Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review- Armadillo Rodeo

By Jan Brett
Illustrated by Jan Brett
Published by Putnam Books
Released on 9/1/1995
Source- Bought from Scholastic Book Fair
Ages- 6-8, ideal for Kindergarteners
4 stars- A Great Read

Like all armadillos, Bo is near-sighted, but unlike his armadillo brothers, he longs for adventure. When he mistakes a pair of cowboy boots for another armadillo, Bo races after his new "friend"--and winds up bronc-busting at the rodeo! Jan Brett brings the Texas countryside and rodeo action vividly to life with her lavish, full-color illustrations.

I grew up a huge fan of Jan Brett books, and I have enjoyed passing on that love to my kids. Recently while volunteering at my son's school for their Scholastic Book Fair (which I LOVE and will talk about that in a separate post), I found this gem of a book and I couldn't help but purchase it.

Armadillo Rodeo is a fun, engaging read for kids as they follow the story of Bo, the curious little armadillo who wanders away from his family and mistakes a pair of bright red boots for an armadillo. It's not just the words that make Jan's books so enjoyable, it's her elegant and unique illustrations. Each page by itself adds so much to the story.

Being in TX I also felt the illustrations and the dialogue captured the TX hill country way of life well. This is a book I'd recommend picking up for fans of children's books, fans of Jan Brett and to those who are teaching their little ones about TX.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with Ruckus Media Group CEO, Rick Richter

Today I'm thrilled to share our interview we recently had with Rick Richter, President & CEO of Ruckus Mobile Media.

What is Ruckus? Here's a little about who they are and what they do,
"At Ruckus Media, we are reinventing family entertainment—and taking it on the road—with original apps for iPad, iPhone, Droid, and other mobile media platforms. We bring Jon Scieszka, Rosemary Wells, Andrew Clements, Patricia MacLachlan, Alan Katz, David Carter, Kevin Lewis, Mike Austin, and Caitlin Friedman, among many other bestselling authors and illustrators, animators, celebrity performers and musicians together with talented editors and software developers to create a completely new form of storytelling.

When children open Ruckus apps, turning and tilting pages, touching words and art, they read, see, and enter a story. Words, pictures, music, and dynamics made possible only by touch screen technology are woven to tell original stories to entrance and expand their imaginations. As with their favorite picture books, children will be enriched by and return to Ruckus apps again and again.

With over 26 amazing apps to be available by 2011 and 75 under contract, Ruckus Media is poised to become the most productive source of children’s stories for mobile platforms in the world." (quoted from their site here).

Our Interview with Rick:

I'll admit I have never been a huge digital book fan, but the line of books Ruckus Media offers is so appealing that even I have enjoyed your line of books just as much as my kids do. What was your inspiration behind Ruckus Media?
It was really the ubiquity of the devices. Everywhere we looked kids were using iPads and iPhones, with the permission and encouragement of their parents. It looked to me like this new medium was here to stay, and I wondered how to combine it with my years in book publishing and all of my talented friends in the industry. Creating digital, interactive storybook apps parents can trust seemed like a natural solution and Ruckus Media Group was born.

We’ll be satisfied when a mom or dad can hand their phone or tablet to their child without one ounce of guilt, knowing that the experience the child is about to have will entertain them, challenge them, perhaps make them giggle, and be utterly satisfying.

There's a growing trend with readers going the digital book/ebook route. What is one thing you feel your company offers that makes your books or what you offer unique?
First of all, we're offering original apps. We think that the iPhone and Android applications represent an opportunity for a entirely new form of storytelling. We are working with the best children's authors and illustrators to achieve this goal and create a brand new experience in this new medium.

I really like that you've brought together some amazing talent to bring your stories to life. How do you go about selecting who will be the voice for your children's books?
It really is the story that suggests who the narrator will be. Who better to read "Pecos Bill" than Robin Williams? When we working on "A Present for Milo", Mike Austin, the author/illustrator did a sample narration that we loved.

I love that you offer a fantastic line of children's classic stories. Why did you feel it was important to re-introduce the classic vs offering something that was more of a modern day retelling?
We actually do both. We produce current stories and classics. Any good children's library has a combination of both, and it's our goal to make sure that we create a wide variety of content.

What is the most important thing you want parents, teachers or readers to gain from your books?
We want to tell great stories and entertain kids in ways that they haven't been entertained before: combining great story telling, great narration, great music and great illustrations.

Thank you Rick for taking the time to answer our questions and for being on our site today. You can learn more about Ruckus, and see the variety of great kid's digital books here. You can also find their logo and site link on our right hand side bar. Ruckus offers a variety of wonderful kid friendly digital books and applications we recommend checking out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review- Indian Shoes

Published by Harper Collins
Released on April 1st, 2002
Source- Book from author/publisher to review
Ages- Elementary school age readers & up
5 stars- I really enjoyed it

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins...or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?

Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it's Grampa Halfmoon who's always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes — like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray's head look like a lawn-mowing accident.

This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it's like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma (quoted from Goodreads).

Can I just say how much I love the cover and the illustrations through out the book. I felt the pictures capture the characters perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous collection of interrelated stories. Cynthia has a talent for brining her stories to life and Indian Shoes is no different. I loved the way in which I got to know her characters young Ray who is half Cherokee- Seminole and his Grandfather, Grampa Halfmoon. Through each of her stories Cynthia allowed me to not only get a glimpse of their relationship, but I felt I was apart of their daily life. I loved getting to know more about her characters.

Indian Shoes is uniquely written as the book is made up for a series of short stories about Ray and Grampa Halfmoon's adventures and little mishaps. Grampa Halfmoon and Ray have a very close bond that I really enjoyed seeing come to life. Through the series of short stories readers come to know Ray lost both of his parents when he was a baby (the story mentions what happened), and he's been with Grampa Halfmoon since then. Grampa Halfmoon and Ray enjoy their visits to OKlahoma to visit family, fishing and baseball and it's on their way to a Cubs game that the stumble upon a pair of Indian Moccasins, which makes Grampa pretty homesick.

This is such a delightfully charming story. Through the little mishaps both Ray and Grampa Halfmoon have, I loved seeing how their love and support for each other kept getting stronger and stronger. I also really enjoyed the fact that Cynthia had her characters living in Chicago, I think this will help young readers realize that Native Americans live all over, and not just on reservations. My favorite aspect of the story are the little things Grampa Halfmoon teaches his grandson Ray. Indian Shoes is a fabulous book to have and I highly recommend picking it up. It's a great edition for any classroom and personal home library.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review & A Giveaway- HOP Movie Tie-In Books

Recently I've had the chance to review these fun movie tie in Easter books. This collection of books have a little bit of something for all ages, from toddlers to beginning to readers, parents and kids will enjoy reading all about HOP. I'm thinking the Easter Bunny may need to decorate a few Easter baskets at my house with these books.

I've taken a moment to review each book, and I've also included the information about each book from the publisher.

HOP, The Chapter Book- Is a great story for elementary school readers. This 12 chapter book is perfect for kids who have advanced from the beginning readers book, as they get to meet HOP and read a book version of the movie.

Chicks versus Bunnies- This fun story book finds the Easter Bunny and the other bunnies in trouble when Carols wants to take over and be crowned the Easter Chick. The only person who can stop him is HOP, but he's no where to be found. Will HOP get there in time? You'll have to pick up this story to find out....

Meet The Easter Bunny- This is one of our favorites, as my kids loved meeting the Easter, his son HOP and finding out where his secret layer is at. It's a fun look inside the secret live of the Easter Bunny.

Hoppy Bunnies- This is a fantastic book for toddlers and one my little girl loves. Not only does the book come with three cute finger puppets, but it's written to the flow of "Twas the Night Before Christmas", making it an enjoyable, engaging read for little ones.

Counting Chicks- Is a fun, interactive board book for little ones, as they help Carols and Phil count up the items that need to go into the Easter basket.

This is a great collection of books, and I would recommend picking each one of them up. Here's a little bit about each book-

HOP: The Chapter Book
$4.99 ($5.99 CAN) • 64 Pages
Who will fill the Easter Bunny’s shoes? E.B. Jr.’s got big plans to be a big music star, and Fred, who never had plans to be anything, finds himself with more responsibility than he is used to in this chapter book.

HOP: Chicks vs. Bunnies
Board book
$4.99 ($5.99 CAN) • 24 Pages
The Easter Bunny gets all the glory, but what about all the chicks who do all the work making Easter baskets? This is a bright, colorful and humorous look at Easter’s cute and rivaling icons includes punch-out Easter egg stands featuring characters from the movie!

HOP: Meet the Easter Bunny
$3.99 ($4.99 CAN) • 32 Pages
Easter Island is home to the Easter Bunny’s magical workshop—where do you think Santa got all his good ideas? Chocolate bunny carving, jellybean polishing, and adorable chicks and bunnies are just a few of the fantastic sights to see on this lively tour of Easter in the making.

