Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday:

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly feature started by MG author Shannon Messenger and is a weekly post featuring an upcoming MG release, a MG Author Interview or a MG review. You can find out more about this series posts, and find links to author authors and bloggers who are taking part in this feature here. You can also my Must Have Middle Grade Reads feature on Mundie Moms.

Published by: Walden Pond Press
To Be Released on: May 15th, 2012
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The final chapter of the Archer Legacy opens in the central criminal courts of the Old Bailey in London. Gerald, Sam, and Ruby are attending the murder trial of Sir Mason Green, hoping to see their longtime enemy put away for good. But just as the trial is about to begin, Mason Green is killed - and Gerald is framed for the murder. He only has one choice: to run. Now he and his friends are off on a quest to clear Gerald's name. Their journey will lead them across Europe in a race to find the greatest and most powerful treasure ever assembled on earth - one that waits for someone, good or evil, to finally claim it.

Mysteries will be solved, friendships will be broken, and all secrets will finally be reveaeld in this, the last installment of Richard Newsome's thrilling adventure trilogy -quoted from Goodreads

I've really enjoyed reading this series and I'm looking forward to finding out what's in-store for this team of fearless adventurers when The Mask of Destiny is released. If you've not yet picked up The Billionaire Trilogy, I highly recommend it. I can't wait to pick this book up when it's out and featuring it on the blog.

You can read my review for The Billionaire's Curse bk #1, The Emerald Casket bk #2 and my interview with author Richard Newsome here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Latasha & the Little Red Tornado by Michael Scotto

Illustrated by: Evette Gabriel
Published by: Midlandia Press
Released on: November 15th, 2011
Source: ARC from author for review
Ages: 8 & up
4 stars: I Really Enjoyed It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Latasha and the Little Red Tornado tells the story of Latasha Gandy, a precocious and inventive third-grader who lives in Pittsburgh with her hardworking mother and a naughty puppy named Ella Fitzgerald. At eight years old, Latasha cannot wait to grow up. Ella, on the other hand, absolutely refuses to! When Ella's antics push the Gandy's landlady, Mrs. Okocho, to her wits' end, Latasha realizes that she must turn her mischievous mutt into a model dog. Latasha enlists the help of a classmate and neighbor, Ricky, in her efforts to train Ella. Their friendship grows as Ricky joins the girls on their adventures in the park. But after Latasha and Ricky have a falling out, Latasha decides to take Ella out on her own, a choice that proves to have grave consequences. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this tale of friendship and maturity follows Latasha as she struggles with Ella, school, and her mother's absence from home. -quoted from Goodreads

This is such a heart warming, wonderful story for younger readers. It's a story kids will be able to relate to, and one they'll enjoy spending time with as they get to know Latasha, the story's main character. Young Latasha, who's now eight years old has a lot to deal with. She has an unruly faithful pup named Ella Fitzgerald (named after Latasha's favorite singer) who likes to do things puppies do like get into things they're not suppose to... meaning the trash and the down stairs neighbor/landlord's flowerbed. Not only does Latasha do the best she can to teach her friendly dog manners, she also tries to be a huge help to her single mother who's recently started a new job, and keep a good attitude about spending more time their elderly down stairs neighbor Ms. Okocho.

Latasha is such a wonderful, likable character to get to know. I adore her and her voice in this story. She felt like a realistic young girl, and she's someone I often times found myself wanting to give a hug to her and tell her everything would turn out all right. One of the things I loved in this story is the way author Michael Scotto wrote about Latasha's different situations. I was able to remember being eight and wanting to be looked at as a young lady vs a little kid, much like Latasha does. There's real life situations like dealing with school, being an only child, learning to raise a dog, being from a single parent home, friendship, honesty and being brave that are apart of this story. Each of these situations not only helped Latasha grow and mature as the story goes along, they're also real scenarios readers will be able to identify with.

