-ordered the fourth installment, Mackenzie Blue: Mixed Messages, which will be released on November 23, 2010.

Book Review - Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day

Author: Jane O'Connor
Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's (June 22, 2010)
Age Level: 3 to 8 years
Source: Won in a Contest
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

What better way to fancy Mom up for her birthday than to treat her to a super-deluxe beauty day created by Fancy Nancy herself? It's a pampering paradise, and right in the backyard! With relaxing music, fragrant lotions, colorful nail polish, and foamy mousse, Nancy gives her mom a total makeover. She even treats her to sumptuous refreshments and special entertainment. But when the pampering suddenly goes too far, has Nancy ruined her mom's big day?

Complete with tips and recipes for creating a super-deluxe beauty day of your own, Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day will inspire budding beauty experts to open up shop and join in the deluxe fanciness!

Before I start, I just want to thank Mel at He Followed Me Home Blog. Mel is a Canadian. After winning this book in a HarperCollins contest, she realized that they would only ship to someone stateside. Being her wonderful self, she asked if I would like it and had HarperCollins send it to me. Thanks to Mel and HarperCollins my school library now has a new book.

Now on to the review - I am a fan of Fancy Nancy books. Little girls especially love Nancy and all of the situations that they finds herself in. Fancy Nancy is bold, funny, and well fancy. As an educator, I appreciate that the books expose children to a variety of vocabulary that might not normally be included in picture books for young readers. In this latest installment, Fancy Nancy has a special treat for her mother on her birthday - a day of pampering and beauty treatments. Long-time readers and fans know that any day of pampering organized by Nancy will include much, much more.

In traditional Fancy Nancy style, she has set up a French spa in her backyard. With her younger sister as her helper, they prepare to give mom a full beauty make-over including a facial, mani-pedi, lunch, make-up and hair. Though readers know that there will be something that will go wrong, you still find yourself chuckling along the way. Nancy's attempts to provide her mother with the right atmosphere include serenading her with music performed on a recorder, card tricks, and a special lunch. When things go a little awry, Nancy is thankful for the help her friend and neighbor Mrs. DeVine.

The formulaic story pattern, bright signature illustrations, and crisis averted ending are what fans of Fancy Nancy have come to love and appreciate about these books. And this one doesn't fail to deliver. However, I struggled with one thing. The addition of the "tip and recipe" boxes on many of the pages. On the one hand, I loved seeing the recipe for yogurt parfait or the tips for braiding hair. But on the other hand, there is already a lot happening in a Fancy Nancy book. Some of the pages almost seemed a little too crowded which was particularly noticeable with the smaller book size as compared to some of the other Fancy Nancy books. Fancy Nancy's Ooh La La! It's A Beauty Day would have benefited from the increase in size in my opinion.

Regardless of size, fans of Fancy Nancy will enjoy this latest book in the series.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Review - Mackenzie Blue

By: Tina Wells
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on May 5, 2009
Source: The Publisher
Ages 8-12
5.0 stars - I highly recommend reading this book!

Synopsis (from Harper Collins Childrens): Meet Mackenzie Blue, aka Zee -

She has it all—smarts, talent, humor, and style. . . .

Is it enough to survive middle school?

Countdown to a 7th Grade Meltdown

1. Your BFF moves away.

2. Someone steals your diary and reveals your deepest secrets—to the entire class.

3. You have one chance to become a rock star and one chance to totally blow it. Guess what!? All three happened to me! School's a disaster already. Don't get me wrong—I love Brookdale Academy and I have a fabulous crew of friends. (At least, I think I do.) But, if I'm going to survive, I need all the help I can get!

I am so glad I have an Almost-Tween daughter who loves a fun, realistic heroine. I mean, what could be worse, starting off 7th Grade with your best friend moving to Paris, losing your diary which may have the winning song for the Teen Sing competition in it or well, there is the matter of that boy, Landon, the one with "the sun-bleached hair that hung slightly over his eyes" (p. 209)?

I loved how the book is interspersed with creative drawings of the characters, their IMs, notes and Zee's diary entries. The format will keep any tween, and even their mom, easily entertained and a reluctant reader would find it stimulating to follow the different formats presented.