HOP: Hoppy Bunnies
Board Book with Finger Puppets
$7.99 ($8.99 CAN) • 12 Pages
This adorable and interactive Easter board book features hoppy bunny finger-puppets for read aloud Easter fun.

HOP: Counting Chicks
Board Book
$4.99 ($5.99 CAN) • 12 Pages
Easter chicks Carlos and Phil teach numbers as they put together an Easter basket just for you!


Now that you've read the books, be sure to go see the movie which will be in theaters on April 1st! My kids are so excited to go see this. Based on the trailer (which is posted below), I think this is going to be a great family movie. I've included the information about the movie here-

Blending state of the art animation with live action, Hop is a comedy about E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. On the eve of taking over the family business, E.B. leaves for Hollywood in pursuit of his dream of becoming a drummer. He encounters Fred (James Marsden), an out-of-work slacker with his own lofty goals, who accidentally hits E.B. with his car. Feigning injury, E.B. manipulates Fred into providing him shelter, and Fred finds himself with the world’s worst houseguest.

The film is helmed by Tim Hill, director of the blockbuster Alvin and the Chipmunks and produced by Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me). In theaters April 1.

Be sure to visit these sites to learn more about the movie-

Thank you to Little Brown Kids and Big Hancho Media, we have a fantastic giveaway! 1 lucky winner will receive each of the books pictured above!!
  • HOP: Hoppy Bunnies
  • HOP: The Chapter Book
  • HOP: Meet the Easter Bunny
  • HOP: Counting Chicks
  • HOP: Chicks versus Bunnies
To enter, please fill out this form.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review- Inside Out & Back Again

Released on February 22nd, 2011
Ages 8 & up
Source- ARC from publisher for review
4.5 stars- It's a wonderful read

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next (quoted from Goodreads).

Written in prose, Inside Out and Back Again is a moving story written using the authors own personal experience of moving from Vietnam to the US just after the war. If this beautiful cover doesn't capture your attention, than the story will.

Ten year old Ha is a refreshing, captivating voice. She invites readers to get to know her more and understand what it's like to be in her shoes. Living in war torn Vietnam she's grown up with her mother, and three older brother. Her father has been missing in action since she was one, and in order to protect her family, Ha's mother must make the terrifying leap of faith to move her family to a country they know little about. The US is much different that living in Vietnam.

Ha not only has to learn to adapt to a new way of life, and a new language, she learns first hand what segregation is and has to deal with bullying. Thanhha's writing paints a vivid picture of Ha's world, from her life in Vietnam, escaping on the ship and then immigrating to the US during the 70's. It wasn't hard to visualize Ha's struggles, to feel her sorrow or to laugh along side her. I was surprised that Thanhha is able to bring all this to life using very little words.

I enjoyed getting to know Ha and her family. The transition coming to the US isn't just hard for her, but it's hard for her whole family, and Ha and her family made me realize how much I take for granted. Along with Ha, I really liked getting to know their neighbor, Miss Washington. She not only tutors Ha in the evenings teaching her english, but she helps Ha accept her new life and she does so with love and compassion. I really enjoyed watching the bond between the two characters form.

Ha's story caused me to really think, and it's one that's left an impression on me. Thanihha has done a wonderful job at introducing middle graders to a historical read. This is a book I would definitely encourage young readers to pick up. Ha's story offers a lot to be discussed in both class room settings and in book club groups.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review- Take Me To The River

Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on March 1st, 2011
Ages- 10 & up
Source- ARC from publisher for review
3 stars- It's a Good Read

Fourteen-year old Dylan Sands has come all the way from North Carolina to Big Bend National Park, on the Texas/Mexico border, to paddle the fabled Rio Grande. His partner in adventure is a local river rat, his cousin Rio. As they’re packing their boats for ten days in the canyons, six Black Hawk helicopters appear overhead and race across the river into Mexico.

None of their previous river experience can prepare them for the approach of a deadly hurricane and a Mexican gangster who’s carting a kidnapped child in tow. In order to make it out of the canyons alive, Dylan and Rio will have to find a way to get both themselves and the child away from the fugitive, all while navigating the wildest waters of the Southwest
(quoted from Goodreads).

Take Me To The River is a book that is full of adventure, danger and one that will capture the attention of it's readers. Will Hobbs's vivid detail of the real life dangers along the US/Mexican border, a deadly hurricane, wild rapids, along with the dangers of not only being in the middle of a desert, but also throw in a kidnapping and coming face to face with one of Mexico's most wanted gave the story some heart pounding, adrenaline rushing moments.