Michael Scotto's writing in this book is fabulous! The voice for Latasha is honest, real and down right wonderful. I loved each of the characters that are introduced in this story and getting to know them. It wasn't hard for me to fall in love with each of them. Over all this is an enjoyable read with lovable, realistic characters. Though I adore Latasha tremendously, I think her pup Ella won me over the most. What a fabulous character this loyal campion is and I love that Latasha got her from the shelter (even if she didn't I still would have loved her just the same). If you're looking for a book for readers to connect with, one that teaches important life lessons, and offers a realistic voice, I highly recommend picking this one up. I'm looking forward to reading more books by Michael Scotto.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz

Written by: Betty Ann Schwartz
Illustrated by: Dona Turner
Publisher: Dalmatian Publishing Group
Published Date: February 28, 2000
Source: Purchased
Ages: 1 - 5 years
Purchase: Barnes and Noble | amazon

Synopsis: A rainbow of ribbons magically appear when you open the pages of this innovative book! Toddlers will love listening to the charming story and seeing a different colored ribbon with the turn of each page. The last page is sure to delight with all the colors of the rainbow. What a fun way to learn colors!

Babies, toddlers and preschoolers love nothing more than an interactive book. And What Makes a Rainbow illustrates, using threaded ribbons on each page, all the colors in a rainbow. The story follows little rabbit as he asks fellow animals what makes a rainbow. Each animal, of course, has a different answer.

And the very end of the book completes the rainbow. If you have favorite Spring-themed books on your bookshelves, be sure to add this one. It's a charming story that parents and grandparents will love to read to their little ones.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: A Snowman Named Just Bob by Mark Kimball Moulton

Illustrated by: Karen Hillard Crouch
Publisher: Ideals Publication
Published Date: October 28, 2008
Source: Purchased
Ages: 4 - 8 years

Synopsis: A child builds a snowman named Bob, and soon Bob comes to life just long enough to impart a few thoughts about the importance of building and holding friendships dear. Illustrated with warmth and whimsy by acclaimed artist Karen Hillard Crouch, A Snowman Named Just Bob is a classic story the whole family can share.

A child builds a snowman named Bob, and soon Bob comes to life just long enough to impart a few thoughts about the importance of building and holding friendships dear

I have to admit that we own four of Mark's books and they're treasured for both the story and Karen's whimsical and sweet illustrations. This story starts on Thanksgiving night when an unexpected snowstorm hits the neighborhood. The magical prose coupled with gorgeous illustrations takes us through a story about a boy and a message from Sir Moon:

"Friendship is a simple thing,
The clue is just to start,
As long as it is built on trust,
And love from in your heart.

A snowman is built with the help of the boy's family and the boy decides to name him "just 'Bob'". When the snowman talks at the end of the story, no one is more shocked than the boy. But for the reader it is a gentle reminder that seasons do change and perhaps all we need is a sign (as a reminder of cooler days and snowy fun) that "just 'Bob was here'".

While this book is currently out-of-print, it can be found used using the links above. I think your family will enjoy it as much as mine does especially if, by now, you're tired of still watching that "Frosty the Snowman" DVD. For the record, my oldest watched that obsessively well into March one year, which is about the time I purchased this book.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Martin MacGregor's Snowman by Lisa Broadie Cook

Also Published As: When Will It Snow?
Written by: Lisa Broadie Cook
Illustrated by: Adam McCauley
Publisher: Scholastic
Published Date: January 1, 2003
Source: Purchased
Ages: 4 - 8 years
Purchase: IndieBound | Scholastic 

Synopsis: How can a snowman fanatic build a snowman if there’s NO snow?

Martin MacGregor lives for building snowmen. All year long he sits and he waits and he dreams of deep snowdrifts and blinding blizzards. So what’s poor Martin to do when winter comes and there’s no snow?

Martin finds it hard to be patient, but he develops all sorts of alternate plans for building his snowmen. Unfortunately, his creative genius backfires every time, and he may still be grounded by the time next winter comes around!

While anxiously awaiting the arrival of snow, Martin MacGregor, who built the biggest snowman in the neighborhood last year, tries to build one with substitute materials.

It's so frustrating when the weather doesn't cooperate with the season. My kids have experienced a very snow-less winter and yes, we live in snow country. This story for us is, therefore, very timely. Martin doesn't want to wait for the snow to actually start because the previous year he built the biggest snowman ever. So he sets about trying different things -- making snowman marshmallows in hot chocolate, pouring flour on his baby sister, gluing cotton balls to his dog and even dressing himself in bubble bath bubbles.

