Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Review: Rock Star Recess by Patrick Bagatta

Today's read swings into imagination and recess fun. I picked up this one because my own kids were School of Rock and Fancy Nancy fans. Plus, that cover is vibrant and energetic and so packed with promised chaos that it screams over-the-top entertainment. Since most picture book tend toward calmer tones, this one definitely catches attention. But lets just go ahead and see what it's about.

by Patrick Bagatta
Illustrated by Emily Mullock
Union Square Press
Picture Book
40 pages 
ages 4 to 8

School of Rock meets Fancy Nancy in this exuberant story about rock n' roll dreams colliding with the reality of elementary school.
Elsie’s music class has played Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star too many times, and she wants to try something new. When her music teacher suggests she “rock on her own time,” Elsie devises a plan. It’s recess, and the playground will make a great venue. Soon she and her best friends are setting up a stage. In true rock-star fashion, their band enlists classmates to help with hair and makeup, special effects, and security. They even host a press conference and an autograph session! Elsie has thought of everything to throw the most epic of recess rock concerts . . . or has she?


The amazing powers of imagination hit full-force, engulfing everything (as a kid's does) to form the best reality ever.

Still caught up in the joy of singing during class, Elsie knows exactly how to spend recess. Her and her friends are going to perform a rock concert. Thirty minutes seems short, but Elsie and her group have everything under control. Soon, make-up, autographs, stage crews, management and more are churning full-gear...until she realizes they forgot something extremely important.

Elise is a ball of energy...or maybe, calling her a small tornado is more appropriate. She's bursting with ideas and determination, and it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement. Her two friends stand at her side, offering words of advice and jumping into the swirl with as much commitment as Elsie. It's an atmosphere packed with positive vibes, energy, and drive to inspire and make a listener/reader smile.

Of course, this is completely over the top and impossible in any twist of reality, except for the imagination. But any child with an active one will know (and their parents, who try to get their attention) that the world disappears. So, while some scenes made me raise an eyebrow, I remembered my own 'spy adventures' as a kid and can only say that these pages hit spot on. The writing is very natural and slides some comments in for a tiny bit of food for thought along the way. 

And there's the message, which rides through like a show, but then, this is about a show. It's not preachy and simply rounds off the story, while staying present enough to be noticed. 

This is a cute read, which will grab attention when read-aloud or revisited by the reader to gaze at the vibrant illustrations. I don't see this one as being one to read again and again and again, but it's definitely worth a fun visit and could make a nice start to a series. I can imagine that Elsie and her friends have quite a few more ideas waiting to be placed into action.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Oceans of Love by Janet Lawler

I'm switching the read, which was supposed to appear today, over to tomorrow...simply because this weekend was SO busy that I didn't get enough side-time to pick up a little longer book. So, peek by tomorrow to see the middle grade read about recess and rock stars. 

Today's read swims into the underwater world and motherly love. I picked it up because I had a feeling the illustrations alone would already make this one enjoyable. Plus, motherly love is always a theme to snuggle up with and enjoy.

So, grab those snorkels and let's see what this book holds. 

by Janet Lawler
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Random House
Viking Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 8 to 12

A beautiful watercolor celebration of the love between ocean mamas and their babies, big and small.

From whales and dolphins, to hermit crabs and jellyfish, the ocean is filled with many different creatures. Join them on this imaginary undersea journey as ocean mamas care for their babies, each in their own special way! Because one thing is universal: there's no other love like that between mamas and their little ones.

With bright and beautiful watercolor illustrations comes this tender and heartwarming celebration of all the different mamas and babies you can find, especially those that live under the sea.



The world under the ocean's surface swims in motherly love and introduces more than a few adorable creatures.

Motherly love is the main theme in these pages, but it takes a new spin as it heads into the deeper waters of the sea. The entire books is written in rhyme, which flows well and makes it works nicely as a read-aloud. The text amount and vocabulary is just right for the age group. There's just enough to set the scene and allow the reader to then, settle into the illustrations. 

The illustrations are my favorite part of this read. It's a mix of playful imagination and reality. The sea life stays close enough to the true appearances to give readers/listeners a good idea of what they look like, and make them recognizable. But they receive eyes and slightly playful forms to make them endearing and cute. This makes each scene fun to visit and allows readers to probably discover several new creatures they've never seen before.

The idea of motherly love hits every page and, yet, it's gentle. These moms help, protect, and play with their young but because of the settings, the 'motherly love' slides into the atmosphere more than being at the forefront. The last page makes up for this with a mother-child embrace. 

It's an adorable read and especially nice for all of those sea life fans out there.

There's also a free coloring sheet to go along with the tale on Janet's website

You can learn more about Janet Lawler at her website :  http://www.JanetLawler.com

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Review: Little Wanderers: The Everlasting Seasons by I.K. Silver

I'm always thrilled to discover well-written reads from self-publishers or smaller presses, and today's read fits that category. I'll admit that the cover didn't quite ring with me, but the author was so sweet and the blurb so grabbing that I decided to give it a go. And I'm glad I did. 

Little Wanderers #1
by I.K. Silver
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

Snowy is a tiny dwarf leading an almost normal life in the village of never-ending winter. Aside from the ever-dreary sky, living next to rowdy neighbors, and being treated like a child, nothing seems to pose a challenge.

All that changes when rumors about Snowy breaking a taboo spread. Disheartened at what he deemed betrayal and feeling stuck in his village, Snowy sneaks out to look for Originem, a village where misfortune befalls no one. However, the aftermath exceeds his wildest expectations.

Snowy finds himself in a magical world, suddenly dealing with the quaintest of things, from singing fruits and a wizard cat to dark woods (brimming with vicious beasts) and other villages locked in one season. But to reach his destination, Snowy, and his new friend, Kokoro, must first solve the mysteries surrounding the villages of everlasting seasons, as the secret that connects them may threaten their very existence


Snowy is a dwarf, living in a village of endless snow, but there has always been endless snow. No one leaves the village, and those who did long ago never returned. But Snowy wants to know what's beyond the village and sneaks out to discover the world. What he discovers is more than just a little adventure.

This is a richly written fantasy with many engaging characters, wonderful dialogue, and an adventure to get lost in. The writing flows very well, dancing between a pinch of humor, emotions, action, and imagination in just the right way to keep readers in the pages. It is interesting and fun to meet each character as Snowy comes up against the most amazing creatures and situations. Of course, there are lessons to be learned, but these flow right with the tale.

I enjoyed the writing quite a bit and easily was caught up in Snowy's adventures. The author does a good job at making the characters really come to life, and their decisions sit. I was missing a bit more details in the world building end, but it was already a rich, character driven world. So, I'm being nit-picky on that end. The only true 'wondering' thoughts I have go along with the intended reading level and audience. This story is very adventurous and does speak to the middle grade audience, but the vocabulary is a little high for the lower end of this age group, while some parts of the story and its playfulness fit more snuggly with the younger end. I do see this one as a great read-aloud and believe it's the perfect read for those bedtime or rainy-day stories, since the reader could really make this one come to life. It's definitely a wonderful world, and I do hope to see Snowy again in the future.

And here she is...

I.K. Silver is the author of Little Wanderers middle-grade fantasy series. The first book in the series, Little Wanderers: The Everlasting Seasons, was released in 2021. I.K. Silver is currently working on the second book in the series (Little Wanderers: The Rose of Many Colours). As I.K. Silver is fond of nature, cats, and magic, you’ll find that reflected in her writing.

Website: https://www.littlewanderersbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littlewanderersbookseries

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IKSilver7

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/i.k.silver

Friday, May 13, 2022

Review: Ghosts in the Closet by PJ McIlvaine

The moment I read the blurb on today's read, I knew I was going to enjoy it. It's a historical paranormal set in the US directly after the Titanic tragedy. And yep, the main character is a survivor of the catastrophe. She's also very wealthy, which adds a different twist on the usual characters, who need to fight their way up. But with everything going on...and that in such a short read...this character has enough to deal with as it is.

Ready for some mystery, spooks, murder and history? 

A Gripping Historical Mystery with Hints of the Paranormal
Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl
by PJ McIlvaine
Darkstroke Books
Young Adult Historical / Paranormal
141 pages

She sees ghosts…but are they malevolent or friendly?

Poor little rich girl Violet Yorke has seen ghosts for as long as she can remember, but no one believes her.

Not stodgy Grandmother, who took charge of the heiress after her parents were killed in a failed robbery. Nor kind-hearted Aunt Nanette, or Uncle Bertie, a charming rogue. Not even the patient Hugo Hewitt, Violet’s godfather and trustee of her vast fortune.

Everyone dismissed the child’s insistence about ghosts as a harmless eccentricity—until the night her bedroom caught fire. Violet was promptly sent overseas, fueling her anger and resentment.

Two years later, a rebellious twelve-year-old Violet is on her way back to Manhattan on the doomed Titanic. As the ship sinks into the deep Atlantic Ocean, she’s put in a lifeboat by an apparition who rescued her from the clutches of a jewel thief. Presumed lost at sea, Violet shocks everyone by crashing her own funeral.

Following Violet’s recovery, Grandmother has grand high society designs for the girl, but Violet has other ideas. She’s determined to uncover the secret of what really happened to her parents. Then there’s the mystery of the moon-faced boy at gloomy Dunham Hall and his connection to the ghost on Titanic. Also hot on Violet’s trail is the jewel thief, the specter of her murdered governess, and a vengeful ghost lurking in Violet’s childhood home.

