Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stink Bug Saves the Day! and The House That Went Ker-Splat! by Bill Myers

I love teaching my girls life lessons, and I love teaching them about God. So Bible stories are always a great resource to come back to because there's always something applicable there to relate to. Different times and different places, obviously, but the standing principals and theories remain the same. I think sometimes though, especially with younger kids, that the more you can relate the story to the present day the much better chance they have of truly grasping the concept you're trying to impart.

Picking up on this, Zonderkidz has come out with a great new Christian series called The Bug Parables. I recently had the absolute pleasure of reviewing the first two books in this series, and am I excited to be able to recommend them to you here.

Stink Bug Saves the Day! by Bill Myers
Illustrated by Andy J. Smith
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: September 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0310712190

The first book in this series is a modern retelling of the Bible's Good Samaritan parable. In the original story a traveler is attacked, robbed, and left for dead. When people of power, who should have been his friends, passed by they ignored him. They chose to pretend the situation didn't exist or was too messy to deal with.

In Stink Bug Saves the Day! Mr Roly-Poly finds himself in a very similar predictament. On his way to vacation with his family at Six Rags, Mr Roly-Poly pulls his milk carton motorhome off the road when the engine dies. While he's trying to fix it a band of thugs, mean and nasty bugs, attack. The rest of the Roly-Poly family is able to escape, but Mr Roly-Poly stays behind to give them that chance. He is robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the roadside. The baddies even steal his motorhome, which apparently he'd had time to fix before they showed up.

As Mr Roly-Poly fights to survive he finds hope in the fact that a colony of strong ants comes marching by. They are too busy to stop, despite his cries for help. Marching around him, they head off but not before saying "God Bless You!" Next comes a family of beautiful butterflies, but again they find the idea of helping too messy and continue on their way. Again, not without first shouting out a cordial "Have a nice day!" Lastly, just when Mr Roly-Poly is about to give up, he smells the most attrocious smell. Not just any smell- the smell of Stink Bug. Stink Bug isn't beautiful, looked up too, nor does he have lots of friends. He does, however, have compassion, and a giving heart. With a tender touch and a loving spirit, Stink Bug helps Mr Roly-Poly with his own meager supplies, and spends his own time and money to find him a warm, safe place to mend.

Stink Bug Saves the Day! is a perfect retelling of the Good Samaritan. It's a version I think any little kid can enjoy and be able to grasp the concept of. With a fun rhyming text and cute illustrations, its perfect for the sliding age scale of 4-7. Even order kids would enjoy it I'm sure because the author uses creative language and really strives to make this one a modern tale that today's children can understand and relate to all the while still keeping strong the idea behind the initial story. Everyone isn't always as they appear, and you shouldn't judge by appearances. Treat everyone as you'd like to be treated, and love all of your neighbors as you love God Himself.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

The House That Went Ker-Splat! by Bill Myers
Illustrated by Andy J. Smith
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: September 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0310712190

Book two, The House That Went Ker-Splat! is a modern day retelling, buggy style, of the story of the wise and foolish man. In the Biblical tale the wise man builds his house upon the rock, while the foolish man builds his house upon the sand. In the end the wise man's house withstands the elements and is a solid creation because the wise man did the job correctly and obeyed God. The foolish man's house falls in a heap because he was lazy and did not obey God's direction. And this buggy tale is no different.

Willie and Ray are both construction bugs working for the same boss. Willie is a good Bee who obeys the work plans, uses good judgement, and works hard to make his construction the best it can be. He knows it's easier to do a shotty job and to cut corners, but he also knows that easier does not mean better. Then there's Ray; I believe he's a Hornet or a Yellow Jacket. He's lazy, cheap, and has a total disregard for the rules or common sense. So, when it comes time for him to put together his building he doesn't do anything right. He doesn't pick a safe environment to build in, he doesn't hire workers with ethics or skills, he doesn't even follow and complete the building plans. Instead, he does the least amount he can possibly do and still, maybe, get by. What happens though is that his structure fails, and his boss sends him to jail because he didn't do what he was hired and paid to do.

It's a short story, just like the original parable, but it's got great illustrations and packs a whopping good punch of morals. I think even young children will easily relate to this tale and be able to see how hard work and diligence in combination with following God's will will always make them prosper. It might not always be the easiest road, but it will always be the most rewarding. This book clearly shows, in a way that a young child understand, the difference between the wise and the foolish bug. Both reap the fruits of their labor, but each has a very different reward based on the seeds they sowed.

OUR RATINGS: 5 hearts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Teen FIRST Blog Tour: The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1) by Mike Hamel

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details
List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David A. Ufer

The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David A. Ufer
Illustrated by Kirsten Carlson
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: June 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0976882305

We all have fears that don't always make sense. I myself am deathly afraid of bugs- spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and even butterflies up until recently. Okay, I guess saying I'm deathly afraid of them might be over stating things a bit, but the point is I do NOT like them at ALL, and my pulse will sky rocket, I'll begin to hyperventilate, and I will honestly be scared to bits if any creepy crawlies get anywhere near me. Does it make sense why a giant like myself (only giant in comparison to the those nasty little buggers) would be afraid or even highly freaked out by an itty bitty bug? No, of course not. With the exception of a few which would be poisonous or deadly, there's really not much harm any little bug can cause me. That doesn't change the fact that I am afraid of them. It makes no sense really, yet that's the way life is sometimes. And that's what Ufer shows us through this delightful picture book.

Right off readers are introduced to a young giraffe, on the African savannah, who always keeps his neck bent low to the ground. He is afraid of heights. It doesn't matter that as a giraffe he should stand tall and proud, or that his graceful neck could help him reach the delicious leaves in the tree or see all that takes place around him. It doesn't matter that it is unnatural for a giraffe to be afraid of heights. (Again, that's the thing with fears, most are completely unrational, but that doesn't change the validity of them.) It is unsafe and also unbecoming for the giraffe to keep kis head down this way day in and day out, so his parents, wanting to help their son, send him off to see a doctor who they hope will help him overcome his fears. If all goes well he'll come home afterwords, and be able to stand strong and tall with the rest of his herd.