As you can imagine, nothing works. And Martin has to learn the hardest lesson of all -- patience. And well, there's the small matter of also learning how a younger sibling will copy you. Don't worry, thisbook does have a happy ending. Eventually, weather does do what it's supposed to do. Seasonally speaking, that is. Perhaps it will do the same in our parts and I won't have to hear about how much my kids want to go sledding and skiing when there's no snow around.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Seeds of Rebellion (Beyonders #2) By Brandon Mull

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly feature started by MG author Shannon Messenger and is a weekly post featuring an upcoming MG release. You can find out more about this series posts, and find links to author authors and bloggers who are taking part in this feature here. You can also my Must Have Middle Grade Reads feature on Mundie Moms.

By: Brandon Mull
Published by: Aladdin
To Be Released on: March 13th, 2012
Series: Book #2 in the Beyonders Series
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The second epic installment of Brandon Mull’s #1 New York Times bestselling fantasy series!After the cliffhanger ending of A World Without Heroes, Jason is back in the world he’s always known—yet for all his efforts to get home, he finds himself itching to return to Lyrian. Jason knows that the shocking truth he learned from Maldor is precious information that all of his friends in Lyrian, including Rachel, need if they have any hope of surviving and defeating the evil emperor.

Meanwhile, Rachel and the others have discovered new enemies—as well as new abilities that could turn the tide of the entire quest. And as soon as Jason succeeds in crossing over to Lyrian, he’s in more danger than ever. Once the group reunites, they strive to convince their most-needed ally to join the war and form a rebellion strong enough to triumph over Maldor. At the center of it all, Jason and Rachel realize what roles they’re meant to play—and the answers are as surprising as they are gripping. -quoted from Goodreads

First of all, this covers ROCKS! I am so excited about reading Seeds of Rebellion, the second book in the Beyonders series. If you've not yet read Beyonders, I highly recommend picking it up. You can read my review for it here. I'll be posting my review for today's feature within in the next two weeks. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement I'll be making soon regarding this book here on MKs.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Standing in the Light, The Diary of Catharine Carey Logan (Dear America Series) by Mary Pope Osborne

Published by: Scholastic
Released on: May 1st, 2011 (this edition)
Source: book from publisher to review
Ages: 10 & up
5 stars: I Loved It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A Quaker girl's diary reflects her experiences growing up in the Delaware River Valley of Pennsylvania and her capture by Lenape Indians in 1763. -quoted from Goodreads

I absolutely love this series, and this particular story is by far my favorite out of all the ones I've read so far. Mary Pope Osborne has done such a beautiful job at bringing to life what living in Delaware Valley, PA in 1763 was like, as well as capturing the emotions that young Catharine felt during this time. Mary paints a beautiful and yet heartbreaking picture of both sides of the Quaker settlements, and the settlements of the Native Americans, and the friendships and wars the consumed both sides. This beautifully told story follows that of young Catharine who was a young teenage girl during time and wrote about life on her family's settlement, and the frightening accounts of the attacks by the local Indians on them as well as the small band of local residents who attacked the Indians in her journal. It's also a story about the bravery, courage and love Catharine developed during her captive time with the local Lenape Tribe that captured her, and her brother.

I loved the way Mary was able to allow me to see both sides to this story. I grew to really admire Catharine and I felt like I was able to understand her fears, her desires and later why she loved the people who kidnapped her, took good care of her, and captured her heart. I felt like Mary's writing provided me a way of looking back on brief moment in our country's history. She not only told Catharine's story in a manner that felt like I was reading a real journey, but she educates readers on the history of what happened between the settlements and the local Indian tribes. That part of the story is fascinating and completely heartbreaking. I've always felt saddened over the way the lands were taken from the local tribes, but with that heartbreak I also love reading about the accounts of the friendships that happened between different tribes and settlements.

I've always been drawn to this time period and I felt like Catharine's story only fueled my love and fascination for it. Mary Pope Osborne does a beautiful job with this story as she not only allows the reader to feel the fears Catharine's has over the local Native American tribes, but she turns the tables and allows the readers to feel and understand the love that Catharine slowly develops for the Lenape Tribe during her time with them. I admire Catharine and her brother Thomas in learning about the things they do as adults in the Epilogue to help fight for the freedoms of all people, Native Americans, slaves and so forth. I highly recommend picking up this book, and this entire series. They're moving, educational and so well written that tweens, teens and adults will love feeling like they're being taken back in time while reading each book.

Teachers can find the discussion guide for this book here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: The Night Before Valentine's Day by Natasha Wing

Written by: Natasha Wing
Illustrated by: Heidi Petach
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA
Published Date:
Source: Purchased
Ages: 4 - 8 years
Purchase: Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Synopsis: Kids dream of candy hearts in another funny take-off on Clement C. Moore's beloved poem. The next day at school is a day of parties and games-and a surprise visitor bearing a Valentine gift for the whole class!

My kids and I love the familiar rhythm of Clement C. Moore's poem and set to the theme of Valentine's Day makes it even more interesting because we look forward to the changes made from the original. For example instead of sugarplums dancing, there are "visions of candy hearts".

But, the best part of the story is how Natasha incorporates the Valentine's Day rituals of elementary school aged children -- exchange of valentines, a class party, a delivery of a bouquet to the teacher from a secret admirer (that the class recognizes) and how the principal dressed up as Cupid! This is somthing that both my children and I relate to and laugh at. Any book that can make generations laugh together is a good one in my opinion. Be sure to pick this book up at the Valentines Day displays at your favorite bookstore.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: WINTERLING by Sarah Prineas

By: Sarah Prineas
Released on: January 3rd, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher to review
5 stars: I Loved It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mor rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil -quoted from Goodreads

An enchanting story that's full of magic, adventure, danger and action. Sarah Prineas's WINTERLING is an exciting read that will take readers on an unforgettable fantasy adventure, introduce them to a young fearless heroine and leave them wanting more. I really loved the way in which Sarah wove together and introduces young readers to various folklore. This not only captured my attention, but it kept me completely invested in Fer's story. I wanted to know about her ability, what her Grandmother was hiding her from, what is really going on in the world of Way and who the strange boy that can turn into a dog and horse is.

Fer is such a fabulously written character. She's someone young readers will be able to connect with as she's courageous, loyal and has this innocence about her that makes her both vulnerable and relatable. It's her bravery and quest for truth that I admired most. Here she is in a world she's drawn to, but knows little about and yet she's able to find the answers to questions that are heartbreaking to hear. She's kind hearted and sincere in her quest to help those who are changing against their will in the land of Way. During her journey her knowledge of what has happened also empowers her to make a decision that will change her and the land of Way.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking this unforgettable adventure with Fer. The world of Way is magical, dangerous and is ruled by a wicked huntress named Mor. There's plenty of unique characters that make up the creatures of Way, and many of whom are wilding, which means they're changing into wild animals. This is very fitting for the feeling of this strange, yet enchanting land. There's also some memorable characters I also enjoyed getting to know along the way, like Fer's Grandmother who will do everything she can to protect Fer in the human world. Then there's Rook, the dog Fer saves at the beginning of the story. Though his story starts out heartbreaking, I loved seeing his character journey and how much he changed over the course of the story. I'm looking forward to getting to know more about him, The Greenlady, and Phouka.

Sarah's writing is fabulous! I loved the way she told Fer's story. She did such a brilliant job at crafting together her lore with the different elements that make up this story. Sarah kept me on my toes with Fer's adventure. I enjoyed the unknown, the action and the suspense that is felt through out the story. The setting, the entire feel of the book and the different folklores that make up this exciting read will be enjoyed by both middle grade and older readers alike. WINTERLING is a wonderful read, and I'm looking forward to reading it's sequel.

Book Review: The Biggest Valentine Ever by Steven Kroll

Written by: Steven Kroll
Illustrated by: Jenni Bassett
Publisher: Scholastic
Published Date: January 28, 2006
Source: Purchased
Ages: 3 - 5 years

Synopsis: When Mrs. Mousely asks her class to make valentines, Clayton and Desmond decide to make one together and give it to their teacher as a surprise. But things don't go as planned. First Clayton puts too much glitter on the card. Then Desmond puts on too many hearts. Soon the friends are arguing and they rip the card in half. "I'm going to make my own valentine!" they both say and go home in a huff.