I will say that both my daughter and I delighted in the book's lessons. It reminded both of us that it's important to be true to yourself, that your real friends will always be there for you and that yes, big brothers can be big bothers but they always have your back.

This is the first book in a current series of soon-to-be-four Mackenzie Blue books. I'm really looking forward to the remaining two books and the release of the fourth, Mackenzie Blue: Mixed Messages, this fall.

Book Review- The Zig Zag Kids Books 1 & 2

By Patricia Reilly Giff
Published by Random House Kids
Released on August 10th, 2010
Source: Publisher
3.5 stars- A Good Read

Number One Kid:
I'm #1. That's what Mitchell McCabe's favorite t-shirt says. He'd like to be Number One at the Zigzag Afternoon Center, where there are lots of fun activities to choose from: swimming, nature walks, field trips, art, even homework help. And YAY-there's snack time!

But Mitchell is worried. What if he's the only kid who doesn't get a prize on Prize Day? Luckily, Mitchell realizes he's a winner at something terrific. (taken from ARC cover)

Big Whooper:
It's Discovery Week at the Zigzag Afternoon Center!
Everyone writes their discoveries on a big sheet of paper in the hallway. But Destiny Washington can't think of anything new to discover.

Before she knows it, Destiny has told a BIG whopper. And snooty Gina, who's great at discovering things, know all about it. Destiny has to kind a way out of the whopper. In the end, she makes the best discovery of all. (taken from ARC cover)

I think this is a the start to a delightful series that both kids and those reading these books to them will enjoy. Patricia Reilly Giff introduces a group of lovable characters, with whom young kids will easily relate to. I think she has done a fabulous job at capturing the emotions kids go through from worries and excitements of meeting new friends, going to a new school, being with a group of kids they may not know, attending after school care and discovering the world around them.

The Zigzag Kids will be real and relatable to young readers and as they learn some important lessons with Mitchell and Destiny. Mitchell learns that he doesn't have to do something special to be a winner, as everyone is a winner. Destiny learns the importance of telling the truth. I would definitely recommend this series to young readers, parents and teachers.

Don't miss our blog tour with Patricia Reilly Giff happening today on Mundie Moms here

Book Review - The Quiltmaker's Gift

Author: Jeff Brumbeau
Illustrator: Gail De Marcken
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Ages: 5-8
Source: Library
Rating: 5 Stars

When a generous quiltmaker finally agrees to make a quilt for a greedy king but only under certain conditions, she causes him to undergo a change of heart.

This is a beautifully illustrated book with pages full of intricate details. A great story accompanies the illustrations making this one book you don't want to miss.

A powerful, greedy king demands a quiltmaker give him one of her quilts but she refuses. She only gives her quilts to the poor. Despite the kings threats and punishments the quiltmaker won't give in to the demands of the king. There is only one way she will give him a quilt.

A great lesson in the happiness that comes from being generous and helping others.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review - Chester's Masterpiece

Author/Illustrator: Melanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press (March 1, 2010)
Age Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Kids Can Press:

Chester's finally ready to write his own masterpiece — he just needs to get pesky writer-illustrator Mélanie Watt out of the way.

Chester's solo attempts at storytelling are messy, to say the least, but he's determined to go it alone. But where's his story going? After several alternative (but always unhappy) endings, Chester is confronted by a problem he never bargained for. A wry comment on the creative process and how good stories are constructed, this is the most uproarious Chester book yet.

Have you ever discovered an author or illustrator makes you want to go back to the library or bookstore to find everything you can by them? This is what happened recently when I happened upon Melanie Watt. I read one of her books and then had to pick up another and then another. I didn't have time to read all of them but I do plan on reading more and collecting lots of her books.

Out of the ones that I did recently read, Chester's Masterpiece was my favorite. Chester is one of Melanie's characters. He is a bit on the cranky side, which makes him all the more lovable. Chester is also a really fat cat. In the newest installment, Chester with the help of his red marker has commandeered the writing of the book from Watt. The story is told from a kind of dialogue between Chester (in red pen) and Watt (in penciled yellow sticky notes).

Here is an example:
Watt on yellow sticky: Chester, What are you up to??? My tooth is fine!! Where's all my stuff? And where's my mouse? M.W.

Chester in red pen: It's right here (with arrow pointing to a small white mouse).

Watt on yellow sticky: You know that's not the mouse I'm talking about.

As Chester attempts to write his story, Watt interjects some writerly advice. At one point, Watt even tries to help Chester with his writer's block which produces some wonderful discussion. Chester not only insists on writing the story but also on illustrating the book. Despite all of Chester's attempts at ignoring or insulting Watt, she gets the last laugh in the end, well sort of.

I get excited about a book that both a child will laugh at and enjoy hearing over and over again and one that the adult who will be reading it 100 times will also love over and over again. This is exactly one of those books. Author/Illustrator Watt has her hands full with this snarky feline. The contrast between the bold, bright red writing/drawings and Watt's pencil is perfect. The dialogue educational and entertaining. This is not only a must read but also a must have. I picked up one for my own personal library and will be picking up a several copies for gift. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review-Cosmic

By Frank Cottrell Boyce
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on January 19th, 2010 (1st published on July 30th, 2008)
Ages: 8-12
Source: The Publisher
3.5 stars- it's a good read

Liam has always felt a bit like he's stuck between two worlds. This is primarily because he's a twelve year old kid who looks like he's about thirty. Sometimes it's not so bad, like when his new principal mistakes him for a teacher on the first day of school or when he convinces a car dealer to let him take a Porsche out on a test drive. But mostly it's just frustrating, being a kid trapped in an adult world. And so he decides to flip things around. Liam cons his way onto the first spaceship to take civilians into space, a special flight for a group of kids and an adult chaperone, and he is going as the adult chaperone. It's not long before Liam, along with his friends, is stuck between two worlds again-only time he's 239,000 miles from home (taken from the book's inside cover).

Cosmic is a fun, heart warming read as Liam is having a very hard time with being trapped in both the kid world and the adult world. I mean, if you looked like you were 30 and could grow a beard, what 12 year old would want to be doing kid stuff. The delightful thing with Liam, is his humorous voice. Liam also struggles with feeling like he can't live up his parent's expectations of him and that his parent's don't love him. He struggles with being a kid trapped inside an adult body. At least he finds joy in being able do things most 12 years couldn't do, like act like a teacher or take a Porsche for a test drive.

When Liam cons his way into a trip of the life time, a trip to the moon and back, he gets his friend Florida to go with him and act like his daughter. During this trip when things go wrong, Liam realizes that being adult isn't what all it's cracked up to be. He and the few other kids must work together to make it back to earth. I liked that while Liam, who was so quick to want to grow up, realizes there's plenty to enjoy being a kid. Liam never felt like he fit in, but in a rocket orbiting the moon, he felt like he was someone and not a freak or a "gifted and talented" student. He also realizes that parent's who love their kids will never give up on them and will do everything they can to help them.

Cosmic is a book that young readers will enjoy. Liam is a character with a humorous, refreshing out look on life. He's a great reminder to enjoy each stage you're in life. Being an adult isn't always as fun as being a kid.

You can find out more about Frank Cottrell Boyce and Cosmic, here at Harper Collins Children's site http://tinyurl.com/24drjdc

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review- The Familiars

By Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Published by Harper Collins
To Be Released on September 7th, 2010
Ages: 8-12
Source: Publisher
5 stars- Highly Recommend

The fate of the kingdom is in the paws of an ordinary alley cat- and the result is pure magic.

Meet Aldwyn as the scrappy orphan cat runs right into the biggest adventure of his life. Chosen by Jack, a young wizard in training, to be his familiar, Aldwyn's biggest challenge seems to be convincing the two other familiars-the know it all blue jay Sklyar and the friendly tree frog Gregory-that he, too, has magical powers. Then the unthinkable happens. Jack and his fellow wizard apprentices are captured by the evil queen of Vastia- and the familiars must save them!

At once fresh and familiar, this brilliant fantasy adventure-an irresistible blend of real heart, edge of your seat action, and laugh out loud humor-shows that friendship and courage come in many forms.

The Familiars is such a great, action packed, full of humor, quick, fun and engaging read. I think this is one book that middle graders, and fans of good old magical adventures will enjoy reading. With a loyal trio of unlikely heros, Aldwyn, Gilbert and Skylar had me laughing out loud, and wishing I had pet companions like them.

The familiars are animal companions with magical abilities who become life long companions with a young human apprentice. When Aldwyn, Gilbert and Sklyar's Wizard apprentices are kidnapped by the evil queen, they set off to save them. Their action packed journey is one of danger, plots twits and of personal growth, as Aldwyn has to face the lies he's been telling, that he has no magic powers. He's not the only one with secrets.

I really enjoyed Aldwyn's character. The story is told from his point of view and we get to see how far he's grown from being a scrappy alley cat, to accidentally finding himself as a Familiar and what his new found power is. With Aldwyn's instinct for survival, Skylar's need to learn human magic and Gilbert's funny one liners, this trio's talents will make for an adventure they won't ever forget, nor will readers.

I am really looking forward to more books in this series. You can find out more about The Familiars here http://www.thefamiliars.com/ and here http://thefamiliars.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review- Welcome To My Neighborhood! A Barrio A*B*C

By Quiara Alegria Hudes
Illustrated by Shino Arihara
Published by Scholastic
Source: Publisher
4 stars-It's an enjoyable book to read to younger kids

Welcome to My Neighborhood! Every neighborhood is filled with things that make it special to us. Join Ava as she takes her best friend on a joy-filled tour of home, starting with her abuela, and ending on Z Street, where cars speed by all day. In between you'll get to discover:

M is for los muralistas
Making murals of island vistas.
Watefalls that hide brick walls.
Rain forests full of tropical trees.

N is for the noisy neighbors
Who sit on the stoop
And catch the breeze.

What's special about your neighborhood? This is a book that will inspire you to find out. (taken from the side cover).

In My Neighborhood is a great book for younger readers, as Ava takes them on a tour through her neighborhood filled with diversity and rich in culture. Even if you don't live in a major metropolitan city like Ava does, you'll feel like you just visited one after reading this book. I think this a great edition for in the class room and at home. It uses both English and Spanish words, which I think is a great introduction for younger kids. Ava's neighborhood can be any little readers backyard who lives in the city.

Book Review- Welcome To My Neighborhood!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bob Books: Sight Words Giveaway!

I am so excited at the chance to host the Bob Books: Sight Words giveaway. I'm a huge fan of these books, as I feel they are valuable tool in helping kids read. I'm saying this from experience, as they helped my son to read. I'm looking forward to sharing these books with TWO winners.

What are Bob Books?
From the #1 bestselling learn-to-read program comes two brand-new sets focused on learning and practicing Sight Words.

Sight Words are words that are recognized by sight rather than sounded out, in order to achieve reading fluency. They are the most frequently used words in the English language, and are often unable to read phonetically ("was", "are", and "out" are examples). Bob Books Sight Words feature the top Sight Words in two sets-one for Kindergarten and one for first grade- in order to allow parents and children to read, learn and practice easily and enjoyably.

Each Sight Words box includes 10 original books, 30 flashcards, and a parent guide. Soon your child will be saying "I can read the whole book!" (quoted from their site)

Be sure to visit their site here to find out more information about Bob Books

Don't forget to try these links for:
Kindergarten Site Words, Word Search

Kindergarten & 1st Grade site Words, Word Search

1st Grade Site Words, Word Search

Word Search Answer Key

The Giveaway:
Two winners will receive:
A Bob Books lunchbox
Copies of Bob Books Sight Words: Kindergarten and Bob Books Sight Words: First Grade

Additional information:
The giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only – international readers can enter if they have a friend in the U.S. who can accept their prize.

To enter, please fill out the form below.

Thank you to Scholastic for sponsoring this giveaway and making it possible for us to giveaway two sets of Bob Books!

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 ~