Along the way to the doctor the young giraffe happens upon a young monkey drawing pictures in the dirt. It turns out that the monkey too is supposed to go to the doctor; he is afraid of climbing the trees. Feeling an automatic kinship and both having the same destination the two take up their journey together. Yet it turns out, they are not the only two animals in need of a visit to the doctor.

As they make their way along the path to meet the doctor the pair stumble upon a sad hippo lying alongside the river. The hippo explains that he too needs to visit the doctor. For him it is not a fear of heights or climbing he needs to overcome, but rather a fear of water. The trouble is that in order to reach the doctor the hippo must first cross the river. A problem far more difficult to overcome than simply gaining the courage to go. If he could get that far he wouldn't need the doctor in the first place.

While taking a break on the riverbank to brainstorm, the trio find themselves confronted with a fear far greater than any that they've encountered before. Far worse than heights, climbing, or water what they now face is truly worthy of their fear. The time how come, and it's now or never. If each doesn't overcome his own personal demons now it may be too late.

I really loved this book, even more than I first expected I would. The illustrations were just adorable, and the message was a universally great one. Kids everywhere can read this book, no matter the stage of life they're in, and be reassured that it's totally normal and okay to be afraid of things. What they can also learn though is that while fears are normal, it's also totally possible to overcome them. Readers will be able to relate to the cast of characters, and will be able to see that even in the most dire of cases a little courage can go a long way because it's always hidden away inside us. It just sometimes take a little pressure to crack its shell away.

This was also a hit from a kiddo's perspective. My five year old really enjoyed reading it, and she thought the pictures were cool. We agreed our favorite images are the ones of the hippo and the giraffe brainstorming. Their expressions are exaggerated and so stinking cute.

Plus, as has been the case with all other Sylvan Dell books we've had the pleasure of reviewing, this one had an excellent "For Creative Minds" section at the back. The "Animal Adaptions" portion shows how while some of the aspects of the story were obviously not true to life, there are ways in life in which animals adapt to survive. There were then fun facts for each of the featured animals, a fun foot and footprint matching game, and lastly there's even a short craft readers can do.

A definite good addition to one's collection if ever there was any.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR: Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek **PLUS REVIEW**

When Tilbury House Publications asked me to review and host one day for Amy Lundebrek's Under the Night Sky Virtual Book Tour I excitedly accepted. Not only do I love the review opportunity, but being able to help promote a great author is such a rewarding experience in and of itself. And Under the Night Sky is an excellent book worth spreading the word about. It might be Lundebrek's first children's book, but I can guarantee you it won't be her last. Not if she has any spark of desire to go on to write more.

Winter has a special beauty for those living in northern climates—even for those who live in cities. And winter nights can provide the most spectacular sights of all! To her son’s great surprise, a working, single mom breaks her routine one night and rushes her son downstairs to join their neighbors as they spontaneously celebrate the beauty of the northern lights—the aurora borealis. Nature is the central character in this story, and the spell it weaves provides this mother and son with a special moment they can look back on with great happiness. - from inside book jacket

About the Author:
Amy Lundebrek lives in Champlin, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan. She has a degree in biology and works as a research associate in a cell culture lab. She enjoys hiking and camping, canoeing and kayaking, painting and sculpture. This is her first children's book.

About the Illustrator:
Anna Rich says her career as an illustrator began in kindergarten, where she much preferred coloring and drawing to her other classwork. She received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and has illustrated many picture books, including From My Window by Olive Wong, Just Right Stew by Karen English, Annie's Gifts by Angela Medaris, Cleveland Lee's Beale Street Band by Arthur Flowers, and Saturday at the New You by Barbara Barber. She lives in Elmwood, New York, with her son and her husband.

Readers who enjoy the book should be sure to check out the Under the Night Sky page on Tilbury's website. There you'll find links for several related teaching resources, books, activities, and more.

Now for my review...

Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek
Illustrated by: Anna Rich
Geared Towards: Ages 4 and up
Published By: Tilbury House
Publication Date: May 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0884482970

As a person who has always been interested in the Northern Lights (not in a scientific way, but in the "I really really want to see them" way) I thought this book was particularly terrific. The story starts out as a young child is being put to bed by his neighbor while his mother is at work. The child can't go to sleep, but instead pretends, until he hears his mother quietly come home and softly wish him a good night. On this night, however, instead of coming in quietly to say good night, the child's mother rushes in loudly telling him to get get up and get dressed to go out. The child is scared thinking something bad has happened, but then he sees his mother's face and knows instead of something bad something exciting has happened. The child hurries to get dressed, and then along with his neighbor and her children they all run outside. No one will tell the children was is going on until they are all outside, as is everyone else from the neighborhood. They're all just standing around huddled together while an air of excitement buzzes through the crowd. The children are confused, but then their mothers tell them to look up. And what they see when they look up into the sky is nothing short of amazing- the Northern Lights.

As incredible as the Northern Lights must be, it wasn't the idea of the lights themselves that made this book so wonderful. It certainly added to it and gave the story its backbone, yet the true power player in this tale was the excitement and togetherness the experience of seeing the lights inspired in the neighborhood. It didn't matter that it was the dead of night. Everyone, young and old, was outside to joyously share share in awe the remarkable beauty that nature had to display. I can only imagine the thrill that seeing the Northern Lights first hand would inspire. I think that Lundebrek, through her words, and Anna Rich, through her gorgeous and comely color illustrations, did a wonderous job of capturing that beauty, amazement, comradeship, and love.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kids in the Holiday Kitchen by Jessica Strand & Tammy Massman-Johnson

Kids in the Holiday Kitchen: Making, Baking, Giving by Jessica Strang & Tammy Massman-Johnson
Geared Towards: Ages 4 and up
Published By: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0811861397

I have to be honest, this is a book I picked up off the library shelf purely for the cover. The bright holiday colors and photographs of some of the included recipes in their finished state promptly caught my attention. I wasn't even looking for a cookbook, but I went ahead and checked it out anyhow.