But then Desmond and Clayton realize that by working together they can make the biggest, best valentine ever!

Kids can use the colorful foil stickers to make their own valentines!

The lesson of working together is an important one for all ages. Heck, I still need a reminder myself. Having my third grader read this outloud to our family, reminded me of the pressure we all feel to create something that is THE BIGGEST and BEST in all the world. I do this with kids' birthday parties. My kids do this with homemade gifts especially those for a favorite teacher.

Desmond and Clayton argue, try to do their own individual cards and then come to the realization that working together is best after all. It's a hard lesson and being reminded of it using colorful illustrations of adorable mice is a nice way to visualize the story.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane deGroat

Written and Illustrated by: Diane deGroat
Publisher: Harper Collins (browse inside the book)
Release Date: December 10, 2010
Source: Purchased
Ages: 5-7 years

Synopsis: When Gilbert writes two not-so-nice valentines to his classmates, his prank quickly turns into pandemonium. But there's always time for a change of heart on Valentine's Day.

When Gilbert forges other students' names on some mean valentines, his trick is soon discovered and his classmates are angry.

Oh, the pain of writing out Valentine's Day cards. I just went through this with my youngest two kids. This story illustrates how tricky it can be to personalize the sentiment inside cards. Should you be mean to those who were not nice to you? Should you sign someone else's name to them? Well, Gilbert does both and the pain of watching your classmates get mad at each other wears on him. Also, the fact that people eventually figure out who wrote the "bad" cards is a valuable lesson.

As I tell my children, lies have short legs. Gilbert discovers just this as the kids who were mean to him (and he wrote the bad poems to) are sorry and he realizes that treating people the way you want to be treated is the best way to keep peace.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Caddy's World by Hilary McKay

Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
To Be Released on: 3/20/12
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The amazing and hilarious Casson family is back in this all-new novel from award-winning author Hilary McKay.Cadmium Casson is twelve years old the summer that everything changes. Not only are her closest friendships in jeopardy, but her mom is expecting a baby. And when the baby arrives early, Caddy’s world turns upside down. Her mother spends all her time at the hospital, and her father takes over the household, which of course turns into one chaotic (though hilarious) crisis after the next.

When her charmingly dense boyfriend dumps her, Caddy is at her wits’ end. Then she discovers that the fragile baby she is so afraid of losing is not an ending, but a beginning for her whole family. And that love and friendship don’t need to be destroyed by change—they can be strengthened. Another refreshingly wise, funny, and poignant novel from the inimitable Hilary McKay. -quoted from Goodreads

This was a book I hadn't heard about until I attended ALA and was given a copy of it there. I can't tell you guys how excited I am to read Caddy's story. I'll be posting my review with in the coming weeks and I'm looking forward to seeing this book out in book stores soon.

Book Review: The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler

Illustrated by: Will Hillenbrand
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: October 1, 2004
Source: Purchased
Ages: 3-5 years
Purchase from: Scholastic | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: In a family of big people, little Nell thinks she's too small to do anything. But with the help of her friends Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub, she builds a great BIG snowman, the best snowman that ever was.

My family loves this story, mostly because we can all relate to little Nell. It's hard being too small and when you ask to help always being reminded that you're too small.

To escape being too little, Little Nell walks into the woods to "watch the snow fall from the sky" and there she finds a few true friends -- Reindeer, Bear Cub and Hare. She tells them that her " won't let me do anything. I could never make a snowman." The friends set up proving her family wrong.

They work together rolling, kicking and nudging three snowballs until their snowman is complete. What's important here is a reminder that with the help of friends, you're truly never too little to do a big job. I loved how her family was proud of Little Nell's accomplishment.

I know the winter has been mild in many of the parts of the country, but if you're feeling any symptoms of cabin fever, be sure to pick up this book. It's a good reminder for you and your children that when you set your mind to a goal, you can accomplish it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

By: Diane Zahler
Released on: January 31st, 2012
Source: ARC from author/publisher to review
Ages: 8 & up
5 stars: I Loved It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Princess Meriel's brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment--cast by their conniving new stepmother--has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls.

Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish.

With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam--a pretty half-witch and her clever brother--Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.

But if she fails . . . all will be lost. -quoted from Goodreads

What an enchanting read! I love a well written fairy tale re-telling and Diane has done a wonderful job with her story of Meriel and her brothers whom are all turned into swans. I really enjoyed being swept away with the classic fairytale aspect of this story. There's magic, danger, a lovely, well written innocent romance, witches and fey lore. Plus I love that it takes a Princess and good hearted towns people to bring down a wicked, evil witch.

Princess Meriel is a fabulously written, strong young female heroine who will everything she can to save her father the King, her brothers and their kingdom from the evil Queen. I loved the transformation she has through out the story. She starts off being a little spoiled, and very stubborn (which I also admired about her) and becomes a fearlessness, courageous Princess who will stop at nothing to help her family. I also admired the fact that she felt she had the right to do whatever her brothers were doing. It's that feistiness that helps Meriel accomplish a nearly impossible task to save her brothers.

Aside from Meriel, I really loved the characters in this story. Liam and Riona, the brother and sister duo who aid Meriel in her quest to save her brothers and break the evil Queen's spell were two of my favorites. I found them to be just as strong as Meriel. I also enjoyed getting to know Mistress Tuileach. I thoroughly enjoyed Diane's exciting story line which is full of surprising twists and turns that kept me guessing what was going to happen next. This is a fabulous read for middle grade readers and for fans of MG books. If you're a fan of fairy tale re-tellings I highly recommend picking up this charming read.

You can read more reviews by following the blog tour here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly feature started by MG author Shannon Messenger and is a weekly post featuring an upcoming MG release. You can find out more about this series posts, and find links to author authors and bloggers who are taking part in this feature here. You can also my Must Have Middle Grade Reads feature on Mundie Moms.

By: Christopher Healy
Published by: Walden Pond Press
To Be Released on: May 1st, 2012
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

This title is the first in a series about the adventures of Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav. The second title is due out in 2013
-quoted from Goodreads

I love a great fairy tale mix up and this book sounds like it's going to be a fabulous read! Who doesn't love getting to read about the lesser known princes!? Now throw in some adventure and I'm hooked! I am really excited about reading this book and I look forward to sharing my review with you guys for it as well as hosting a give away for the ARC of it.

A Celebration of Love Series: Book Review #7: Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones

By: Sally Lloyd- Jones
Illustrated by: Frank Endersby
Published by: Harper Children's Books
Released on: December 27th, 2011
Ages: Toddler & up
Source: book from publisher to review
4 Stars: We Really Enjoyed It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Little Red Squirrel tries to guess the reason that his daddy loves him--is it because he is a good High Climber, and Brave, and Fast, and Completely Handsome? Could it be because he's so Friendly? Or maybe it's because he's so good at finding Top Secret Berries?

The answer is a heartwarming testament to a parent's love for a child. From "New York Times" bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrator Frank Endersby comes a classic story about the nature of unconditional love. - quoted from Goodreads

I thought this was a cute children's book and it's one my kids enjoyed, which is always a big thing for me. It's a story about a young squirrel who guesses all the reasons why his daddy loves him, and in the end of a fun day playing in the woods with his dad he learns it's, because he's his daddy's own. Certain parts of this reminded me of Love You Forever, which at first started to turn me off of the story, but I felt as the story went on there were plenty of differences to make this book enjoyable in it's own right. The illustrations alone are fabulous! My daughter loved looking at each page's adorable pictures.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review & Author Interview: All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri

I am extremely excited to to not only share my review for All Kinds of Kisses with you guys, but I'm honored that the author and illustrator for this book, Nancy Tafuri has stopped by the blog today!

By: Nancy Tafuri
Published by: Little Brown Kids
Released on: January 2, 2012
Source: book from publisher to review
Ages: 3 & up
5 stars: We Loved It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

There are all kinds of kisses...
Cheep kisses. Moo kisses. Maaa kisses. Coo kisses...
But the best kiss of all...
Is Mommy's kiss goodnight. Sweet dreams, little one!