I personally am a little torn on this review. Middle grade wise, it's a great adventure book, but the mom side of me had problems with the lack of parents in the story. I found it hard to digest that in our day in age (which the story is set) anyone would let, at least I hope not, a 14 yr old hitch hike 80 miles, let alone allow two young teenagers to set off on a 10 day canoe trip, especially along a dangerous stretch of land.

Take Me To The River is a truly an adventure story, and Will has a talent for story telling as he blurs the lines between fiction and reality well. This is definitely a book that I would recommend talking to readers about, making sure they understand that the things that were done in this story are not things that are necessarily safe or encouraged in real life. This is a book I would recommend, and I think reluctant readers and boys in 5th grade and up will enjoy.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

If you're a fan of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you don't want to miss the newest movie, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES opening in theaters nationwide on March 25, TOMORROW!!

From FOX-

In this sequel to 2010’s surprise hit, Greg Heffley, the kid who made “wimpy” cool is back in an all-new family comedy based on the best-selling follow-up novel by Jeff Kinney. (Kinney’s Wimpy Kid” series has thus far sold 42 million books.) As he begins seventh grade, Greg and his older brother – and chief tormentor – Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to have them bond.

Visit the Wimpy Wonderland Island on Poptropica! Join Greg, Rowley, Rodrick and the rest of the Wimpy Kid characters for a snow-capped adventure. Help find Greg's little brother Manny before the rotten Whirley Street kids do.

Play the game now at:


It's time to get Wimpy!

Join the two million wimps who have created and shared their own wimpy characters on the newly relaunched site Wimp Yourself today!


Calling all bands!!!

Rodrick and his band Loded Diaper are challenging YOU to a Rock Duel! To accept the challenge, simply post a video response to Rodrick's Band Challenge video. Grab your band, friends or big brother and give it your best shot. The winner, as selected by Loded Diper will receive a special copy of the "Rodrick Rules" book, signed by Jeff Kinney.

Interview with Author Ben Winters

Recently we had the chance to interview Ben Winters about his middle grade book The Secret Life of Ms Finkleman. You can read my 5 star review of his book here.

I totally felt like I was back in middle school while I read The Secret Life of Ms Fkinkleman. What inspired your book?
Well, thank you! There were two main sources of inspiration for The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. The first was my middle-school and high-school days, when I played in a number of bands. It was a really important time in my life, and one I think back on often, and I've always wanted to write about the incredible feeling of being a kid in a band, the power of writing songs and performing. The other source of inspiration was my time as a creative-writing teacher in some schools in Manhattan -- I was always intrigued by how fascinated kids are with the private, non-teacher lives of their teachers. Whenever a teacher mentions their own children, or their spouse, or their past, you ca see the kids perk up and kind of go, "Wait...Mr. So-and-So is an actual human being? With a life outside this school?" So I thought it would be cool to find out what happens when a student decides to dig up some dirt of one of the more enigmatic teachers.

Which of your characters would you have been friends with in middle school and why?
Ha! Most likely, I would have been friends with Tenny, because I, too, was really, really into rock music, and I definitely sat around in classes thinking up band names. But my friends and I were probably a bit more tuned in to the whole schoolwork thing than Tenny is.

I really loved the pairing of Bethseda and Tenny. What inspired their characters?
Tenny definitely owes something to certain of my pals, and even myself, in those years. Bethesda, too, has something of me in her -- the eagerness to know everything, the whole issue of "wanting to do well in school" vs. "not wanting to be perceived as a know-it-all." In forcing these two very different kids into a team-up situation, I'm hoping to suggest to my readers, as gently as possible, that it's OK to be friends with people who seem totally different than you.

What was your favorite subject in middle school? Why?
English. I just love books and writing. Always have. I'm not one of those people who always excelled science and then randomly started writing later on. I have always loved to write, and have never understood science at all. (Sorry, Mr. Lynch.)

What was one of your favorite middle grade books you'd recommend to our followers?
I would recommend Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth to middle-grade readers, their older brothers and sisters, and their parents, too. I can't think of another book I have loved as thoroughly, or for as long.

Thank you so much for joining us today Ben.

To find out more about Ben's books, please visit his site here.
To find out where you can purchase his book, please visit Harper Collins site here.
You can follow Ben on Twitter here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review- Priscilla The Great

By Sybil Nelson
Published by World Marker Media
Published on December 15th, 2010
Source- Teen Book Scene Blog Tour
5 stars- It's a great Middle Grade Read

Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner! (quoted from Goodreads)

Priscilla the Great is a fabulously, fun, entertaining read. Priscilla herself is a snarky, engaging character, whom I really enjoyed getting to know.

Twelve year old Priscilla has grown up thinking her family was some what normal. With a mother who's often away on business, a dad who looks more like a WWE wrestler, a sixteen year hold heart throb bother and two five- year old trouble making twin bothers, she never would have thought her family is far from normal! With out giving away some of the plot, it's not until Priscilla's powers or secret abilities are known does she realize that she and her family are far from normal!

What I enjoyed the most about the book is the interaction between Priscilla and her family and friends. Each of them are great characters and add something unique to the story. I loved her description of her dad, as he's someone I wouldn't want to meet in a dark ally, but yet he has this fierce love and devotion as a family man. When you read about him, you'll understand what I mean. I adored her mom!! I was pleasantly surprised with Priscilla and Kyle's refreshing relationship. It was great watching them go from always competing against each other to something more. I think I was just as shocked by the change as Priscilla since they have grown up together.

Priscilla the Great is action packed, has some great plot twists, and is an engaging read. The best way for me to describe it is it's a sci-fi meets contemporary, with a little bit of coming of age and dashed with a little bit of romance. Sybil was written a fabulous 1st book in what I think will be a great middle grade series. I would highly recommend picking up this book. I think it's going to be appealing to both boy and girls, as it offers a little bit of everything.

You can read my review/blog tour which is posted here on Mundie Moms.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review- Ocean Fairies: Ally the Dolphin Fairy & Whitney the Whale Fairy

Published by Scholastic
Released on March 1st, 2011
Source- Book from Publisher to review
Ages- 2nd grade & up
5 stars- A Great Read

The Ocean Fairies keep all the sea creatures safe and happy -- until their magic goes missing! This is our eleventh group of Rainbow Magic fairies.

The Ocean Fairies keep all the sea creatures safe and happy! But when the goblins shatter their enchanted conch shell, seven magical sea creatures leave to search for the pieces. The Ocean Fairies must find the shells . . . and their animal friends!

Ally's dolphin friend, Echo, is guarding a shell near the aquarium. Can Rachel and Kirsty help track him down?

Find the missing creature in each book and help save the ocean magic! (quoted from Goodreads).

This is a such a great series and one I'm looking forward to my little girl reading when she gets a little older. Ally's story is book 1 in a series of 7 books that take best friends Rachel and Kristy on a fun adventure to Fairyland to celebrate the Fairyland Ocean Gala. The two friends soon find themselves on a mission to find the 7 broken and scattered pieces from a conch shell, and help restore harmony to the ocean.

Daisy Meadows's Rainbow Magic Ocean Fairies are a great way to introduce younger readers into the fairy world. I loved reading this fun, filled adventure story and getting to meet the delightful ocean fairies. Each fairy has an ocean pet that helps them, from a dolphin, to a whale, a turtle and so on. The Ocean Fairies series is a great way to encourage younger readers to use their imaginations. I think this series will invite it's readers to explore not just a unique fairy world, but they'll enjoy getting to know best friends Kirsty and Rachel, as well as helping the girls on their adventure. I would highly recommend picking up this first in what looks to be a fantastic series.

Published by Scholastic
Released on March 1st, 2011
Source- Book from Publisher to review
Ages- 2nd grade & up
5 stars- A Great Read

The Ocean Fairies keep all the sea creatures safe and happy -- until their magic goes missing! This is our eleventh group of Rainbow Magic fairies.

The Ocean Fairies keep all the sea creatures safe and happy! But when the goblins shatter their enchanted conch shell, seven magical sea creatures leave to search for the pieces. The Ocean Fairies must find the shells . . and their animal friends!

Rachel and Kirsty are on a whale watch! Can they spot Whitney's pet whale before it's too late?

Find the missing creature in each book and help save the ocean magic! (quoted from Goodreads)

Though I skipped books 2-5 in the series (I plan on purchasing this entire series soon), I was still able to continue the series's story with out feeling lost. I wouldn't recommend skipping books, as I jumped from book 1 into book 6 and missed which fairies and adventures Kirsty and Rachel went on to find the other 4 missing conch shell pieces. I loved meeting Ocean FairyWhitney and her orca Fin.

As with Ally's story, both Rachel and Kirsty aid Whitney in finding the 6th missing shell in hopes of getting closer to restoring balance to the ocean. This fun, unique series engages readers in a new adventure with each book, as well as introduces them to another friendly fairy and her ocean pet. As a mom, I am really looking forward to having this series on hand for my little girl is old enough to read them. This is a series I would have completely fallen in love with had I read it when I was in grade school.

I definitely recommend picking up Daisy Meadows's Rainbow Magic Ocean Fairies series!

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 ~