As the title suggests, this is a book related to recipes and craft ideas for kids to make, bake, and give. There are 4 sections as follows:
  1. Mealtime Magic
  2. Naughty and Nice Nibbles
  3. Sweet Somethings
  4. Happy Holiday Workshop

I think the overall layout of the book is good and alot of the ideas included are really cute. I was a little bit disappointed though because I guess I was thinking the recipes would be new and simple since it's a kids book, and many were not. Like one recipe, for instance, called for Gruyere cheese. What the heck?! I've never eve heard of that kind of cheese before. Maybe I live under a rock, but I'm pretty sure that's a little bit more than just your basic kid friendly recipe. This was for the Merry Macaroni, which is just a fancy homemade version of mac n' cheese. Granted, I'm sure it's one hundred times better than Kraft's Easy Mac, but that's besides the point. The recipe itself just seemed too fancy schmansy for my taste when considering the source, and honestly kids don't care about fancy. Any kid is going to be excited to be helping out in the kitchen, no matter what they're cooking. Regarding the end result, they're just going to care if the food looks and tastes good. Fun names like Rudolph's Red Sauce Pasta makes the dish sound more appealing, but really all it is fancy spaghetti. I can let my daughter help me make some regular spaghetti and give it a quick holiday name sprucing up on my own.

Other recipes were actually so simple I couldn't believe they'd even bothered to feature them, like the Snow Angel recipe. Again, a cute name, but all it was was a sunnyside up egg with a piece of toast. Oh, and they'd used a cookie cutter to cut an angel out of the middle of the toast. A cute name and a cute image, but not really something I needed a cook book to show me how to make. Know what I mean?

Let it not be thought though that I had nothing good to say about this book. It did have some questionable, in my opinion, recipes included, but there were also some really great ones too. I especially liked the recipe for the Chimney Cakes, Chocolate Truffles, and Latkes. They also had a super easy recipe for chocolate covered pretzel rods, which my 5 year old and I are actually going to be making for her teachers for Christmas.

If you're looking for a fun centerpiece idea to make with your child for the holidays you'll probably enjoy the Frosty and Friends recipe and the Winter Wonderland centerpiece recipe (though the latter is very indepth and appears time consuming). Or if you're looking for a somewhat last minute snack idea for your child to take to school you might consider the Holiday Ornament cupcakes which look absolutely adorable, but again probably require more effort than I'd be willing to put in myself.

It really was a nice book, and I think the good recipes weigh supreme. One could easily find hours of fun recipes to try duplicating with their child from flipping through Kids in the Holiday Kitchen.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: ZonderKidz
Publication Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0310713289

Christmas comes but once every twelve months, but the true story behind it should be one we all hold dear to our hearts throughout the entire year. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth is a book that can be enjoyed no matter the time of year. Set in an era not so unlike today where the economy was in a slump and money was hard to come by, The Gift of the Christmas Cookie is the story of a young boy named Jack who learns there's more to life than physical pleasures and blessings.

Poor and missing his father who has gone off in search of work, Jack is surprised to come home and find his mother baking Christmas cookies. Cookies are an unnecessary amenity that his mother gave up making long before. Why, now of all times, is she baking? Jack really hopes the cookies are for them, but as it turns out they're for the needy at church. Jack's spirit falls as he's caused to think of his own neediness. But then his mother takes the opportunity to explain to him the story behind the block print cookies she's making, and how they relate to something so much bigger than his own downtrodden spirit. You see, the cookies aren't just any cookies. No, they're made in rememberance of Jesus' birth. Made as a way to witness and share the story of that special day, the day the angels announced with triumphant joy that the Christ child had been born.

Jack finds his own comfort and joy in the Christmas story related to him by his mother through the cookies. He still misses his father, but he finds a new found respect for the reason of the season. When Jack's mom surprises him Christmas morning with a big angel cookie all of his own, he excitedly accepts as he knows it's the only present there will be this year. Before Jack can take a bite of his cookie there is a knock on the door. Surprise and trepidation course through Jack as his mother rushes to answer the door. Could it be his father, home to surprise his family for Christmas? No. Jack's heart falls as he sees but an old scruffy man standing in door. Inviting him in for a bite to eat, Jack and his mother share their Christmas breakfast with the stranger- neither having the heart, despite their disappointment, to send him away empty handed. Afterwards the old man takes his leave. As he walks away, the boy suddenly feels inclined to share the Christmas story- the cookie story- with the old man. In order to do so, the boy must give up his one and only cookie, but doing so ends up bringing Jack more joy and happiness than eating the cookie himself ever could.

Here we have a story that I absolutely loved. It was kind of mellow, however, the message was so good. I don't know if the history implied through the story was fact or fiction, yet I don't think it really matters. It could be that the author completely made up the story about the woodsman making the cookie presses and using them as a witness tool. That could have been all fictional. That's not the point though. The idea behind it could totally be applied to modern times, and I think the idea of using something as common place as a cookie to witness is incredibly creative. Not the mention the story itself was both sweet, tender, and moving. I actually had trouble vocalizing the last couple of pages when reading to my daughter, because the emotions the story stirred in me literally choked me up. Jack's innocence, vulnerability, and graciousness made tears come to my eyes. The story, especially the latter half, was that good.

Even though my 5 year didn't seem nearly as impressed with this one as I was, I'll definitely be keeping this in our collection to read again. I think the message it holds bears repeating.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

My Half Day by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed

My Half Day by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: July 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1934359143

My Half Day is book all about imagination and math, or more specifically about fractions. One morning our lead character wakes up to find his head half shaved and half not. And this is just the start of a day filled with craziness and fun, and one that is consistantly filled with fractions. From breakfast to heading out for camp to playing soccer with aliens from Mars, Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed did a great job mixing in the concept of fractions in a real to life manner that will help readers grasp the idea and see how it applies to real life.

I myself have never been a pro at math. I do okay, but it was never my strongest subject. Likewise, one of the biggest things I remember finding aggravating was fractions. They seemed silly and pointless- until I started to understand how fractions really do apply to daily life. Is the cup half full? How much flour do I need to make cookies? How many people from the group will be playing and how many reading- 2/3? How much of my dollar did I spend? The concept was daunting.

This is why I'm excited to be able to recommend this book by Sylvan Dell. Because the authors really did do a wonderful job of incorporating the number game in to an easy to understand format. Combined with the winning illustrations by Karen Lee, My Half Day is a book that can be read purely for the entertainment value, for the applicable educational aspects, or both. I can see it being an excellent teaching tool, though I think a lot of the math aspects might be a bit too much for the younger readers to grasp quite yet. Both my 3 yr old and my 5 yr understand the concept of halves, but they aren't quite to the recognition and full understanding of any of the more advanced fractions yet. This book will serve as a great resource though for helping teach both of them more about 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, etc. I'm just not sure they'll catch on immediately.

I'd highly recommend this book for teachers to include in their class libraries and also to include on class reading lists. It's an ideal training tool that comes with a fun storyline that will keep the reader interested, even if the fractions go over his/her head initially. Plus, as appears to be the case with most, if not all, of Sylvan Dell's children's books, there is an educational "Creative Minds" section at the back. This section helps explain, more indepth, the concept of halves, quarters, thirds, and other fractions. There's a mix and match game section that shows each fraction written out (2/3, 1/3, 1/2, 1/4, and 3/4) and then a list of pictures with "x" amount of segments filled in or missing (think pie charts). Lastly there's a Pizza Party game page you can look to the next time you make pizza, and want to make a fun learning experience out of it. The grid on the page shows two pizzas with varying size pizza slices. Readers can compare both to see in which instance they'd have more or less to eat based on the pizza slice sizes and numbers. This would be a fun way to incorporate math and learning in to dinner time.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twas' the Day Before Zoo Day by Catherine Ipcizade

Twas' the Day Before Zoo Day by Catherine Ipcizade
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: February 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1934359082

Twas' the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore was always one of my favorite Christmas stories to read. I loved the rhyming lines, and the jaunty flow. When I was given the opportunity to review a few books for Sylvan Dell I immediately had to raise my hand for the book Twas' the Day Before Zoo Day by Catherine Ipcizade for that very reason. Nevermind that my family loves going to the zoo, and we go countless times every year - so much so that we more than pay for our membership several times over. I wondered though would a book with a play on the title like this end up following in some format the story of Moore's I've grown to love over the years? The answer, when the book arrived, was a quick and unequivocal, 'yes'.

The way the author wrote the story has a very similar feel. I couldn't help but read the lilting text in the same way I would read the text from Moore's Twas' the Night Before Christmas. The story itself though is, obviously, about something entirely different than Moore's. Instead of getting ready for Christmas morning and a visit from Santa, in Twas' the Day Before Zoo Day readers follow the zoo staff around as they prep the zoo for a visiting class field trip. They feed and wash the animals, clean the grounds and even lecture the animals on how to behave. The animals, meanwhile, take it all in stride. Some get excited, yet others maintain their lazy disinterested position (just like they do when you're actually there visiting them).

This was cute and very cleverly thought out. My 3 yr old daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations by Ben Hodson, but I will say of all them I really didn't care for the monkeys or gorillas. Pretty minor complaint there though. So, no worries.

Another plus factor to mention about this book, is like with the other Sylvan Dell titles we've had the pleasure of reading/reviewing this one comes with a fun and handy "For Creative Minds" section in the back. These extra four pages provide educational information that kids will both learn from and enjoy. On the first two pages they can play a matching game. Readers can read the habitat and survival clues to help determine which animal picture it belongs to. Younger children who aren't yet old enough to follow along with the facts can simply tell you the name of each animal as they go through the picture list. On the third page readers will find an extensive list of Animal Fun Facts for the animals featured in the story. They'll learn which class each falls into (bird, mammal, amphibian, etc), what the baby is called, weight at birth, family group (herd, band, pride, etc), and what they eat (omnivore, herbivore, etc). Again this might be a little advanced for the younger readers in the group, but it's a great teaching tool that even they can benefit from. Last but not least, on the fourth page there is a fun fact section about Zoo Keepers and what their jobs entail. Then at the bottom there's a fill in the blank section with five questions your child can read and respond to regarding animals and taking care of them.

With as much as my girls love animals and trips to the zoo, I know this book is sure to become a regularly read selection in this house.

Thanks again to Sylvan Dell for the opportunity!

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

We Believe in Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

We Believe in Christmas by Karen Kingsbury
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0310712121

In a day and age when Christmas has become so commercialized and the true meaning behind it all has become lost more often than not, We Believe in Christmas by Karen Kingsbury was a welcome and wonderful book to read. I'm not saying I don't enjoy the commercial aspects just as much as the next person, but I do find it incredibly refreshing to find a book that not only brings to attention the fun commercial aspects of the holiday but one that also tries to draw the reader's focus on the genuine reason behind the Christmas celebration.

I think Kingsbury did a great job of drawing to light the fact that even as we go about our regular holiday traditions, both religious and secular, there's still room to remember the true reason behind it all. When you think of the presents you get and receive, think of the greatest gift of all and how amazing that gift was. When you sing Christmas carols like Silent Night, don't worry if you don't get it exactly right. Remember what the song itself is about and how imperfect that situation could have been and yet how incredible it all turned out. When you think of Santa and how much the little children believe in him, think how much more you can believe in Jesus who has done so much for you.

We Believe in Christmas is well written, beautifully illustrated, and carries with it a weighty message that even the youngest among us can appreciate. No matter what your holiday traditions, enjoy them. But never forget to see the beauty in the true meaning behind it all. Christmas isn't really about Santa and Christmas trees. It's about the Christchild and the amazing gift God gave us the day that He was born.

*Thanks go to Stephanie over at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a copy of this wonderful book for my daughters' collection and for this review opportunity.*

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Want To Try Before You Buy?

I think everyone's heard of Netflix before- the online movie rental place. Perfect for those who enjoy watching a movie before deciding whether or not to buy it- just like a traditional movie rental shop. Yet, Netflix provides the convenience factor of never having to leave home to make your selections. Instead, simply pull up to your computer, log in, create a membership (pay based on how many rentals you want out at a time instead of by the video), then pick out your videos, and wait just a few days for them to arrive. Sure you don't get the instant gratification of bringing the video home immediately. However, with a little foresight you'll have everything on hand when you're ready.

Anywho... I digress. The point I was trying to make was that everyone's heard of Netflix because when it started several years back it caught on like wild fire. In today's busy society convenience is everything, and the convenience factor offered by Netflix was more than traditional rental shops could offer [at the time]. Well, now apparently, movies and video games aren't the only things you can rent online. Nope, there'a whole new online rage, and this time it's dealing with books.

Check out BookSwim, the all new online book rental site. BookSwim is the first online book rental library service lending you paperbacks and hardcovers, Netflix®-style, directly to your house, without the need to purchase! Whether it's new releases, bestsellers, or classics, we have something for everyone, with free shipping both ways! Read your books as long as you want — no late fees! Even choose to purchase and keep the titles you love!

I think this is a really cool idea! There are so many people that either don't have access to a local library due to their location or do to lack of transportation. Others would love to visit the library, but simply do not have the time. With BookSwim this is a problem of yesterday. And while I would hate to see BookSwim or any site in the future like it take the place of traditional libraries, I think this is a very unique idea that could help bring books in to homes that otherwise wouldn't have them or have the opportunity to try them before buying.

If you're interested to see what BookSwim has to offer in the children's catalog, click here.

And if you think this sounds like something you'd be interested in trying for yourself you should be sure to get your name in the hat today for the drawing One Book Two Book is hosting on their giveaway. One lucky winner is going to win a free 3month BookSwim subscription. But you need to enter today, December 7, to get your name in the draw. Click here to enter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Secret History of Giants ~ WINNER!!!

Thank you so much for the incredible response on my giveaway for The Secret History of Giants. I'm thrilled so many people felt inclined to not only enter but to share a link to my giveaway and/or blog as well as to sign up to follow my blog and/or subscribe to my feed. This being my first public blog and my first real giveaway, I wasn't sure what kind of response I'd get, but you've all made me feel very comfortable here. So, thank you!

Now without further ado, I believe I have a winner to announce. I'm lame and couldn't figure out how the Random Generator thing works that I see so many bloggers use to determine their giveaway winners. However, since I didn't have a huge number of names to toss in the hat I was able to rely on the trusty 'ol Limmy.com Raffle King.

And.. dun dun dun da.... I'm excited to announce the randomly selected winner of The Secret History of Giants is none other than Anna from Diary of an Eccentric with the following post:

Anna said...
Oooh...my daughter would love this book! My daughter's fave creature is Goliath. We both love stories about vampires. (I hope that counts because I'm not up on my mythological creatures!) Thanks for the great giveaway!
November 24, 2008 10:01 AM

CONGRATS, Anna! Please keep an eye on your e-mail, as I'll be sending a message shortly so I can collect your mailing info. I'll then get your book in the mail asap so that you have it in plenty of time for Christmas.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to visit my little corner of the web through this giveaway. I'm sorry you couldn't all be winners, but I hope this holiday season brings you all many wonderful surprises, happiness, and health. And I hope you'll find that even though you didn't win this giveaway that there's enough here to keep you coming back to visit.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, December 5, 2008

Did I Mention?!

Okay, just had to take a quick mommy brag break for a moment.

Did I mention that Jo, who turned 5 the end of August, has begun reading chapter books on her own? Well, she is!!! You might recall my mentioning that I picked her up a copy of the book Butterfly Meadow Dazzle's First Day (It's a little 70 page chapter book with the occassional picture in it.) when I was working at her school book fair a little over a week back. She was so excited to see that I'd taken her kindergarten teacher's suggestion to heart (She's way ahead in the top of her kindergarten class for reading, and her teacher suggested starting her on chapter books.) that she settled in with it the very first day. She started reading up a storm, and it wasn't long (a cumulative few hours, maybe) before she'd read the whole thing. I can't guarantee she read every single thing since she wasn't actually reading it to me. But, she was reading (outloud, but very quietly), the majority of the time, within ear shot of me, and from what I could tell she was reading it just like she was supposed to. Woot! I'm just so proud!!! =D

My Little Girl by Tim McGraw & Tom Douglas

My Little Girl by Tim McGraw & Tom Douglas
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1400313211

I was talking to one of my best friends tonight over a cup of coffee while our kids ran around sword fighting (pretend swords, obviously) and doing all the other crazy and wild stuff kids do when you're looking to just sit tight for a moment for a peaceful cup of joe and conversation with another person older than 5. I was telling her about this cute book I'd recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing called My Little Girl by Tim McGraw & Tom Douglas. Almost as soon as the author's name had past my lips my friend was rolling her eyes.

"What?", I said. Now, I can't remember her exact words in response, but basically her reply had to do with her disgust with otherwise famous people (actors, singers, etc) trying to break in to the realm of kid's and adult literature. It's like it's not enough for them to be really good at the one thing they're already known for (acting, singing, etc). It's like they have to get their names out there just one more time- this time in the book arena. This is what my friend had to say. And, to be perfectly honest, I will say that I do, in a small way, have to agree with her just a little bit. Certainly that's not the case with every new/crossover author, though I'm sure there are plenty it applies to.

Admittedly the first time I read a children's book by one of Hollywood's already famous actors/actresses I was a little hesitant for this very reason. I by no means think anyone should be pigeon-holed to simply one genre or area of the arts/practice. I do, however, wonder about the driving force and motives behind some of these career expansions. Is the person looking to dabble in a new field because they really feel a calling and desire to share something with another younger generation? Do they really have a story, one worth sharing, to tell? Or is the new adventure into the world of literature and publishing merely another opportunity to go after the all mighty dollar?

So far, I have to say, I've been pleasantly surprised by the Hollywood actor/actress penned children's books I've had the opportunity to read. Both Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow come to mind, and I know both have written more than one book my girls and I have enjoyed. I suppose it's safe to say that whatever the driving force was behind their decisions to write worked in the favor of everyone. They undoubtedly each made a mint off of their sales and the reading community around the world has been given some adorable children's books to enjoy on their behalf.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't go in slightly skeptical to reading My Little Girl by Tim McGraw and Tom Douglas. I was in love with the cover illustration from the very minute I laid eyes on it online, but you can't always judge a book by its cover. Sometimes you have a cover that's totally awesome; however, when you get to the meat and potatos of the book you find there's not much there but grizzle and some left over three day old, store brand mashed. (hehe) Other times it's the opposite, while the cover leaves much to be desired it's what's inside on the pages that truly blows you away. And, yet again, there's a third option. Sometimes, a reader is lucky enough to happen upon a book that not only takes the cake in the world of cover design but that also rocks when it comes to the story itself.

