Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Geared Towards: Ages 14+
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: April 2009 <---- COMING SOON
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4157-3

Boys will boys, and one thing that they will always have on their minds are girls. For the boys in Don Calame's first YA novel, Swim the Fly, this is no different. Matt, Sean, and Coop have been best friends forever. As such they do all sorts of goofy and crazy things together. Especially each year when Summer rolls around, the boys try to keep things interesting by setting some form of goal they must achieve before school starts up again the Fall. Just as one would expect, the goals get more indepth with each passing year. This year though, the trio is really upping the ante. What would make a 15-year old boy's Summer the best he'd ever had? Naturally it'd be seeing, in person, a real live naked girl.

With their Summer challenge set in stone, the boys have no idea how truly complicated achieving such a task is going to be. Plus when Matt, trying to impress a girl, decides to volunteer himself as the swim team's new 100-yard butterfly swimmer he really gets himself in deep water (pun intended). Matt's not a strong swimmer in this particular style, but now that he's put himself out there he finds he can't step back. His being in the spotlight has brought his existence to the attention of his dream girl, Kelly. To quit now would make him an even bigger loser than he's already used to being.

Summer may last only a few short weeks, but Matt, Sean, and Coop have a lot to keep themselves busy. The ridiculous lengths they will go to to make their goals a reality, will leave readers young and old doubled over in laughter. A story that's just as funny and ackward as it is inspirational, in a weird sort of way, shows one should always strive his hardest to achieve his goals. Yet at the same time it shows that you should always be truly careful what you wish for.

Swim the Fly is a delightfully fun story that does a great job of summing up just a few of the trials I'm sure most 15-year old boys (and girls too possibly) traverse through on their way to manhood.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Friday, March 27, 2009

COMING SOON: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs... the Movie

One of my favorite books to read my girls has always been Judi and Ron Barrett's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The story is that of one big imaginative adventure, and the illustrations drawn by Ron perfectly capture the absurdity of it all.

So, imagine my surprise when tonight my husband stumbles upon a movie trailer for, you've guessed it, a new animated adaption of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. First there was a spark of excitement at the prospect, but I quickly became skeptical as I watched the intro to the trailer. Don't get me wrong, the animation is great and the story sounds cute. But it is NOT Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Unless I've been reading a completely different version all these years, the writers for this new and upcoming screenplay have done a serious number on the script and have rewritten an already exceptional classic. I haven't even seen the movie and I'm already thoroughly disappointed!

I have no doubt that as a stand alone film this movie may be cute and a real crowd pleaser, especially when it's released in it's 3-D format this coming September 2009. I however, think it's a real shame that it seems the writers/directors have deviated so far from the original storyline.

I'm attaching the trailer below. Anyone interested in sharing his thoughts is welcome. I'm curious to see if anyone else has the same feelings about as I do, or if I'm just being overly sensitive on the subject. Thoughts?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Weebeasts: Plight by Micah Linton

Weebeasts Plight by Micah Linton
Geared Towards: Ages 3+
Published By: Beast Stew
Publication Date: March 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9821734-0-4

If your young child is a fan of oddities like trolls, gremlins, ogres, and the like then you must look in to getting a copy of Micah Linton's Weebeasts books. Recently I was given the opportunity to review the second book in the picture book series, Weebeasts: Plight, and I have to say I'm sure I've never seen anything quite like it. Other reviews I've noticed online are all extremely positive for this book line. I, however, am really not 100% certain what I think. The creatures themselves are very inventive, but they're kind of a little bit scary too. I suppose that's the point though when likened to the other odd creatures mentioned above.

The story for Weebeasts: Plight, finds the Weebeast civilization in an uproar. Having been quite unkind to the neighboring species, the Weebeasts find themselves having to leave their home in search of someplace new to live. They search and they search, but quickly they realize how good they had it before they let their unneighborly behavior get in the way. Now with no place to go the Weebeasts must learn to thrive and survive if they're ever going to locate a new place to call home.

It's a simple story, but one that children will likely enjoy. The artwork, also by Linton, is again very simplistic yet incredibly bright colored and unique. Someone on another review I saw posted commented about the similarity between the Weebeasts and Dr. Seuss's Sneetches. I just have to say that I couldn't agree more. This was actually my very first thought when I initially saw the Weebeast character. Growing up, the Sneetches were always my favorite of Seuss's characters, so I found it quite fun to see the resemblance (implied or otherwise) here.

While noted as geared towards kids from ages 3 up, neither of my girls, ages 3 and 5, had any interest in this book. I think for them it wasn't the story but rather the bizarre illustrations that turned them off. Like I said earlier, they're creative but maybe a little too extreme for some of the younger readers. That or maybe if my princess-y girls were rough and tumble boys they'd find a bigger appeal in it? Either way, my thanks go out to the author for giving me this review opportunity.

Additionally, Linton sent along a copy of the Weebeastology: Volume One book set and a plush Weebeast. If you pick up the picture books and really enjoy the illustrations then I highly recommend you check out these books as well. There aren't any words, but the Weebeastology books are filled with more pages upon pages of Weebeast illustrations.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Classic Bible Storybook by Kenneth N. Taylor

Classic Bible Storybook by Kenneth N. Taylor
Illustrations: Richard and Frances Hook
Geared Towards: Ages 4+
Published By: Tyndale Kids
Publication Date: March 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4143-0769-5

It's while our kids are in preschool and early elementary, all very impressionable ages, that we as parents, grandparents, and teachers want to work to instill our core values and beliefs in them. That's why it's important for every Christian family to have a great kid friendly Bible that the family can enjoy together. Older kids can obviously manage just fine with a regular children's Bible, but those at a younger age level are more likely to enjoy something with a little more interest appeal than a book with all words and no pictures on the pages. There are lots of different options out there to choose from depending on what style exactly one is looking for. I think, however, that parents like myself are going to discover the Classic Bible Storybook by Kenneth N. Taylor and find that it blows most of the others out of the water.

The Classic Bible Storybook actually reminds me a lot of a hardback storybook style Bible my family had when I was growing up. Even something about the roughly drawn, realistic illustrations takes my memories back to the Bible from my childhood. In all likelihood they're probably nothing alike, but just the feel one gets from looking at them seems to make you take a stepback and really enjoy them. (Which is what I did with the ones when I was a kid.) One key difference that I can recall though is the size. The one from when I was a little girl was massive. There was no way a young child could have held it to read on his/her own without much difficulty. Taylor's 2009 release is also a beautiful hardback, but it's compact and really pretty manageable - even for my 3-year old. And this is all just the book's appearance...

The actual meat and potatos of the book are obviously, the stories and the way they are written. With 121 in all you can read a new story each day if you wanted, and in the course of a year you'd cycle through the complete book three times. Talk about a great way to reinforce the stories and lessons! I loved how easy to read and comprehendable the stories are. Written in a way that is easy for young children to understand and enjoy, all of these timelessly great Bible stories are perfect for reading aloud or even quietly on one's own. Parents will appreciate that the author references each story's original book, chapter, and verses so there is no doubt where the stories come from. Older children and parents may enjoy going back to the regular Bible to look up and read the stories directly from there as well. Plus at the end of each story the author has included a small handful of comprehension questions to help draw the child out to discuss what he/she learned from the story.

The Classic Bible Storybook is the perfect package inside and out. Truly deserving of the name Classic, I see this book being cherished and passed down from generation to generation. I certainly hope for that to be the case in my family.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Friday, March 13, 2009

Too Tall Alice by Barbara Worton

Too Tall Alice by Barbara Worton
Illustrated By: Dom Rodi
Geared Towards: Ages 7-11
Published By: Great Little Books
Publication Date: March 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9790661-1-5

Growing up different can be especially hard for a kid, but what we as parents and teachers must strive to enforce is the mindset that being different is not necessarily bad. Every person alive is unique, and we should all delight in our differences because that's what makes our world such an interesting place. Whether short, tall, fat, thin, old, young, rich, poor, smart, and even not overly bright, we all have our place in this world. And many characteristics that we grow up hating about ourselves are later the ones we love so much.

With the story of Too Tall Alice readers will step in to the shoes of a girl 4 inches taller than all the other girls in her class. When impressionable, 8-year old Alice accidentally over hears her parents and neighbors discussing both the draw backs and pluses of her height, she finds herself caught up in a swarm of emotions. Her father says she's like a bean pole, but Alice doesn't want to be a bean pole. The neighbor says she's so tall and thin she could be a model, but she doesn't really want to be one of those either.

What should be a simple, fall in to bed and go to sleep, night turns out to be a huge adventure for Alice. She cries herself to sleep because she's worried she'll either stay like a bean pole forever (but make lots of money as a model) or end up normal like the rest of the girls (and have her parents not be able to afford to keep the roof over their heads). Neither is an ideal situation, and as any young girl will do she over thinks things entirely. But in her dreams, Alice begins to see there's not so much to worry about on the horizon. She learns that whether you're tall or short it doesn't matter. Life will always have plenty of great opportunities for you to seize. She learns though that first she must seize control of her own life, and learn to be happy with herself because of WHO she is not what she looks like. Recognizing that no one else cares whether she's a little different or not makes the world of difference for Alice. Waking up from her dream with a smile on her face, Alice has learned a lot and is ready to take on the beautiful day and all of life ahead of her.

This was a cute book that combined a great message with some really fun illustrations. I believe it's important for kids to learn how to be comfortable in their own skin at an early age. If you can teach a child to accept himself for who he is early on then you save him a lot of heartache years down the line. He will not only have a great advantage in life as a whole, but will also be prepared to be far more accepting of everyone around him as well, despite any differences they might have.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mama's Kiss by Jane Yolen

Mama's Kiss by Jane Yolen
Illustrated By: Daniel Baxter
Geared Towards: Ages 3-6
Published By: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: October 2008 (hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6683-5
Mama's Kiss is a short but sweet book about a kiss that travels the world bringing happiness to all it touches before finally returning home to where it belongs. It's kind of a strange concept if you think about it too much- a single kiss being shared by so many people and animals. Young children, however, will enjoy the tale because it's funny and cute.

The cadence of Yolen's text makes Mama's Kiss fun to both read and listen to. Meanwhile, Baxter's winsome illustrations delight the eyes. Combined together, readers are presented with a perfect picture book that, while listed for little ones ages 3-6, I believe would make a great addition to an even younger child's library.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Friday, March 6, 2009

Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury (PROMO)

Every day I look at my daughters with amazement. It seems like only yesterday I was pregnant with each of them, yet this year my oldest will turn six and my youngest will turn four. Where did the time go? Some days it truly breaks my heart to think that in such a short time we've come this far. It's all been such a crazy beautiful journey and I wouldn't trade any of it for anything. Yet, I think how fast these first years have already passed it makes me dread, to a degree, the years that lie ahead. I love my babies and I know they need to grow up. Part of me even looks forward to all the experiences that will one day come with that growth. The other part of me doesn't ever want them to grow up, but rather to stay the age they are now- always mommy's babies; always my precious little girls.

So when I saw the online promo for Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury, I knew not only did I have to read it but I had to share about it here. I haven't picked up my copy yet, but just watching the promo has me bawling like an absolute blubbering fool. I get the feeling reading this one to my girls is going to put me in the same position that Robert Munsch's Love You Forever does every time I read it. What position is that? One dependant on lots of tissues because I can barely make it through the story in one piece. LOL

Anyhow, enough about me... Why not check out Karen's book trailer?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Henry the Impatient Heron by Donna Love

Henry the Impatient Heron by Donna Love
Illustrated By: Christina Wald
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Sylvan Dell
Publication Date: February 2009
ISBN: 978-1-934359-90-70

Henry the Great Blue Heron was always a fidgety bird. He loved to move, and could hardly stand to stay still in one place for more than a moment. From the time he was a baby his siblings and parents told him he needed to learn control, to focus on being calm. It was unbecoming of a Great Blue Heron to not be able to stay still. Having always been able to rely on others and their skills to feed and take care of him, how on earth would he ever catch a meal on his own if he didn't learn the patience necessary?

Well, the day comes when Henry finds himself lost and alone, having wandered away from his family while in pursuit of an eye catching dragonfly. As the day passes by, Henry tries on more than one occassion to find himself a tasty treat to satisfy the ache in his tummy. However unfortunate, Henry can't seem to catch even a frog. His inability to patiently stand still and wait for the right time to act creates too much commotion. Every creature that Henry sets his sights on senses his presence well before he makes his move to strike. Every time he thinks he's going to win, he's defeated again by his own clumsy, noisy, self. Whatever will Henry do?

Befuddled and certainly frustrated Henry is awestruck when he discovers himself in the waters alongside THE GREAT BLUE HERON the heron of all herons. Seeing Henry's dismay, The Great Blue Heron takes the opportunity to instill in Henry the understanding of how important the fine art of patience is. Giving him food for thought along with some helpful suggestions on how to curb his own impatience and hone his fishing skills, The Great Blue Heron takes his leave. The sun is about to set, but the hunger in Henry's stomach has only grown more with each passing hour. Can he put The Great Blue Heron's teaching to work? Can Henry once and for all be a patient bird capable of taking care of himself?

Young readers are going to enjoy this story because, like Henry, they are likely to understand firsthand the difficulty of staying still. In a world that's go go go, and full of instant gratification opportunities, learning to be patient can be one major struggle. It's such an important lesson to learn though, and Love's story does a great job of portraying both the negatives and positives of of patience. Those lacking the finer patience skills will benefit from seeing how with a little effort we can all learn to be patient and therein tackle even our greatest challenges.

The Creative Minds section in this book also deals up some great lessons on The Great Blue Herons themselves. With fun facts, a Heron life cycle matching game, and even info the Heron's habit children will be educated while being entertained. And with some thought provoking questions regarding pollution in the wetlands, parents will have the opportunity to discuss some of life's more meaningful issues.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts