Monday, December 28, 2009

365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids by Maureen Healy

365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids by Maureen Healy
Geared Towards: all ages
Published By: Growing Happy Kids
Publication Date: January 2010
ISBN: 978-0-615-32390-9

Everyone knows that in order for a child to grow up strong, healthy, and intelligent he needs to be well taken care of in the physical and mental sense. There should be shelter, appropriate clothes, healthy foods, and education. But what if these physical and mental things were the only aspects of a child's development we, as parents, paid attention to? What if we were to give our child everything in the way of food, clothes, protection, and education but never take the time to build them up emotionally? What would happen if a child's emotional well being fell to the wayside and was never nutured or encouraged?

In a perfect world no child would go without any of the above, yet unfortunately in today's busy society there are many parents/grandparents/educators who overlook the importance of an emotional upbringing. Every child should live a rewarding life. In order to make this more a reality than just an idea, it is important for parents to empower, educate, and inspire their offspring. Through open lines of communication and a parenting style that comes from the heart, we as parents can not only impact our children in the here and now but forever through the words and teachings we instill in them. For words hurt and words heal. It's all in the way you use them.

Shakespeare once wrote, "The voice of parents is the voice of gods; for their children they are heaven's lieutenants." Buddha is quoted as having said, "Whatever words we utter should be chose with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill." That is to say, what we put in to our children emotionally is going to come out of them ten fold. If we work to influence their emotional beings through uplifting and encouraging conversations and dialogue we stand a chance of not only teaching our children social and emotional intelligences but also of creating in them more rounded, joyful, compassionate, and confident adults.

In her book, 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids Maureen Healy shows in length just how many ways parents can incite their children and help make them more emotionally aware, insightful, and happy. Written in a list format, Healy's book is broken down in to three main segments: EMPOWERING (Where "your child gains: courage, confidence, optimism, connection, and self-trust.") , EDUCATING (Where "your child learns about: emotional awareness, social and service learning, ethical living, and universal truths."), and INSPIRING (Where "your child connects with his or her: inspiration, imagination, creativity, love of nature, art, and spirit."). In each she lists many suggested conversation starters that a parent can use to create a exchange with his or her child(ren). Many are thought provoking on a child's level, but many seem a little cheesy. I guess in that regard, this is one of those books you must pick and choose from. Not everything will work for everyone, yet I'm sure each person who reads this book will be able to pick out several key elements they find beneficial and helpful on some level.

I have to admit that my first impression of Maureen's book wasn't exactly the best. Truth be told, I thought a lot of her suggested conversation starters were just corny and sometimes lame. I get what she was trying to achieve through them; they just, unfortunately, did not all resonate for me. Also I could sense a strong new agey, Buddist vibe in a lot, though not all, of the author's writing. This is not surprising because she openly mentioned, on one of the first pages of this book, her ties to the Buddist and New Age movements. For some this won't be an issue. For me, however, as Christian it was a little too much. I want the best for my children just as much as the next mother, maybe even more, but I don't buy in to a lot of the "the universal harmony" crap that goes along with either of the aforementioned belief systems.

I don't want that to sound like I'm completely tearing down Healy's book, because that would be completely false. I do, again, think that there are quite a few really good thought provoking sayings in this book. Just to name a few from each section...

In the section on EMPOWERING-

#7 The Best (found on page 15)
"Ordering the best from life and expecting it often returns just that- THE BEST. So enjoy looking for the best in your SELF and OTHERS because soon the best starts looking for you."

#17 Everyday (found on page 17)
"You are loved every minute of every day in every way! I love you. God loves you. Your angels surround you and protect you on your way. There is nothing to fear as you let God steer. Enjoy being surrounded by UNIVERSAL love from above."

#35 Never Give Up (found on page 22)
"Never ever give up! Life has some bumps and bruises, ups and downs, highs and lows but never, ever GIVE UP. Being able to hang on and not give up is a GIFT to yourself that you are STRONG, CAPABLE and WILLING to see life through. Plus there are rewards coming to you."

In the section on EDUCATING-

#129 Happy Wishes (found on page 53)
"Everyone is the same. We all want happiness and to avoid pain. This truth connects every person. No matter what is occurring in life- look past the surface and see every person wants to feel happy. Even the grumpy teacher!"

#131 No Better (found on page 54)
"There is no better. Each of us is UNIQUE and SPECIAL. No one is better than anyone else. Every person has gifts that are being birthed within them. EVERY MINUTE. Respect the blossoming of everyone's gifts equally."

#150 Patience (found on page 58)
"Patients are not just for doctors! It is the ability to rest in knowing all is well, others can go first, and you can happily wait your turn. There is not RUSH in life. All the best things are coming to you so just be happy and let them SHOW UP right on time."

In the section on INSPIRING-

#298 Fully You (found on page 101)
"I want you to be FULLY you in everything you do! So enjoy discovering your self, taking your talents off the shelf and being fully the wonderful you. What do you fully want to do?"

#332 No Ordinary (found on page 109)
"There are no ordinary moments! Every second is special. Even if you are picking your nose or wiggling your toes! God is here, there and everywhere. So see the DIVINE light shining everywhere even at night."

#357 Seeds (found on page 115)
"Today's seeds are tomorrow's flowers. You can plant seeds and watch flowers rise up from the dirt. Or you can plant kind words and see all kind words spring up all around you! What type of seeds are you planting now?"

The above is just a taste of what readers can expect to find between the pages of Healy's new release, 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids. I'll repeat that while I don't particular love every saying in this book, I do agree that there are some really great ones to be found. I think the author did a good job of structuring her writing so a young child can easily understand most, if not all, of the 365 sayings. Her simple wording and catchy rhyming text is undoubtedly one of the key componants that will help younger readers commit Healy's "truths" to memory. And while I probably wouldn't use the book in the fashion the author indicated, I would probably use it to get suggestions for cute notes lunchbox notes that I could send to school with my 6 year old daughter.

Thanks to Maureen for allowing me this review opportunity!

OUR RATING: 3 hearts

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) by Gina Misiroglu

The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) by Gina Misiroglu
Geared Towards: Ages 4 and up
Published By: Visible Ink
Publication Date: October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-57859-219-7

Being a parent is truly one of the most amazing opportunities I think any person can ever have the pleasure of experiencing. It's full of up's and down's, but there's almost never a dull moment. Of course, as any parent will know, having a child can also be very enlightening. Things you didn't know your child could come up with, they'll inquire about. Why is the sky blue? How does a bird fly? What causes leg pains while one is sleeping? Why does a cat pur?

These are just a few of the many questions children love to ask, and when they do ask them we, as parents, are expected to have an educated answer to offer. Sometimes, depending on the age of your child, you can get away with a simple "Because it just is." It's highly unlikely though that this response will generate the desired response. The more likely scenario is the one where the child will continue to hound and harrass you for a fact based answer until you either find it or make something up. And let's face it, nobody wants to lie to their kid because they don't honestly have a clue what the answer to their question is. Yet, what are you supposed to do when you don't have a good explaination? Some might turn to the internet or the dusty encyclopedia set that rests, untouched, on the family bookshelf. But what if there were an easier place to find the answers to your child's interesting and highly imaginative questions? Now there is...

The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) by Gina Misiroglu is the perfect reference resource for parents, teachers, and kids alike. Written in a clear and easy to understand fashion, this book is exactly as it's name suggests, a handy answer book. I really love the way the author has chosen to breakdown the contents of the book, because it makes it easy to navigate through when looking for information on a particular subject. For instance, everything related to Outer Space is in it's own chapter. Next follows a segment on Planet Earth and our Moon; Creatures Big and Small; Plant Life; People Around the World; Politics and Government; How Things Work; Math, Measurement, and Time; All About My Body; and Daily Life.

If you know what category your child's question would fall under, you only need to flip that section to search out an answer. What's wonderful is that this is a book you can really turn to in all those "I dunno" moments when your child asks you a question you simply haven't got a clue how to answer. Granted, there's no guarantee your child's question will be one that is featured in this compilation; however, with nearly 800 queries touched on within its pages I think it's fairly safe to say you've got a good chance at finding the information you need.

I should also mention that the author has been incredibly thorough when collecting the data for her book. Every question that is listed is paired with a thorough and comprehensive answer which parents can adapt to their own situations. In other words, say a parent finds the answer to his child's question but the answer is too indepth for the child of this particular age to be able to absorb and understand it. Not a problem. All the parent has to do is shorten the given answer to something a little more age appropriate. This way, the parent can be certain he is offering the best answer possible to his child, but he's also able to do so in a way that doesn't, hopefully, leave the child with more questions than answers.

I'll tell you what, even if you don't have a child who's quite to that critical stage of 24-7 curiosity, this is a book you'll still want to get your hands on. Why is that? That's an easy question, and one I don't even have to look up the answer for in the book. (hahaha) The reason is because The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) is actually really interesting. Reading through it, in order to write this review, I found myself constantly amazed with the knowledge I was consuming from each page. It's a true wealth of information- useful to useless and everything in between.

My thanks go out to online publicist, Lisa Roe, for giving me this fantastic review opportunity. This is a book I guarantee will not get set on a dusty old shelf to become forgotten and outdated. Nope, this is one I know is going to get a lot of use in this house. So, thanks again, Lisa!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri
Geared Towards: Ages 14 and up
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3707-1

We've all heard about selling your soul to the Devil, but what if you really did? In Daniel and Dina Nayeri's new reimagined Faustian novel, that's exactly what happens.

Across the globe, five unhappy children are mysteriously swept away from their lives in the regular world, never to be seen or heard from again. Reemerging several years later, distinctly and totally different than before, the Faust five are ready to reek havoc like never before. For what's a deal with the Devil if there's no fun involved?

Given over to a lust like no other, the Faust children (as they've since come to know themselves) have become more than mysterious teenagers out to have a little fun. They are in it to win it, and there is no losing. Beauty, fame, and fortune are more than mere petty pipe dreams. For the Fausts they are a way of life. Each having made a very lucrative, albeit chilling deal with the beautiful governess, Madame Vileroy, now proudly embodies his or her most sought after "gifts". Though by no more than sheer evil the teens are able to see their utmost dreams come alive. No more wishing. No more hoping. Now it's all coming together and each is getting exactly what he/she wanted more than anything else. Except, no one thought twice about the consequences.

Can the Faust children ever learn to see the error of their ways? Will they be bound to their perverse ways of life forever or will they ever truly take notice of the driving force affecting each of them? Will any ever be able to repossess his/her own soul and turn over a new way of life? Or will the cheating, stealing, hiding, and lying carry on with them throughout the rest of eternity?

Readers will be captivated by the twisted and intriguing world brought to life in this eerie tale. A wonderfully nefarious debut by Daniel & Dina Nayeri, Another Faust depicts, in a whole new way, the ultimate self serving sacrifice as originally brought to the table by German legend.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bear-ly There by Rebekah Raye **Review & Blog Tour**

Bear-ly There by Rebekah Raye
Geared Towards: Ages 8-11
Published By: Tilbury House
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-88448-314-4

I grew up in an area of the country where most everyone is accustomed to having black bears around. Even if you don't actually see them you know they are there, lurking in the woods waiting for the sun to go down so they can venture out to investigate the people world around them. There it's fairly common to spot one of these brave and curious creatures rifling through the garbage or sauntering around. However, now I live in the city, and while I'm still familiar with country life, my own daughters are not. That's why I really enjoyed the opportunity I was recently given by Tilbury House Publishing to review their new release Bear-ly There written and beautifully illustrated by author Rebekah Raye.

When bear awakes from his long Winter slumber, he is hungry and ready to explore. But when he suddenly smells something sweet wafting through the air, bear is no longer interested in the worms and acorns he's found buried deep in the ground. No. What he wants is what he smells, and what he smells is hidden inside a locked, wooden shed just beyond the woods.

After the bear tears in to Charlie's family's storage shed, seeking out the delicious smelling bird seed that had lured him there, Charlie is left fearing for the lives of his geese. They were safe in their own shed at the time, but another visit from the bear could end on a not so lucky note. With that, Charlie takes the opportunity to begin researching his wild visitor. Not only can his family take measures to help insure that the bear does not return, but so can their neighbors. It's a joint effort that everyone, including the bear, can benefit from.

Bear-ly There is a great story about a boy who sets out to protect his pet geese and in the process saves the bear he was protecting them from. With charming illustrations to accompany it, this story is one that children and adults both will enjoy reading. What's more is that you could even say there's a moral to the story; one that suggests that life is precious and everyone- everything has a place and purpose. Who wouldn't love that message?

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Now for some fun...

Rebekah has graciously offered to contribute some of her beautiful wildlife artwork (see samples of her work, in addition to the signed books that Tilbury will be giving away. So that's a total of 10 fantastic prizes during this tour!

Blog Comment Prizes

Tilbury will draw 9 lucky winners from all of those who leave comments on the participating tour posts from (October 16-30) to win one of the following prizes:
- A set of four art cards (2 sets available)
- A signed wildlife art print
- An original sketch from Bear-ly There
- An original sketch from The Very Best Bed
- An original sketch from Thanks to the Animals
- A copy of Bear-ly There, The Very Best Bed, or Thanks to the Animals, signed by Rebekah Raye

Winners will be announced on Oct. 31, US/Canada addresses only, please.

Twitter Prize

Everyone that participates in the Twitter Book Party, and/or posts anything about the tour using the hashtag #Bear-ly There from October 15-30 will be entered to win a complete set of Bear-ly There, Thanks to the Animals, and The Very Best Bed, all signed by Rebekah Raye. Winners will be announced on Oct. 31, US/Canada addresses only, please.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Messy Tessy by Leah Orr

Messy Tessy by Leah Orr
Illustrated By: Josephine Lepore
Geared Towards: Ages 2-5
Published By: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4389-9398-0

When I first received an invitation to review Messy Tessy by Leah Orr I thought it sounded like it could be kind of cute. Here's the synopsis from the book's cover, "While babysitter Aunt Fran is asleep, Messy Tessy finds humorous and amusing ways to entertain herself. With every turn of the page enjoy the mischief that unfolds." What little kid doesn't get in to some mischief, right? But when I actually received and read the book, I have to say I was a little disappointed.

In the story the little girl, Messy Tessy, is left to entertain herself while mommy is out and the babysitter falls asleep. She makes do reading to her dollies, painting, playing salon, and just generally having fun. And truthfully, the story itself was cute enough. However, I really didn't like how it promoted the idea of coloring on the walls, destroying the dolls by painting on them and cutting their hair, and even the little girl cutting her own hair. These are things that little girls are likely to discover and attempt on their own, but as a mother of two little girls I'd honestly prefer not to give them any ideas. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I just can't bring myself to read this to my daughters. I'm really sorry.

I do completely and one hundred percent though applaud the author's vision she's working towards attaining by publishing this book, as well as the two others she has written. This vision is one that goes a long way towards helping people just like her own daughter. This vision is to help find cure for the many affected by Cystic Fibrosis. While this story itself does not in any way touch on CF, the author and her family intend to put all money earned from the sale of this book directly into the hands of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. What a noble cause!

With the above in mind, I'd like to recommend the purchase of this book. Whether or not you like the book itself you'll know your contribution via your purchase has gone to a good cause.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Congratulations, Sarah_Elizabeth!

You have been randomly selected (via Limmy's Raffle King) to win your very own, fresh from the publisher, copy of The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury. You didn't leave a way for me to contact you, so please e-mail me ( within 7 days in order to claim your prize. Thanks!!!

And to everyone else who entered this giveaway, thank you so much! I wish I had enough copies of the book to go around, but unfortunately I do not. You really won't be disappointed with The Princess and the Three Knights though, so be sure to pick up a copy soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baby Owl's Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Baby Owl's Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis
Illustrated By: Laura Jacques
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-95-2

It's widely proclaimed that should you ever find a lost baby animal in the wild that you should never ever mess with it. Theories differ, but some say the parent may abandon the baby because it senses your presence. Others say that the baby could be abandoned and left for dead because the parent may be frightened by your smell on their young. But what if you found a baby bird or animal that would be in actual danger from other outside sources or predators? Is it then okay to intervene?

In her book Baby Owl's Rescue, author Jennifer Keats Curtis, offers a wonderful story and example of how you could involve yourself were you to ever stumble across a lone baby animal that looked like it could use help. The animal in question in Curtis's book, is as the title suggests, a baby owl. Fallen from his home high in the trees, the young bird is unable to fly back up to his nest. Maddie and Max know, however, that even though the baby owl appears to need help that they should never involve themselves without first consulting an adult. In this instance they go to their mother, who just so happens to be a wildlife rehabilitator.

Mom knows that every case differs and that no real plan of action should be taken until you've thoroughly looked at all the variables in each individual situation. Does it look like that baby is hurt? Is danger eminent if you don't assist the baby? Have you failed to see the parent return within a reasonable time? Is it possible mom or dad have simply gone off to forage for food and that they'll be back soon, in which case they can then assist their baby themselves? These are all great questions you must consider if and when you are trying to determine if action should be taken on behalf of a wild animal who appears to need help.

In this story, after considering all of their options, Max and Maddy's mom determines that they should help. The baby owl is too young and small to fly back up to its high nest, yet left alone on the ground it could easily become prey for a hungry predator. It's not as simple as just picking it up and plunking it in to the nest though. Even when the decision to intervene has been made, a human's involvement with a wild animal baby should still be minimal, at best. No one wants to inadvertantly cause more harm to the unsuspecting creature. However, with a little knowledge and creative planning, mom and the kids are able to rescue the baby owl and easily get it back to safety.

It's a great story with a happy ending!

But don't think the fun stops there. No, of course not. This is a Sylvan Dell publication which means there's a fantastic "Creative Minds" section to be found at the back of the book. It's full of educational owl fun facts, activities, games and more. It's so great that young readers likely won't even catch on to the fact that they're learning something until it's too late. Now if that's not a education in disguise I don't know what is!

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Friday, October 2, 2009

*~*Princess Picture Book Giveaway*~*

Would you like to win the little princess in your life a copy of Karen Kingsbury's delightful new hardback picture book, The Princess and the Three Knights? Well, thanks to the ever so generous Lindsey R. at Zonderkidz, I am pleased to announce that you can do so right here at Ready Set Read Reviews.

To enter you can do can do some or all of the following, but you must at least do the first. Your name will go in the hat one time for each entry that I receive from you. (Please note: Due to the cost of postal prices, I'm afraid I must limit this giveaway to those with US addresses only.) Also, please make sure to include you a way to contact you with each comment.

1. Check out my previous blog post containing my review for The Princess and the Three Knights, and leave me a comment there and then again on this post confirming your entry. (This is a must for entry. Without this step, all other entries will be null and void.)

2. Leave a post here telling me what your favorite traditional romantic fairy tale is. Extra entry if you tell me why.

3. Add my button and/or a link to Ready Set Read Reviews to your sidebar, then comment here with a link back to confirm your entry.

4. Blog about this giveaway, including a link to this post, and comment back with a link to your own post.

5. Twitter about this giveaway. Be sure to leave your Twitter id in your entry comment.

6. Stumble, Digg, etc this post at least once, and link back in your entry comment.

7. Become a Ready Set Read Reviews follower. There's a box on the right sidebar on the main page. For one entry, leave a comment saying you've done so. Or if you're already a follower, just let me know.

8. Sign up for e-mail updates from Ready Set Read Reviews. Leave the e-mail address ("name at gmail dot com" format is fine) you signed up with in your comment for one entry.

That's a minimum of 10 entry options; so get to it!

I'll leave this contest posted for 2wks. That'll bring me back around to pay day so I'll have the money to put the book in the post right away after doing a random draw from all entries to select a lucky winner.

GOOD LUCK TO ALL WHO ENTER! It really is a great book, so don't let this opportunity pass you by. :)

The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury

The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury
Illustrated By: Gabrielle Grimard
Geared Towards: Ages 4-7
Published By: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-3107-1641-9

As the mother of two little girls, and as a little girl once myself, I am no stranger to fairy tales. In most there's always a beautiful princess who wants to be loved and rescued by a handsome prince. He can be brave. He can be noble. Rarely, however, do the stories show us any real character on either party's behalf. Usually the prince just has to be good looking and come with a title and that automatically makes him a suitable candidate to take the hand of the princess. Or, if he's not an automatic shoe in then there's usually a duel or some other physical challenge which takes place to help narrow down the selection to a single suitor.

That is all fine and dandy, and truthfully I have enjoyed these fairy tales as much as most. Yet, I've often wondered, and have seen discussed many times online, why do fairy tales seem to never show the princess being claimed by a prince, or even just a regular guy, who sees more than just her money and beauty? They're make believe stories so no one expects them to be fully realistic, and still when little girls read these enchanting tales they get continually hit with the idea that looks and money are everything. That's a pretty deceptive message if you ask me.

What if an author was to take the bold step and write a fairy tale that still incorporates all the beauty and wonder of it's earlier counterparts but also added more substance to the characters? What if someone wrote a fable about a princess who was desired for more than just her delicate looks and heavy coin purse?

Apparently Karen Kingsbury, author of The Princess and the Three Knights, was of the same opinion because this new picture book, out in September 2009 from Zonderkidz, brings together the wonder of a princess's courtship with the idea that there's more to her than her fairness and wealth.

When the king's lovely daughter matures to the age of marriage he finds that she has many prospective suitors. But as is always the case, there are more than not who see the princess as a prize to be had not for the sake of the pleasure their unity would spark but for the benefits it would allow. The king knows his precious daughter is beauteous but unlike many he recognizes her beauty is more than skin deep. Wanting nothing less than perfect for his little girl, the king sets out to find the one knight who is most likely to love the princess for who she is and not for what she looks like or what family she comes from.

It's a refreshing point of view to see coming from fairy tale styling. It's brilliant how Kingsbury has managed to string together a romantic fable written to this particular age bracket that not only shows the importance of including God in all your relationships but also shows little girls that true love, not beauty or status, thought both of these can be wonderful to have, should be the given priority. She's taken everything that little girls find appealing in traditional romantic fairy tales, and she's blended them with these more realistic and Godly ideas to create a really good, really well rounded story!

Never mind the simply gorgeous illustrations by Gabrielle Grimmard. The cover alone will mesmerize you and call you to pick up the book. I swear, this is a book that will appeal to any little girl who dreams of one day being swept off her feet by her knight in shining armor.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Winnie the Pooh is back!!

It's been almost 84 years since Winnie the Pooh made his debut. That fuzzy little tummy all stuffed with fluff has been the focus of A.A. Milne's and E.H. Shepard's two classic books, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corners, and it's been featured in many more contemporary styled picture books and cartoons. But now after nearly 80 years, fans of the original classics can rejoice because on October 5th, 2009 Winnie the Pooh will be back in his first authorized sequel in over 80 years!

From the press release (found at the Penguin Group website) -

Michael Brown, for the Trustees of the Pooh Properties, who manage the affairs of the A. A. Milne and E.H. Shepard Estates said, "We have been hoping for a good many years that we might one day be able to offer the world a sequel which would do justice to the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The original books were one of the greatest celebrations of childhood in any language, but we believe that David Benedictus and Mark Burgess have captured the spirit and quality of those original books. We hope that the many millions of Pooh enthusiasts and readers around the world will embrace and cherish these new stories as if they had just emerged from the pen of A. A. Milne himself."

Don Weisberg, President of Penguin's Young Readers Group commented, "Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin are an integral part of so many children's reading experience. We are privileged to be part of this adventure to bring new tales to a generation of young people in the United States."

David Benedictus's manuscript was inspired by his familiarity with Winnie-the-Pooh's adventures after having worked on Audio CD adaptations of previous Winnie-the-Pooh stories. David has collaborated with illustrator Mark Burgess to create what is sure to become another treasured Winnie-the-Pooh book.

Is anyone else excited?! I know I certainly am. The original Winnie the Pooh books were timeless and I am very anxious to see what new author David Benedictus has to offer. If you're as excited as I am and can't wait until Monday for the book to hit the shelves, then be sure to visit the Penguin Group page here where you can learn more about the books and characters, and where you can download an exerpt from the first chapter of Return to the Hundred Acre Wood. Plus while you're there, don't forget to check out the video clip of award-winning narrator Jim Dale the Exposition to the book. It's no wonder he's won awards, his voice is perfection.

Get ready people because this is going to be great!

Before you go, how about a few random fun Winnie the Pooh facts?
  • Winnie the Pooh was brought to life on Christmas Eve in 1925 when the first Pooh story, written by AA Milne, was published in the London Evening News. The piece was based on a bedtime story read by AA Milne to his son, Christopher Robin.

  • The characters in AA Milne's stories are based on toys once owned by his son. The original stuffed toys are now kept in New York Public Library.

  • The inspiration for Hundred Acre Wood comes from Ashdown Forest in Sussex, which was near AA Milne's country home Cotchford Farm.

  • Winnie the Pooh is also called Pooh, or Pooh Bear, but never, ever, just Winnie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter by Liz Kessler

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter by Liz Kessler
Geared Towards: Ages 8-12
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4202-0

Philippa Fisher is a girl no different from any other, except for the fact that she believes in fairies. She doesn't just blindly believe in them either; she knows they exist- has met one in person. But now her fairy godsister, Daisy, has gone back to wherever it was she came from, and Philippa has been feeling exceptionally lonely in her absence. Lucky for Philippa the feeling of loss goes both ways.

On a family vacation to a little known town in the middle of nowhere Philippa and her parents set out to have fun. Unfortunately for Philippa, her parents' idea of fun doesn't always match that of her own. Philippa loves her parents, but spending every waking moment with them here in this quaint, albeit pretty, little town doesn't really overwhelm her with excitement. She craves the attention and interaction of a relationship with someone her own age. With both of her best friends currently out of her life, Philippa just needs a friend she can count on- someone she can talk to and just be a kid with.

Never in a million years does Philippa think she'll find that person here in the tiny town of Ravenleigh Woods. Yet that's exactly what she finds. Robyn is a local with a story of her own, but like Philippa she doesn't want to share too much too quickly for fear of being rejected or laughed at. Whatever it is though, it must be good.

It's not every day life takes you on a path of mystery, which is why, with only so much time before her vacation draws to a close, Philippa knows she must get to the heart of Robyn's story. Because if her intuition is anything at all to go on, Philippa senses she and Robyn have far more in common than either first thought. And maybe, just maybe that's what brought them together in the first place.

As if on que, before she can even realize what's going on, Philippa suddenly finds herself face to face with her best friend, Daisy. That's right; here in Ravenleigh Woods. Daisy, her fairy godsister. Thought to be gone away forever to continue on her magical missions, Philippa is simply delighted to see Daisy again. Daisy claims she couldn't stand to be apart of Philippa any longer and tells her she's snuck off to see her, despite the rules at the ATC. It's a story Philippa would love to believe, except now she questions whether Daisy's unexpected arrival is because she sincerely wanted to see her, or if she's just part of another of Daisy's missions. Philippa soon decides she doesn't care what the reason; she's just glad to see Daisy again.

What she's not expecting though is how Daisy's turning up ties in with her friendship with Robyn. But maybe work and play can go hand in hand. When things start getting really strange, Philippa finds herself and her friends in real danger. With no one else to turn to, Philippa knows their only chance of survival lies in her hands. The time has come to suck up personal feelings and lay it all out on the line. Philippa wants Robyn to be her friend, but when push comes to shove she knows she doesn't have any more time to dance around the subject of Robyn's insecurities and secrets. Daisy's life depends on it!

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter is a stirring tale of enchantment bound to capture the attention of any young girl. Full of magic and excitement, this story brings life to those things which dreams are made of and showcases the importance of true friendships. Young girls everywhere are going to be drawn to this book, not only by the amazing story, but first and foremost by the resplendent cover. Let's face it, it's gorgeous! The whimsical colors and design called out to me, and I'm an adult. So I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they'll entice readers at the age level this is marketed to.

Note to Readers: Do not let the fact that this book is a sequel deter you from picking it up. If you really can't stand to read a follow up book without first reading the intial release, then by all means first pick up Philippa's debut adventure by Liz Kessler, Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godsister. Undoubtedly doing so will give you an all around feel Philippa and her history with Daisy. However, if this book sounds too good for you to pass up right now, know that you can easily jump right in without having first read the original book. I did, and I didn't have any trouble following along. Kessler did a great job of including enough information to keep new readers on track despite not being already familiar with Philippa's and Daisy's earlier story.

OUR RATING: 5 stars

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mother Osprey by Lucy Nolan

Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls by Lucy Nolan
Illustrated By: Connie McLennan
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-96-9

Today's is Talk Like a Pirate Day so I can think of no better time to share with you a review of Sylvan Dell's Mother Osprey: Nursery Rhymes for Buoys & Gulls; a book celebrating the world of nursery rhymes "from sea to shining sea". Everyone enjoys nursery rhymes, and most of the ones in this book will be probably seem oddly reminiscent of the ones you yourself were read as a child. But don't worry that this is going to be just another reprint of a collection you already have on your child's shelf. No, quite the contrary, because what you'll find here, in each rhyme, is a clever new rendition of Mother Goose's own original verses. Set to a tune that celebrates all things piratey and of watery goodness, Mother Osprey is a nonpareil.

Move over Mother Goose; Lucy Nolan is in the house! The whimsical quality of Nolan's new retelling of yesterday's nursery rhymes is irrefutable. The way Nolan took every rhyme, no matter the original topic, and rewrote it to tell a completely different story, while maintaining the initial cadence, is both creative and ingenious. And technically speaking, she did it flawlessly. As did Connie McLennan, who skillfully produced the classic style illustrations which also add to the fun, lighthearted tone of this book.

Plus, did you know that even while your child is reading nursery rhymes he can be learning too? It's true. Because no Sylvan Dell book can be complete without some form of educational gold dust sprinkled throughout. They are nursery rhymes, so naturally there are some that are comprised of nothing but sheer silliness. There are others, however, that actually take the time to educate while entertaining. Take for instance the rhyme titled "One Flamingo". In this amusing little piece readers get schooled on the names and classes of several waterfront creatures. (Example: Jellyfish in a group are called a smack and geese in a group are called a gaggle.)

There's more, of course, in the 'Creative Minds' section at the tail end of the book. The first two page spread focuses in on one or two particular aspects of each poem, and then offers more fun details about each. (Example: The fun fact for "Buoys & Gulls" explains what a buoy and gull really are.) Then there's a two page map that later ties in to a fun activity sheet where the reader is asked to located different things on the map. There are also a few poem-related questions that will test the readers knowledge and understanding of a handful of the poems. And last but not least, there's a small segment that simply allows readers to discuss the importance of water, the key component found in each nursery rhyme found in Mother Osprey.

So even if you're dubious as to how a rhyme originally penned about a lamb can be recreated to feature a clam or how one originally about a shoe now includes a shell, you should be sure to give this new collection a chance. It's remarkably funny, and I can almost bet you'll find yourself secretly trying to relearn your classic favorites with today's new spin.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moose and Magpie by Bettina Restrepo

Moose and Magpie by Bettina Restrepo
Illustrated By: Sherry Rogers
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: August 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-97-6

I never thought this day would come. As a diehard fan of Sylvan Dell and their amazing children's books, I have never had anything but good words to say about their books that I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing. Today, however, I'm going to break the cycle. Today, I'm not going to be able to tell you how much I adored this book; because if I did, it would be nothing more than a boldface lie. For the truth is, I really didn't like this one at all.

From the very start, Moose and Magpie by Bettina Restrepo seemed to feel disconnected and choppy. I wasn't sure where the story was going or if there even was a point.Unfortunately, it seemed like more time was spent building jokes for Magpie to tell than actually building a backbone to the story. Truthfully, even by the end of the story I wasn't really sure what the point of it all was. It could have been to show that while moose begin growing their antlers at a young age they eventually shed them like a snake sheds it's skin. It could have been, but I really don't have a clue. That's what happened in the story, but it was so heavily inundated with jokes, (Which if I'm being honest, many of them weren't even very funny.. even for a little kid.) that Magpie was telling, that it was hard to focus on what, if anything, was actually supposed to be taking place.

I mean no disrespect to the author, as I know each person's taste and style are different. And I know that no matter how popular or unpopular it ends up being, an author's work is like his/her own offspring. Despite my opinion on the book, this is a story that the author undoubtedly slaved over and put her heart into. As a reader though, I can't help but think back to other works published by Sylvan Dell. In doing so, I see much stronger structure to the writing styles which not only aides in the smoothness of each story's flow but also makes them more enjoyable to read.

As far as content is concerned, I really didn't think there was much to the actual storyline in Moose and Magpie. What I will give you though is that there were some good facts interspersed throughout the story every couple of pages. (These were separate from the story, and included in their own little subtext boxes.) It looks like the author attempted to work each fact in to the story itself, but a lot of the times the meaning was lost due to the lack of fluidity in the story telling.

There are, once again, several wonderful education resources to be found at the end of the book in the "Creative Minds" section that all fans of Sylvan Dell have likely come to know and love. In this particular CM section readers won't find as many play along games, but they will find plenty of moose facts ranging from those regarding tangible interaction between real moose and birds, what moose eat, moose antlers and body parts, and to the complete life cycle of the moose. The one game that is included is a fun matching section where readers are asked to match pictures of each moose body part with facts about those parts.

All in all, given the combination of educational facts and the charming illustrations by Sherry Rogers, I'd rate this book somewhere in the middle of the scale. To me it lacked too much in the way of the story, because of this I didn't really sense any passion or excitement coming through. I did appreciate the overall effect of the complete package, but it won't be a book my girls and I read over and over again. As a matter of fact, I'd be good never reading it again, and that makes me quite sad as we always love to read and re-read the titles in our growing Sylvan Dell collection.

OUR RATING: 3 hearts

Friday, September 11, 2009

Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk

Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk
Illustrated By: Sherry Neidigh
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-94-5

Nature is beautiful no matter what the time of year, but when Fall arrives there is no mistaking it for any other season. We know the minute it begins because the tree leaves start to shift from their vivid greens to an awe inspiring array of brilliant colors. Rich reds, stunning purples, golden yellows, bright oranges, and deep browns. Each of these will eventually fall to the ground, leaving the tree sparse and bare in preparation for Winter.

It is this evolution author Fran Hawk and illustrator Sherry Neidigh have given life to in their book Count Down to Fall. Perfect to read, right now, as we embark on the close of Summer and make our way head long into the cool, brisk days of Autumn. Readers who live in areas where the seasons do complete this phenomenal change, will assuredly find themselves inspired to look at nature a whole new way after reading this fun and informative book.

Count Down to Fall is a journey through the woods, past ten different deciduous trees. Through the rhyming stanza storyline, Hawk educates her readers about the different types of trees and what their leaves look like as they release their hold on their branches and start their slow, flutter to the ground. But the learning doesn't stop there. No, like with every Sylvan Dell release, there's more educational aspects hidden inside the fun story exterior. In addition to teaching readers about each specific tree, leaf, and fruit this book also teaches basic backwards counting from ten to one.

Remember, I said there were ten different trees featured, and the author has cleverly written her tale to show each tree losing a certain number of leaves. Starting with the first tree, the sweet gum, ten leaves falls to the ground. Next nine leaves float lazily down from the dogwood tree. I won't give any more away by continuing to list the trees, but you get the point.

Don't worry that young readers will shy away from this one because of the educational benefits. For as has been mentioned already, Sylvan Dell's line always blends the perfect amount of fun with education. Your kids won't even realize they're learning until it's too late!

Illustrated by the ever so talented Sherry Neidigh, this book will leave you counting down the days until you can see the changes in nature for yourself first hand. Bright, bold illustrations bring home the beauty of nature in the Autumn, and show readers just exactly what each tree and leaf should like. Seriously, I simply love how Neidigh incorporated so many aspects in to each of her lovely pictorial spreads. Each picture shows what the tree looks like in Fall; a close up of the bark, leaves- both in Summer and Fall, and any fruit the tree produces (such as pinecones and nut); and it presents it in it's natural environment, complete with pictures of the animals that would be living in, on, or around it. It's a complete illustration package.

The "Creative Minds" section, found at the end of the story, is another fine example of what Sylvan Dell brings to the table through their books. The first section gives information about each plant part (stems, seeds, roots, etc), and then has the reader match the part descriptions with a small picture of each one, as found in the story. The second section touches on the various shapes, sizes, and colors of the leaves. Again, readers are given a descriptive list of the shapes, and then are asked to match them to the pictures of leaves featured on the page. The third section talks about the importance of plants, and shows how each animal in the story relys on those plants for basic survival. Lastly, in the fourth section of the "Creative Minds" portion of the book readers are given pictures of five types of leaves in both their Fall and Summer state. They're then asked to match the leaves into pairs.

It's the best of both worlds, where in parent's are concerned. Your child reads this and enjoys a short break from the craziness of today's technology dependant world. He uses his brain as he not only processes the story and plays the games, but also as he learns something new. The best part of all, he has no idea how educational the experience actually was!

Fall is almost upon us, and with it comes the relief of cooler temperatures and the beauty of changing leaves. So, can you think of a better time than now to settle down with your child to read Sylvan Dell's new release, Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk? I certainly can't.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

The Free Library of Philadelphia Needs Your Help!

If you or someone you know lives in the Philidelphia area you have likely already heard the disheartening news about what's to become of their Free Library there in the months ahead. Unfortunately, it seems that due to state budget cuts or simple lack of financial planning all of the Philidelphia Free Libraries are at risk of being closed effective October 2, 2009. As anyone with a love for books knows, we simply can't allow this to happen!

Books are a huge part of libraries, but what we must remember is that our libraries offer so much more than just the opportunity to read and borrow books. Additionally, they offer media services where patrons can check out audio and video products for use at home. They offer free on-site computer stations with internet service, so job seekers can look and apply for jobs; so students can do homework and online research; so seniors can get needed information about social security and other benefits. There are countless programs and services available to the community through the library, and all are free. That's why it is so important, especially in today's economy, for our libraries to be available and well funded.

With libraries being in such popular demand by children and adults alike, residents in the Philidelphia area must band together now to contact their elected state officials to let them know that losing the Philidelphia Free Community Library system is not an option. Let your voices be heard, and be sure to pass along the word to anyone you know who will also feel the loss should the government not come up with a budget solution quickly.

Here's the link to the Free Library of Philadelphia home page- When you get there a pop-up window should open up with the link for how to contact your local Philadelphia region elected official(s). Also, should you be interested in more information on this, please feel free to check out the library's We Need Action Now! page.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Sad Day For Reading Rainbow Fans

I have fond memories of being a little girl watching the classic Reading Rainbow on PBS. A show filled with endless possibilities and wonder, any child could watch the show and magically be transported in to a fun and exciting storybook world. Following a new book's story each week, with LeVar Burton as your host, you'd take off on an extraordinary adventure. A bookworm's delight, this show, geared at children ages 4-8, inspired creative thinking and an immense love for reading. You could hear and see the book's story on tv, but then go to your own local library to pick up a copy for reading yourself. It was great because not only did you get ideas on what sorts of books you'd like to read yourself, but you also got the opportunity to hear other kid's reviews and opinions of the books as well. All around, it was a wonderful, wholesome show that parents and kids alike enjoyed watching.

That's why I'm so sad today over the announcement I only just this morning read on the NPR website. After a 26 run, Reading Rainbow is no more. It seems the cost is just too much to consider producing the show for even one more season. Reason's given suggest that funding and interest now lies in shows which help viewers learn to read, as opposed to Reading Rainbow which inspired the love of reading. I can't begin to see how that makes since in any way, as it's only natural to think if you're teaching kids HOW to read you should also give them reason to WANT to read.

Truth be told, to me it sounds like a bunch of bureaucratic garbage. However, unfortunately my opinion is just that- mine. I suppose in the face of this sad and regretful news we should look back on the history of Reading Rainbow and rejoice that it has come along as far as it has. For as the third longest running show in the history of PBS, Reading Rainbow has only been surpassed by Sesame Street and Mr Rogers' Neighborhood. A 26 year run is certainly nothing to be scoffed at, and I guess we will always have reruns!

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high,Take a look, it's in a book — Reading Rainbow ...

(To see the original NPR story that spurred this post, go HERE.)

FREE e-books from Sylvan Dell!!!

I review a lot of books from Sylvan Dell, as I'm sure most of you have noticed. We love them! They're educationally entertaining and are always filled with the most beautiful illustrations. You simply can't go wrong with their books.

So, if you've been following my reviews and thinking how you'd be interested in checking out some of those titles for yourself now is the time! No matter how short on time or money you may be right now, Sylvan Dell wants to share their wonderful library with you. For a limited time only Sylvan Dell is offering a FREE trial of all 45 next generation e-books on their site. You can view the digital book online and have it read to you in either English or Spanish.

Pop on over and see what all you've been missing!! But don't wait; this special promotion will end October 31, 2009.

Come see why Sylvan Dell's tag line is, Science and Math through Literature!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's New At The Zoo? by Suzanne Slade

What's New At The Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated By: Joan Waites
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: Fall 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-93-8

Coming from a household where frequent trips to visit the animals at the zoo is practically mandatory, there was no thought involved when I accepted the review opportunity for this book. What's New At The Zoo? An Animal Adding Adventure, written by Suzanne Slade, is a zoo lover's delight.

On this animal adventure, readers travel through the zoo checking out each animal habitat and counting to see how many are in each. From elephants, to giraffes, to penguins and more. Readers get the opportunity to visit eleven different animal exibits, and in each they get the opportunity to learn both the name for the adult and for the baby. It's great fun because, as opposed to a regular picture book, What's New At The Zoo? is more than just a cute story. It's a story that makes you pay attention and think, but it doesn't do so in a way that makes it any less enjoyable than it's traditional counterpart. Quite the opposite in fact.

Both my girls, ages 3 and 5, couldn't get enough of this book. The colorful illustrations, by Joan Waites, and Slade's rythmic text is enough to draw any reader in. Then when you consider the mathematical question posed in each two page layout, it's like factoring in a game to the equation. Even my youngest daughter, who isn't really all that familiar with addition yet was totally able to work through the questions. She might not fully grasp the concept of these math skills yet, but because it was written in to the story like a game she found it fun and wanted to try it. Another fun aspect of the book was that Waites cleverly included a single soaring red balloon hidden in each picture. Both of my girls, but especially the youngest, had fun seeking it out in every animal's scene. That's what makes this book so great. It has appeal for both the younger and older readers.

And anyone who is familiar with Sylvan Dell's fabulous line knows none is complete without the brilliant "For Creative Minds" educational section always included at the back of each book. What's especially great about this particular "Creative Minds" section is that the publisher has offered some wonderful, real world, learning advice that is practical and not just fun to know but actually something they'll need to know. It explains and demonstrates two different methods of addition, adding everything in groups of ten and also adding by columns. There's also a section that offers short mathematical problems and then uses a number fact family triangle to help illustrate the problems. It's hard to explain, but trust me it's cool. Something like this will be an incredibly useful tool for a math beginner.

Plus, since this is a book all about animals, this section wouldn't be complete without a part dedicated just to them. Last but not least readers will enjoy learning the classification of each animal and doing the Animal Matching Activity. In this area you are given a thumbnail size picture of each animal and a list of eleven animal fun facts which you must then match together. Readers who paid attention during the story will have picked up the name for each baby animal, making this puzzle a cinch.

Parents and educators want to be sure to take advantage of the free online resources and training tools offered at Sylvan Dell for this and, I believe, all their delightful kids books. View a virtual preview of the book, hear a segment read aloud, download copies of the "For Creative Minds" section to print, or even have your child take a quiz (Reading, Comprehension, or Math) about what he/she learned from the book.

There's just no other way to say it than, you can't go wrong with this or any of the other marvelous titles from Sylvan Dell. You just can't!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Sneakiest Pirates & The Heroes of Googley Woogley by Dalton James

As a kid, did you ever dream of writing and illustrating your on book? I did. Actually, I had my own little series of books that I wrote and illustrated back in elementary school. They were about a family of bears. Sure they might sound like a rip off of Stan and Jan Bearanstain's series, but I promise you that was not the case. (*laugh*) Either way, though, it's all a mute point because those storybooks never went farther than the copy or blue lined school paper they were printed on. So, while I do still have them today, they are no more likely to be read by anyone outside my immediate family than they were intially.

Now Dalton James, on the other hand, did not let his age stand in the way of his aspirations. Last year, at only seven years of age, Dalton wrote and illustrated his first book, The Sneakiest Pirates, for publication through Outskirts Press, Inc. Then only a few months ago, Dalton, now eight, released his second book, The Heroes of Googley Woogley. Dalton advises readers to be prepared because he's not done yet. There's yet a third book slated for release in this series, and still others in the works that are completely unrelated to this set.

I would like to note that I've seen it mentioned that these books are geared towards children ages 9-12, but truthfully I think anyone from age 5-9 would be more within range. It's true that a five year old might not be able to read all of the words on his own, but I belive he would be able to fully understand the story if it was read to him. Likewise, a twelve year old would have certainly no trouble reading the books, but I wonder if maybe the subject matter/style/length wouldn't be just a bit beneath someone of this age. However you look at it though, young readers of all ages will enjoy knowing someone close to their own age wrote these frolicsome and adventurous anecdotes. The stories are short, but they're fun and full of imagination.

The Sneakiest Pirates by Dalton James
Geared Towards: Ages 5-9
Published By: Outskirts Press, Inc
Publication Date: May 20, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2477-1

It is obvious that this book was not penned or illustrated by a professional, but that's what gives it it's charm. The simplistic storytelling and pictures really bring alive the idea that this book was born of a child's creativity and not of someone with a literary degree under their belt. In that, it's refreshing and genuinely inspiring.

In the story of The Sneakiest Pirates Pirate Pete and his daddy Scurvy James follow the contemptible Peg Leg Chuck as he steals and later buries the king's gold. Peg Leg Chuck, being so consumed with getting away from the king's ships, never even realizes that he himself is being robbed. Rapt with greed themselves, Pirate Pete and Scurvy James then go head to head over the new found treasure.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

The Heroes of Googley Woogley by Dalton James
Geared Towards: Ages 5-9
Published By: Outskirts Press, Inc
Publication Date: March 22, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2782-6

Having gone a long way with the money they stole from Pirate Peg Leg Chuck, Pirate Pete and Scurvy James are back. Known only as Rock Star Pete and Rock Star James, this father/son duo is ready for another rip roaring adventure. But instead of racing across the salty seas as they did when we first met them in book one, Pete and James are now rearing to soar the skies in their brand new spaceship.

Once in space, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James decide that instead of doing naughty pirate-like things they'd rather help people in danger. Upon picking up a satellite message from the residents of the planet Googley Woogley, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James rush to their aid. It seems there are two kinds of aliens living on Googley Woogley, and they don't get along. The SooDos are friendly and compassionate. The SooDonts are not. The SooDos enjoy helping one another and living peacefully. The SooDonts, however, enjoy pilaging and destroying everyone and everything around them.

Before they can return to Earth, Space Boy Pete and Space Man James must figure out how to help the SooDos overcome the mean and nasty SooDonts and bring tranquility back to the people of Googley Woogley.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Friday, July 17, 2009

Strange Angels Giveaway Winner Announced


You are the winner of a brand spankin' new copy of Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels. I will be contacting you shortly, or if you see this first and would like to send your mailing info to I will work on getting your prize off to you before I head on vacation next week.

And thank you to everyone else who entered this giveaway. I had such a wonderful response, that I truly wish I had more than one copy of the book to offer up to my readers. Alas, I do not. Even if you were not the winner though I do hope each of you will find the opportunity to grab yourselves a copy of Strange Angels. It was such a good YA read, and with more books to follow in the series perhaps there will be more chances to win here at Ready Set Read Reviews in the future.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

SLOB by Ellen Potter

SLOB by Ellen Potter
Geared Towards: Ages 9 and up
Published By: Philomel Books
Publication Date: May 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-24705-7

Chocolately, crunchy goodness on the outside with gooey, creamy goodness on the inside. That is the short and simple description of an Oreo cookie; the one cookie that has Owen Birnbaum practically bending over backwards to protect in his story SLOB by Ellen Potter.

Owen is many things, but thin and popular are not among them. Since the mysterious death of his father some two years ago, food- especially Oreos- has become his crutch. At 57% fatter than the national average 12 year old, Owen has fallen into a rut wherein his weight is concerned. He knows he should watch what he eats; still food comforts him and soothes like a balm to a fresh wound.

When Owen's daily treat, an ecofriendly pack of three single Oreo cookies, disappears from his lunch sack one day during class he doesn't have to look far before finding his most likely suspect. Being unusually smart, just one point shy of genius- to be exact, Owen decides to invent a trap which he can set to hault the cookie thief and thereby end the indignant attack on his own personal weight issues. What Owen does not realize is that this simple, yet calculated task will be only just the crux of his story.

He's a good guy with a kind heart. So what if he has a soft spot for food? We all have our vices, and Owen's is, truthfully, not that far off from what many of us struggle with on a daily basis. But when all is said and done, food will not be the sole benefactor of glory in this tale. Far from it. Unwilling to be complacent any longer with his position in life, Owen will learn to fight his personal demons and come to terms with his past.

In an inventive story which shows the main character in an environment most kids today can easily relate to, Ellen Potter crafts a delightful tale full of witty humor, creative thought processes, deep storylines, and still plenty of heart. Young readers will enjoy discovering what makes Owen Birnbaum tick. And, maybe just maybe they'll learn a thing or two and find inspiration between the book's pages- inspiration to grow from one's past, inspiration to have and reach towards big dreams, even inspiration to better one's self.

The way Owen holds himself in spite of the way other's treat him is both heartening and thought provoking. Being smart and overweight makes him the perfect victim for verbal and physical abuse among his peers. Yet, while you can tell the taunting and jeering strike a cord with Owen, he is a bigger person; no pun intended, and does not allow the disrespect of others to bring him down to their level. Instead, he takes their abuse and uses it as an incentive and driving force which comes to shape him into the hero, of sorts, that he becomes.

A thoroughly cute and enjoyable story, I am honored to have had the priveledge to read and review SLOB for Ms Potter. Within the pages of this book is a well crafted story which will move the reader and leave him/her with a feeling way more satisfying than any number of Oreo cookies could ever hope to give.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow *REVIEW & GIVEAWAY!!*

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
Geared Towards: Ages 12 and up
Published By: Razor Bill
Publication Date: June 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59514-251-1

In a day and age when young adult fans flock to paranormal reads like the Twilight and Vampire Academy series, Lili St. Crow (also known as Lilith Saint Crow on the adult lit spectrum) has released her first YA novel in the form of the eerie and oh so chilling Strange Angels.

There are things out there, dark and nasty things, that most people prefer to pretend do not exist. They're out there though, and as Dru Anderson will tell you, you're better off living in that world of make believe where everything smells like roses.


Raised by her grandmother and father, after her mother's death when Dru was only five, Dru has come to see the world through different eyes than most other kids her age. At sixteen she should be working towards finishing up her last couple of years of school, shopping at the mall with girlfriends, and even dating a high school hottie. Instead of this grandious picture of modern teenage life, however, Dru travels across the country with her dad hunting down things that go bump in the night. They're not your average father daughter duo, but what Dru and her dad have together works for them. It's not always easy or safe, yet at the end of each day they can rest knowing that maybe, just maybe, the world is a little safer because of what they do.

And then, the unthinkable happens.

When her dad fails to return home after a hunt one cold winter night, Dru knows something bad has happened. Perhaps it's her sixth sense, the touch - as her grandma called it, but whatever it is though Dru knows she's got plenty to be worried about. Caught in the middle of a battle against things no sixteen year old should even know about, Dru Anderson must push beyond everything she thought she knew about life and The Real World if she's going to ever see another day of either again.

Alone and afraid, still the new girl in town, Dru turns to an unlikely source. With the help of her new found friend Graves, the somewhat attractive goth boy from American History, Dru sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to her father. She knows what became of him, but not who or what was responsible. Yet that is the million question she must answer if she's to ever avenge his death.

She is the hunter and the hunted. Running for her life, Dru must work in ways she never knew herself capable. She must learn to put her trust in those most likely to hurt her. And she must push herself farther than ever before.

In this brilliant coming of age tale, Crow has created a highly unnerving and bizarre world right here within the realm of our own. Her layout is seamless and the story developement is spot on. I particularly enjoyed how despite her character's backgrounds, Crow has made sure they don't come across as brash and unbelieveable. Dru's still just a regular teenage girl at heart. She can, for a time, hold her own in this world of darkness and pain, but despite her strength and attempted bravado Dru is not ashamed to recognize her own inexperience and weakness. The same goes for Graves, and even, to a lesser extent, Christophe. It's this naivete which adds to the overall realistic vibe of the story. You feel for the characters, and you are able to really see through their eyes because the voice of the story is believable while being utterly engaging.

I think readers will be really pleased with how entertaining this novel is, and with the news that there's a sequel on the horizon for Spring 2010!

If you'd like to give Strange Angels a go for yourself, then now is your chance. Thanks to the kind publishers (more specifically to Emily) at Penguin Group (USA) I have an extra copy to giveaway one one lucky Ready Set Read Reviews reader (US only please... unless you already commented and aren't within the US.. then I'll still enter you because it's my fault for not making this specification initially.)! All you have to do to enter the draw is leave a comment here, by July 11th, telling me who you'd like to win for and why. Sound easy enough?

Want more entries? Do any or all of the following in addition to the first required post. Then comment back after doing each to let me know you did it so I can enter you again. This gives you a possible 6 entries in to the draw.

1.) Become a Ready Set Read Reviews blog follower/or let me know you are already one. (on the right hand side of the screen) ***1 additional entry***

2.) Follow me on Twitter (Twitter id is: monkeygirlsmama - Be sure to include your twitter id with your follow up comment.) ***1 additional entry***

3.) Retweet and link back to this giveaway on Twitter (Be sure to include your twitter id with your follow up comment.) ***1 additional entry***

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5.) Post about this giveaway anywhere else online (Facebook, your blog, etc) and post a link back. (Be sure to include a link to your post with your follow up comment.) ***1 additional entry***

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day! by Dandi Daley Mackall

Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day! by Dandi Daley Mackall
Geared Towards: Ages 6-9
Published By: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: May 2009
ISBN: 978-0-3107-1566-5

With my oldest daughter, now five, reading at about a second to third grade level, I am always looking for great chapter books that she can read on her own. I look for books that aren't too advanced, yet ones that will still be something more substantial than your basic beginning reader. This is exactly what I was hoping to find when given the opportunity to preview and review Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day! by Dandi Daley Mackall. Guess what, folks? It was!

Readers who remember enjoying the popular juvenile fiction series about Ramona Quimby should most definitely add this book to their TBR (to-be-read) list. The first in a new series, That's Nat!, by Zonderkidz and, more specifically, Dandi Daley Mackall, this is a book that I simply could not get enough of. I have incredibly great expectations for the series, as it comes together, as a whole, and I can hardly wait for the next book to release.

Even as an adult, I found I was so excited to read Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day! because the cover illustration was cute and the story sounded like something that I could have written about my own girls. Having read it, I am even more excited to let my daughter(s) have a go at it. My only worry about introducing the ever big hearted Natalie, star of the series, to my own daughters is that she has an uncanny way of getting herself in to quite the mess. I'd hate for my kiddos to be inspired by her, in the wrong ways, and repeat the five year old's off the wall "of the heart" mishaps. (LOL)

"What", you might ask, "is the book about?" To find the answer to that question, readers need look no further than the title of the book itself. Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day! is all about how one little girl, aka Natalie, strives from the very first moment in the morning until the very last moment of the night to do something truly remarkable, amazing, and wonderful for her parents. She's an utter sweetheart, but despite Natalie's best intentions everything she sets her hand to goes wrong in some fashion or another. It starts with her trying to make her mom and dad some grape omel-nats (grape omelets) for breakfast. Then the day quickly goes down hill as one by one, from her attempts at prettying up the bathroom and dad's Sunday church shoes to rescuing her friends the ants, Natalie's grandious schemes fall flat. More so, they don't just fall flat. They crash and burn!

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Natalie and her parents because literally I could have written the book about my own daughter. The way Nat thinks and acts, the things she does, they are all things my daughter has it in her to do if she hasn't done them already. (LOL) Better yet is how spot on the author portrays the parents. Mom and Dad know Natalie doesn't try to create the trouble she finds herself in, but even having that knowledge does not stop mom and dad from getting upset and imposing punishments when necessary.

All Natalie wants is to do something really special- something one-of-a-kind special. She wants to do something that will make her mom and dad stand up and say "that's wonderful!" More than anything, she wants them to be pleasantly surprised by her endeavors. Alas, nothing goes quite as expected. What Natalie doesn't want is to upset her hurt her mom and dad; however, at the end of the day it feels like she's done nothing but disappoint them. She wants to make them proud, and she wants to feel important. But as Nat quickly discovers, being a five-year-old girl in a grown up world can be very stressful. This is why she finds it so reassuring that even when it seems the rest of the world is against her, God is on her side.

God is all around us, and I adore how seemlessly Mackall manages to work Him in to Natalie's story. In such easy to follow terms, Mackall touches on God's forgiveness, His love for us, even His creations. It's perfect because the way she has written Natalie to think is most certainly the way most children that are going to be reading this book will also think. How awesome to be able to introduce God or help establish God's presence in your child's life than through a light hearted read like Natalie and the One-of-a-Kind Wonderful Day!?

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Q & A with Tony Fucile- Let's Do Nothing!

To coincide with my earlier review, I thought it would be fun to share what Tony Fucile, author of the new picture book Let's Do Nothing!, had to say about this, his May 12, 2009, release.

Q. How and when did you become interested in art and animation?

A. I was lucky to have been exposed to some of the greatest animation at a very early age. We had a local TV cartoon host who showed early 1940s Looney Tunes, which were on the air every day after school. Those Bob Clampett Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons in particular just mesmerized me. Then came my first viewing of Pinocchio. Of all the movies I’ve seen in my lifetime, none compares to that one screening in terms of dramatic impact. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I knew its characters weren’t “real,” but to me they were more alive than anything. Later came Ray Harryhausen’s wonderful stop-motion monsters, the Peanuts holiday specials, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery. All of this is what inspired me to learn how to draw.

Q. How did you make the leap from films to books?

A. I spent most of my career in animation making hand-drawn animated features, as both an animator and a character designer. Pixar brought Brad Bird up to develop The Incredibles, and I came along to join the team, helping to create and build the characters and supervise animation. I was intrigued by the computer. It was an amazing experience, but I did miss drawing, and acting with drawings. In the meantime, the hand-drawn form of animating movies was slowly being phased out at all the studios, including Disney. A very sad development.

I had always wanted to make picture books, but thought it was something that would be very tough to break into. I had collected many little tidbits over the years that I thought would make fun books. I began developing an idea about a kid who climbs his huge grandfather like a mountain. But my wife spotted a review of The Daddy Mountain in the newspaper, and that was the end of that. It actually energized me. I thought to myself, Wow, the great Jules Feiffer thought this idea was worth making a book out of. Maybe I have a chance here!

Q. How is creating a book different from or similar to working on animation?

A. The biggest difference for me is the writing. In animation, I never wrote or worked in story. I was an animator. My responsibilities were similar to what an actor gives a director in a live-action film. I was addicted to it, the notion of breathing life into characters with a pencil and paper. Making this book was kind of like animating, but without the in-betweens. In an animation shot, we call it the “storytelling pose”— the single visual idea that must be conveyed to the audience, to connect them with what you’re trying to communicate. When you animate, you usually begin with that dominant pose or poses in mind. Let’s Do Nothing! is really a series of key animation storytelling poses. It scratches that animator itch in me that I’m afraid will never go away. Also, with a book you are a one-man show — you lay it out, draw locations, research, and color the thing all by yourself. I used to live in a black-and-white world as an animator. That may have been the toughest challenge for me with this book: color. I hope that I stink at it a teeny bit less than I did before painting the book.

Q. Why did you want to write a book about doing nothing? How did you get the idea?

A. I vividly remember those childhood moments of excruciating boredom. We tend to remember the interesting and exciting parts of youth, but what about those times when you feel like you are stuck in a vat of molasses? A kid experiences that with such conviction. It was horrible! That said, I think those moments can be hugely catalytic. Great ideas come out of a bored mind. Or quiet mind. The concept of nothing wasn’t the impetus for the book; it was
a product of the characters and situation. I visualized these two bored boys — one kind of like me, and
the other kind of like my childhood friend Steve.
Then I had them interact. The idea of doing nothing
really sprang from these characters yapping at each other.

Q.Describe the process of illustrating Let’s Do Nothing!

A. Most artists who use computer paint programs use them to do their final art. I went the opposite way with this project. I used computers for roughing it all out and real materials for final art. I used a Cintiq monitor, which allows you to draw right on the screen. I completed all versions of the dummy on the Cintiq using the program Painter. I find the program great for playing around with layouts and placing text. It has all sorts of cool brushes, and experimenting with color is very fast. Being slightly detached from the work is strangely liberating for me as well. It keeps me loose. When it came to doing the final art, I went with traditional materials: acrylics, ink, and pencil. You still can’t beat real art supplies for tight control (and happy accidents). It was fun! And I like getting dirty.

Q. What artists, writers, and/or experiences have most influenced your work?

A. I’ll always be somewhat a product of my experience as an animator. My drawing style is very much influenced by some of my favorite animators. Many of my heroes from the golden age of the art form made the transition to picture books: Bill Peet, Mary Blair, J.P. Miller,The Provensens. I love Marc Simont, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Roger Duvoisin, Robert McCloskey, Richard Scarry, Jules Feiffer, Charles Schulz, N.C. Wyeth, Ronald Searle, Hank Ketchum. I can go on and on. Many current artists and writers inspire me as well. I should mention one book that cast a spell over me: Dmitri the Astronaut by Jon Agee. Like Where the Wild Things Are, this is a book that I can endlessly chew on, like a dog with a bone. I love the appearance of something that at first glance feels breezy and spontaneous but at further inspection reveals tremendous complexity. I love it. I think that books as much as anything inspired me to try to create one myself.

All Illustrations Copyright © 2009 by Tony Fucile