I'm a little disappointed to say that, to me, My Little Girl didn't quite make it in to that last category, but rather was on the middle of the spectrum for the first category I mentioned. The illustrations by Julia Denos were fabulous. Like I said, I was in love with the book based on it's cover alone when I saw it online. There's something about the little girl that really reminds me of my own two daughters, and even though it's probably nothing more than the dark hair and whimsical attire it made me want to read this book. And the beauty and mesmerizing images didn't stop there. Each page was artfully crafted and stunning. Even though it appears, to my untrained eye (which means I could be totally off on this assumption) that the illustrator did her pictures in nothing more than basic sketches topped with carefully placed accents and color, they are down right incredible. The illustrations themselves catch your eye and leave you with a immense feeling of happiness down to your very core. That's pretty big considering.

The story itself seemed kind of weak to me and even a bit choppy at times. It would be unfair to say that the underlying premise of the story wasn't a good one, because it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of the story being about daddy's little girl getting all dolled up for her fancy day out with dad. She didn't know what they were doing or where they were going, but whatever and wherever she was going to be with her favorite man in all the world and she had to look her best for him. I loved how the author then showed Katie and her dad spending a completely unremarkable, in all outward appearances, day together. Then how, when all was said and done, it was better than anything Katie could have possibly hoped for.

Books that show little girls with their daddys really pull at my heart strings because not only do I have two adorable little girls who both have their daddy wrapped around their little fingers, but I was also a daddy's girl myself when I was growing up. My dad was killed when I was 14 (I'm 27 now.), and not a day goes by that I don't miss him. Reading a book like this brings back so many happy memories for me that I'm literally crying just typing this. (Oi!) So, as I was saying, any story that portrays a great father/daughter interaction like this one is going to automatically get my vote. It shows how a father should be and how wonderful even just the simplest things done together can impact a little girl and mean more to her than any expensive outlandish outting or treat ever could. I think in today's society this is a major issue because so many people think it's not about the time spent together but about how much money is spent and how big the opportunity itself is. That's not it at all though. It's about the quality time spent together, and for that reason alone this book was a hit for me. It brings to the table a beautiful precedent of what a father/daughter relationship can and should be like.

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, as much as I enjoyed the basic premise for the story and the illustrations that went along with it, I'd be lying if I said this book deserved a 5 heart rating. While it was beautiful and the concept was excellent, the actual follow through came up short for me. I believe it was McGraw's intention to have the story flow from activity to activity with as much delicate flow as possible, but something seemed to be off. In a few places it was like the thoughts were there but they were missing the necessary cohesive links to join them together without leaving a disjointed , choppy feel. For example, in one section Katie and her dad are spelling messages to one another with the alphabets in their soup. Then the very next thing Katie's telling her dad to push her higher on the swing. The last couple of sections had the same slightly disjointed feel to me. Perhaps I'm just being overly critical and there's really nothing missing at all but a decent, more objective reader. Cause, again, over all, I really did enjoy the book, and I think my daughter (5) did to.

My Little Girl was a fun look at a daughter's day out with her dad, and it truly was sweet story. I wish the flow felt a little more strong to me, but at the end of the day I still think I'd recommend this book.

Many thanks to Jackie at Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to review this one.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kersplatypus by Susan K. Mitchell

Kersplatypus by Susan K. Mitchell
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: February 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1934359075

Have you ever felt out of place, not really knowing how you got where you are or where you belong? If so, you'll quickly be able to relate to the main character in this darling picture book from Sylvan Dell. Kersplatypus is the tale of a young Platypus who finds himself washed away from his mother during a big Australian rain. When he settles he finds himself surrounded by lots of strange creatures all of which are just as confused about him as he is about them.

Poor little Platypus doesn't know what kind of animal he is, but the other outback animals are determined to help this little fellow figure out what exactly he is and where he belongs. The Brushtail Possum finds a similarity between herself and the creature, and concludes he must belong in a tree. But when the little Platypus is unsuccessful in climbing after the Possum he slips... KERSPLAT! Next he attempts to fly like the Kookaburra, yet again he's met with defeat. KERSPLAT! Over and over again, the little Platypus strives to prove he can keep up with the animals and that he truly does belong. Time and time again his efforts are unsuccessful. He is similar to all of them in a way, but he isn't exactly like any of the Outback animals. It's this realization that breaks the little Platypus's heart and brings tears to his eyes.

When finally wise Old Bandicoot happens by he is able to once and for all put a name to the fuzzy duck looking creature. He is a Platypus. Unfortunately though, this is where Old Bandicoot's knowledge stops. He knows what the lost creature is, but not where he belongs. Picking up on the opportunity for a fun play on words, Blue Tongued Skink contrives the nickname Kersplatypus for his new furry friend. Since with every attempt he made to follow in the steps of one of the other creatues he ended up going "KERSPLAT!" it seems an all too fitting name.

Soon after, Kersplatypus sets out on a walkabout to try to help himself recall something- anything- about where he belongs. And it doesn't take long before our dear little Kersplatypus finds the water and senses home.

Children will love this sweet story, and undoubtedly will ask you to read it over and over again. If not for the story itself then for the cute illustrations by Sherry Rogers. (The page with the Platypus crying is just absolutely adorable. He looks so sad and helpless. :( ) Each one is done impressively, and the animals seem to come alive on the pages.

Parents/Educators will love it not only because it is a fun story in general, but because it will lead its readers to to recognize and accept diversity. Opening young reader's eyes to the wildlife in another place (This of course only applies if you don't live in Australia.) will encourage and inspire them to learn more. There is also a "Creative Minds" section at the back of the book that allows readers to learn more fun facts about the Platypus. There's an activity page and short quiz where they can learn more about each of the Outback animals featured in the story. There's a section where the author discusses animal classifcation (plants, animals, mammal, reptile, etc), and then gives the reader a chance to try his or her own hand at classifying the animals from the story. Since the story itself tied this in through the other animals trying to figure out what kind of animal Platypus is, I think this is a really neat feature. Last but not least, there is also a short question section that inspires the reader to consider the story, and to do so on a level of "Bully vs Friend". I think this is a great way to encourage conversation with young readers to help them learn basic social skills, and to help reinforce the age old idea of treating others like you'd like to be treated.

(Thanks to Sara at Sylvan Dell for this wonderful review opportunity.)

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Always and Everywhere by Laura Bowman

Always and Everywhere by Laura Bowman
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8 approx
Published By: CreateSpace.com (independent)
Publication Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0615230672

When I discovered this book online a few weeks back, I made a post here to help spread the word about it. Written for her dear friend Margie and her family, Laura created the book as a way to both commemorize her dear friend's life and impact on her children, and to give encouragement to them all. You see, Margie is fighting a heartbreaking battle against breast cancer. And while she has no intentions of giving up the fight any time soon, when the time does come for her to move on from this world she wants her children to remember that even though she won't be physically with them she'll always be here in spirit. Isn't that a beautiful way to look at it? I personally hadn't read it, but the book's content and the story behind it was so moving that I felt it sounded like one truly worth promoting. It was then that Susan, the kind and generous director at Always and Everywhere, having seen my blog post, contacted me regarding receiving a copy of my very own. So, it is with much thanks to Susan, Laura, and Margie that I am now able to post my very own review.

Set in a normal every day world where kids will be kids and questions will be asked, Laura tackles one of the toughest subjects. What happens when you lose someone you love? Done in a beautiful and very simplified manner, Laura never actually uses the words death or loss. Rather, she skips gently to the topic of angels. Those slightly older readers will probably grasp the concept without help, but the younger ones in the group will still learn great lessons from the book even if they don't necessarily make all the connections.

The point of the story is that everyday- always and everywhere- those we love are with us. If not in body they are with us in spirit, and they'll always be with us through the lessons they've taught us and morals they've instilled in us.

Always and Everywhere was everything I'd expected and more. The children John, Mark, and Claire go about their daily routines, and at set intervals stop to inquire about something unseen but felt, unheard but noticed, forgotten yet not gone completely. They learn to slow down and live in the moment, to enjoy the simple joys life has to offer, to hold tight to their dreams and never let go, and they learn that they are never truly alone. In short, there's always more going on than meets the eye; so never take any of it for granted.

I absolutely loved this book. The way the author chose to put forth her friend's story on paper and canvas (She also painted the illustrations.) was both moving and beautiful. No matter what point your child is at in life's circle, I think this is a wonderful book filled with great reminders that even we parents can benefit from.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Monday, November 24, 2008

Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot- FREE Online

Wanted to let you know that anyone who is interested can currently read Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, in its entirity for free, online at Harper Collins' website. Click below to check it out!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MobiStories: Virtual Books for Kids

In a day and age when seemingly everything is going electronic it makes a certain amount of sense to steer that way in literature too. We've seen it happen years ago with books on tape, then on cds, and now you can download them for your iPod, or to read on your e-readers and computers. Mostly it's adults who have been able to benefit from the modern advancements (tapes and cds aside), but now that's all changing. Enter, MobiStories: Virtual Books for Kids.

Anytime - Anywhere Whether on the go or at home, MobiStories makes reading fun. With a library in your pocket, storytime is wherever and whenever your child wants it to be. Just load up your portable device with some of our great books and voila - you’ll never be without an entertaining story in the palm of your hand. And remember, when people ask why your child is so quiet, just say: "MobiStories!"

MobiStories bring books to life right before your eyes. With graphics, narrators, and read-along text, children from 1-10 can curl up with a book anywhere and anytime. Need a few minutes for a quick shower or to toss a load of laundry in? With MobiStories, your child can be entertained and mentally stimulated without sitting infront of the television or playing games online. Parents and their children can easily browse the great online books offered on MobiStories.com, preview a short snippet of each, and then quickly purchase their selections (for really reasonable prices) for immediate download. MobiStories are compatible for viewing on PCs, DVDs, iPods, iPhones, the iTouch, and more. With so many compatibility options, your child can view the stories whether at home or on the go.

As anyone will tell you, I'm a big proponant for print books. I love the convenience of e-books just like everyone else, but in giving up the bound and printed books for the techno style I feel that readers are missing out on so much of the experience that reading itself has to offer. So, when I heard about MobiStories my interest was piqued. Could this company really make a digital version be as fun and straightforward, without all the bells and whistles, as sitting down to read a hardcopy? The answer is, Yes!

I figured this would be something my 5 year old would enjoy, and I was right. She was hooked on the spot by the first book we "read" together, Good Mousekeeping. The stories come across like a blend of audio books and movies. Read by a narrator and coupled with fun musical accompaniment and sound effects, each book appears visually on the screen for young readers to watch and follow along with. The illustrations are fun and because the text appears on each page as it would without narration, the child can read along, outloud or silently, with the narrator. Even the pages realistically turn at the appropriate times. All in all, it's a pretty neat combo.

My daughter loved the interactive aspect of the books, and all four that we downloaded (Good Mousekeeping, Ella Elephant, The Squirrels' Thanksgiving, and Salsa for Kittens and Puppies) were a big hit. Naturally we had to "read" them all back to back, and she was immediately asking if we could download more. If that's not a stamp of approval I'm not sure what is!

And while I'd still never in a million years give up print books, I can say honestly that this new version is pretty cool. With several great age categories and titles to choose from, MobiStories is an awesome tool for parents, grandparents, and educators alike to use to continue to inspire the love of reading in the kids in their lives.

Would you like to try out MobiStories for yourself? Well, thanks to MobiStories and Mom Select I'm excited to tell you that you too can try MobiStories on for size. Through December 31st, 2008 ALL of my readers here at Ready Set Read Reviews can use coupon code BSM226A upon checkout at MobiStories.com to receive $10 in free downloads. Plus act now and you'll be able to score a bonus as Salsa for Kittens and Puppies is currently being offered for free too!

***Thanks again to the wonderful people at MobiStories and Mom Select for this great review opportunity!***

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Commenters Tag Fest (a little fun)

I've been tagged for a meme, but I'm not actually sure I even have enough qualifications to continue the tagging process. LOL Like Sara, it was really hard to find enough commenters to actually do this, but here it goes...

The rules are:

1. List the last 10 commenters on your blog.
2. If you’re on the list, you’re tagged.

My List of 10:

1. Michelle
2. morninglight mama
3. sarahwithnoh
4. Anna
5. Terry
6. Ruby (Mouth)
7. Cecelia
8. ChefDruck
9. Claire
10. Mary512

And here are the questions:

1. What's your favorite post from number 3's blog?
I enjoy all of Sara's posts, but from her most recent ones I'd pick the one she made about her anniversary gift she gave her husband. The gift was very unique and creative, and it was cool to see what the finished product looked like.

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that moved you?
I don't think Mary has posted any pictures lately that haven't gone along with a product review or post, so I'll go with 'no' on this question. (Aren't I boring? lol)

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on her blog?
She would if she had any. (Love ya, Sis.)

4. Which part of blogland is #2 from?
morninglight mama has a great blog centering around her life as a mom and wife. Her posts generally have to do with whatever happens to be on her mind, and are often times very insightful, thought provoking, and funny.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7, what would it be?
Keep up the good work. You've a wonderful blog!

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9's blog?
I've tried the Avon Foot Works stuff she has posted in one of her most recent giveaway posts.

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you?
I thought that Michelle's post about staying busy with work and missing your kids touched home with me. I love my p/t job and I love the benefits it provides for my family, but I miss the time I'm no longer getting with my girls during those hours. Michelle's post inspired me to simply enjoy all the time that I can with my girls when I'm not at work, and to keep in mind that they grow up so quickly.

8. How often do you comment on number 4's blog?
I don't comment enough, but I have sooooo many blogs that I try to keep up. I really need to do better. I love reading her interviews and reviews at Diary of Eccentric.

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly?
Yes, actually. ChefDruck always has great reviews and giveaways on her site, so I always look forward to getting my e-updates from her.

10. How did number 5's blog change your life?
I've only really just recently discovered this blog, so I don't have much to say about it yet. And while I'm not sure it's necessarily changed my life I would say that it's bound to provide lots of wonderful reviews and book recommendations. I'm all about kids lit, and this blogsite is very much in the same boat.

Okay, that's it. That's my boring responses. LOL

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Teen FIRST Blog Tour: Infidel (The Lost Books Vol 2) by Ted Dekker **Plus Review**

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of TedDekker.com.

Here are some of his latest titles:
Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)
Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)


Product Details
List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043


(Click Pictures to Zoom!)

Time for my thoughts...

I wasn't sure what I should expect going in to reading this book because I hadn't ever read a graphic novel. I've also never really gotten in to the comic book scene, so the entire thing was new to me. I accepted the review opportunity based solely on the fact that I really like Dekker, and I figured this would be a fun opportunity to see both another side of him and to see what all the hype is about regarding graphic novels.

I won't go as far as to say that I'd rush out to read another graphic novel, but I do see why the appeal is there. There's something unique about being able to read and have the pictures there all along the way to illustrate for you just how everything is happening. I was actually amazed by the degree of depth and detail of some of the images. Some were pretty basic, but then you had others that were just beautiful. I especially liked how gorgeous the woman were.

For the story, I'd say that it was neither here nor there for me. I think maybe I just didn't fully grasp the concept due to the fact that it was in graphic novel format or maybe because I haven't read the first volume or either of the regular novels. I thought it was okay, but the plot seemed kind of shallow. On the back cover synopsis it sounds like Infidel will be quite the well put together story with just the right amount of mystery, drama, and action to really draw in the reader. What I found when reading, however, wasn't quite that fantastic. It was interesting, but I didn't think that the storyline was really all that deep or exciting. Again though, maybe I'm over simplifying it because I'm not use to reading this style (ie graphic novel).

Whatever the case, I can say that I was intrigued enough by how it came together at the end. So, I'd probably want to read the next books Renegade and Chaos when they come out. I'm not so invested in the story that I'm biting at the bit for the next releases, but I'm curious enough to give them a go when the time comes. Maybe they'll get better for me as I get more familiar with the style.

OUR GRADE: 3 Hearts

The Secret History of Giants- BOOK GIVEAWAY

The time has come, my friends, for me to host my very first ever Ready Set Read Reviews book giveaway! It's unfortunately not something I can afford to do all the time, but Candlewick Press has ever so generously donated a brand new hardcopy of Professor Ari Berk's The Secret History of Giants for me to giveaway here on my blog.

Because I haven't read the book, I can't post a review. However, I can say that, after having taken a quick peek between the covers, that it looks like a really cool book. From the textured front cover to the incredibly detailed illustrations to the neat surprises included on many of the pages. It just looks like a fun book!

Here's what the publisher has to say about it...

Ancient Greece had its Titans, the Celts their Green Knight, the Bible Goliath -- and for those who know where to look, signs of these legendary hulking creatures still abound. Now comes a hugely engrossing chronicle of
giants since antiquity, from their role in forming mountains and causing earthquakes to the mysteries of their sacks (watch out for hitchhiking humans); from their means of employment (how did the Druids built Stonehenge?) to an extensive map of places around the world where giants may likely be found. Exhaustive and lushly illustrated, this enormously valuable resource is sure to fascinate all who open its covers.

Special features include:

  • sundry flaps, booklets, and gatefolds
  • a lavish foiled and embossed cover
  • an elegant tassel dangling from the spine

Are there giants among us? Find their story writ large in a lavish exploration touching on folklore and myth, truth and whimsy.

If you live in the US and think this book sounds like something you'd be interested in winning for yourself or a special child in your life, please leave me a comment here telling me about your favorite folklore or mythical creature.

For extra entries readers can do one or all of the following:

  • Subscribe to my e-mail updates (link can be found on right side column)

  • Follow me here at Ready Set Read Reviews (link can be found on right side column)

  • Stumble either this post or the main Ready Set Read Reviews page and comment back with your Stumble ID

  • Add my button (found on right side coloum) to your blog roll

  • Mention this giveaway on your blog by creating a new post linking back to me

Please come back and leave a new comment for each new entry. (Please include links.)

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next week, I'm going to leave this open for entries through Friday December 5th. I'll then do an online random draw to determine which lucky reader will be taking home this prize just in time for Christmas.

Due to cost of postage, US entries ONLY on this first giveaway. I'll see how it goes, and then consider my options again in the future.