Sunday, July 3, 2022

Review: Beware the Burmese Pythons by Etta Kaner

 I'm super excited about today's read! I stumbled across this one, while taking a peek at all the upcoming kidlit this Fall (of course, I always have my eyes open!), and discovered this little gem. It's a non-fiction read, holds a bit of a graphic novel form, and promises to introduce readers to all sorts of lesser known, invasive species. Doesn't that sound amazing? I know my kids (and I as a kid) especially loved nonfiction with lesser known and interesting facts.

So, ready to take a plunge? (Okay, you'll have to wait until later in October to get your hands on a copy yourself, but trust me, this one is worth the wait....woops! I'm not suppose to say that yet, am I?



BEWARE THE BURMESE PYTHONS: AND OTHER INVASIVE ANIMAL SPECIES
by Etta Kaner
Illustrated by Phil Nicholls
Kids Can Press
48 pages
ages 4 to 12

COMING...
OCTOBER 22nd!!!



A kid-friendly introduction to invasive animal species that explores how they got into new ecosystems and the damage they've caused.

It might not seem like a big deal when a non-native animal species finds its way to another environment. But it can be! Invasive species reproduce quickly and often have no natural predators, allowing them to overtake native species, and even destroy the ecosystem of their new home. Here's an intriguing look at 10 of these species from around the world --- from tiny cactus moths to mighty Burmese pythons --- and the problems they're causing. As each section explains, humans were responsible for bringing all these animals to their new locations. And now it's up to humans to do something about it!

In this unique, highly visual book, Etta Kaner's accessible text and Phil Nicholls's vibrant art reveal a fascinating world of “aliens” that invade new habitats. With two spreads for each animal, the book is chock-full of information, including the animal's features, habitat and invasion route; a narrative describing how it became invasive and why it's become a problem; and a list of ideas for what can be done, ending with the question, “If you were a scientist or conservation officer, what would you do?” The text is presented in fun, eye-catching formats, ranging from comic strips to posters to newspaper articles, keeping the engagement level high and highlighting what scientists are currently doing to solve the problems. There are strong life-science connections here on characteristics of living things, ecosystems and habitats. Contains a glossary, sources, further reading and how to help.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60382977-beware-the-burmese-pythons


MY TIDBITS

Non-fiction with interesting, lesser-known facts is always a treat, but slide in a bit of graphic novel atmosphere, and this one is a definite winner.

What is an invasive species? These pages dive right into that question before taking off with examples of lesser known ones and troublesome ones. There are ten species presented, including nutria, cane toads, killer shrimp, and more. Each one is introduced with its common name, scientific name, and a cartoon-like but still detailed illustration, where little lines and phrases point out its unique characteristics. The size and habitat as well as a global map, showing the general area where the animal is native and where its wandered to, is also presented. There's a fun introduction as to how the animal was taken to the 'new' area, a page presenting the problems it has caused, and then, another section which explains how scientists are trying to deal with the problem. This last section ends with the question of what the reader thinks could be done to stop the animals' destruction.

While all of the information is very well done, laid out, and does teach all sorts of things from animal facts to ecological problems and connections, the fun is never forgotten. I do enjoy the variety given in the ways the animals were inadvertently 'spread', since this does show that even scientists make mistakes...and how many are stupid or even an unknown side product. And the lists of things being done are just as broad in variety, and illustrate how much ingenuity is used. Since kids are then asked for their thoughts, the entire thing gains clout, exercises the brain gears, and is even great for group or homeschooling situations. And, of course, an awareness for the environment and balance of life is strengthened.

But what really makes this one fun is the writing style and illustrations. The author keeps the information light and entertaining. There's a spark of humor without really being silly. The illustrations and their comic flair make everything digestible, also hinted with humor, and keep boredom away. It creates an atmosphere, which will drawn in even reluctant readers, and marks information in a manner, which sticks in the mind better than dry numbers, terms, and facts. 

I do see kids really enjoying this one and know my own would grab it off the shelf without a second's thought.


Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: The Twin Stars by Bridgette Dutta Portman

It's been awhile since I've had a rich fantasy to present here. Today's read is sold as a Wizard of Oz meets The Neverending Story meets Chronicles of Narnia. So what does that mean? I'm assuming it will be a gentler fantasy with more depth and richness. This one does deal with a main character, who has OCD, too. Oh, and it's the first in a series (yay!). 

Ready to take a peek?



THE TWIN STARS
The Coseema Saga, Book One
by Bridgette Dutta Portman
Titan1Studios
YA Fantasy










A magical journal. A world savaged by its own suns. An evil prince. A princess in hiding. And a teenage girl who learns to be the hero of her own story.

