Thursday, October 30, 2008

You're Invited!

You are invited to an Usborne Books eShow to explore the world of Usborne Books. A child's interest in reading and learning is stimulated by the lavish illustrations and informative content. There are over 1300 bright, colorful and fun titles covering activities, puzzles and a wide range of subjects for children of all ages.

Usborne Books - the books kids love to read!

Hosted by: Rebekah C
When: Today thru 11/29/2008 11:59:00 PM

Because we loved books sooooo much, EVERYONE is welcome. So feel free to invite a friend.

It's a rewarding experience when a child opens a book and discovers the magic of reading.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Teen FIRST Blog Tour: Ripple Effect (Time Thriller Trilogy, Book One) by Paul McCusker

I realize that the below post says that it's the 21st, and it would have been if my power hadn't been out. It figures, the first month I get to participate in the Teen FIRST blog tour, my power is out for the day. Oi vey. So, I'm really sorry this is late. However, as the old adage goes, better late than never. ;) ~Rebekah

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:

Zondervan (October 1, 2008)


Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Product Details

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714362
ISBN-13: 978-0310714361


“I’m running away,” Elizabeth announced defiantly. She chomped a french fry in half.

Jeff looked up at her. He’d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. “You’re what?”

“You weren’t listening, were you?”

“I was too.”

“Then what did I say?” Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldn’t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.

“You were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about . . . about . . .” He was stumped.

“Chris-tian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the . . . um — ”

“French Revolution.”

“Right, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dad — ”

“As usual,” she said and savaged another french fry.

Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabeth’s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didn’t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.

“Then what did I say?” she asked.

He was mid-suck on his straw and nearly blew the contents back into the glass. “Huh?”

“What did I say after that?”

“You said . . . uh . . .” He coughed, then glanced around the Fawlt Line Diner, hoping for inspiration or a way to change the subject. His eye was dazzled by the endless chrome, beveled mirrors, worn red upholstery, and checkered floor tiles. And it boasted Alice Dempsey, the world’s oldest living waitress, dressed in her paper cap and red-striped uniform with white apron.

She had seen Jeff look up and now hustled over to their booth. She arrived smelling like burnt hamburgers and chewed her gum loudly. “You kids want anything else?”

Rescued, Jeff thought. “No, thank you,” he said.

She cracked an internal bubble on her gum and dropped the check on the edge of the table. “See you tomorrow,” Alice said.

“No, you won’t,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “I won’t be here.”

As she walked off, Alice shot a curious look back at Elizabeth. She was old, but she wasn’t deaf.

“Take it easy,” Jeff said to Elizabeth.

“I’m going to run away,” she said, heavy rebuke in her tone. “If you’d been listening — ”

“Aw, c’mon, Bits — ” Jeff began. He’d called her “Bits” for as long as either of them could remember, all the way back to first grade. “It’s not that bad.”

“You try living with my mom and dad, and tell me it’s not that bad.”

“I know your folks,” Jeff said. “They’re a little quirky, that’s all.”

“Quirky! They’re just plain weird. They’re clueless about life in the real world. Did you know that my dad went to church last Sunday with his shirt on inside out?”

“It happens.”

“And wearing his bedroom slippers?”

Jeff smiled. Yeah, that’s Alan Forde, all right, he thought.

“Don’t you dare smile,” Elizabeth threatened, pointing a french fry at him. “It’s not funny. His slippers are grass stained. Do you know why?”

“Because he does his gardening in his bedroom slippers.”

Elizabeth threw up her hands. “That’s right! He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care how he looks, what -people think of him, or anything! And my mom doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed for him. She thinks he’s adorable! They’re weird.”

“They’re just . . . themselves. They’re — ”

Elizabeth threw herself against the back of the red vinyl bench and groaned. “You don’t understand.”

“Sure I do!” Jeff said. “Your parents are no worse than Malcolm.” Malcolm Dubbs was Jeff’s father’s cousin, on the English side of the family, and had been Jeff’s guardian since his parents had died five years ago in a plane crash. As the last adult of the Dubbs family line, he came from England to take over the family fortune and estate. “He’s quirky.”

“But that’s different. Malcolm is nice and sensitive and has that wonderful English accent,” Elizabeth said, nearly swooning. Jeff’s cousin was a heartthrob among some of the girls.

“Don’t get yourself all worked up,” Jeff said.

“My parents just go on and on about things I don’t care about,” she continued. “And if I hear the life-can’t-be-taken-too-seriously-because-it’s-just-a-small-part-of-a-bigger-picture lecture one more time, I’ll go out of my mind.”

Again Jeff restrained his smile. He knew that lecture well. Except his cousin Malcolm summarized the same idea in the phrase “the eternal perspective.” All it meant was that there was a lot more to life than what we can see or experience with our senses. This world is a temporary stop on a journey to a truer, more real reality, he’d say — an eternal reality. “Look, your parents see things differently from most -people. That’s all,” Jeff said, determined not to turn this gripe session into an Olympic event.

“They’re from another planet,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes I think this whole town is. Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“I like Fawlt Line,” Jeff said softly, afraid Elizabeth’s complaints might offend some of the other regulars at the diner.

“Everybody’s so . . . so oblivious! Nobody even seems to notice how strange this place is.”

Jeff shrugged. “It’s just a town, Bits. Every town has its quirks.”

“Is that your word of the day?” Elizabeth snapped. “These aren’t just quirks, Jeffrey.”

Jeff rolled his eyes. When she resorted to calling him Jeffrey, there was no reasoning with her. He rubbed the side of his face and absentmindedly pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair.

“What about Helen?” Elizabeth challenged him.

“Which Helen? You mean the volunteer at the information booth in the mall? That Helen?”

“I mean Helen the volunteer at the information booth in the mall who thinks she’s psychic. That’s who I mean.” Elizabeth leaned over the Formica tabletop. Jeff moved her plate of fries and ketchup to one side. “She won’t let you speak until she guesses what you’re going to ask. And she’s never right!”

Jeff shrugged.

“Our only life insurance agent has been dead for six years.”

“Yeah, but — ”

“And there’s Walter Keenan. He’s a professional proofreader for park bench ads! He wanders around, making -people move out of the way so he can do his job.” Her voice was a shrill whisper.

“Ben Hearn only pays him to do that because he feels sorry for him. You know old Walter hasn’t been the same since that shaving accident.”

“But I heard he just got a job doing the same thing at a tattoo parlor!”

“I’m sure tattooists want to make sure their spelling is correct.”

Elizabeth groaned and shook her head. “It’s like Mayberry trapped in the Twilight Zone. I thought you’d understand. I thought you knew how nuts this town is.” Elizabeth locked her gaze onto Jeff’s.

He gazed back at her and, suddenly, the image of her large brown eyes, the faint freckles on her upturned nose, her full lips, made him want to kiss her. He wasn’t sure why — they’d been friends for so long that she’d probably laugh at him if he ever actually did it — but the urge was still there.

“It’s not such a bad place,” he managed to say.

“I’ve had enough of this town,” she said. “Of my parents. Of all the weirdness. I’m fifteen years old and I wanna be a normal kid with normal problems. Are you coming with me or not?”

Jeff cocked an eyebrow. “To where?”

“To wherever I run away to,” she replied. “I’m serious about this, Jeff. I’m getting all my money together and going somewhere normal. We can take your Volkswagen and — ”

“Listen, Bits,” Jeff interrupted, “I know how you feel. But we can’t just run away. Where would we go? What would we do?”

“And who are you all of a sudden: Mr. Responsibility? You never know where you’re going or what you’re doing. You’re our very own Huck Finn.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Not according to Mr. Vidler.”

“Mr. Vidler said that?” Jeff asked defensively, wondering why their English teacher would be talking about him to Elizabeth.

“He says it’s because you don’t have parents, and Malcolm doesn’t care what you do.”

Jeff grunted. He didn’t like the idea of Mr. Vidler discussing him like that. And Malcolm certainly cared a great deal about what he did.

Elizabeth continued. “So why should you care where we go or what we do? Let’s just get out of here.”

“But, Bits, it’s stupid and — ”

“No! I’m not listening to you,” Elizabeth shouted and hit the tabletop with the palms of her hands. Silence washed over the diner like a wave as everyone turned to look.

“Keep it down, will you?” Jeff whispered fiercely.

“Either you go with me, or stay here and rot in this town. It’s up to you.”

Jeff looked away. It was unusual for them to argue. And when they did, it was usually Jeff who gave in. Like now. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Elizabeth also softened her tone. “If you’re going, then meet me at the Old Saw Mill by the edge of the river tonight at ten.” She paused, then added, “I’m going whether you come with me or not.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpkinhead by Eric Rohmann

Generally speaking, I seem to have a pretty good ability to discern, just by looking at the cover and reading the synopsis, whether or not I'll like a book. I can do this with both the books I read to my kids and the ones I read for myself. Which is why I believe I rarely read a book that I end up giving a low rating. I simply tend to weed those books out during the initial selection process before they ever even end up sitting on my own personal TBR shelf. I'm only human, however, and so I do occasionally miss the mark.

With all the 5 heart reviews I've posting here, I thought it might serve me well to show everyone that it is indeed possible for me to give a less than perfect satisfaction rating. I have a couple of others that I will try to post here in the next few days, but since I only had a few minutes and this was one I'd written previously I decided I'd go ahead and share it now. Be fore warned though, this is probably the most harsh I've ever written. Thank God I don't find many that I end up rating this way. I'd feel awful.

Pumpkinhead by Eric Rohmann
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2003
ISBN-13: 978-0375824166

This is the most disturbing children's book I've ever read. And judging by the other reviews I've seen online for it, I must be one of the only ones that absolutely hated this book. Strange. To be perfectly honest, I found the whole idea behind the Pumpkinhead story to be completely disturbing, especially when the book is geared at preschool age children.

This story is about a little boy born with a human body and a jack-o-lantern head. One day while he's outside a bird swoops down and grabs Pumpkinhead's head from his body, and then flies off with it. Throughout the book the head travels by way of a second party (bird, fisherman, etc) until it winds up on sale at produce stand. It's here that the mother discovers the pumpkin head, and immediately snatches it back up after recognizing it as her son's.

The book goes as far as to say that the parent's had kept the boy's body in a "cool dry place" while they waiting in hopes of finding his head. I'm sorry, but that's just creepy and disgusting. I will say that the rhyming nature of the book was fun and enjoyable, but the storyline itself was just horrid. There is no way I would ever recommend this book. Infact, our copy is buried around here somewhere because I simply couldn't bring myself to pass it along for any other child to read, and it certainly wasn't going to remain on my daughters' shelves. It was just that bad. :(

OUR RATING: 1 Heart (and that's only because there is no ZERO)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi

Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: July 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0763631963

I was so excited to open up my door this morning and find an envelope from Candlewick Press waiting for me. Thank you so much to the wonderful Nicole Deming over at CP who sent me this great book for review. My oldest daughter wasn't home at the time (Because it's Fall break here, and she was off playing at a friend's house.), but my soon to be 3 year old was thrilled when she saw mommy open the package and pull out this super cute looking book. So, naturally, we had to sit right down and read it. (And sissy had her turn when she got home.)

Where's My Mummy? is the tale of Little Baby Mummy, and what happens when he wants to play one quick game of Hide-and-Shriek with his Mama Mummy before bed.

Like with many little kids I know, when Little Baby Mummy's bedtime rolls around, he wants to do anything but crawl in to bed. So, he asks his Mama Mummy if they can play one last game of Hide-and-Shriek. However, when Mama doesn't immediately come find him Baby goes to look for her. In the process he ends up getting a bit lost in the dark, spooky woods, and as he does so he stumbles upon a few odd characters who, while friendly, are not his Mama.