Being a poor little rich girl in 1912 Gotham isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this delightfully dark and droll supernatural historical fantasy.



American history weaves with mystery and a pinch of the paranormal to form a gripping and intriguing read.

After a very adventurous trip with the Titanic, which left her a couple days in a hospital, Violet finally reaches her grandmother to find that they are in the middle of her, Violet's, funeral, since she was missing and presumed her dead. While Violet might have survived the historic wreck, she's wrapped into a deeper scheme, which has followed her since leaving the harbors of Europe. Not only does someone want her mother's jewels, but there's a murderer on the loose. Add a ghost, who may or may not have ill-intentions, and the mystery is anything but simple...as is the danger.

The blurb hooked me on this one, and I'm glad it did. The author does a wonderful job at bringing a historical time period to life, while creating a grabbing tale. The first pages already plunge into intrigue and adventure as Violet makes her way through a city alone, encounters her first dangers, and all of that to end up at a huge funeral. Even with all of this going on, the details of the historical setting are knitted in here and there. These portray life at the time without ever going into wordy descriptions, but rather, bring the details across right along with the quick-paced plot. Add that the characters each have enough back-story and depth to make them interesting, and this read packs quite a bit...especially since it remains under 150 pages.

I was surprised at how well this read rounds everything off while keeping to the length. There are quite a few characters, several sub-plots, and the mystery is definitely not easy to guess. Even Violet has enough personality to keep the reader invested. There was only one aspect which distracted me, and that was by no means enough to ruin the read. 

When I picked this one up, I thought it was a stand-alone or first in a new series, but when I started reading, there were always bits and pieces mentioned about Violet's trip on the Titanic, and I was convinced that I'd misunderstood and, actually, was reading the 2nd or 3rd book in a series. I was still going to mention that this one works as a stand-alone, since it still flows well and isn't hard to follow. After reading it, I discovered that there aren't any other books leading up to it, and that this Titanic part of Violet's life really is only mentioned when necessary...which is too bad, since there are attacks, attempted kidnapping, disappearances, ghosts, unexplained happenings, and much more, which supposedly happens during that time. So, it always felt like a part of the story was missing...which, in a way, is positive because I did intend to go back and pick it up. Too bad that's not possible.

This is definitely a well-done read and will thrill mystery fans, who love historical settings. It's quick, hard to guess, and flips time back into a rich setting.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Review: Greedy the Crow by Mother Melania


Fearless and Friends, Book 2
by Mother Melania
Illustrated by Cayce Marie Halsell
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 3 to 8

Greedy the Crow's greedy ways are going to get him in trouble! Will anybody help him?



With fun characters, this tale weaves in a wonderful moral lesson, while taking on the atmosphere of a classical tale.

It's Fire Awareness time, and Fearless is making his rounds from house to house to make sure his friends are aware of fire hazards and prepared if anything should happen. Each friend has very different living circumstances, but all seem to meet the needed standards. Except for crow. He loves to collect shiny things and this might be a problem.

This read has a bit more text than some picture books, which makes it a lovely read-aloud (I could really see this one as a lovely audiobook) or a great read for those who have a better handle on their words. The tale is interesting, and the characters each have very distinct and memorable personalities. Fearless is always kind and polite, and even Crow and Fearless get along...despite Crow's issues. There's always something happening and even moments where I could see a group of kids whispering and giggling as Fearless doesn't notice something. So, it is a lovely read.

The illustrations are well done and let each animal's characteristics come across nicely. They make the danger of fire hazards and hoarding clear.

The message is clear and, yet, flows right with the story, keeping it from coming across as overly preachy. Add the worksheets and vocabulary, which is also included, and this is even one for homeschoolers or those who want to work on their reading skills.


Special Bonus!

Clink on the Link to Download Capers and Harry: High Climbing and other great children’s books:



And here she is...

Mother Melania is the Abbess of Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, CA. Her parents would read to her until they were hoarse. It is only natural for her to grow up to write the Fearless and Friends book series, which teaches values to children in a fun way:


Capers and Harry: High Climbing: Capers the Cat gets stuck in a tree, but is too vain to admit it. Can Fearless the Fire Duck and Harry the Hound rescue their friend?


Greedy the Crow: Finders Keepers: Greedy the Crow's greedy ways are going to get him in trouble! Will anybody help him?


Mimi the Mynah: It's All Mine!: Mimi knows two words - "me" and "mine." When disaster strikes the Duck Pond, will she finally learn a new word?


Bluster Blue Jay: Not My Fault!: Bluster Blue Jay is not the easiest bird to be around. Nothing ever works for him, but it's never HIS fault! When he joins Fearless and Grateful on their camping trip, can they be patient with him? And will he learn a lesson about accepting blame? Join them and find out!


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