Sixteen-year-old Olive Joshi has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and can't stop worrying about hurting the people she loves. She finds refuge in writing about Coseema, a magical princess on a distant planet. Coseema is fearless, confident, and perfect - everything Olive thinks she’ll never be. When she falls through a portal into her own unfinished story, Olive finds herself in a world in peril: double suns scorch the land, the brutal Prince Burnash seeks supreme power, and Coseema is nowhere to be found. Together with her friends - a bold poet, a cursed musician, a renegade soldier, and an adventurous girl from the desert - Olive will have to face her deepest fears to find the hero in herself.

An engrossing new portal fantasy in the spirit of the Wizard of Oz, the Neverending Story, and the Chronicles of Narnia.​


GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /   B&N    /   INDIE BOUND



MY TIDBITS


With the flow of a dream, this fantasy takes a girl with OCD on a journey to face her fears, discover her strengths, and find friendship.

Olive is on the way to the funeral of her recently deceased grandmother. She finds solace, as always, by scribbling in her notebook, where she tries to fight her fears thanks to OCD, but carries a story she's been working on for a long time. When a frantic visit to the bathroom on the airplane ends with her passing out, little does she know she's gone through a portal and, now, finds herself in the world her tale centers around. The characters she created become flesh and blood, and mistake her for the heroine, Coseema. But Olive knows she could never replace Coseema, even if she looks like her. Not only was Coseema perfect and powerful, but she's the only one who can save the world...unfortunately, the real Coseema is no where to be found.

The world building in this tale is very well done. The author spends just enough time in Olive's 'real' world to ground her before zipping her off into the fantasy realm. There, details let the surroundings come to life until the reader can almost see, feel and hear the world around them.

The characters are well done, and even the side ones have personality and enough background to give them depth. Each one is different and brings richness to plot. It's entertaining and interesting to see how Olive interacts and tries to wrap her brain around the characters she created...only to learn that she might not know them as well as she thought. But at the same time, she learns more about herself.

Everything flows well, making this an easy read to get lost in. Thanks to the rich descriptions, the pacing is a little gentler than I prefer, and I did find myself skipping over paragraphs now and then. But for those who prefer characters and worlds, this is a lovely read. And it does set the stage for the beginning of what promises to be an interesting series.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Review: Grounded for All Eternity by Darcy Marks

 We're starting off the month as hot as the weather...well, at least, the theme is warmer than warm. This one centers around a boy and his team, who were born and live in the Underworld. When they accidentally find themselves on Earth, their biggest concern is getting back before their parents notice they're gone. Which with a little thought, makes total sense to me because who would want to go against parents who guard evil souls? 

Now, I thought this one might head in a direction of mischief, but I'll already say that I was more than a little surprised at where the plot flies...or rather walks, since wings aren't allowed to leave that realm. See, that's already a hint at the fun!



GROUNDED FOR ALL ETERNITY
by Darcy Marks
Aladdin
Middle Grade Paranormal
384 pages
ages 8 to 12


COMING...
JULY 26th!!!







A group of kids from hell come to Earth on one of the craziest nights of the year—Halloween—in this snarky, witty middle grade adventure about teamwork, friendship, shattering expectations, and understanding the world (or otherworld) around us.

Mal and his friends are just your regular average kids from hell. The suburbs that is, not the fiery pit part. But when Hell’s Bells ring out—signaling that a soul has escaped from one of the eternal circles, Mal and his friends can’t help but take the opportunity for a little adventure.

Before they know it, they’ve somehow slipped through the veil and found themselves in the middle of Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. And what’s even worse, they’ve managed to bring the escaped soul with them! As the essence of one of history’s greatest manipulators gains power by shifting the balance on Earth, Mal and his squad-mates—along with some new friends that they meet along the way—work desperately to trap the escapee, save the people of Earth from the forces of evil, and find the portal back to their own dimension.

If they can’t manage it before their parents realize they’re gone, they’ll be grounded for an eternity. And an eternity in hell is a very, very long time.


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N 


MY TIDBITS

It's not Halloween, yet. Not even close. But I'm still going to already shout this one out as a must-read for that upcoming holiday. 

Mal is an average kid. Well, for Hell that is. He lives with his parents, goes to school, and has pretty much the same problems as any kid on Earth. Go figure. When a soul escapes one of Hell's levels, the entire town goes on high alert with fire-shield-dome and everything. His parents are on call and need to find him a babysitter because it's school break. Just when Mal's convinced his vacation's ruined, his friends come to the rescue, but their secret fun out doesn't end exactly the way they hoped it would. Accidentally slipping through a gateway, they find themselves on Earth. Not only do they have no clue how to return home before their parents notice that they're missing, but they see all sorts of evil creatures which shouldn't be on Earth. Now, they not only have to find the way home, but they'll have to deal with the escaped evil themselves.

This was so much more fun than I thought it might be. Although Mal has wings and lives in the Underworld, it's not much different than life on a town on Earth. The author allows several chapters for the reader to sink into Mal's life and really get to know him, where he comes from, and all the details living in the realm of death entails. And it isn't boring, in the least. Mal's easy to identify with, laid back, and faces many of the same issues that many middle graders do. By letting the reader to get to know his reality first, it makes the adventure on Earth that much more enjoyable...and relatable.

The writing flows very well and naturally, never letting anything feel choppy or forced. The friends interact as any would and could be the kids down the street. There are enough oddities to keep the reader in the pages, and as the story progresses, this slips over to surprising twists and tension. Some situations have the reader wondering what the friends will do, while others will cause a smirk or a snort. It's a nice balance of adventure and fun.

Along with a fun tale, the author has woven in well-known literature, historic figures and myths. Dante's levels of Hell, Faust, Methuselah, and more give a nod at all those history and literature buffs. I found it a nice twist, although I'm sure some of these will go over readers' heads. But having them mentioned and playing a role is a nice bonus.

This is an easy read with tons to like. The plot and setting are original, and the characters are easy to root for. I do see this one as being a winner with more than just a couple readers.



And here she is...

Darcy Marks is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu, as well as a Black Belt in Arnis, the Filipino art of stick-fighting. She teaches women’s self-defense and works as a forensic toxicologist. Darcy is a mother of three is and an avid fangirl living in northern Vermont. Visit her online at DarcyMarks.com.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

What's Coming in July?

 Enjoying the sun and having fun? We're definitely keeping busy here. I have all sorts of goodness on the reading end the next weeks, including Young Explorers Natural Journal, which inspires all sorts of outdoor adventures for kids, but the cover is quite available yet, so although I wanted to include it below, I couldn't (told you the publishing world is tricky). 

As usual, I try to keep a pretty broad spectrum of reads and have everything from paranormal to science fiction to contemporary to humor as well as nonfiction and more scheduled. It's going to be a pretty even balance between the age groups, too. So, keep an eye out and see if any of these might hit the summer reading list in your household, too.


GROUNDED FOR ALL ETERNITY

The title made me smile, but I didn't realize how literal it is until I read the blurb. This one hits a group of teens from Underworld, who venture out and make their way through 'our' world. I'm thinking it will have some humor, hit upon friendship, and...well, who knows what else. Anyway, I'm taking a peek at this one on the 1st.

Middle Grade Paranormal


PROJECT A.I.D.E.N.

A girl accidentally runs over someone to find him uninjured and begging for help because he's being hunted. That sounds like the beginning of a thriller to me, one with chase scenes, and according to the blurb, romance. There's more than a few hints of sci-fi making me wonder if gene-editing, cloning or something similar is involved. Or maybe aliens? Find out on the 4th.

Young Adult Science Fiction

THE ZEE FILES

This is the first in a spin-off series from the best-selling Mackenzie Blue books...which I've never read, so I'm pretty free-minded on hitting this one. It's about a girl, who heads to London for the first time and all the adventures she experiences. I'm thinking there will be some humor, some heart, and tons of quirky moments. Let's travel together on the 9th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


A PERFECT MISTAKE

This one comes from an earlier critique partner of mine, who has definitely found her voice and brought out several wonderful titles. It promises mystery, a few dark secrets, friendship, and finding courage. I'll be looking at the one on the 12th.

Middle Grade Mystery





DEFENDING OCRAS: NO MORE CAPTIVITY

I've always been fascinated by sea life and have a weak spot for non-fiction. So, it was a given that I wanted to take a peek into this one. It's the third in a series of books (Planetary Solutions) and should hold all sorts of information about Ocras, including facts, history, tales, and problems. I'm looking forward to seeing what this one holds, so join me on the 11th to learn more!

Children's Non-Fiction 
BURYING EVA FLORES

I was hooked the moment I read the blurb on this one. It includes TikTok, two very different girls, murder, accusations, and a hunt for the truth. I'm expecting chills, thrills, tons of mystery, and who knows what else, but I'm hoping it's good. Find out with me on the 20th.

Young Adult Mystery/Thriller




MONSTERS BORN AND MADE

Sold as a mixture between Hunger Games and Fable, this was swims around deadly, ocean beasts. A poor family...or rather, a girl and her brother, must catch them in order to keep their family from starving to death. It sounds dark and promises tons of action, and finds its roots in South-Asian myths. Find out more with me on the 18th.

Young Adult Fantasy



WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION

When I was asked if I was interested in taking a peek at this collection (coming in October) of Shakespeare's works adapted for younger readers, I wasn't about to turn it down. My own daughter will be taking her 1st glance in this direction this coming school year, so I'm definitely curious what this collection does. Explore it with me on the 22nd.

Middle Grade Fiction


THE REALLY ROTTEN PRINCESS

A princess, who acts like anything but? And that as a chapter book! Yep, I wanted to get my hands on this one and take a peek. This princess isn't only not frilly but packs tons of trouble and not-so-nice intentions. I'm expecting laughs and giggles, and a perfect mix for those beginning readers out there. Let's jump into royalty on the 28th!

Chapter Book Fantasy

ON MY PAPA'S SHOULDERS

This one greets from an author in South Africa and embraces the love between a child and their father. I'm looking forward to the scenes and atmosphere. Find out more on the 30th.


Picture Book


Every month, my reading list stands higher than I can reach (okay, maybe not quite). There's definitely more reads than I have time for, which means that I always have a few on the bench just waiting to join in. The book I will find time to squeeze in somehow...somewhere...no matter what is:


THE ELEPHANT GIRL

This one is co-authored by the very-well-known James Patterson, but that's not why I'm excited about it (although it does catch attention because of that). This tale centers around a girl and her relationship to an elephant. It's supposed to hold tons and tons of heart as well as take a peek at Africa. But when will I get to it? We'll find out! (Shh...but I am hoping for the 25th, since it's release day) 

Tween Fiction


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel!

Today's read actually had it's book birthday yesterday...but I'm all for celebrating as long as possible! The moment I saw the cover, I had to get my hands on this book. Plus, time travel can be intriguing if well done. The main character also promises tons of spunk...if she can keep a logical thinking process, that is. Yep, I do have high expectations with this one. So, let's take a peek and see if it's worth the hype.


STEALING INFINITY
Stolen Beauty, #1
by Alyson Noel
Entangled Teen Publishing
YA Time Travel / Fantasy
400 pages














These days, I’ve been killing it when it comes to letting people down. Now I’ve been kicked out of high school, arrested, and accepted into a remote, off-the-grid school owned and operated by an inscrutable billionaire tech guru.

Gray Wolf Academy is looking for a certain kind of student. Ones that no one will miss. Like me.

Then there’s Braxton. The beautiful, oddly anachronistic guy who showed up right when the trouble started. And he’s a total enigma—which means that I definitely can’t trust him, even if there’s something about him that makes me want to.
They all tell me I have a gift. A very rare gift. And Gray Wolf Academy wants me to learn it. To use it. Because if what they say is true, I have all the time in the world.
And that makes me the most dangerous high school student you’ll never know…


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY


MY TIDBITS

Action, intrigue and a touch of romance intermingle with time travel to make an exciting read, which is hard to put down.

Nat's got a tough life, trying to help her mother pay bills while attending school. When a friend convinces her to skip class and go to a club, things race out of control. Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Nat finds herself at the Gray Wolf Academy, where secrets flood every hallway. She's unable to make friends except with one guy, who's not telling more than he wants to. She knows something's up but has larger problems to deal with as she suspects that there's more to the school than meets the eye.

If you're a fan of academy settings (especially mysterious, secretive ones), time travel, tough girls, and dangerous plots, this will be right down your lane. It starts out with a thrust into Nat's life, who gains sympathy as she does her best to make everything work. Her bad decision is irritating, but everything else about her makes her hard not to root for as she struggles against so much garbage. When the book swings into the academy, there's an interesting twist, which keeps it from growing cliche. Also, Nat has a head and tries to use it as she's navigating the academy and tries to figure out what's going on. There's a quick pace the entire way through and unexpected moments to keep those pages turning.

Then, there's the relationships and characters. Nat is interesting and while she stumbles here and there, she remains a gripping character until the end. The others are touch and go. Some have a bit of depth but others don't. So, if you're into character driven reads, this has some of that but leans much more toward the action.

Even the romance isn't smooth...but it just might be that way intentionally. The love interest keeps a lot of his intentions and goals hidden, and the chemistry suffers because of that. But there are other possibilities in the starting lines on that front. It just depends on where this series goes.

This is an exciting read with tons of mystery and interesting directions. It definitely entertains and does set things up nicely for the rest of the series.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Little Bear by Nicola Killen!

It's time to celebrate a new release! Today's read is a picture book, which is part of a series written by Nicola Killen. I remember receiving her first picture book about this little girl, Ollie, several years ago and immediately being hooked. Her books haven't disappointed me yet, since I'm a fan not only of Ollie's love for dressing up but also love the art style with its carefully added colors.

So, happy book birthday, The Little Bear!!!



THE LITTLE BEAR
by Nicola Killen
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8





From beloved author-illustrator Nicola Killen comes an adorable back to school story about a bear cub soothing a little girl’s fears, tenderly told and illustrated in limited color with lovely foil and interactive die cut pages.

The end of summer can be a bittersweet time, and Ollie isn’t sure if she’s ready to go back to school. But the night before her first day back, Ollie dreams about a magical schoolhouse in the woods full of friendly little animals who make learning an adventure. When Ollie wakes up, she can’t wait to go to school!


GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON 


MY TIDBITS

Gentle illustrations with a touch of shine add magic to the tale of a little girl and her nervousness for the first day of school.

Ollie has her first day of school the next day. She's packed her backpack and, by bedtime, is as ready as ready can be. After falling asleep, she's awaken by the sound of an owl. She decides to follow it and heads outside and into the forest, where she realizes that some of the animals are following the owl, too. When a little school house appears between the trees and a small, hesitant bear waits off to the side, her adventure begins.

I'm already a fan of this illustrator's works, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an ARC. It did not disappoint. Not only is Ollie as cute as always, but she's in another animal costume and ready to go. This always makes me smile since I know so many kids of that age, who would have worn their 'animal-self' to school if they could have (a couple of my own kids included). 

This tale dances perfectly on the edge of dreams and reality, making sure that the reader is left to guess, which side it is. The text flows very smoothly and makes a lovely read-aloud, which is very appropriate for the age group. 

Ollie's nervousness for the first day of school is subtle and underlays her sense of excitement. Unlike many tales, which deal with this theme, the nervousness is indirect. Instead of dealing with it herself directly, the theme switches over to a small bear and allows her to help him. It was a kind approach, which leaves a sense of happiness.

And I'm not going to forget the illustrations because those were more than lovely. The characters stay in shades of white, gray, and with a hint of black, while the surroundings gain a touch of dark blues and yellows...only Ollie's cheeks get an extra dab of pink. The result is a dreamlike setting, which invites in. As if adding a sprinkle of magic, gold, shiny details are dabbled in here and there. 

This is a wonderful read to help with those first-day-of-school nerves, but also works great as a bedtime read.


And here she is...

Nicola Killen has always loved drawing and still likes nothing better than taking her sketchbook to the zoo to draw her favorite animals: rhinos and penguins. She designed cards before starting an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art, and since then she has been working on her own books, including The Little Reindeer, which was called “an original and entertaining Christmas story with its own understated charm” in a starred review by Kirkus Reviews and “magical” by Publishers WeeklyThe Little Reindeer was named a Horn Book Holiday High Note. Nicola Killen lives and works in Cambridge, England.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Review: Fly High, Lolo by Niki Daly

I decided to take this last weekend off from reviews (even I need a breather every now and then). So, I was able to hit today's read with a small gust of new-found energy...which is great since it's about an eagle flying! Well, a type of eagle. 

Today's read greets from South Africa and is one in a series of chapter books, which centers around a little girl named Lolo and her daily life adventures. The author has won a prize or two for the series, and since it promises to be a cute read, I wanted to take a peek.

Ready to flap into adventure with me?


FLY HIGH, LOLO
by Niki Daly
Chapter Book / Contemporary
96 pages
ages 5 to 9














Four new easy to read stories about the delightful and irrepressible Lolo and her daily life in a South African township, perfect for early readers.

In Fly High, Lolo, Lolo dreams of being an eagle in the school play; meets Miss Teen the Beauty Queen; goes on a beach clean-up with Mama and her new friend; and makes beautiful, recycled Christmas decorations.

These tales of school life, home life, and street life in today's South Africa are perfect offerings for a diverse society. The Lolo series are pitched first readers for children who are moving from picture books to chapter books, and are illustrated with delightful black and white drawings by the author.


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON 


MY TIDBITS

Accompanied with capturing illustrations the entire way through, this collection of short stories presents an energetic girl from one cute, experience to the next.

Four stories make up, and the reader accompanies Lolo through each one. From wishing to have a certain role in a class play to making Christmas decorations by recycling unwanted objects, readers will sink into the familiar situations, while learning a little about Lolo's life in South Africa. The tales are written for those, who are sure of their words but aren't quite ready, yet, for middle grade novel. 

The situations Lolo faces are those, which many kids come across, and that makes each one very relatable. Her attitude remains on the positive side and she's always kind, while trying to figure things out. There are heavier messages, at times, but Lolo still shines at the center, so they don't steal her show.

Black and white illustrations accompany every page and let Lolo come to life in a way, which will have readers wanting to play with her. This is also where the cultural end comes through, and the reader gets a glimpse into what her life is like in South Africa.

This is an enjoyable, chapter book read, which adds a nice mix of fun, positivity, and hint of cultural knowledge...and is very accessible to the intended age group.



And here he is...


Niki Daly’s groundbreaking Not So Fast Songololo, winner of a US Parent’s Choice Award, paved the way for post-apartheid South African children’s books. Among his many books, Niki Daly’s Jamela’s Dress was chosen by the ALA as a Notable Children’s Book and by Booklist as one of the Top 10 African American Picture Books of 2000. It also won both the Children’s Literature Choice Award and the Parents’ Choice Silver Award. Niki lives with his wife, the author and illustrator Jude Daly, in South Africa.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: Noor and Bobby by Praline Gay-Para

Today's read greets from France, has received attention around the world, and is finally being translated into English. Tales of children and their love for their animals always make me smile, and this one promises a different twist. With the current situation in the Ukraine (and other constant turbulences around the world), this book does open up to the theme of war and those affected directly by it to younger readers. Now, this isn't a theme I brought up with my own kids, since it would have worried them quite a bit (sensitive children). However, we did visit a war zone firsthand when they were young, and they took it rather well.

Okay, I'm going to make a slightly longer post today because this was quite the experience... 

We visited Croatia on a camping trip about 8-10 years after the war there had ended. While the northern shoreline of the country is well-built out for tourists, just a few miles drive into the interior paints a very different picture. We drove through minefields...literally, with signs every few feet on both sides warning about getting out of the car. We drove past ghost towns, where the destroyed buildings due to shelling portrayed very visible bullet holes and haunted with the devastation. And we saw clumps of houses/shacks, which still stood with basic repair and were lived in, but not with the standards and conditions you and I are blessed with and know. Not even close. My kids were very young (13, 11, 5, 3) and, except for the 3-year-old, will never forget and were left with a very strong impression.

That said, here's today's read....and my thoughts about it.


NOOR AND BOBBY
by Praline Gay-Para
Illustrated by Lauranne Quentric
Picture Books
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

   COMING...
OCTOBER 25th!!!


In a besieged city, Noor watches as his neighbors pack their bags and flee their homes—but a dog named Bobby is left behind. As Noor sets out across the ravaged city to save him, he discovers pockets of life and hope in this moving story of friendship in the face of adversity.

Then Noor goes off again
to find his dearest friend.

“Bobby, Bobby, where are you?
Bobby, Bobby, can I come, too?”


When Noor’s canine friend Bobby disappears from their apartment building one afternoon, Noor sets off on a perilous journey to find him. Noor stumbles through abandoned buildings and navigates streets cluttered with downed planes, barbed wire, and items left behind by fleeing residents. While searching for Bobby, Noor comes across other animals in the rubble of the city in need of his help. He frees a bird tangled in barbed wire, builds a shelter for a cat and her kittens, and is finally reunited with his beloved Bobby. Beautiful paper-cut collage illustrations highlight the realities of war as the brightness of Noor and his animal friends sharply contrasts with the desolate cityscape.

With its tender illustrations and animal-loving protagonist, Noor and Bobby is a compassionate and empathetic introduction to displacement and the realities of war and a heartwarming story of friendship from prolific French-Lebanese author Praline Gay-Para.

GOODREADS  /   B&N   /   TARGET   /   THIRD HOUSE BOOKS


MY TIDBITS

With very serious undertones, this is a read which shines with the warmth of friendship and never dying hope.

Everyone has left the neighborhood, leaving only Noor, his family, a neighbor lady and a dog. When the neighbor finally takes off in a cab herself, Noor's last possible friend is the dog, but the dog immediately tries to chase after the cab and gets lost. Noor does his best to find his last friend and discovers quite a bit along the way.

While the tale doesn't state exactly why everyone has left the neighborhood, the illustrations and scenes allow the war tattered buildings and rubble to build their own subtle tale. (Would a cab still visit such a place, I wonder). This background only becomes clear as the story progresses, leaving the reader/listener to wonder what's happening as it settles in. On one hand, I found it distracting because this 'why' question takes up so much thought space that it was hard to stay centered on Noor's search and small adventures, but on the other hand, it's a gentle way to really let the situation sink in. I did have to read the book twice in order to let the full atmosphere hit. So, I'm undecided on this front.

The story of Noor and his search for the dog, Bobby, is masterfully done. The text works its magic with little said and, yet, enough to make the scenes sit. Noor wanders through the neighborhood, meeting various animals, which need help. It's touching and offers tons of hope as he spreads kindness. Especially the end will leave a smile. It's a positive tale, on this front, which marks the warmth of friendship and does show that good always exists.

The illustrations are well done and, as said before, let the truth behind the tale unfold. In a scene or two, there are shadows of the missing children/people shown to make the loss tangible. The war scenes are subtle, but do show bullet holes, broken windows and such. It hits with enough reality to bring across what happened without being overwhelming. 

This is a well done tale, which shines with hope and friendship. Noor's family is never shown and only mentioned with one word in the beginning, which I found a bit dark since it left the reader feeling as if Noor were truly alone for the rest of the read...many younger listeners will have trouble because of this. Even the war idea, while well done, will have to be brought across with care. And yet, this story touches the heart and does open the eyes. This just isn't a book meant for every reader in the intended age group and, while meaningful, will have to be brought over with consideration and explanation.





And here they are...

Praline Gay-Para is a French-Lebanese storyteller, author, and actress. She’s written numerous books for children and adults often based on her reflections about traditional folktales and life stories from Lebanon. In addition to her work as a writer and translator, Praline also collaborates with the theater company Pavé Volubile to produce plays and live performances. She currently lives in Paris.


Lauranne Quentric is an illustrator based in Brittany, France. She has illustrated dozens of children's books and also creates intricate marionettes and sculptures for children’s theater events. Her work has been featured in exhibitions of children’s book illustrations across France.



Sneak Peek: Maddie Bloom and the Fae Academy by Emily Jenkins with Giveaway!

 


Maddie Bloom & the Fae Academy
by Emily Jenkins
June 21st 2022
YA Paranormal







 

Welcome to Fae Academy, where if the Sluagh Sidhe lurking in the woods doesn’t get you, the homework just might…

Maddie Bloom is dreading sophomore year. Not only is her mom’s mysterious illness getting worse, but it’s also a brand-new year of her longtime bully to look forward to. Because who doesn’t love getting swirlies in the newly renovated girls’ bathroom? But then the accident happens. The one where she’s escaping said bully and accidentally summons a magical portal that drops her right into the foyer of a literal castle.

That’s when the big reveals start…

  1. Faeries exist.
  2. Maddie is half-fae. Which is how she ended up in Figstern’s Academy for Excellence, aka Fae Academy.
  3. And Maddie’s uncontrolled magic? It’s slowly poisoning her mom.

When she’s given the chance to stay and learn to control her gifts to save her mom, the choice is clear. But Maddie’s not exactly welcome at Fae Academy. Bullies exist even in the magical world, and don’t get her started on the vindictive hobgoblin or the disgraced prince of the Autumn Court.

Still, not all is what it seems at Fae Academy. And the more Maddie digs, the more secrets she uncovers. Secrets that could threaten her life, her mother’s life, and the future of the fae world itself.

Goodreads / Amazon


SNEAK PEEK

I flipped onto my back, spitting mulch from my mouth. I was seconds from pushing myself into a sitting position when the ground vibrated beneath me, courtesy of Sam’s rapidly approaching footsteps. Her bloodlust rippled through the air; that’s how excited she was to have me where she wanted me.

Get up! My inner voice yelled at me.

I listened, but instantly regretted it. Sharp pain shot through my torso from the impact of the fall, and my stomach lurched as Samantha leered down at me. She was way too close for comfort – to where I could distinguish freckles from blemishes.

I swallowed, heat rising to my face. I had a feeling my life was about to flash before my eyes.

But before I could reflect on the short, uneventful fifteen years that I’d walked this Earth, I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye.

I turned my head sideways, and a strange warmth spread over my body, engulfing me from head to toe.

To my left, the air was… shimmering.

I blinked. Once, twice, a third time, but it was still there. A twinkling, transparent curtain swaying in mid-air and luring me in. Calling for me. I’m not exaggerating, either.

I swear it was chanting my name repeatedly.

Meanwhile, in front of me, Sam was preparing to pounce like a predator.

Without thinking, without understanding what was going on, I dodged, rolling toward the strange, glistening air to my left. And somehow, the space swallowed me whole, swooping me out of the playground and away from Sam’s clutches just as she reached out to make good on her promise to make me pay for forcing her to run.

I caught one last glimpse of her stunned face.

And then she disappeared from my view.

Or was it me who disappeared?

Whatever the case, the world as I, Maddie Bloom, knew it, was gone.



And here she is...


Hi, my name is Emily Jenkins. I'm a high school student and wrestle, and I also happen to be the USA National East Coast Jr Teen! After writing a children's book about bullying in 2020 (Wrestling Girl Takes Down Bullies), I was inspired to keep creating stories—which is how the Maddie Bloom series was born.

In my free time, I love collecting socks, cooking, and sewing clothes for my dog.

He tears them up. It sort of breaks my heart. I sew more.

Yep, it's a vicious cycle. :D

Wanna keep up with my updates?

Sign up for my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/h3oXtL


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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Mouse by N. Scott Stedman

 Today's read was a surprise in so far that I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is. Yep, this one is going onto my Favorite for 2022 list (that list has been growing lately, hasn't it?). I wasn't sure whether to mark this one as science fiction, mystery, or a thriller because it adds everything to the mix. But let's just get on with it before I babble out my entire review right here.



MOUSE
by N. Scott Stedman
River Grove Books
Tween Science Fiction / Mystery 
302 pages
ages 12 and up














“There aren’t many coders like that, not that I’ve ever met. You just might find that the mouse is really a lion, and even worse, that the lion has your head in her mouth.”

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MOUSE GAMMA has spent her entire life struggling to communicate. She’s never understood how to stop the bullies and negligent foster parents without causing more trouble than it’s worth. That is until she discovers the magic of code—a language that’s more powerful than anything she’s ever imagined.

To everyone’s surprise, Mouse is anonymously chosen to attend the prestigious Rickum Academy—an incubator for the brightest and most promising young minds in tech. Her excitement is short-lived as the mystery of how she ended up at Rickum very quickly unravels around her, threatening the safety of her new life and the innocent lives of those around her. With the help of her new friends, Ada and Boone, Mouse is in a race against her classmates, her teachers, and the most powerful man in tech to not only uncover the truth about who she is, but who she is not.


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N   /   INDIE BOUND


MY TIDBITS

Get ready for a high-speed dive into the world of high-tech, coding, and hackers as this novel holds tension high, weaves in mystery, and places a genius girl right in the middle.

Mouse has bounced from one foster home to the next since she was born and can never figure out how she always catches the blame. Using her talents to search up information about her birth parents, she's caught hacking into one of the biggest corporation's systems, but instead of heading right back to juvie, she's enrolled in an elite, wealthy school for coders and everything high-tech. But she's not the only one confused at her odd luck, especially since a much-feared hacker has just escaped prison and is rumored to bring about a type of end of the world. Suspected to be a pawn in the villain's game, some have their eyes on her, but that's not her biggest problem. As fellow students are attacked and suspicions rise, Mouse needs to figure out who she is and who she wants to be.

This novel caught me by surprise. Not only did it hold the tension and high-tech mystery the blurb promises, but it does it in a very-well woven fashion. Mouse might seem as a bit cliche, an orphan wanting to know more about her birth parents and struggling to get through life, but she's so much more. Her talents in coding make her a genius, and yet, that's the only place she feels comfortable. Otherwise, she comes across as a little, lost 'mouse', not nearly as evil as those around her want to paint her and actually as normal as any other kid. While she's harsh to others, this quickly melts away as friendships build. It creates a wonderful character arc, which is understandable and easy to identify with.

The high-tech is simply neat. It was a treat to get lost in the world, where there's quite a bit of reality topped off with a frosting of fantasy. The two blur in a delightful way, making an intriguing world. The details are well laid and given just enough foundation to make them come to life without growing boring. The plot is very well woven, keeping the pacing high with enough mystery to make it hard to put down. There are always surprises, and even sub-plots create an engaging mix. The only thing I can criticize a tiny bit is some of the character reactions/interactions, but these teeny jolts were far and few between. 

This is one of the more original and exciting reads I've picked up this year, and I can recommend it not only to upper middle graders (ages 10 and up) but to teens and even some adults.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, American Desi by Jyoti Rajan Gopal!

Today's read was a surprise even for me. It just popped up in my box, yesterday. Now, usually that would mean a 2-3 month wait (if I think it's something my readers might like), but the original book I wanted to read today still isn't available (publishing was pushed back a few months). See, that's how the book world rumbles and tumbles and stays so unpredictable.

Which is fine because what's better than a colorful surprise, and this one promises to be that. 




AMERICAN DESI
by Jyoti Rajan Gopal
Illustrated by Supriya Kelkar
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
40 pages 
ages 4 to 8


For fans of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, this poetic story filled with expressive art empowers South Asian children living in the United States and celebrates being bicultural.

Pavadais in bright gold colors
Jersey shirts and faded jeans
Swapping, changing, feeling seen...
Which is the color of me?


A young girl longs to know where she fits in: Is she American? Or is she Indian? Does she have to pick or can she be both? With bright, joyful rhyme, and paired with an immersive art style using American and Indian fabrics, American Desi celebrates the experiences of young children growing up first and second generation Indian American: straddling the two cultural worlds they belong to, embracing all they love of both worlds and refusing to be limited by either.

This story is a powerful tribute to the joy of being South Asian and for every reader who aspires to bridge their worlds with grace, grit, and confidence.


GOODREADS    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY    /   B&N    /   AMAZON


MY TIDBITS

Colors explode in an exciting dance through texture, possibility, and all those things, which make us who we are.

This book is a celebration of variety: cultural, heritage, and much more. It takes an American girl, whose family stemmed from India. Since the two cultures can be very different, she swings through a world of variety to show all the wonderful things, which make her who she is...and that is good.

The energy and positivity swell from every page as a girl dances, hops, and skips from one artistic background to the other. The illustrations make this a whirlwind with whimsical flair as a color is presented in every scene before morphing into a little more detailed atmosphere with different foods, languages and such. The artist has added a huge variety of textures, which really makes each page shine. Sometimes, there's a touch of humor, too, but always a cheerful feeling.  It's really a feel-good book with a positive message

The text flows with a musical flair, drawing in and inviting to the same fun. It's written in flowing rhyme and always ends with a phrase similar to 'The colors of me.' It's catchy and ties everything up nicely.

This is also a lovely way to touch upon the topic of being multi-cultural. While these pages swing toward the South-Asian culture (which is a bonus and lovely aspect all in itself), the same thoughts apply to other mixes just with different details. Thanks to the more indirect manner used in these pages, applying it to all mixes really isn't difficult. But then, it even can be tied to those, who aren't multi-cultured in the traditional sense, since this 'different colors of me' aspect can apply in so many ways.

This is a up-beat read, which works great in a group or single setting, inspires, and offers tons of self-confidence.



And here they are...

Jyoti Rajan Gopal is a kindergarten teacher, writer, and mom who loves taking any opportunity to break out her Bollywood moves and hip-hop grooves. She grew up in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, and China and now lives in New York City, so she knows what it feels like to be caught between multiple cultures. She chooses to embrace all her wondrous colors! This is her debut children’s book.
 
Supriya Kelkar grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. She is the author of Bindu’s BindisAmerican as Paneer Pie; and Strong as FireFierce as Flame, among others. This is her debut illustrated book. She invites you to visit her online at http://www.supriyakelkar.com.