My girls and I really thought this was a fun book to read anytime, but especially now with Halloween just around the corner. Little Baby Mummy is portrayed just as sweet and gentle as any other little kid would be. Lost in the spooky woods he wants to maintain the upperhand, and, just like a little boy trying to be macho, he has to keep saying to himself "I'm not scared." (In my head I could totally picture a real little boy lost and walking through the dark woods, saying this to himself even though you know it's all a front because he is terrified inside.) Even when he hears lots of scary noises like clinking, clanking, glubbing, flapping, rustling, and scratching Little Baby Mummy stays calm, calling out "Mama Mummy is that you?"

The story was really cute, and my girls thought the "spooky" monsters that Little Baby Mummy encountered were pretty comical. From the mommy perspective I liked how the author and illustrator worked together to take characters who, under normal circumstances, would be considered too scary for little kids and made them fun and likeable. Bones, the skeleton that Little Baby Mummy meets first, is brushing his teeth before bed and is caught while wearing nothing but his bathrobe and dice printed boxer shorts. Glob, the swamp monster, is in the swamp washing his face with soap and water before bed. And lastly, Drac, the vampire, is washing and Q-tipping his ears while wearing his bat jammies and fuzzy slippers. Each of these characters could be really scary, but the way they've been portrayed they're more silly than anything. In other words, they perfectly fit the feel of this book without being too eerie.

Oh, and my 5 year old got a huge kick out of the one thing that finally made Little Baby Mummy scream out and call for Mama. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet, so I won't say more here. Let's just say though that I think it was a very clever choice of direction for the author to take.

I think this would be a wonderful addition to any little one's library. Even though she's just a week shy of turning 3, and is therein still a year younger than the publisher recommended age for this title, my youngest had no trouble staying tuned in as I read the story. Then after we finished reading it together she decided to look through it again on her own, and each time she turned to one of the pages where Little Baby Mummy discovered the one making the noise wasn't his Mama, my daughter would say "You're not my mummy!" Just like in the story.

Last but not least, I have to give props to John Manders, the illustrator of this adorable look into a night in the life of a little mummy. Who knew, that by giving it just a few well thought out brilliant pops of color, you could make a frightening place like the dark woods or even a cemetary at night feel interesting and scary without being over the top scary? And Little Baby Mummy, as simply drawn as he was, had the most expressive face to match his attitude from page to page. You could look at him and know that he was really feeling the whimsy, curiosity, frustration, fear, and love that the author indicates in the story.

Where's My Mummy? was a lighthearted and entertaining read that is guaranteed to get lots of wear and enjoyment in this house.

OUR RATING: 5 Hearts

Monday, October 6, 2008

Trucks by Patricia Hubbell

Trucks by Patricia Hubbell
Geared Towards: Baby-Preschool
Published By: Marshall Cavendish
Publication Date: March 2003
ISBN-13: 978-0761451242

Readers who have or are girls themselves might not initially think to pick this book up off the shelf since the subject matter seems like a decidedly more boyish theme. However, I can speak from experience, as the mother of two little girls, when I say, boy or girl, young children will delight in this fun rhyming book all about trucks. Trucks big and small travel the pages of this book as Hubbell describes them from color, to size, to what they carry, and what sounds they make. Coupled with some very creative illustrations, Trucks makes you want to read it again and again. Infact, you really have to just to take it all in.

The online age recommendation for this one was baby to preschool. I'd have to say though that it's certainly suitable and engaging enough for not just early readers but for those up to ages 7-8 as well. Younger kids will enjoy just listening to the catchy story and taking in the pictures. Older readers will get a kick out of the clever play on words the illustrator uses for each of the company names on the vehicles. And if you look closely you're bound to get a laugh out of the people, er um.. creatures, driving the trucks. For example, there's a cow driving the dairy truck and a penguin driving the snow plow.

I know that this author has written several other kids books that also deal with a transportation theme, and I hope they're as entertaining as this one was to read and look through. I know my girls and I weren't disappointed this go round.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts