Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Review: The Weaver's Daughter by Sylvia Patience

 


THE WEAVER'S DAUGHTER
by Sylvia Patience
Desert Plain Press
Middle Grade
192 pages
ages 8 to 12













“Sometimes people disappear into the North and are never heard from again.” When her papá doesn’t return, twelve year old Ixchel, a Maya from the Yucatan, resolves to leave home and make her way across the treacherous border into the United States to find him. Chel relies on an inexperienced smuggler and faces unknown dangers in a border tunnel. Frightened but resourceful, she is driven by hope, love for her father, and her dream of going to school.
“Ixchel’s story, told with honesty and sympathy, will stir readers’ hearts.”-Eve Bunting, award winning author of more than 250 children’s books.
The Weaver's Daughter is the winner of a Moonbeam Children's Book Awards bronze medal


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MY TIDBITS

Honesty and emotions make this a read, which draws in and leaves a lasting impression.

Ixchel is a young girl, and a Maya from the Yucatan, whose father immigrated to the US years before, leaving her with her grandmother and mother. Her mother, though, is always lost in her weaving, but Ixchel helps as much as she can by selling them at the market. When her mother has a vision, telling her to send Ixchel to the US, Ixchel is more than apprehensive. Together with her friend, Chel, she sets out on a dangerous journey with a smuggler to get to the US and find her father.

It's hard not to sympathize with Ixchel and root for her from beginning to end. Her character is as as rich as her culture, and her heart beams with determination and kindness. Still, she's understandably nervous and careful. Even the first pages with her draw in and make the reader wish they could meet her in person.

The culture and experiences in these pages make it worth a read and are excellent for anyone wanting to dive into the problems immigrants face when trying to get into the US. It displays the emotions naturally and honestly. While this is presented as a middle grade novel, there are several events and scenes which do not fit the age group and are appropriate for the young adult audience and above. However, the character depth, writing and flow is more appropriate for a younger audience. But older readers interested in the subject matter will enjoy reading this tale quite a bit.

The pacing rolls along quickly and keeps the reader in the pages. The author allows Ixchel's home to take root over more than a couple chapters in the beginning, and gives the reader a very good glance into her life, the reasons she leaves, and what it took to prepare the journey first. I found that building this end up as well really added a lot to Ixchel and her tale. It's definitely an intriguing read.



Learn more about Sylvia at her website: sylviapatience.com

As a member of SCBWI, I attend conferences, and participate in critique groups. One of my short fairy tales won an international Hans Christian Andersen first prize. The Weaver’s Daughter won best first page at an SCBWI conference. I've published articles in professional nursing and midwifery journals, poems in journals and anthologies, and an earlier middle grade book, Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz. I lived in Mexico for several years and have worked with immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I conduct groups and presentations in English and Spanish with adults and children of all ages.























Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Review: Slow Down, Tumbleweed! by Haven Iverson

My parents had a farm on the edge of Wyoming for many years, and there were always amazing stories to tell about the power of those seemingly harmless tumbleweeds. Never ever ever underestimate a tumbleweed...and I mean that with 100% sincerity. 

When I was discovered this book, there was no way I wasn't going to take a look at it. It comes out

OCTOBER 5th 

and promises to offer sound advice, which doesn't involve the more sinister side of tumbleweeds (which they have, I promise you).

Ready for a look?


SLOW DOWN, TUMBLEWEED!
by Haven Iverson
Illustrated by Robert Sayegh
Sounds True
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Children will see how learning to slow down gives you a chance to notice and appreciate the beauty in the world.


In our fast-paced society, children are often missing the value of slowing down. Slow Down, Tumbleweed! is about a wild and roaming tumbleweed who thinks the world is only interesting if you rush through life. Then she gets caught on a fence and is forced to slow down.

As she learns to sit in stillness and quiet, Mabel notices the beauty of the world around her—the music of wind chimes, the shapes in the clouds, the long eyelashes of a heifer. She sees there is so much that is interesting and beautiful right here, right now. You don’t have to chase it.

Slow Down, Tumbleweed! teaches children the importance of slowing down, pausing to take a breath, and cultivating mindfulness. It shows the peace and gratitude you feel when you learn to be calm and open your awareness. This book celebrates all of life—both moving fast and moving slow.


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MY TIDBITS

Tumbleweeds have never been as fascinating and cute as the one in this book.

Tumbleweed broke off and began her journey across the state, which was the best day ever. Now, she tumbles and bumbles around, dancing with the wind and flying past on the breeze of great adventures. She even feels sorry for the other weeds, since they are stuck in the exact same spot without much excitement their entire lives. When a huge wind comes, she's sure this is going to be the most amazing adventure yet, but instead, she gets stuck on a fence and can't go anywhere.

This tumbleweed radiates a joy for life, and it's hard not to feel the excitement with her as she tumbles from one place to the next. The illustrations give the tumbleweed a nice amount of personality, while never leaving the natural shape. Her positive attitude is catchy and invites to smiles as do the scenes around her. While the illustrations are heavy on the browns and yellows, thanks to the landscape, they still pop off the pages and invite to gazing fun.

The text is good for a read-aloud, since it's a bit on the heavy side for beginning readers. The vocabulary, emotions, and settings fit well to the intended audience and even open up the door for those to learn more, who aren't familiar with tumbleweeds. The message in the book is to show listeners how important it is to slow down, but I found this part swept by way too fast and think it could have used a little more time with Tumbleweed visibly learning to enjoy a still environment with the animals (and not just the one page or so without any real emotional moments) before tumbling on again.

It's definitely a sweet read, and I have no doubt that listeners will enjoy getting to know Tumbleweed. It's hard not to like her and wish one could experience adventures with her in the future.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: Barb the Last Berzerker by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson

It's graphic novel time! My own kids are huge fans of graphic novels (as am I). So, I try to make sure to include, at least one of these every month. Today's review grabbed my attention not only because of the very active cover, but the blurb. "She-Ra and the Princesses of Power meets Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man..." Seriously, how could I not want to read this one?

Plus, the title got me thinking and the term 'berzerker'. Of course, I realize that berzerk is crazy and that it implies, in this case, a fighter, but I wondered exactly what the term means (dictionary time!) just out of curiosity.  This is what I found: 'an ancient Norse warrior who fought in a wild frenzy'. So, there you go.



BARB THE LAST BERZERKER
Book 1
by Dan Abdo
and Jason Patterson
Simon & Schuster
Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
256 pages
ages 8 to 12

COMING...
SEPTEMBER 28th!!!


She-Ra and the Princesses of Power meets Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man in this sidesplitting graphic novel about a young Berzerker who has to rescue her fellow warriors from the evil villain Witch Head before he destroys the world!

Barb is a Berzerker, one of a group of warriors sworn to protect the land of Bailiwick from the scourge of monsters that plagues it. But the fearsome crew seem to have met their match in the nefarious Witch Head. Using power from his magical sword, he tricked the Zerks and took them captive. Only Barb was able to escape—and she took Witch Head’s Shadow Blade with her.

Now it’s up to Barb to free her fellow warriors so they can stop Witch Head from taking over Bailiwick. On the way, she’ll battle vampire goat fiends, snot goblins, and a giant with serious foot odor issues (but don’t mention that to him—he’s very sensitive about it). Luckily, she’s got her best friend, Porkchop the yeti, to help her.

But the power of the Shadow Blade has a mind of its own, and the deeper Barb gets into her quest, the harder it is to keep the blade’s awesome power under control.


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MY TIDBITS

Furious action and humor collide in super-fun adventure with a heroine full of spunk and determination.

Barb is a Berzerker, and the smallest one, who always is told to stay behind when the rest of the Berzerkers attack the monsters. When they attack an especially evil monster, Barb doesn't listen to orders, but this time, it's good since the rest of the Berzerker's are taken captive. Barb manages to escape with the sword, and now, it's up to her to find the Northern Berzerkers, bring them back to free her group.

This is a fast-paced tale, packed with adventure, quirky moments, monsters, unexpected surprises, a powerful sword, and friendship. Barb might be small, but she has the heart of a true Berzerker...actually, even a bigger one than that. She's brave, kind, and never bows from a fight which needs to be fought. And yet, she's horribly kind to anyone and everyone, who needs it. In other words, she is an awesome heroine, who simply loves to fight, too.

There are tons of fun fight scenes...the kind with the 'Whoosh', 'Bang' and such. Monsters need to fear when she appears with her sword, but yet, there's never a shortage on heart. This book is as much about friendship, standing up for those who need help, standing to your own mistakes, and judging creatures for who they are and not what they are. So, there are tons of good messages in here too. 

The illustrations are bright and bold and full of power. It's fun to go through each scene and watch Barb's tales unfold. The text is great for the intended audience and balances nicely with the illustrations.
It's just fun to read as tension and laughs combine into a fury of fun. Luckily, this is only the beginning of Barb's adventures, too.



And here they are...

For the past ten years, award-winning duo Dan & Jason have developed numersous animated campaigns, network TV and webseries, and critically acclaimed commercial work. Their extensive portfolio, including multiple comedic spots in both the UUS and UK, has garnered them industry wide recognition, while their humorous sensibility and diverse skill set has landed them jobs for top global brands.

Dan & Jason have set up properties at Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, and Nickelodeon as well as a feature animated film through Paramount Pictures The well-versed storytellers have developed original content for a wide variety of platforms, including print (Nickelodeon Comics, The  New Yorker), theater (Pilobolus) and  digital.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

Review: Alley & Rex by Joel N Ross

Happy Sunday! We're supposed to finally see a few drops of rain the next days, and the temperatures are thankfully dropping (I'm not a hot weather friend). Today's book is perfect for rainy weekends or a few evenings of reading. It's  a chapter book on the verge of the middle grade novel border and is packed full of fun humor.

Ready for a few laughs?


ALLEY & REX
by Joel N Ross
by Nicole Miles
Atheneum Books
Chapter Book / Lower Middle Grade
144 pages
ages 7 to 10


COMING...
SEPTEMBER 28th!!!







Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Wayside School will love this first book in a new, off-the-wall middle grade series about two boys—one with the heart of a lion and the test scores of a baked potato, the other a shy boy genius in a bunny suit—finding their strengths and true friendship.

Sixth-grader Alley Katz is innocently trying to help a bunch of kindergarteners when the burrito hits the fan. Literally. A burrito. A ceiling fan. A hail of beans. Now he has to get an A on his science test or he’ll be transferred to the dreaded Steggles Academy.

An A seems impossible! Alley is kind, intrepid, and well-liked, but for some reason he doesn’t get graded on any of that. So the principal assigns a peer mentor to help: Rex, a fourth-grade genius who wears a bunny suit.

Alley is totally in favor of both bunnies and fourth graders, but he doesn’t need Rex. He has his own foolproof plan to ace the test. Still, Rex is determined to fulfill his duty as Alley’s mentor—and he may need some help of his own. One boy needs to stay in school, the other needs to get through it. Can this odd couple save the day—and each other?


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MY TIDBITS

Silly pranks and laugh-worthy humor make this trouble-maker one to adore, and that before he discovers real friendship with the most unlikely of people.

Alley (aka Alex) has a super-ton of ideas and loves to put them into practice. Unfortunately, not all of them are good ideas, not even close. As the new school year begins, so does a last chance for him to prove that he can behave...or else, it's off to the private school and living with his impossible grandma. Forced to complete the ridiculously-never-going-to-happen goal of gaining an A on the next science test, he's given a Host to help him through. It's no one else than the new, younger kid, who dresses up  like a bunny every single day. 

Alley is a character to love. He's a huge trouble-maker but not out of spite. His curiosity and experimental friendliness get him into trouble time and again. He has a heart of gold and is never mean. His thoughts wander all over the place as he explains everything in an open honesty, which also calls for giggles and even a 'huh' at the warped, yet innocent, logic. He's the kind of kid to root for and wish you could be watching him, when he attempts all the ridiculous things. He definitely will grab the attention of the intended age group and keep them reading until the very end.

The writing is age appropriate and keeps a simple enough vocabulary, while also building a few more difficult terms in. Rex, the bunny-boy, is great on this end. The font is easy to read and the chapters are kept relatively short. Add the lovely illustrations, and it's a nice paced, more advanced chapter book, which doesn't easily scare readers away.

Friendship and finding it in unexpected places is one of the key themes. There is a little bullying from one of the side characters, but this is kept light and doesn't overtake the main plot of Alley and his own issues. The characters are, generally, kind to each other and offer help, when needed. It's a tale with tons of humor and laughs, and I do hope to see more of this pair in the future.



And here they are...

Joel Ross is the author of The Fog Diver, Beast & Crown, and Alley & Rex series. He’s never worn a school uniform, but he did try a spoonful of calves’ foot jelly once. The taste lingers. Visit him at TheJoelJoel.com.

Nicole Miles was born in the United States but grew up in the Bahamas where all schools have uniforms but nobody eats calves’ foot jelly (as far as she is aware). She feels this is a fair compromise. She now lives in the United Kingdom, and her tiny place on the internet is NicoleMillo.com.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Review: Pear of Hope by Wenda Shurety

Today's picture book already nods to next month—Cancer Awareness Month. The description caught my interest on this one, and I am glad I decided to give it a read. It's packed with hope, warmth and heart.

But why don't you just take a peek? 


PEAR OF HOPE
by Wenda Shurety
Illustrated by Deb Hudson
EK Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8


Anna loves the old pear tree that lives at the bottom of the garden. When she becomes seriously ill, her relationship with the tree provides comfort and peace on her journey, particularly when she plants a seed from one of the tree’s pears.

Pear of Hope is the story of a little girl with cancer and her tale of recovery. This is intertwined with the growth of a pear tree, which symbolises the enigmatic concept of hope. Told through sensitive words and gentle, beautiful illustrations, the story will comfort and inspire any children who are struggling to feel positive, whatever journey they may be on.

Author Wenda Shurety wrote Pear of Hope because, as someone living with Multiple Sclerosis, hope has been instrumental in her healing process. The story is a gentle introduction to building a more positive outlook in the face of struggle. As well as adults and children suffering from illness, it will also appeal to educators discussing the topics of hope and symbolism, and to medical staff or counsellors who have to discuss hope in difficult situations.

The beautiful story of Pear of Hope and its brave, adventurous and hopeful main character, Anna, will be a crucial step towards children and their carers embracing hope in their lives. With its vibrant images, it is a reminder of the beauty of the world around us and of the fact that, like Anna, with hope you can face any battle!


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MY TIDBITS

Hope shines through lovely illustrations, the wonders of a pear tree, and a very brave girl.

A girl enjoys playing around the pear tree and enjoying all the exciting things thriving around it. When a storm comes, the girl remains in her bed. The tree stands but isn't its cheery self. But the storm does pass, and the girl goes back outside. She plants a seed and watches a wonderful tree grow until life is vibrant again.

I'm going to start with the illustrations because these are beautifully done. They allow the joy of nature as well as the changes to come across with simplicity, yet wonderful atmosphere. It's a joy to watch the change through the nature and the hope unfold. Plus, it doesn't forget the artistic touch, which gives the book its personal sense of warmth.

The text is kept simple and usually consists of only one sentence or phrase. So, it's very fitting for the age group and easy to understand on that front. But this book isn't so much about the words as the tale, which flows underneath the surface. It's never directly stated that the girl becomes ill nor is it said which specific problem she battles. This entire ordeal is covered with the storm and the bare tree, while the girl remains in bed inside. When she does go outside with her hair gone, the message is clear. This will need explanation for many young listeners and that opens up the door perfectly for discussions. It definitely offers tons of hope and allows a serious issue to be addressed in a very lovely and caring manner.