Mommies and babies aren't the only ones who enjoy sharing kisses. All throughout the farm, animal families snuggle up with their little ones, offering them warmth and love. Following a mama bird on her journey back to the nest to give her own baby some special cuddles, Nancy Tafuri uses beautiful, inviting illustration to share how different creatures, from peeping ducks to mooing cows, show their love and affection in very similar ways. A heartfelt homage to all of the wonderful kinds of kisses. -quoted from Goodreads

This is a beautifully illustrated, sweet story about all the different kind of kisses that are around us. This particular story is set at the farm, and in reading this book with my little girl we loved seeing the different kind of kisses and love that take place between the various animals and their little ones. From mice, birds, ducks, cats, goats, dogs and more. This delightful story will be a big hit with young children. The bright colors and large illustrations make it easy to captivate young readers' attentions. My daughter and I loved looking for the tiny details hidden on each page, like the blue bird who's featured on each page, and the tiny bugs. The story ends with the best kiss of all, a kiss from a mother to her sleeping little one. I highly recommend picking this book up!

Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing and illustrating your children's books?

Inspiration is a funny can hit you at the silliest of times or it can hide away and you never think it will ever show up again. I find living with nature around me a way of simulating the process. I had been working on a project my editor had suggested and I really didn’t have my heart into it and my mind started to drift and I became fascinated by a big grey squirrel trying to retrieve the seeds from the feeder that was outside my studio window. He was so zany! That at that point I cleared off my drawing table got out a fresh pad of vellum and started to work on THE BUSY LITTLE SQUIRREL and put all the autumn nature around me in the book right along with him!

I love that the farm is the setting for All Kinds of Kisses. Is this setting one that has meaning to you?

I have always used my home and the surrounding out buildings in my illustrations. HAVE YOU SEEN MY DUCKING? was created down at our pond in spring. THE BARN PARTY took place in our barn on my daughter’s fourth birthday and I used the interior of our home for Counting To Christmas. So for All Kinds of Kisses I wanted to give a slightly different feel to the structures so I used reference from a trip my daughter and I had taken to Near Sawery, England when we went to visit Hilltop Farm the home of Beatrix Potter. So it has a bit of England and a bit of New England throughout the landscape. They have small farms spotted all over their countryside and I was so impressed on how neat they were ~ just like my farmer’s homestead.

Your illustrations are vivid, engaging and really draw young readers into your story. To create your illustrations for All Kinds of Kisses, did you spend time at a farm or were you able to clearly picture in your mind how you wanted to illustrate each picture?

I like the intimate feeling of large shapes for young children. That up close, touch the fur quality and what better way to portray that but through farm animals. Over the years I have taken photos for reference for many books like THIS IS THE FARMER, SILLY LITTLE GOOSE, and SPOTS, FEATHERS and CURLY TAILS. I love animals and I love to draw them! I pictured ALL KINDS OF KISSES as a one on one mother/baby book. The world is going on around them but they only have time for each other. After I finished my sketches the size of the book took on a somewhat different dimension and the art department blew up the illustrations accordingly and the images even became bigger. Heaven...I was ready to paint!

My daughter and I loved all the little details in each picture, from the bluebird who appears on each page to the little bugs. Why do you feel these little details are important to include in a children's picture book?

When I was little I would love to look at every detail in a picture. So when I grew up and started to illustrate for children I realized that there must be other children out there that enjoy doing the same thing. At first you see the biggest shapes, then on a second or third reading you start to realize there’s more going on, on these pages. So older siblings can enjoy reading along with the younger set. A book that grows!

What are some of your favorite children's picture books from growing up?

Every week my mother and I would go grocery shopping and a new picture bookwould make this event a winner...I am a product of the Classic Golden Book era:

The Pokey Little Puppy
The Little Red Hen
The Animals of Farmer Jonesand

Then there was:

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, I-Think-I-Can, I-Think-I-Can! Which has been my motto throughout my life!

Thank you for visiting Mundie Kids today Nancy.

Please be sure to follow Nancy on her Website & Facebook.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: When Will This Cruel War Be Over?, The Diary of Emma Simpson, Dear America by Barry Denenberg

By: Barry Denenberg
Published by: Scholastic
Released on: April 1st, 2011
Source: book from publisher to review
Ages: 8+
5 stars: I Loved It!
Purchase from: Scholastic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Series: Dear America Series

The peaceful, traditional Southern life that Emma Simpson and her family know is shattered when the Civil War reaches their soil. Soon, Emma's father and brother are called to battle, but her family is confident the South will quickly win the War between the States.As the months drag on, though, the harsh realities of war set in.

Death and hardship are all around Emma, and food, medicine, firewood, and ink for her to write in her diary become increasingly scarce as troops from the North march deeper into the South. Finally, even her home is commandeered by the Yankees. Still, with a brave spirit and the knowledge of what is most important, Emma never loses hope that the war will end.

Acclaimed author Barry Denenberg's WHEN WILL THIS CRUEL WAR BE OVER? is now back in print with a gorgeous new package! -quoted from Goodreads

I absolutely love this series, as each book featured in it takes the reader back into a different time in our country's history. It's both an exciting and educational read. Though I'm out of the targeted age range for these books, I find them to be just as engaging as I would if I was reading these as a young reader. Barry Denenberg does a brilliant job at giving the reader an inside view of the life of a young girl living through the Civil War.

Emma Simpson has grown up in the south in a rather comfortable life style, but tragedy soon strikes her family and all but robs her life of all that she holds dear. This brave young teen holds true to her faith, firm in her love and finds solace in reading Jane Eyre. Emma's lost her brother to the war, her father is off fighting in the war, she's lost many she's known around her to war, disease, and poor heath, including her mother. Barry does an amazing job at showing the toll this war took on the lives of those who lived through it, fought during it and survived it. It doesn't matter if you were from the North or the South, this was a war that effected everyone, and Emma's story is one of bravery, heartbreak and courage.

I highly recommend picking this book up. It's a fabulous fictional read with a lot of historical references set during the Civil War. I think this is a book readers of all ages will enjoy.

Valentine Books for Kids, Book Reviews: Pinkalicious Pink of Hearts & Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine

This past week I've been posting some reviews for some great Valentine Day books via my Celebration of Love series. Today I wanted to share two more reviews for Valentine Day themed books for kids.

Published by: Harper Festival
Released on: November 22nd, 2011
Source: book from publisher to review
Ages: K & up
4 stars: We Really Enjoyed It!
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Pinkalicious loves Valentine's Day! Everyone in her class is assigned to make an extra-special Valentine's Day card for one person in the class. Pinklicious creates a magnificently pinkerrific card. Will the valentine that she gets in return measure up? -quoted from Goodreads

Fans of Pinkalicious will love reading about Pinkalicious's Valentine story. She not only learns the importance of making a nice card for a friend, and how fun it is to do something like that, but she learns the importance of making something and getting a gift made from the heart. This is adorable story comes with Pinkalicious stickers and cute Valentine Day cards, a must have for any Pinkalicious fan.

Released on: November 22nd, 2011
Source: book from publisher to review
Ages: 5 & up
2 Stars: It Was An Ok Read
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Amelia Bedelia is sure she will love everything about Valentine's Day.
The sweet surprises

Cards to give and receive
A party at school
A big, long family hug

Amelia Bedelia can't wait.

What could be better?
Valentine's Day!
Hooray for Valentine's Day! -quoted from Goodreads

I loved Amelia Bedelia when I was younger, and I enjoy seeing her in a younger form, but this is not a story that connected well with my kids as many things were a little over their heads. For example during the Valentine party one of the students asked for punch, so Amelia punched him. While I understood the concept behind that my kids did not and I had to explain it to them. Having said that, I think the over all concept of having Amelia Bedelia act the way she does at this young of an age doesn't work well with the targeted age group. It missed the mark from original charming Amelia. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed reading about Amelia's mishaps during Valentine's Day and how she was able to fix things, but overall this is a story that didn't connect with my kids or myself.

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 ~