Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Today's read... Disconnected by Riley Cross

After yesterday's trip into the past, I'm switching gears and heading into the distant future. This tale heads into the realm of science fiction and a dystopian world, where AIs, nanobots, coding, and all other sorts of high-tech goodness are melded into every aspect of society. There's something about the cover, which gives me a slight chill and, yet, it's intriguing enough to make me want to glance at it again and again. Plus, it gives me almost Terminator vibes...but with a more disturbing gentleness. (See, I love covers!)

Anyway, let's take a peek at this one.

by Riley Cross
Monarch Educational Services LLC
Young Adult Science Fiction
302 pages

MAY 10!!!

Chiara was born a mistake. An Anomaly. In her struggle to belong in Unity’s genetically engineered social system, Chiara finds herself in the crosshairs of Auto, the ever-watching AI.

When her parents and grandfather are killed in a series of mysterious accidents, the teen is plagued by disturbing fragments of memory that suggest the deaths were no accident. Only Kaynine, her loyal robot dog, knows for sure what happened, and Chiara must find its corrupted memory files. She is desperate for the truth even if the cost is abandoning Silas, her long-time friend and unsanctioned crush. She is on the verge of losing it all: honors-class ranking, best friend, and her dream of becoming an inventor.

The virtual realm and reality collide as Chiara’s coding skills enable her to search for answers in the Forbidden Library. And when her journey takes her past Unity’s city limits and face-to-face with other social outcasts, Chiara realizes that one girl with a book just might be dangerous enough to crash the entire system of lies.

Fans of dystopian science fiction will love the novel’s deadly plot twists as it explores the darker nature of chasing perfection.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/75294377-disconnected
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Disconnected-Riley-Cross/dp/195765614X
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/disconnected-riley-cross/1142839644
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Disconnected-Riley-Cross/9781957656144


High-tech rules in this exciting fight for human survival, where nothing is as it seems.

Riley is an anomaly, a child born through natural means without DNA modifications. Stranger still, she's at the top of her class. When her mother and grandfather pass away, the last year of her schooling goes downhill as she suffers from sudden seizures and memory lapses. When her teacher finds a way to block Riley's success, weird things begin to happen, and Riley begins to realize that more sinister things are happening than she could have ever imagined.

This one is packed with AI and high-tech goodness, letting a futuristic world unfold in the unique ways. The set-up of the society, at first, rings cliche and reminded a tiny bit of Divergent but only for a moment before it steered in its own direction. The book does hold a mix of familiar, dystopian elements, which set a stabile ground for dystopian fans, and at the same time, weaves an original direction to keep the reader uncertain of exactly what was going to happen next. In other words, dystopian fans who love science fiction tech are going to enjoy this one.

To say that this is fast-paced is almost an understatement. While it's not super heavy on action, there is something always happening to move the plot along. This made it a bit hard for me to sink into during the first chapters, since the plot took control and let character and world development fall a little behind...which also left Riley as a character an arm's length away. Luckily, this switches gears a few chapters in to let Riley grow more sympathetic, and the world finally settles in. Also, Riley is only thirteen when this begins...making her fourteen or so (?) at graduation. She comes across older and wiser, though, during much of the read, and is easy to root for. The rest of the characters carry interesting personalities and weave into the plot at all the right times. Throwing many of these in as AIs made for an intriguing mix. 

And there's romance, but only a little. This doesn't carry a huge drive on the plot, which I was happy to see, but adds a nice hint of hope, warmth and sweetness, which considering the cold end of tech, was a great touch.

It's a fun read once it gets going and leaves food for thought.

And here she is...

Riley Cross is a language arts educator with a penchant for all things dystopian. She teaches creative writing courses by day and turns into a coffee-fueled writer by night. Riley resides in New Jersey with her family, who graciously tolerate her need to listen to epic movie scores or country music while working on her next project.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Today's review... Roan Stallion by Alfreda Beartrack-Alego

It's time to dive into history again (I do love doing that!)...plus tomorrow, we'll be jetting with a hyper-speed into the remote possibilities of the future, which make this a fun flip-flop on reads. Anyway, I've read works from this author before and do enjoy her dive into the Lakota culture and history.  It's always interesting to learn something, which I didn't know before. Plus, today's read packs adventure and determination, which always is a great mix. So, let's head in and find out how it is!

Legend of Big Heart, 2
by Alfreda Beartrack-Alego
Young Adult Historical Fiction
128 pages
ages 12 and up

The exciting Big Heart Series continues when Alfred Swallow meets a wild roan stallion. Not just any stallion, but a medicine hat roan stallion that is believed to have special powers.

The bond between Alfred and the stallion reaches far into a world of hopes and dreams. It’s 1929 and times are hard for Alfred’s Lakota family on the Dakota prairie. Alfred knows his grandfather could use a new tractor, so with the help of his friends and the roan stallion, he makes plans to win the prize money at the annual White River Relay Race. But time is short, as the race is just weeks away. Unaware of the dangers that lie ahead, Alfred prepares to train the horse. Even though the odds are against Alfred and his team, something in the grandstand catches his eye on the day of the race, and that changes everything. Can Alfred’s determination and prayers carry them through to win?

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/64407864-the-roan-stallion
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193905348X
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/roan-stallion-alfreda-beartrack-algeo/1141713267
INDIEBOUND: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939053480


With care for history and tons of heart, this boy's determination, friendship and family bonds lead to an exciting adventure.

This is the second book in the series, but it wasn't overly difficult to settle into the flow and enjoy this story. I would, however, recommend reading this series in order.

I have read works from this author before and do enjoy the way she weaves the culture, myth, history, pride, and a touch of mystical possibilities together. In this story, the importance of family and tradition comes across with warmth and pride. Alfred is a determined young man, who has a heart of gold as he wants to help family despite the impossibility of it all. His hope is inspiring as is his tenacity, and it shows that persistence can lead to success...but does need a little assistance along the way. It also inspires pride in the culture and does introduce young readers to some Lakota history, while nurturing a greater appreciation for their past.

While there is tons to enjoy on the historical and cultural end, this is also an exciting adventure with more than a few hurdles. Alfred has quite a bit to overcome and figure out. Nothing works smoothly, and the reader will wonder if everything will turn out all right in the end. At the short length, this also is a nice read to pick up 'in-between', not to mention that it works well for classrooms, homeschoolers, or any other group wanting to hit a little history on this end. Plus, horse lovers get a little enjoyment as well. So, this is a well-rounded read with lots to offer.

And here she is...

Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo is a storyteller and poet as well as an artist and illustrator. She is a member of the Lower Brule Lakota Nation, Kul Wicasa Oyate, Lower Brule, South Dakota, where she grew up surrounded by her tiyóspaye, her circle of family and friends. Alfreda uses various art forms as a means to tell her stories. Alfreda says, “It is a very sensitive and beautiful experience to be a storyteller. There is a story in everything I create, from the smallest rock to the mightiest mountain. With every character born, every story shared, I add a piece of my spirit to this great matrix of life. As long as I have a story left to tell, I feel I have a responsibility to gift that story forward.”

Alfreda currently lives in beautiful Palisade, Colorado, with her spouse, David Algeo.

Alfreda is available for author visits and presentations about her books and culture. Contact her at abalgeo @outlook.com or https://www.matonunpallc.com/

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Today's read... The Umbrella House by Colleen Nelson

Today's read caught my attention due to the cover and the title, especially when I discovered that the entire thing is based on a real building with some actual issues...although this is still fiction and doesn't expose a true story. But I do enjoy the mix of reality with fictive ideas, since this usually means that the reader will learn a few things, while being entertained.

After reading this one, I'm happy to say that it will be going onto my list for possible favorites of 2023!

by Colleen Nelson
Pajama Press
Middle Grade Contemporary
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

JUNE 6th!!!

In this intimate and inspiring novel about the power of art and the value of community, award-winning author and former New Yorker Colleen Nelson brings life and liveliness to an eccentric cast of New York City neighbors.

Middle-schooler and New Yorker Ruby Markowski wants to tell the truth fearlessly and powerfully, just like her idols at Veracity News. She and her best friend Scout already make YouTube videos together about East Village life, so when Veracity News announces a Young Voices video competition, Ruby knows it’s the perfect opportunity to make a name for herself, if only she can find a story worth telling. When a real-estate mogul threatens to buy her historic East Village apartment building, Umbrella House, Ruby sets out to create a video about the people who live in her building, depicting their love for art, community, and family.

With time—and her options for saving Umbrella House—running out, Ruby finds herself caught up in the mystery of the Midnight Muralist, a famous East Village artist whose murals once made buildings famous and valuable. Could finding this enigmatic artist be the key to saving her historic East Village apartment building?

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/122184749-the-umbrella-house
RENAUD-BRAY: https://www.renaud-bray.com/books_product.aspx?id=3873087&def=The+Umbrella+House%2CNELSON%2C+COLLEEN%2C9781772782790&page=184
B&N:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-umbrella-house-colleen-nelson/1142375484


The true life behind buildings and neighborhoods hits with heart and will have readers rooting for this determined duo until the end.

Ruby is a born journalist and, luckily, her best friend, Scout, is the camera talent at her side. Together, the duo creates Youtube videos about their neighborhood and what matters to them. When Ruby's idolized reporter announces a contest for young journalists, her and Scout are determined to enter and give their best. The theme of their entry soon swings toward a threat in their neighborhood; a corporation is purchasing properties left and right, tearing down the old, and building new. Their own, very special building, The Umbrella House, appears to be next on the list. Ruby is determined to save her building and neighborhood, but more and more problems roll in. With the clock ticking and such a huge opponent, she's not sure how she can ever win.

One of my favorite things about this read is that it's based on a real building, and the author has included an older photo of it near the front of the book. While the story itself is completely fictional, the tale flows as if it could be reality. That gives it a nice flair.

Ruby and Scout are a fun, determined pair of friends, who each have their dream, aren't always sure of their abilities, but are willing to give their best. They are full of energy and hope, and even when things don't go their way, their disappointment soon melts away with a new burst of inspiration. These two don't give up, look for help and advice from the adults around them, and keep going even when they know their chances are dimming.

The tale weaves in interesting facts and information without ever breaking the story's flow. And something is always happening. With the time tight, there's not a lot of space for sitting around, which means these two are always on the move. There are a few, smaller side plots to give everything depth and make the characters around them gain personality, but the main focus stays on Ruby's attempt to save the neighborhood. Her actions are believable, and the situations realistic as she tries everything she can think of to make things work. Because of this realistic side, readers can be inspired to chase their own dreams and ideas, knowing that while some things are difficult, there is a chance of success. 

It's a lovely read with a wonderful bunch of neighbors and a very amazing home.

And here she is...

Colleen Nelson earned her Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba in her hometown of Winnipeg. Her previous novels include Blood Brothers, selected as the 2018 McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People, and Pulse Point, selected as one of the CBC’s Most Anticipated YA Books of 2018. Colleen writes daily in between appearances at hockey rinks and soccer fields in support of her two sports-loving sons.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Today's read... Winter in the Forest by Christine Copeland

While part of me is flower dreaming, I'm not quite ready for the season change, yet. I'm a winter fan, so when I saw today's read, I was intrigued. This is part of a seasonal series, and I believe, the second one so far. I have high expectations on the art end and hope it will glide into beautiful landscapes of snow and trees. 
Let's bundle up and find out what this read holds! 

by Christine Copeland
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 2 to 6

Winter in the Forest is the second in a series of picture books for pre-K and early elementary children about the natural world, in particular the deciduous forest of the American Northeast. This book depicts the cold stillness of winter and adaptations that plants and animals make during this long dark time. The three primary themes are snow and cold, long dark nights, and dormancy.  


The language of our books is lyrical, the images are entrancing and sometimes humorous but always realistic - think field guides for 3- to 8-year-olds. There is a tracking activity in back for young readers who go out in the snow.  


Children will learn the names and habits of forest animals and plants so that they can recognize them in natural settings. These books engage children's innate curiosity and connection to the living world so that they can learn complex principals in simple, age- appropriate language.  

GOODREADS: http://bit.ly/3EaKyKn

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Winter-Forest-Seasons-Book/dp/B0BPN3WZ8Y



Beautiful artwork invites for gazing and getting lost in a snow-covered world.

This book holds everything the title promises and offers a serene look at a snowy forest during winter and all the wonders it harbors. The entire thing is written in poetic form, which flows very well and is enjoyable to read. But the author doesn't forget that young listeners/readers have short attention spans. The poem's lines are simple and brief enough to maintain interest without loosing the beauty of the form. Plus, the text does not carry this read, but rather accompanies the illustrations and adds the perfect touch to the atmosphere. It's very well balanced for a picture book and does allow the gentle atmosphere to stay strong the whole way through.

The illustrations are created in watercolor and are lovely. While the scenes invite to dreaming, the details and interesting aspects aren't forgotten. Various forest animals appear, one by one, never with much announcement but with the same gentle atmosphere as a snowy winter holds. Not only will listeners recognize the animals but gain a little insight on which ones are common in a forest and what their activities might be. For example, while bears and frogs hibernate, owls fly and coyotes bark. This is all introduced slowly to allow listeners/readers to enjoy and consider each one. Then, as an extra bonus, the footprints of these creatures are in the snow. This isn't really pointed out during the read, but at the end of the book, there's a quick overview of the various prints and which 'creature' they belong to. This also invites listeners/readers to return to the story again and search them out on the second run-through.

It makes a lovely read for even younger listeners and is sure to be enjoyed during more than just the winter season.

And here she is...

Christine Copeland lives in the forest of Massachusetts with her husband Bill, a pediatrician, naturalist and teacher, and their dogs and cat. Her sons have fledged but return seasonally. Christine has a BFA from Cornell University and a master’s in education from Antioch New England. She combines her love for painting with her love for young children and nature-based education. She is an author/illustrator and paints in oil. Her work can be seen at christinecopelandbooks.com and bcc-studios.com/paintings.  

Website: https://christinecopelandbooks.com  


Friday, February 24, 2023

Today's read... Love Is a Story by Todd Tarpley

Sometimes, it's great just to grab up a read to feel better about life, and that's what today's book is all about. This is a picture book, which concentrates on the theme of love. It promises to be one to snuggle up with as the wonderful relationships shared by family, friends, relatives, and more is brought to light. And which of us doesn't need more love in their life?

I'm hoping this one will bring tons of warmth and smiles...so let's see if it does just that.

by Todd Tarpley
Illustrated by Sophie Leu
Union Square & Co
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 3 and up

Love is the patter
of ten little toes
as the first light
of day trickles in.

Follow parents, grandparents, and a wide array of kids throughout all the seasons as they learn about the meaning of love. Love can be the way your smile starts to curve when a giggle is about to begin, a puddle with you in the middle, a story read with a flashlight, or a morning that bursts into color. This is a sweet and reassuring story that resonates with kids and adults.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60866314-love-is-a-story
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Love-Is-Story-Todd-Tarpley-Sophie-Leu/9781454944188
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-is-a-story-todd-tarpley/1141374829
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1454944188


Snuggly warmth beams from every page as the various ways in which love is shown, comes across in  familiar ways.

This is a picture book rotating around the theme of love between family, friends, neighbors, and relatives. It's written in flowing rhyme and in short, understandable phrases, which give a gentle atmosphere and artistic flow. Each scene presents a familiar situation (going on a walk with family, sitting on the couch under a blanket, etc.), making sure readers will identify with more than a few. The positive atmosphere radiates from each moment as the characters beam and smile. There's also a very large diversity offered, making this a read for everyone.

The illustrations are bright and cheerful with bold colors, while holding a natural feeling. There are enough details to give readers things to gaze at and find. The individuals as well as settings are no problem to identify. It's fun to gaze at each page, especially since the sense of warmth, acceptance, care and love is more than obvious.

Love is more than a phrase and often comes across best in everyday things and situations. This book concentrations on that aspect and shows how playing together, receiving help, spending time with each other, and such situations often radiate true love. It's definitely a 'feel good' read and works well as an uplifting read or even a nice snuggle before bedtime.

And here they are...

Todd Tarpley is the author of thirteen picture books including Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!, a 2016 ALA Notable Book, and Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath, which spent several days as the #1 children’s book on Amazon at the end of 2019. His books have been featured in the New York Times; included on Best Books of the Year lists by Huffington Post, Chicago Public Library, and Bank Street College; and translated into Chinese, German, Italian, and Danish. Other books include Would You, Could You Plant a Tree? and Would You, Could You Save the Sea? Both feature Dr. Seuss’s Lorax and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s classic book. Three more Dr. Seuss–themed books are coming soon. Todd lives in New York City with his family. Learn more at toddtarpley.com.
Sophie Leu is a Taiwanese illustrator with a particular passion for art and children’s education, based in Taipei. Sophie’s art is inspired by cultural experiences, self-introspection, everyday moments, and memories sprinkled with bitter and sweet in life. She loves to combine traditional with digital media and always feels excited to experiment with new things. Learn more at sophieleu.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Today's read... Men of the 65th by Talia Aikens-Nunez

It's history time! Today's read hits a little-known historical event...something I always love to see...and presents it to young adults. At 130+ pages, it isn't overly long and will be one for WWII classes (and those who are interested in the subject). I'm betting even homeschoolers can use this to add some new aspects to the topic. But let's just take a look and see.

The Borinqueneers of the Korean War
by Talia Aikens-Nunez
Zest Books
Young Adult Nonfiction
136 pages

MAY 2nd!!!

Since the regiment’s creation in 1899, the men of the 65th have proudly served the US through multiple wars, despite facing racial discrimination. Their courage, loyalty, and patriotism earned them hundreds of accolades, including the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2014.

But the honor and fidelity of the men of the 65th came into question in 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, when ninety-one Borinqueneers were arrested and tried for desertion and disobeying orders. How could this happen in one of the most distinguished and decorated units of the Army?

In this telling of one of the forgotten stories of the Korean War, author Talia Aikens-Nuñez guides us through the history of the Borinqueneers and the challenges they faced leading up to what was the largest court martial in the entire war. Rediscover the bravery of the men of the 65th through Aikens-Nuñez’s thorough writing and the soldiers’ firsthand accounts of the Korean War.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68755838-men-of-the-65th
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/men-of-the-65th-talia-aikens-nu-ez/1141654224
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BNT3ZRZQ
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Men-of-the-65th-Talia-Aikens-Nunez/9781728479149


History comes to life and becomes understandable in this intriguing dive into the 65th Regiment in Puerto Rico.

This book covers the history, events, situations, and people surrounding the 65th Regiment in Puerto Rico. While it does, also, cover the events leading up to as well as the court martial surrounding the incidents of the Korean War, the author takes care to cover the history, interesting facts, and unique details, which made the 65th Regiment what it was. This gives the needed base and background to understand and sympathize with the individuals involved, especially when realizing how every situation built and worked up to the court martial and beyond.

The author has taken obvious care in the research and brings across the information clearly. At the same time, everything is written in an easy to read and digest manner. There are quite a few photographs, which always help the reader understand and connect with the material...plus, it shows the personal side, which is one of the main driving factors when considering the court martial and its impacts. This also hits modern themes of inclusion and race as it shows how and why views and opinions formed and, sometimes, changed over time.

This is a wonderful read for anyone wanting to learn more about the 65th Regiment and its history. It offers quite a bit of information, background, and insights, and does all of this without bogging down.

And here she is...

Talia Aikens-Nunez writes chapter books, picture books, and nonfiction for children. Her daughter inspired her to write her OMG series of books about an accidental little witch. She and her husband live on a river in Connecticut with their daughter and son.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Today's read... Big Nate Nailed It! by Lincoln Pierce

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I've been posting a bit sporadic this last week (weird for me!) due to family visiting...me traveling (yay!) and enjoying the time with them, which also means no reading for a few days. Since I also seem to always need a vacation after the vacation (does anyone else have that problem?), I'm going to keep it light and fun. Today's read is perfect for just that!

I've read a couple Big Nate's and always end up snorting, giggling and smiling. Let's see if the latest edition to the series keeps that going, shall we?

Big Nate, #28
by Lincoln Pierce
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Humor / Graphic Novel
176 pages
ages 8 to 12

FEBRUARY 28th!!!

The newest pranks, adventures, and school drama from Big Nate, now an animated series on Paramount+ and Nickelodeon!

Big Nate is a legend at P.S. 38, where he and friends Francis, Teddy, Dee Dee, Chad, and others manage to make sixth grade interesting with all kinds of pranks, drama, sports, and good times. The all-time leader in detentions, Nate is never far from the spotlight, whether it's for a freak injury on the soccer field, Halloween costume fail, or stirring up a new episode in his long-running rivalry with grade-grubbing Gina or his teacher nemesis, Mrs. Godfrey. This new collection of Big Nate comics from Lincoln Peirce includes over 170 full-color comics and abundant laughs for the whole family, especially young readers ages 8 to 12.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61271729-big-nateh
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/big-nate-lincoln-peirce/1141673864
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BPFS3RGH
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Big-Nate-Nailed-It-Lincoln-Peirce/9781524879235


Nate's life is packed with clever moments, silly situations, and things which simply deserve a smirk or a smile.

Middle school is anything but boring or predictable with Nate, his family, and especially his friends. The situations range from cute to heart-touching (in a bitter-sweet, silly way) to simply hilarious. Nate is always on top of his game...at least, as far as he's concerned...and masters the weirdness that life throws at him with ridiculous finesse...more or less. The entire gang is fun to meet every single time and I always look forward to seeing what will come next because it's definitely not predictable.

The illustrations carry the expected quality and bring everything nicely across. The text is no problem to read and the speech bubbles are always well done. There is a joke or two, which are adult orientated (why thrown in things like 'erotica'?), but they are quick-overs and only hit in two spots. Still, some parents will want to know this before letting their middle-schooler dive in. Otherwise, it's a fun read and Nate doesn't disappoint.

And here he is...

Lincoln Peirce has been drawing the Big Nate comic strip for more than 20 years. Born in Ames, Iowa, Peirce grew up in Durham, New Hampshire. As a kid, he began creating his own strips in the sixth grade. Peirce taught high school in New York City and has created several animated pilots for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his family.


Monday, February 20, 2023

Today's read... Crimson Twill: Witch in the Country by Kallie George

Since I'm baking an apple cake this morning, this read seemed like a perfect fit. It's a chapter book series, which circles around a super, sweet witch, who gets herself into all sorts of silly and exciting situations... or so I'm told. I found the cover adorable with the little worm in the apple, cute frog and lovely spiderwebs to give a slightly creepy touch. Now, let's see if the story is just as inviting. 

by Kallie George
Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Candlewick Press
Chapter Book
80 pages
ages 6 to 10

JULY 11th!!!

Little witch Crimson wants her friends to have fun on their first visit to the country—but everything goes wrong! In a second punny adventure, the delightful series continues with plenty of spells and humor.

Crimson Twill’s new friends from New Wart City, Mauve and Wesley, are coming for a visit! But as soon as they arrive at Crimson’s house in Cackle County, things start to go wrong. At the rotten apple orchard, Crimson’s ripening spell goes horribly awry (what will they do with all that rotten applesauce?). Then, at the broom-straw field, Wesley cuts too much straw and starts to float away. And when the friends try to collect frogs’ breath for their spells (it makes everything wonderfully green and warty), Mauve gets a stinky faceful of it! What on earth is going on? The whole countryside feels like something big is about to happen, and Crimson wonders if it has something to do with Granny Twill and that giant cauldron of stew she made. Can Crimson get to the bottom of this bad-luck mystery? And, more importantly, will her city friends ever want to visit her again?

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68466869-crimson-twill
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BLJ38351
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crimson-twill-kallie-george/1142507767
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Crimson-Twill-Witch-in-the-Country-Kallie-George-Birgitta-Sif/9781536214642


This witch is a friend readers will want to have. They never know what ridiculous and fun adventures they might run into next with her at their side.

Crimson is super excited: some of her friends are coming to visit. But things aren't quite as smoothly planned as she'd hoped. Luckily, others are there to help and work with her as well as they can...despite their very different personalities. As she goes down her list of things she wants to do with her friends, one strange thing after the other occurs, causing quite much more adventure than she had ever planned. 

This is a cute read with a witch and heart. Crimson is a super friendly, kind soul, who enjoys spending time with friends and does everything she can to make them feel comfortable. The country aspect adds a nice, wholesome twist, while the magic and witchiness stir in the fun. The idea of witches enjoying rotten apples, dealing with bats, and meeting trolls slides in with slight humor and smiles. It's hard to guess what will happen next because nothing runs quite as it should. 

This read flows well and keeps a quick pace the entire way through. The imaginative twists keep readers on their toes, while the sprinkled in illustrations make the characters and scenes come to life. The vocabulary won't frustrate but isn't overly easy, either. There are moments of tension but nothing which will bother more sensitive readers. It's a fun read, and I am looking forward to see what adventures Crimson Twill will have next.

And here they are...

Kallie George is the author of several picture books for young children, including The Doll Hospital, illustrated by Sara Gillingham, and Secrets I Know, illustrated by Paola Zakimi. She is also the author of the Heartwood Hotel chapter book series, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, among many other books for children. Kallie George lives with her family in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Birgitta Sif is the author-illustrator of the picture books Oliver and Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance. She is also the illustrator of Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing by Hiawyn Oram, The Tall Man and the Small Mouse by Mara Bergman, and Hugo by Atinuke. Originally from Iceland, Birgitta Sif lives with her family in Sweden.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Today's read... Illusions in Art: Food by Chieu Anh Urban

Today, I have a read for the youngest readers out there, and one which centers around art. I was curious how the concepts of positive and negative space would be brought across, especially since this one is intended for the younger end. The cover already hints at the fun it might involve. So, let's just take a peek and find out! 

by Chieu Anh Urban
Candlewick Studio
Board Book
28 pages
ages 0 to 3


Don't let these illusions play tricks on your eyes! Find two foods on each page in a clever, stylish exploration of negative and positive space for the very young.

A twisty pretzel loops around and back.
What fruit is hidden inside this snack?

Look closely. What do you see? Could that be two orange slices tucked inside the curves of the pretzel? And what fruit is nestling inside a pitcher's handle? Or in the twist of a cupcake's frosting? Colorful spreads invite children in with a rhyme that contains a clue, while the bold, graphic design steers the eye to a negative space revealing a hidden familiar food. Black-and-white spreads at the end depict the same foods again, further clarifying the concept of positive and negative space. Fun and enticing for even the youngest children and a delight for art-oriented parents, this interactive seek-and-find book begs for many repeat sharings.



Art gains the atmosphere of a fun game as readers are introduced to the concept of negative and positive space.

This board book for the youngest readers takes a clever twist into the world of art. The illustrations are simple, exhibiting only two colors and very basic shapes of familiar objects, which fall into the theme of food. Readers see a main object (such as a pitcher) but if the look closely, they'll find the empty space (in this case, the handle) actually holds the shape of something else (here, a lemon). It creates a bit of find and search fun and has readers learning to switch their perspective to find both objects.

A short, rhyming text gives clues as to what the hidden object might be. The vocabulary used is simple, and the rhymes flow well. At the bottom corner of the page, the hidden object is stated in a lighter colored font. Some of the objects are easier to identify than others. I see this one better for ages 2 and up, since readers will have to recognize and identify objects clearly. Some of the objects might be a tiny bit more challenging, making this work even for those readers, who might be slightly older. 

At the very end of the book, the illustrations are presented quickly in black and white (and then, flipped to white and black). This will help young readers more readily identify the objects. I'm not sure they'll completely understand the entire idea of negative and positive space, but it does, at least, subtly introduce the basic idea behind the concepts in a playful way.

If nothing else, it is a cute searching and identifying fun. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Today's read... Hammer, Vol 3: The Jungle Kingdom by Jey Odin

I'm in the mood for some action packed adventure with tons of humor thrown in, and this book seemed to fit that bill. It's a graphic novel and the third in the series (nope, I haven't read the first two), and promises to be ridiculous fun with pounding? Maybe, remind of video game action? Lots of hammering scenes? Yep, this one could go several directions. So, I'm just going to dive on in.

by Jey Odin
Rockport Publishers
Upper Middle Grade Adventure / Graphic Novel
224 pages
ages 10 and up

MARCH 7th!!!

Soon after Stud arrived in the Jungle Kingdom, he was discovered and reported to the king as an intruder with Kingdom Maps, the most important treasure King Elephante had been looking for. Now with a target on his back, Stud continues searching for a way back home with an ally, Brymm, who has a strange request: she needs help saving her kingdom in the future. She continuously asks Stud, who can’t help because he’s trying to get back home.

However, once Stud’s bag is stolen from him while he’s having a vivid dream about his parents, he’s fearful of losing it forever and tries to retrieve it. Stud quickly realizes he can’t get it back by himself and enlists the help of Brymm, who still has an urgent request of her own.

Will he be able to retrieve it before it’s given to King Elephante, or will he be able to retrieve it before then? Will Brymm find the help she needs to save her kingdom? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this action-packed volume!

Hammer is rated Y for Youth, recommended for ages 10 and up.

GOODREADS:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61398979-hammer-volume-3
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BSV8VDBS
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hammer-volume-3-jey-odin/1141735486


With tons of action and battle scenes, this tale holds quick momentum and a wide range of characters.

I have not read the first two books in the series, which is a mistake. This continues where the adventure left off, and not knowing the backstory did leave gigantic holes in the plot. But the general flow isn't really too hard to figure out, since we aren't talking about a plot which, at this point, is horribly complex. Still, start this one off from book one.

Thanks to the map, Stud has arrived in the Jungle Kingdom...not that he really wants to be there. He's left his friends behind and needs to find his way back home if he ever wants to see them again. And that before his father returns, too. Unfortunately, he needs to put his plans on hold. The ruler of the Jungle Kingdom has discovered Stud's entry and will do anything to get Stud's map. Stud finds himself battling creatures, right away, and almost losses but is saved by Brymm. She has one request; Stud should help her save her kingdom in two years time. Obviously, Stud can't agree, since he's pretty sure his father would notice his absence by then, and he'd be in quite a bit of trouble. But when the Jungle Kingdom ruler snatches Stud's pack along with the map, all of his worries now hang on getting it back.

This is a pretty straight forward tale...and that's wonderful. Stud only wants to get home, a goal which is more than understandable. He is strong, but still has some growing to do. While he does battle, his intentions are never negative, and he does need help, since he can't do everything on his own. There's a bit of inner-conflict as he would like to help Brymm (and feels he needs to) but also can't prioritize that above his father and friends. 

The graphics are well done in that they keep lines simple enough to allow the battle scenes to come across with power, and yet, not overload on the visual end. The scenes aren't confusing and paced so that the reader can sink into the moments. It's definitely for fight-scene fans. Plus, the imagination with the characters comes across nicely, too.

It's easy to get caught up in Stud's adventure and makes a great read for just enjoying.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Today's read... The Cottonwood Sings by Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo



by Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo

7th Generation

Picture Book

ages 6-8


MAY 30th!!!

A delightful story of a lonely woman who never ages and the beaver who falls in love with her. Independently they seek out the Great Spirit, who obliges their requests to be forever close to one another.


The Cottonwood Sings is the enchanting story of the lovely Hunku (First Woman), who was immortal. The animals and plants loved her, but Hunku was lonely. Every day she would go to the riverbank and cry herself to sleep. Beaver, who lived in the river, fell in love with the beautiful Hunku and begged the Great Spirit to turn him into a man. The Great Spirit agreed, and Beaver became Takahe (First Man), but the Great Spirit told him that one day he would have to go back to being Beaver. Hunku and Takahe enjoyed their life together, and they had four beautiful daughters.


GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63020440-the-cottonwood-sings

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0966931718

FROM THE PUBLISHER: https://nativevoicesbooks.com/content/cottonwood-sings


A gentle story comes to life with beautiful scenes of nature along the way.

Hunku (First Woman) is liked by all the creatures, especially thanks to her beautiful voice. She is immortal and the only human on Earth, and while life is wonderful, she's lonely. The beaver is in love with Hunku and wishes nothing more than to join her at her side. Luckily, the Great Spirit agrees to allow him to become human but reminds him that he'll have to return to the river someday. Hunku and Takahe are a wonderful pair, and their story goes from there.

This read carries a calm atmosphere, allowing young readers/listeners to sink into the scenes. It's well written, keeping the text and plot interesting so that even more impatient listeners won't drift away. At the same time, it lets the tale flow steadily and build right along with Hunku and Takahe's life. The illustrations invite to gazing and draw into Hunku and Takahe's tale. Even the end, while it might be a little sad for some, rounds things off nicely and leaves a sense of hope and completeness. 

And here she is...

Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo, a storyteller and poet, artist and illustrator, is a member of the Lower Brule Lakota Nation, Kul Wicasa Oyate, in Lower Brule, South Dakota, where she grew up. Her involvement in fine art began at an early age, with direct influence from her father, Alfred Ziegler, a noteworthy artist who has inspired her work in sculpture, painting, and drawing throughout her life. Alfreda currently lives in beautiful Palisade, Colorado, with her spouse, David Algeo.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Today's read... It's a RHAP, Cat by Lee Y Miao

It's mystery time! Today's read slides into art history and places a normal, middle grade girl in the center of it. I liked that it was a shorter read at 190 pages, and that it seems to incorporate several original aspects. But let's just head on in and see how it is!

An Ellie & Co Book
by Lee Y. Miao
Middle Grade Mystery
190 pages
ages 8 to 12

FEBRUARY 21st!!!

When twelve-year-old Cat discovers her look-alike in a portrait by Raphael, she can't wait to research this mysterious lady from the 16th century. But sparks fly when she signs up for the Renaissance History and Art Project (RHAP) contest.

To win, Cat needs to ask her one-time rival, Trey. She's distracted by softball. He's distracted by lacrosse. They're both distracted by the class diva.

Will she find clues in old letters handed down over generations? Or will the lady's secrets remain undeciphered? It's up to Cat to solve the riddle. If only more than five hundred years didn't stand in her way!

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/75476815-it-s-a-rhap-cat
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/its-a-rhap-cat-lee-y-miao/1142851937
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BPZHYSB5
BOOK DEPOSITORY: https://www.bookdepository.com/Its-RHAP-Cat-Lee-Y-Miao/9781950169849


Art and history gain a fun twist in this exciting read, which sneaks in mystery while dealing with usual, middle grade themes.

When Cat sees a double of herself in a historical painting, her curiosity is peaked, but her plans to dig into the history of the painting are jostled right along with her chances of getting into Honors History Class. Taking the chance to enter RHAP (a art history contest tied to the Honors class), she gets the help of her crush, Trey. And she'll need it, since the most popular girl of the class is determined to win...and won't take Cat's participation quietly. Add softball drama, family problems, and the issues of first love, and Cat has more than enough to figure out. 

This read covers so many things and does it with ease. There's art and history, which not only offer a few glimpses into the subjects but create a mysterious atmosphere around both, driving away the usual 'boredom' the age group might connect with them. Then, there's the normal school and life drama. Cat has to deal with friendship, first crushes, family matters, and balancing everything as well as she can. Next we have sports and dealing with the dynamics that has to offer. Finally, there's the mystery...oh, and a little traveling to Rome tossed in, too. So, it's a broad spectrum, and the author swirls it together smoothly while creating an enjoyable, well-paced read.

Cat is sweet, curious, and a wonderful character to follow. She does her best, gets frustrated, but never gives up. She makes mistakes and has to deal with the consequences. Most importantly, she does work with others and knows when she can't handle something completely alone. All of these made her believable and easy to sympathize with. 

The mystery is well-laid for the age group and weaves in with the other aspects well. It's hard to see what the end result will be. The secrets and research do pace themselves well with the other subplots, giving it a rounded atmosphere and keeping something happening on every page. And nothing feels forgotten, either, or rushed. It's a fun read with lovely characters, and I hope to see Cat again soon.